by Mikel Kwaku Oshi Holt
The World According to Chris Larson
The man who SHOULD NOT become king of the county
The race for Milwaukee County Executive may be the most defining political campaign in decades. Not because it pits two high profile Democrats against each other, but in a larger sense, its outcome will determine who controls the direction of our political “Freedom Train,” and who will serve as its conductor.
In one sense, the county executive race pits political pragmatism against the new “progressive” agenda. But in this scripted screenplay, “progressive” has taken on a new meaning, one that does not bode well for our future.
In a broader sense, the stakes transcend who should be the chief executive of county government, but instead will put into play the Black community’s level of political sophistication, and our seemingly blind allegiance to special interests and any White benefactor who says they can “relate” to our plight.
For the record, the county executive race pits incumbent Chris Abele against former County Supervisor and current State Senator Chris Larson.
What won’t show on the ballot, however, is that this election is clearly and almost exclusively about Larson the king maker; a political power broker whose true agenda is to expand his so-called progressive power base by serving as puppeteer of union forces and obligated Black politicians, many of whom he put in office.
Sound like some episode from the television show Empire? In many respects, it appears to come straight from the pen of Lee Daniels.
King Larson began his political career as a Democratic Party organizer. His skills were honed in 2004 when he was selected to participate in an exclusive Democratic Party training program. He emerged well versed in strategy, tactics and organizing, but also with a far-reaching agenda, a fellow trainee told me recently.
Larson was ambitious, and had an itinerary that called for changing the very structure of the state party, and anointing himself king, the consultant said.
For Larson’s purposes, the progressive label is a front, as is the inappropriately named Wisconsin Working Family Party, both of which are conduits for resources and manpower.
Larson’s agenda, according to many who have watched from the sidewalk as his caravan has sped down State Street, in front of the state capital and now back outside the Court House, is to establish a new world order, one that all but ignores the true interests and concerns of the Black community.
And if all goes according to plan, and unless Black voters take the blinders off, Chris Larson will soon crown himself king of a new empire that would put the script of the drama by that name to shame.
What makes this journey all the more interesting is that Larson has accomplished his goal thus far without much fanfare and under the political radar, even though during the last few years he has had his hand in a half-dozen electoral campaigns involving Black candidates, most of whom he “sponsored.”
They say the greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince people he didn’t exist. I’m, obviously not calling Larson the devil, but the analogy in this case is appropriate.
Ask the Black recipients of Larson’s manipulations of the validity of this scenario and they will shake their heads in the negative (none, however will verbally deny his involvement, or lie to your face).
But ask those who have been victimized (from former State Representatives Jason Fields, Beth Coggs and State Senator Lena Taylor) and you’ll hear a different story.
The late State Rep. Polly Williams was among the first to cry foul when she witnessed the Larson parade engineer the election of Sandy Pasch, a white suburban woman with little understanding of Black issues or concerns, for her 10th Assembly district.
Polly, one of the few truly independent Democrats who espoused a Black Nationalistic philosophy, was horrified and shocked that Pasch was chosen to represent her predominantly Black district.
But give Larson and crew credit. They campaigned almost exclusively in the suburban areas of the district (which were added in 2010 as part of the redistricting process) with high White turnout, and when Black voters failed to show up at the polls, the die was cast.
Score one for Larson. There were many more to come.
In the past few years he set up challenges in three legislative races in predominantly Black legislative races, engineering campaigns against Black independent thinkers who refused to subscribe to his “progressive” agenda.
After being named Minority Leader, he used his power to reward the faithful and punish those Black pols that refused to bow down and kiss his ring.
How powerful was his influence over Black lawmakers whose careers he influenced? One of the first actions by State Rep. Mandela Barnes, who was also a Larson “appointee,” was to propose amending the structure of the Black Legislative Caucus to allow White members. Really?
When Taylor revealed how ridiculous that proposal was, it was withdrawn. But the scenario revealed Larson’s thumbprint.
As political consultant and WNOV radio host Sherwin Hughes has noted on his “The Forum” show, Larson has manipulated the Black agenda, and made the Black legislative corps meaningless and ineffective.
That’s why, Hughes has noted, no legislation of substance has been introduced or passed by Black lawmakers, and why the Black community has remained politically and economically stagnant.
Jason (Fields) was able to work to get bills passed by manipulating the system even with Republicans in control, Hughes once noted. But in this era when progressives charge you with a crime for even looking at a Republican, Jason committed a cardinal sin, even if it benefitted our community.
And therein lies another aspect of this defining race, one that can only be described as a new dance called the “political okey-doke.”
Milwaukee County government is a constitutional extension of state government. Republicans hold the majority in the assembly and senate, and a Republican is governor. But to follow Larson’s reasoning, you cannot talk to those in power, you can’t co-sponsor legislation, and you surely can’t address the issues of poverty, crime, or education.
Back in the day, “Progressive” meant being a supporter of civil rights—liberals who marched beside us to secure equal opportunity. They sponsored legislation that would otherwise be ignored if introduced by Black lawmakers. Progressives met with us in back rooms and served as our conduits.
Today, the new progressive platform focuses on environmental issues, gay and women’s rights, educational monopolies and support of organized labor.
“Black concerns are put on the backburner, or excluded entirely,” Hughes explained. “And when some Black politicians question that platform, they are told ‘there are Black gays, Black women, and the environmental issues affect your people too. So shut up and be glad you’re on the bus.’ ”
Obviously, Larson, the county executive candidate, the man who wants to expand his influence over Black pols to county and city elected officials, carries with him baggage that should scare the hell out of Black voters. Unfortunately, they have been lied to, bamboozled and led astray, as Malcolm X once said.
The April 5 stakes are high, and left unchecked, Larson’s bold agenda could leave us impotent, if not politically sterile.
Dangerous? Consider the following:
• As minority leader and self appointed king of the “new progressive” wing of the Democratic Party, Larson not only rewrote the Black agenda, but created a slate of “Black” candidates to carry it out.
He “not so” secretly sponsored candidates who successfully ran against incumbent Black lawmakers Beth Coggs and Jason Fields. Their crimes? Both touted their independence and allegiance to their people before their (Democratic) party.
• Larson removed State Senator Lena Taylor from the powerful Joint Finance Committee, and even boldly attempted to restructure the Black Caucus by expanding its membership to include Whites. (Some say State Rep. Fred Kessler was behind that defining move, and is secretly behind Larson.)
• When Taylor questioned his motives and refused to bow down, Larson responded by orchestrating the soon to be announced candidacy of State Rep. Mandela Barnes to run against her this fall. The fact that Taylor is the most powerful and respected member of the legislature was irrelevant.
As Hughes said on his radio show Monday, “Taylor’s crime wasn’t that her constituents were angry, but that White ‘progressives’ and liberals outside her district considered her a threat to their new status quo.”
• Larson is a founding member of the so-called Wisconsin (White) Working Family “Party,” whose founder included a Koch brother operative, according to the Kingfish website, lied about being an independent political party, but is instead a PAC, funneling money to select candidates, including Larson. The “Family Party” is also paying for Larson’s campaign mailings and funding over 200 field workers for his campaign.
• Despite the fact that Milwaukee is home to the nation’s highest Black poverty rate, Larson boldly announced last week that if elected he would raise the regressive sales tax. That process would disproportionately impact the poor.
• Although Larson, the Southsider, attended a private school, he opposes poor Black families taking advantage of the Parental School Choice program to send their children to one.
• Larson was said to be behind the derailment of highly regarded Democrat Party strategist and devoted member Michelle Bryant’s quest to become vice chair of the county Democratic Party. States Rep. David Bowen, a former county supervisor and ally of Larson (who benefitted from his sponsorship in his bid for state office) boldly told local Democrats not to vote for Bryant, Hughes revealed.
• Lies and misconceptions. Politifact revealed that Larson lied when he claimed Abele sought to curtail funding for the homeless. He also has lied about Abele seeking to privatize failing public schools, when in fact the incumbent county executive has appointed a highly regarded Black educational pioneer to engineer a new program to lift the families of at risk students out of poverty.
• In a related move, Larson has used the local teachers’ union to cast doubt on Abele’s educational agenda, staging protests at the courthouse and elsewhere to denounce the incumbent.
Larson has personally led several of those demonstrations, leading some of the same MTEA members who demonstrated outside the home of School Board Director Wendell Harris after he voted to allow a successful charter school to be integrated into a failing public high school.
•Black folks are still reeling over rumors that a White union member supposedly carried a sign calling Harris, the vice president of the state NAACP and a highly regarded proponent of public education, an Uncle Tom!
One of the most interesting aspects of the teachers’ union’s attacks on Abele and the state law, introduced by Republicans to require local government to seek remedies for the city’s 50 failing schools (which in laymen’s language means thousands of Black children failing to read, write, add and subtract), is that it implies failure is acceptable and should not be questioned.
Think about that. The union and Larson are, in essence, saying that Black student failure is okay, and to seek solutions is an affront to the status quo and will invite the wrath of the teachers’ union.
Not by coincidence, that insult to Black folks fits squarely in the scheme of the new progressives’ and Larson’s agenda.
Check the records, what has Larson done for the Black community as supervisor, state senator, minority leader? Has he even addressed our nation leading poverty status?
Has he given more than lip service to the fact that Wisconsin has the highest Black incarceration rate in the country? Milwaukee has the highest Black male unemployment rate in the United States. Has Larson or his “progressives” engineered the employment of even one Black man since he has been in power?
In a nutshell, what has Larson done for the Black community? Absolutely nothing, even though his Black anointed political followers claim he is a champion of Black causes and the “czar of civil rights.”
But they can’t tell you one thing he’s done for us.
What can we expect from King Larson if his agenda to control local politics is confirmed on Election Day next month? Nothing…or worse!
Given the stakes, our obvious lack of political and cultural maturity and the uniqueness of the April elections, what we—voters and Black leadership—confirm and advocate in the next few weeks will determine our political future.
Old alliances will be tested. Our agenda will be solidified, or rewritten and we will reassume control of the Freedom Train, or leave it at the station.
There are far too many variables to count if Larson is elected county executive. But one thing is sure, if his agenda is carried out, we will again find ourselves at the “back of the bus!”