On Tuesday, voters in Northeast Ohio headed to the polls to elect a Democratic candidate for Congress. The hotly contested race between Cuyahoga Councilwoman Shontel Brown and former state Sen. Nina Turner has made headlines for the amount of intra-party shade thrown between the campaigns. Political pundits, Washington insiders and locals are familiar with the circumstances surrounding this race.
But to explain the story in laymen’s terms, we drew an analogy to one of the best-known political dramas of this generation, HBO’s The Wire.
Nina Turner is Marlo Stanfield.
The Cleveland native gained her street cred as the first African-American woman to represent her ward on Cleveland’s City Council before becoming the first woman to serve as a state senator in Ohio’s 25th District. Although Turner doesn’t currently hold an elected position, her reputation as a cold-blooded unapologetic progressive who isn’t afraid to go to war is why her name still rings out in the streets.
In 2012, Turner considered mounting an attempt to unseat former Rep. Marcia “Avon Barksdale” Fudge, who wore “the crown,” but decided that it wasn’t time...Yet.
Shontel Brown is Stringer Bell.
Also a native Clevelander, Shontel served on the Warrensville Heights City Council before winning a seat on the Cuyahoga County Council. Brown was the first Black woman elected as chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and was considered the logical successor Fudge.
But now that Fudge has been sentenced to at least a four-year bid in the Biden administration, Turner wants her corners back.
The crown is the congressional seat for Ohio’s 11th District, a majority Black, reliably Democratic district that includes Cleveland and Akron.
Because this race is symbolic of the two factions of the Democratic Party.
Brown has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, a voting bloc made up of African-American elected officials who wear the crown in their individual districts. Even though CBC members have different political philosophies, it operates as a co-op, which helps them get the package wholesale from the Democratic Party.
On the other side is Turner, who is supported by left-leaning allies, including politicos like Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Although they are reliably Democratic, they often push for progressive policies that aren’t supported by the majority of the co-op.
Well, in 2016, the co-op supported Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s quest to control the package, which made sense. Clinton had experience, she knew what it was like to wear the crown and her husband had previously controlled the package. Turner, on the other hand, didn’t go along with the co-op. She supported Bernie Sanders, who wore the crown, but never put in on the package. Hillary eventually took Bernie’s turf, but instead of buying what Hillary was selling, some Bernie supporters re-upped with third-party candidates.
Some say the Democrats lost control of the package to Donald Trump, partly because of the lack of support from Sanders’ supporters. Others say Democrats lost control of the package in 2016 because Hillary’s product wasn’t as good as when Barack “The Greek” Obama was in control of the package. Others think Donald Trump won because Vladimir Putin’s goons cut Hillary’s package with Russian bots.
In any case, in 2020, Turner threw her support behind Sanders again in the all-out war to control the package. It looked like Sanders would win until “Prop Jim” Clyburn, a mid-level dealer in the co-op, got his crew to help Joe Biden, who had previously served as a henchman for Obama. Because of Clyburn’s Black support, Biden defeated Sanders, gained the nomination and defeated Trump to win control of the package.
Now, Prop Jim and the CBC co-op are campaigning heavily for Brown. To many observers, it seems as if they are not so much for Brown, as they are against Turner.
Because Turner said it was “stupid” for Clyburn to cut a deal with Biden without getting something in return for Black people. Because when Sanders lost to Biden, she famously told The Atlantic that Biden and Trump’s package were like eating shit. Because politicians are petty.
No, of course, no one will say that. The political narrative is that Nina Turner can’t be counted on to support Biden’s agenda. Some say she is too progressive. Others say that she isn’t a real Democrat because she supported Sanders, who, they say, isn’t a real Democrat.
Because Biden hasn’t supported Black people. Because it was stupid for Clyburn to cut a deal with Biden without getting something in return for Black people. Because voting for Biden was kinda like eating shit when Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and others had much more robust policies and histories of supporting Black people.
Because Turner wouldn’t blindly support a Democratic Party that only pays attention to Black people once every four years. Because she is more progressive. Because she cares more about representing progressive ideas than being a real, diehard Democrat.
Because Shontel Brown is a diehard Democrat. Because the CBC said so. Because Jim Clyburn is an icon. Because a lot of Black voters blindly support the Democratic Party that only pays attention to Black people once every four years. Because a lot of Black voters are moderate and Nina Turner is too progressive for them.
Because the CBC’s power lies in its unity, and any threat to that also threatens Black political power in the Democratic Party. Even if the Democratic Party is flawed, a weakened party give power to Republicans, which is more of a threat to Black America. Brown offers stability and reliability.
It’s up to the voters of Ohio’s 11th District.
However, no matter who wins this hard-fought battle, voters can be assured that the person wearing the crown will likely represent the interests of their district.
Because, when it’s all said and done, this is not about Nina Turner, Shontel Brown or even the constituents in Ohio’s 11th District. It’s about whether the Democratic Party’s product is controlled by the people on the corners, or whether the Democratic Party controls the people on the corner. Ultimately, the Democratic Party is employing one of its oldest street philosophies: