While tribalism, nationalism, racism, and post-truth fake news dominate the world of national politics in the United States, yesterday’s mayoral election in Birmingham shows that the real potential for progressive politics in our country is at the local level. Relative political new-comer Randall Woodfin, 36, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders, thoroughly trounced entrenched incumbent Mayor William Bell.
As far as the election campaign went, there really was no contest. Bell relied on this 40 years of ties among the Birmingham political elite and taking credit for the revitalization of downtown. Woodfin, on the other hand, ran on a well-thought-out and specific platform emphasizing investiment in education, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, supporting minority- and woman-owned businesses, transparency in government finances, and perhaps most politically relevant, investing in neighborhoods that are not downtown, that are in very poor shape, and that have been completely neglected by the Bell administration. Woodfin knocked on 40,000 doors and sold a message intended to appeal to rich, poor, black, and white.
It was a masterly campaign on a progressive platform, and he won by 18 percentage points — a landslide.
And is now the youngest Birmingham mayor in over 100 years.
Congratulations, Mayor Woodfin. I hope that you will govern as you campaigned. Birmingham’s city government has been full of corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and childish bickering for the 30 years I’ve been observing it. I hope you and the newly-elected city council members run a government for the people of Birmingham instead of for the friends and families of the mayor and council members. I hope that the weedy lots get mowed; the potholes get filled; the abandoned neighborhoods get revitalized; and that the police get the resources they need to make our streets safe. And I hope your government’s handling of city finances is transparent and worthy of restoring trust in city government.
You have a mandate from the people, Mr. Mayor. You have the opportunity to return Birmingham to its potential and make it the city the people deserve.
You could make Birmingham truly the Magic City it once was.
Don’t screw it up.