It was a pretty straightforward political deal. The aspiring presidential candidate promised the former congressman that, if elected, she would appoint him as head of a key national policy committee. And in return, the former congressman, now the mayor of a major Democratic city, endorsed the candidate. No surprise, either, that the candidate in question was Hillary Clinton.
What was surprising, and deeply disappointing to many of his supporters and admirers, is that the congressman-turned-mayor was none other than legendary anti-war stalwart Ron Dellums.
Now the mayor of Oakland, a west coast Democratic stronghold, Dellums gave his blessing to Clinton during a hastily convened public appearance by the two at Laney College. Dellums said he decided to back Clinton "because of substance, not symbolism. She has spoken brilliantly and powerfully to the issues that are of importance to Oakland and all of urban America: crime and violence, affordable housing, global warming, and universal access to health care."
But his green lighting of Hillary, nevertheless, brimmed with symbolism - albeit unwittingly. Until he retired a decade ago, Dellums spent 27 years in Congress, serving as the undisputed most progressive member of the Democratic caucus. He was originally elected in an anti-Vietnam war groundswell and was consistently counted on to be the most reliable voice against excessive militarism.
All this making his endorsement of the most hawkish of the three major Democratic candidates more than befuddling to his legions of admirers. Off The Bus correspondent Mayhill Fowler details the political payback involved:
"First of all, the aging lion has been given the Clinton Campaign's Urban Policy Committee--translation--more federal tax dollars for Oakland should Clinton take the White House. Specifically, Clinton pledged to Dellums that she would expand mentoring and internship programs, programs that reintegrate convicts into society and alternative energy jobs programs. That's a lot of programs--does that mean a lot of earmarks? And in the language of the day, all programs will be "public-private partnerships," of course. More importantly for Dellums, whose popularity as Oakland's mayor has been declining, is the opportunity to burnish his waning political career by hitching it to a rising star."
Indeed, less than a year ago Dellums took over the mayor's chair of his crime-ridden city promising a more progressive reign than that of outgoing mayor (and now California Attorney General) Jerry Brown. Oakland is the kind of place where Greens frequently outpoll Republicans and while Brown is considered a solid liberal in the rest of the state, he became reviled by many of his original boosters for allegedly becoming too centrist. Dellums might have just taken a sharp right turn down that same path.