Spite Vote

September 08, 1994|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- From Montana to Maine, people are asking me if it is really possible that voters in the District of Columbia could elect Marion Barry as mayor.

They are referring to the same Marion Barry who during 12 years as mayor drove the nation's capital into financial chaos.

The same Barry who corrupted the police force and then, in the name of law and order, gave police badges to dozens of crooks and hoodlums.

The same Barry who deceived the children of the District of Columbia by telling them his mind and body were pure and drug-free, and who then got caught on video in an adulterous situation while smoking crack cocaine.

Yep, the same Marion Barry who went to prison.

People all over America ask whether voters here really believe that there is a ''new'' Barry, a man who now epitomizes human redemption because of what he calls ''the God-force within me.'' Few people come right out and ask what is really on their minds: ''Are D.C. voters crazy enough to let Barry con them again?''

I reply that they don't ask the right question, which is: ''Have racial polarization and black rage in America become so powerful that a majority of black people will put their children at risk again just to thumb their noses at white people by casting a protest vote for Barry?''

For a lot of poor blacks in this city, which is two-thirds African American, Barry's previous betrayals and disgraceful behavior are not as important as the fact that an overwhelming percentage of white voters are against him.

Many young black males refuse to accept the fact that with his cocaine, cognac and womanizing, Barry brought himself down. They rationalize that a racist power structure used ''a black Jezebel'' to lure Barry into the Vista Hotel sting that led to his prison term.

With incumbent Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly in acute disfavor, City Council member John Ray should be a runaway winner in next Tuesday's Democratic primary, and thus be assured of election as mayor. But Mr. Ray is no match for Barry when it comes to demagoguery. Barry wears African garb by way of saying that he is ''blacker'' than other politicians, and he shows no qualms about declaring that Mr. Ray and Mayor Kelly are the candidates of ''the white folks.''

So even though the ''God-force'' inside makes Barry sweat now just the way the cocaine inside once did, the ex-mayor is running neck and neck with Mr. Ray, and Mayor Kelly is far behind.

The key to the primary election will be the 20 percent of registered voters who say they have not made up their minds. How many will decide that Barry is no longer a corrupt liar, certain to abuse power again?

Some conservative whites have re-registered as Democrats so they can vote for Barry in the primary. ''Let him get re-elected mayor and we can be sure that Congress will never grant D.C. home rule,'' one explained.

That kind of talk further angers blacks who think Barry is the only candidate who will ''really stand up to the racist plantation masters in Congress,'' as one Barry campaign worker put it.

I would not trust Barry at any time, in any place, for any reason. But I know that in next Tuesday's primary, reason may not outweigh racial passion.

So we who live in this normally crazy capital must brace ourselves for another possible assault on sanity.

0 Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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