This morning, the minute I stepped out of my house a woman was getting out of a van. She had on a giant green and white sticker on her suit lapel. A "FENTY" sticker. And I was coming out of the house where my landlady had a giant ANYONE BUT FENTY sign for DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray in the front yard.
The woman quickly asked me if I was registered to vote and I told her yes. Then she shouted, "We need your vote in September. Vote Fenty!"
Considering how I can't talk to anyone I know about Fenty without them either flying into a spew of explitives or explaining to me the depth of every Fenty-based conspiracy in town I'm going to gather he really needs my vote.
But he's not going to get it.
I only recently moved to Washington, D.C., so I'm still getting acclimated to the local politics. Like other cities where I've lived before, D.C. is pretty much a one-party town, yet it is never lacking for political drama. The not-really-fun part of living in one-party towns is that usually the one-party in charge (and this doesn't matter if you're in the Democratic stronghold of St. Louis City or the Republican bedrock of Bakersfield, Calif.), the party in power gets rather complacent at times. Golden Boys and Wonder Women are plucked from the ranks who've politely waited their turn for ascendancy. There's a lot of back slapping and the party out of power is so ineffectual they might as well be a myth that the ruling class tells their children about at night.
Fenty was one of those Golden Boys who happily ascended to the throne of mayor of D.C. And the common complaint is that he does treat it like a throne. I can't find a reliable poll online to back it, but aside for a few folks who are enamored with gentrification, I don't know anyone voting for Fenty. Sure. I see the signs in some yards. But actual people? People who I meet on the street? The woman with the sticker in front of my house this morning was the first actual Fenty supporter I'd spoken to since I moved here.
Everyone I know is taking as many shots as they can at the Boy King. Spreading their own whisper campaign of horror stories. It's not that people are in love with either of Fenty's opponents. People are kind of lukewarm over Vincent Gray. I don't know that much yet about Leo Alexander. But it's as if there was a meeting of the minds, and word on the street is "Anyone but Fenty."
My landlady isn't supporting Fenty and she said she had her reasons, but the one that just did it for her was the whole boondoggle over the baseball stadium tickets. When Fenty and the Council were feuding his office had initially refused to turn over the council's baseball tickets to those horrid Washington National games. The tickets were already designated for the council. The deal had been secured before Fenty even came to power. But he threw a big stink over them and wouldn't turn them over.
"That was just petty," she said.
Then there was the cabby who drove me home last night who hijacked a conversation between myself and a friend to bellow about how horrible the city water tastes (and MY GOD, it tastes horrible in some places). He then went into an anti-Fenty tirade about how he heard Fenty's people wanted to pull money that could have been used for water purification to use for street sweeping. Then he nearly popped a vein screaming about the trolley they're building on H Street. "WHY WOULD THEY SPEND MONEY ON A DAMN TROLLEY! HOW DOES A TROLLEY CLEAN OUR WATER!?!?!"
And that’s just the tip of the Fenty Hate Iceberg. There's the whole controversy over the state of D.C.'s schools and the controversial tenure of School Chancellor Michelle Rhee who's about as vehemently hated as she's celebrated. Fenty appointed her after he took over the city schools. (That is one woman who's not afraid to fire everybody.) But Fenty is hitching his wagon to Rhee's successes, essentially saying that he and Rhee are a package deal. But I didn't know her name was on the ticket. (It's not.) It also doesn't help that as Fenty is doing his "Me and Rhee" thing, test scores are still problematic.
There are the people who feel like Fenty abandoned them or stabbed them in the back (including people in his own ward). Then there's the mixed feelings over gentrification and where all the money goes. Which is further compounded by a poorer black working class that feels neglected in favor for a growing, younger and wealthier white professional class that is changing city demographics. Then there are all the building contracts. The common lament is that they go to Fenty's friends and hardly anyone else, often without the approval of the city council. And there's the complaint that he's an arrogant, effete, out-of-touch, exercise fanatic. (A trolley? Really?)
Washington, D.C. is a city of contradictions. It has great wealth, but lots of poverty. It is the seat of our Federal government, but the people who live here aren't represented in that federal government. (But everyone still pays taxes.) The city government is limited in their power because the founding father's never thought people would live here on a permanent basis -- you know? Other than their servants. Who couldn't vote when the country was founded, because they were slaves. So it shouldn't be particularly surprising that while this is a transient city whose professional class often changes with the Presidential Administration, the population that has always lived here, who was born here and will die here is mostly black.
And those people don't seem to like Fenty at all.
Unlike former "Mayor For Life" Marion Barry, who is seen by most here as a (comically) tragic figure who despite sometimes acting like your crazy drunk uncle did a lot for the people of Washington, Fenty has no such fan club. Barry, after all, made his name as a civil rights activist. Fenty is among the generation who followed, reaping the benefits of the civil rights movement. People don't see him as a warrior for D.C.'s permanent black working class that has no voting rights. They see him as being about money, and only money. Money for himself and his friends. And they call him King Fenty. Or boy. Depending on how angry they are with him that day.
Fenty is so unpopular, the most viral and vicious rumor about him is that he beats his wife. And that rumor persists so strong that recently Fenty and his people started pushing back against it. Some folks are blaming Fenty's opponents for spreading the rumor. I guess that's true if Fenty's opponents include grandmothers, random people I meet on the street, my friends and pissed off cab drivers, he's got a lot of opponents.
It'll be interesting to see how the election plays out, with all of Fenty's hits and misses, and the perception among many African Americans in D.C. that Fenty doesn't care about their interests or concerns. Will he be done in by the same folks who voted him into office? Or will the recent demographic shifts of young whites moving to D.C. turn the city race into something more like my hometown of St. Louis, Mo., which has a large poor and black working class, but unlike in D.C., their voting might is often easily divided, diluted and ineffectual in favor for whomever the ruling class is backing.
At least Fenty can't say he's not aware the voter apathy/warth surrounding him. When you're getting booed by school kids at graduation speeches ... kids who ordinarly care more about college entrance exams and whatever Lil Wayne is rapping about from prison ... you have a serious problem.
VOICE YOUR FENTY HATE (or ... I dunno. Love. Somebody has to love this man. Tell me why you love him!) IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!