Dave Wilson, a conservative Republican, was recently elected to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees. He defeated Bruce Austin, a 24-year incumbent, by a mere 26 votes. Why is this news? Because Austin and others attribute Wilson's narrow victory to a sneaky campaign strategy: pretending to be black.
The population of the community college district in question is predominantly African-American. As part of his campaign, Wilson sent out brochures featuring photographs of random black people (which Wilson admits to snatching off the internet) above the caption "Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson." Furthermore, Wilson bragged of an endorsement from "Ron Wilson," identified in small print as a cousin of Dave Wilson--who just happens to share a name with a former (African-American) state representative.
Now, I know I'm supposed to be shocked--Shocked!--by such spurious political shenanigans, but I have to say that I find it hard to see what, precisely, Dave Wilson did wrong. Look, the guy is a sleazebag: During a campaign for Houston mayor, Wilson sent out homophobic mailers attacking an openly gay candidate. But calling a politician--even one campaigning for so picayune an office as "community college trustee"--"sleazy" is kind of like calling an investment banker "cutthroat": It's not flattering, but it kind of goes with the territory. While his mailers "suggested" that he was black, nowhere did Dave Wilson actually state that he was African-American: And if "African-Americanness" was so important to the voters as to be the deciding factor in the election, doesn't it behoove the electorate to make sure that the candidate is, in fact, African-American? Do Houston voters not have access to Google?
And not for nothing, the man he defeated was a 24-year incumbent! If he was voted out of office simply for being white, then it suggests either that he was not doing a very good job, and/or that the electorate was just as bigoted and cynical as Dave Wilson himself. I kind of think they--the voters and Dave Wilson--deserve each other.