‘The Pulse’ is probably white

As a highly experienced professional observer of all kinds of stuff I’d just as soon not have seen, I’m going to go out on a limb here and help Mayor Bob narrow down the options a bit on the identity of "The Pulse:"

I’m pretty sure they’re white.

This is based on anecdotal inference, mind you, but I offer my intelligence estimate with a high degree of confidence.

You may or may not have noticed a brief, bottom-of-the-page editorial we ran a week or two ago (the kind we call a "backup," if you’ll forgive the jargon), along these lines:

E.W. Cromartie

IT’S DISAPPOINTING that filing closed for Columbia City Council
elections without anyone stepping up to challenge long-term Councilman
E.W. Cromartie.

Mr. Cromartie has done much to help his district, he also has done
plenty to damage the public’s trust and give citizens reason to worry.

one hand, Councilman Cromartie is responsible for helping revive areas
such as Read Street and the old Saxon Homes public housing community
property. He also pushed a jobs program to train residents in the
empowerment zone. But Mr. Cromartie has also set a terrible example of
common citizenship. Over the years, he’s failed to pay taxes on time,
been delinquent on water bill payments, overspent his council expense
account and parked in handicapped spaces.

Elected officials, like
many of us, encounter difficulties sometimes. But when someone
willingly offers himself for public office, he should be held to a
higher standard of trustworthiness. Mr. Cromartie has not measured up…

And so forth. This editorial was no big deal to us. It didn’t say anything about Mr. Cromartie that we hadn’t said before. It’s just that one of us noticed that he had skated without opposition, we agreed that that was a shame given his record in office, and we did the edit. It ran on a Saturday. By Monday, I had forgotten about it.

Others had not. All day Monday, people came up to me whenever I was out in public (at breakfast, at Rotary). That’s always nice, but there’s praise and there’s praise. This editorial had not been a big deal, and really wasn’t worth that much comment — at the expense of other things we had made a bigger deal about, which were NOT getting mentioned so enthusiastically.

And after all these years, you develop the ability to read between the lines of praise as well as criticism. This praise fit into a certain pattern.

Next day, I mentioned all this mentioning to Warren. Warren said HE had been hearing from folks all the previous day, too. Then I mentioned that all the people who had praised the editorial to me had been white. Why did I mention that? Because of the pattern I had seen in the praise. These folks were saying, in their words and facial expressions and gestures, what I had heard and seen white Columbians say about Mr. Cromartie for years (I can’t swear it’s ONLY been white folks, but that’s been the overwhelming tendency — his black critics tend to be quieter). No, I’m not saying there was anything racist in any of this. I’m just saying that this is something I get a lot from white readers — a particular sort of long-suffering frustration with a black officeholder who gets returned to office time and again by the voters in his single-member-district, no matter what he does.

As I read back over that paragraph, I know I haven’t explained what I mean in a way that will be understood by everyone. But I’m trying to describe something for which we have no common vocabulary. People who have dealt with it a lot and seen the things I’ve seen may understand me. Others will not.

Warren knew what I meant. He shared with me the fact that all those who had contacted him had been black. And they had not been going out of their way to praise the editorial. Some had been critical; others had just mentioned it in a neutral way.

This is the kind of thing that perpetuates itself. Officeholders like Mr. Cromartie tend to stay in office because most public criticism of them tends to come from whites, which enables him to come across as a victim with a lot of black voters.

For Warren and me, the problems we have with Mr. Cromartie’s performance in office aren’t about race. For too many other people, they are. That’s one of the things that makes a candidacy like Obama’s so exciting — it really isn’t about race, whereas far too many elections still are.

Anyway, you may or may not have seen this post at ‘The Pulse,’ based on our backup editorial. There’s nothing wrong with what The Pulse is saying about Mr. Cromartie. I agree with it. Good point. And yes, it is indeed frustrating that "because E.W. has been so long entrenched in his seat, he can get away with things like this."

But certain undefinable things about that post caused me to leap to a conclusion: ‘The Pulse’ is white. Or at least the writer of that post is. Let’s get a second opinion… based on our previous conversation, I pointed the post out to Warren. Yep, he said. He’s "pretty sure" they’re white.

If we’re wrong, I’ll be glad to apologize for being so presumptuous. I’ll be glad to do so, because it’s actually a relief to be proved wrong about such things. But I’m pretty sure we’re not.

11 thoughts on “‘The Pulse’ is probably white

  1. Lee Muller

    What signifigance does the skin color of critics of politicians have?
    Why are editors and news pundits so prediposed to view every issue through some racial, gender, class or pro-government prism? Most of them only have one prism?

  2. Brad Warthen

    This is like shooting fish in a barrel, but you can only ignore Lee (who has already commented on this blog 11 times today alone) just so long.

    You notice how, with Lee, when I say "Race Doesn’t Matter," I’m wrong:

    If race doesn’t matter, why is Obama running a racial campaign,
    promising an impossible list of handouts to blacks, to be paid for by
    heavier taxes on the mostly-white upper middle-income taxpayers?

    Why are all his speeches filled with recycled phrases from speeches
    other black politicians like Martin L. King and Malcolm X, which are
    code word for "taking it from whitey"?

    Posted by: Lee Muller | Jan 28, 2008 12:19:41 PM

    And when I say race does matter (or at least, it’s a palpable factor), I’m ALSO wrong.

    You just can’t win with these white guys.

  3. Willis

    I ask again…is there anything Charles Austin could do, short of committing a felony, that would resort in his being dismissed?
    PS…yes, I am white too.

  4. Gordon Hirsch

    OK, Brad. Some more guesses about who’s behind The Pulse, though even this dab of attention seems to encourage them further, which I hate to do.
    Based on their last post, The Pulse’s “Gracious Me!” would suggest a woman of Southern upbringing. As this expression is rather dated and perhaps more common to people of “refined” upbringing, at least in her opinion, we’re probably talking about a white woman of 55-65 years of age. Add to that a decent web site with pretty good writing and editing, and you have indications of above-agerage education and income, though their attention to Cromartie has overtones of racism, not of the overt kind, but of the kind that goes to great length to ensure criticisms are preceded by grudging recognitions of effectiveness.
    Put it all together, and I’m guessing a dilettante from Shandon, whose family name we might recognize, should she be so bold as to come out with it.
    Let’s call her Scarlet in the meantime.

  5. Gordon Hirsch

    Everybody loves a mystery. … But we have forgotten motive. What would move someone to don the mask of “The Pulse,” pledging themselves to the pursuit of truth, justice, and the Columbia way? Or to claim that they represent the silent majority of huddled and downtrodden city-dwellers, those masses of cititzens who live in anonymous fear of retaliation by the evil City Council and it’s arch-enemy, Mayor Bob?
    Could it be civic-mindedness? Episcopalian ferver? Or vigilantism of the bridge-club brand? More likely, Scarlett’s husband or son or other close family member lost a bid for some City contract. For those who are moved by fear most often act out of greed.

  6. The Pulse

    My my… well… bit by bit I guess you guys are figuring out who we really are.
    If Gordon is right… I’m a 55-65 year-old white woman. I guess that means I could be Belinda Gergel?

  7. Lee Muller

    Brad, the thing about liberal racism is that it enables you to be wrong about race when it really is an issue and when it really isn’t.

  8. Brad Warthen

    Actually, there is a certain middle-aged white male with long experience working for the city  — someone who has on occasion shared, anonymously, certain thoughts like unto those we find on "the Pulse" — who comes to mind on the occasions when I think of that site.

    Fortunately for him, I can’t even think of the guy’s name at the moment. But this is a thin, unreliable association — far thinner than when I was wondering why Hillary didn’t come in for an interview, and for some reason I thought: "Don Fowler." That intuition turned out to be dead-on accurate, but I would never have written about it without the open admission (boast, even) of the suspect.


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