Be My Guest

Sobering and Encouraging News From the 2010 Midterm Elections – Guest Column by Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr.

The November 2010 elections had a lot of interesting results. First, it is clear that the Tea Party movement must be taken seriously,
Because it galvanized support around the country and removed Democrats and Republicans from incumbency positions.

More importantly, it was clear that much of the country was sour on the economic woes, searching for more jobs, and hoping to find ways to get our dollar moving in right direction. Despite the incredible efforts by President Obama in achieving significant economic success with the approval of the $800 billion stimulus and the new health-care bill, many saw the effort as reckless spending by Democrats rather than
meeting the critical needs to save jobs and improve the health of our nation’s people.
President Obama heard the criticism loud and clear and has not only agreed to work with Republicans, but has also called for meetings in November with the top Republican leadership.

This is a positive and encouraging sign. Despite the overall success of Republicans by reclaiming leadership in the House, Democrats still have a narrow lead in the Senate and will still be able to insist that parties come together to meet the enormous challenges that our economy faces.

There may well be some sunshine behind these dark clouds. The states of MA, CA, and NY remain largely Democratic. Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown won important positions against strenuous and expensive opponents to become California’s Democratic Senator and Governor, respectively.

At the same time, Andrew Cuomo was elected as the new Governor of New York, and both Senators Schumer and Gillibrand were re-elected to terms in the Senate.

Furthermore, MA had a clean sweep. After the shocking Scott Brown victory just months ago, Governor Deval Patrick, the first African American governor of the state, was reelected by a considerable margin, and all eight of the Ddemocratic House members were re-elected, several of whom faced their first serious challenges in many years.

Massachusetts is different, of course, but the Scott Brown victory, carried as it was by strong Tea Party support, was supposed to be a road map of sorts for Republicans to make serious inroads. Instead, the results, including the staggering defeat of initiatives to roll back affordable housing and the state sales tax suggest that voters understand the complexities of issues beyond sound bites.

Indeed, although Republican Charlie Baker sought to paint Deval Patrick as a colossal failure, voters repeatedly praised the governor for his steady hand in difficult times and thought that he deserved another term in office.

As was true for Deval Patrick this year in Massachusetts, 2012 will be a defining year for both President Obama and his future leadership, as well as for the Democratic Party’s ability to regain control over two branches of government.

If there is any chance of securing the presidency in 2012 and maintaining the Senate as well as possibly reconfiguring the House, it will require action on at least two levels.

In terms of policy, Democrats will have to articulate a compelling economic platform, supported by significant job growth in addition to demonstrating more genuine determination to address the obvious frustration and anger that is so prevalent in this country.

In terms of voter outreach, President Obama and his fellow Democrats will have to tap into the enthusiasm he was able to create with voters in 2008 generally and especially with
black and young voters.

Again, contrary to popular caricatures, Massachusetts can stand as a bellwether. Going into the election the prevailing opinion was that here, as across the nation, Republicans would be swept into office on the tide of an enthusiasm gap. The expectation was that their emotional support for their candidates would motivate their voters to the polls in overwhelming numbers.

I am not a polling expert, but while that may have been the case elsewhere in the country, here in Massachusetts we did in fact have near record turnout and the results suggest that the enthusiasm gap may not be as large as projected.

Charles J. Ogletree is Jesse Climenko Professor at Harvard Law School, the founder of the school’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, and the author of numerous books on legal topics.

Be My Guest

Cholera In Haiti – No Time to Argue – Guest Column by Herb Boyd

It’s almost three weeks since I was part of delegation to Haiti under the leadership of Dr. Ron Daniels, founder and president of the Haiti Support Project. Fortunately, we were back weeks before the outbreak of Cholera which has presently consumed the news cycle about the troubled island nation, still trying to recover from a devastating earthquake in January.

This was my second trip to Haiti this year. Dr. Daniels led a delegation there in February, right after the earthquake and we saw first hand how widespread and destructive the disaster was. From our residence just north of St. Marc we often crossed the Artibonite River, a region cited now as the epicenter of the cholera epidemic which to date has taken more than 300 lives.

It wasn’t unusual to see people bathing in the river, walking away with containers of water, washing their clothes, or even urinating in it. The river, for eons, has been a vital source to residents in the area.

Since we lived near the center of the outbreak naturally I was reminded of our stay there, and even more so recalling the most recent trip which took us all over the island, including a torturous trip to the Central Plateau.

Outside of Mirebalais, where the road is undergoing serious repair, one of our guides began to vomit profusely. We stopped the bus and allowed him to relieve himself, secured him some water, and insisted that he sit next to the window for the remainder of the trip.

Heavy vomiting is one of the symptoms of cholera but that disease never crossed our minds as we sought to help him. We attributed it to something he had eaten, or possibly motion sickness from a particularly bumping ride through Mirebalais and elsewhere.
Two weeks later, back in the states, my videographer came down with three days of severe diarrhea. He was very dehydrated and had to seek medical treatment from his doctor. This too occurred before the reports of Haiti’s cholera swept the world.

From our tour guide and my videographer I was given some indications of how the disease can hit all of sudden and debilitate, though I am sure that neither of my traveling companions is afflicted. But hundreds of others are and now comes all sorts of rumors and theories about the origin and who is responsible for the recent outbreak.

This past Sunday on Gil Noble’s “Like It Is” on ABC-TV, City Councilman Dr. Mathieu Eugene was hesitant to say what might have caused the current outbreak of the disease, carefully shying away from a few of the theories now making the circuit.

Joining Dr. Eugene on the show was activist Smith Georges who was also reluctant to indicate exactly the source or the time of the outbreak, though he did note that it is rather odd that it’s taken so long to occur given the months since the earthquake.

Others have suggested that the cholera may have been brought in by outsiders, perhaps as Georges reported, from the many foreign troops dispatched to Haiti after the disaster or foreign workers with the various NGOs.

It does seem strange that there has been no cholera in Haiti for more than a half century and that the nation was spared an outbreak in Latin America in recent times.

There is no end to the theories of origin but what is uppermost now is to fight the spread of the disease and hope it doesn’t reach the crowded tent communities in and around Port au Prince. Like smallpox, one incidence of cholera could wreak havoc and leave in its wake thousands of fatalities.

Clean and potable water, antibiotics, and other medical supplies are desperately needed, and this has nothing to do with when or where the disease started.

Herb Boyd is an author, activist, teacher and journalist and is a roving reporter for – He is a resident of Harlem, New York