On its face, it’s thunderous.
In the era of the raised fist, a female black mayor has accused an elderly white congressman of racism and sexism, and endorsed a call for his resignation or removal from office.
It’s not a grenade tossed through the window, it’s a tactical nuke, inbound and hot, the one sure-death accusation of the modern era. In the season of woke, it asks the question: How deep is the commitment of Monroe County Democrats to the cause they’ve spent the last two months parading and protesting about?
Here’s the story: County Legislator Sabrina LaMar works at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It’s one of those community-organizer jobs that Democrats seem so often to fill.
Her job is relevant because she claims that, after appearing on some obscure Facebook Live show, Congressman Joe Morelle – whose primary opponent hosted the obscure Facebook Live show – called RIT and demanded she be fired, and threatened to cut federal funding for the school if she wasn’t.
He agrees that he called the school, and asked about staffers being involved in political activities, but said he didn’t ask for anybody to be fired or disciplined, and he didn’t threaten any money.
Sabrina LaMar says that she was disciplined.
RIT refers inquirers to a policy handbook.
The upshot is that that part’s not that big a deal. Though Morelle and his various wingmen are being tight lipped, it’s likely he called the school to remind it about the Hatch Act, which limits the political activities of people employed in programs funded by federal money.
It’s unlikely – but not impossible – that Morelle asked for her to be fired. If he did, her upset is completely justified and he’s a piece of crap.
But Joe Morelle wouldn’t do that.
He’d use an intermediary.
When you’re in your fourth decade of politics, you know about fingerprints.
But that’s all foreplay. The real story is the fight between Joe Morelle and Lovely Warren, the two bulls in the Democrat china shop. After years of simmering rivalry, Lovely Warren has gone all in, and the war is on.
Perhaps with the passing of Assemblyman David Gantt, Lovely Warren has decided to take the gloves off.
Perhaps a string of political successes for Morelle – at the expense of Warren – have pushed her to make a last stand. He kept her hand-picked Board of Elections commissioner from taking office, his candidates spanked hers in the recent Democratic primary, and his political organization now controls the congress seat, the county executive’s office and the county clerk’s office. Up next is the vote for chairman of the Monroe County party, and maybe Lovely felt that in order to keep that in her column she had to take the air out of Morelle’s tires.
Or cut his head off.
Because her weepy performance in endorsement of Sabrina LaMar’s claim was not a half measure. It was a lunge for the jugular. It wasn’t a brush back pitch, it was a beanball. And it has the potential to end Joe Morelle’s career.
Sabrina LaMar made her claims standing next to the two principal organizers of Rochester’s Black Lives Matter movement. Lovely Warren specifically and tearfully tied Joe Morelle to the oppression of women of color. She made him the poster boy for privileged, white, institutional racism.
She said that he was trying to take away the livelihood of an innocent person, and depriving her of the ability to support her family.
(At this point, let’s all shout together: What about Jeremy Kappell, Lovely?)
The social context of the mayor’s statement is, of course, a time of local and national upheaval over race. It is an upheaval that has become the flag behind which the Democratic Party marches toward the November election. Almost all local Democrat officials – including Morelle – have expressed support for it, and marched in demonstrations. Black Lives Matter signs dot Democrat lawns all across Morelle’s district. A Black Lives Matter banner even hangs from the library in Morelleville.
And now Joe Morelle has just been condemned by the local Black Lives Matter organization, and by the mayor who is the voice, face and conscience of black people across the region.
Typically, the accusation of racism is accepted as the proof of racism, and the accuser is judge, jury and executioner. Especially in progressive circles. What Lovely Warren has done is turn the biggest gun in the cancel-culture arsenal against Joe Morelle.
And we’ll have to see if he can stand.
We’ll have to see if local Democrats will defend him or denounce him.
We’ll have to see if it becomes something more complex than the usual dynamic of white Democrats support Joe and black Democrats support Lovely.
A lot of white Joe Morelle Democrats have strained to demonstrate how woke they are, and how enthusiastic allies they are, how tight they are with their black brothers and sisters. And Lovely Warren has called their bluff. She has pointed to the white man atop their pyramid of power and defined him as the enemy.
We’ll have to see how that turns out.
Will they take her seriously, or will they see a pattern of claiming racism to get her way.
And we’ll have to see if this story gets picked up in Washington. If it does, all bets may be off. Because a couple of days of questions for Nancy Pelosi about her boy Morelle might well wear out his welcome, and he could be this week’s sacrificial lamb.
Either way, it’s fascinating.
And one thing is certain.
The Republicans sure wish they had Cheryl Dinolfo on the congressional ballot this fall.