A look back at how we got here…
Almost a decade ago, America experienced a tragedy that tested the spirit of the entire nation, especially one of our most historic cities–Boston. That city was indeed resilient, so was no doubt that this senseless act of violence would only catalyze their renaissance. As our thoughts and prayers went out to the families affected by that terrible event, they were already showing signs of bouncing back.
As Boston grappled with the economic, cultural, and judicial effects of that event, the political dynamics surrounding the city’s future were beginning to solidify. Remember that their population increased significantly in the ten years prior. Yes, Boston grew 4.8% to 617,594, and it had over 85,000 “key” Voters of Color, but that only explains part of the story.
To understand Boston, you have to understand its historical role in shaping American politics. Their reputation for producing national leaders is a civic marvel and the stuff of political legends. Progressive Whites and People of Color (POC) are central to this history and have many stories to share about their “Pre-Civil War” Beacon Hill community. They will tell you with pride about the African Meeting House – the oldest surviving African American church tower in the nation – where notables such as Fredrick Douglass and Sojourner Truth waged many early civil rights battles alongside progressive Whites.
Present-day, they will tell you how surreal it feels to watch President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Governor Patrick, and their current Mayor serve as civic leaders. Not to mention how amazing it must be to see their beloved city embrace people of color as American leaders. Especially Bostonians living in neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester- two majority-minority communities – are excited about the changing face of politics. It’s truly a new day when multiple POC candidates ran for Mayor and city council and won.
Of course, it’s tricky to measure the political effect this set of events will have on the consciousness of the national electorate–however, there are signs. While “flashpoint” political impressions are hard to quantify, the fundamentals of Boston began to solidify years ago:
- There were over 600,000 people living in Boston – 17% Latino, 24% African American, and 9% Asian.
- At least four city council members in the race for Mayor in 2013 – a crowded field leaving plenty of open council seats.
- The 2009 Mayoral race recorded about 101,000 votes – a small universe of voters.
- The 2011 at-large city council race recorded a little more than 170,000 votes.
There were a lot of candidates running for Mayor in 2013, and that split the independent vote share at least four ways. However, it was Voters of Color who were affected the most. That race created a path to elect a Person of Color as Mayor with the right candidate, message, and brilliant voter registration and turnout program.
Please make no mistake, it took a block by block community organizing effort, but Bostonians have a history of voting for the candidate representing their interests. They’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the opportunity to vote for a candidate that dares to stand up for all Americans. Just as in Patrick’s governor’s race, the right candidate tapped into this powerful coalition of progressive Whites and Voters of Color.
The marathon tragedy brought together this patriotic city like never before, and the positive energy that Bostonians projected became the catalyst for positive change in their politics.
Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.