Vote 'Em Out: Ferguson Officials Plan Token Backing of Tea Party Nut Job

In Dostoyevsky's novel The Idiot, one of the characters,  Nastassya, who has been seduced by a rich nobleman, is offered the chance to redeem her social standing through marriage to an ambitious young man, Ganya, who offers her a large sum of money. In an act of mad defiance Nastassya, in the presence of most of the individuals involved in her situation, takes money offered to her by another admirer, Rogozhin, throws it in the fire and tells Ganya to pull it out and take it if he wants it. She then leaves with Rogozhin, cementing her future as a demimondaine, exiled from respectable society. 

Nastassya's grandiose, self-destructive gesture has always fascinated me. Was the momentary satisfaction worth it? She herself, after all, embraces the world view that will put her, as the mistress of Rogozhin, beyond the social pale. But powerless though she may be against the male-dominated world she lives in, she  has, nevertheless, asserted her autonomy and chosen her own destiny.

Why am I talking about a nineteenth century novel now? In a word, Ferguson. If the connection doesn't seem that obvious (and why should it?), just bear with me.

One manifestation of Ferguson fallout is Thursday's news that a coalition of African-American officials in St. Louis County have decided not to support the Democratic candidate for St. Louis County Executive, Steven Stenger, but rather to endorse Republican Rick Stream: Proto-Tea Partier, pal of the corrupt, beneficiary of lobbyists' largesse, sharia-fearing fantasist, cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face type of right-wing ideologue, etc., etc. He's just the kind of guy who'll be doing his best for the rich and powerful in St. Louis County, to hell with the type of folks who've been out in the streets protesting the treatment African-Americans have received from the power structure. 

The coalition members claimed that they were angry about "what they characterized as "years and years of disrespect" by party leaders."

That's true. The timing of this announcement suggests, however, that Steve Stenger's firm support of the County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch's role in overseeing the investigation into the Michael Brown shooting may have been just one slight too many. According to one of the coalition members, "Steve Stenger's unbreakable alignment with Bob McCulloch shows he will be unable to run the executive office independently and without influence."

Maybe. There are many who are not impressed by Stenger's support for McCulloch which smacks of an effort to appease those folks who think a few nights of rioting in Ferguson are vastly more horrifying than the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a man entrusted with the safety of the public – and who were, no doubt, more than ready to toss a black county executive out on his backside.

 Nevertheless, the old cliche leaves us to believe that there is such a thing as out of the skillet and into the fire. Do black officials really believe that Stream represents a party that will be inclined to show them much respect in the long run? Do they really think that he'd abandon McCulloch if given his druthers – no matter what  he might say behind closed doors?

If officials in Ferguson and elsewhere help hand the state over to the GOP wrecking crew, to borrow an image from Thomas Frank, could it really all work out in the end? Maybe the sooner Missouri Republicans go full Kansas (though no one really wishes the financial straits of the Sooner State on anyone), the sooner Missourians will throw the clowns out. Though there was no happy ending for Nastassya, perhaps the inevitable, crashing right-wing failure will be enough to finally put Missouri back on the right track – but Missourans would  have to pay dearly for it.

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