We at VOCAB support no political party, stand for no political ideology, and endorse no political candidate (though we do have a lot of PR advice to give Rob Ford, should he want it). What we are interested in, however, is the art and application of communications, and that’s where stories like the election of Dave Wilson to a seat on the Houston Community College Board of Trustees comes in.
Not since Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton, “the first black president,” has a white politician in the US been able to draw upon the support of the black community in such a way. The twist here is this support seems to be wholly unintentional.
How did Wilson, a white conservative Republican in an overwhelmingly black Democratic district, pull-off a longshot razor-thin victory over a 24-year incumbent? Well, by pretending to be black. The thing is, what Wilson did, while arguably utterly deceitful, also seems to be completely legal.
Wilson’s described as a “political mischief-maker” – here’s some of the mischief he got up to:
– Distributing flyers featuring pics taken from the web of smiling blacks captioned with the words: “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.”
– One of the flyers also said “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” the name of a former black state representative. Fine print underneath said “Ron Wilson and Dave Wilson are cousins.” Of course, this “Ron Wilson” isn’t the politician, but one of Dave Wilson’s Iowa relatives.
– Made a radio ad voiced by two African-American women, in which one asks, “Dave Wilson? Isn’t he the—” and the other replies, “Yes, Dave Wilson is the man who’s fighting for our neighborhoods.”
– Had a campaign site full of smiling pics of different races, but not one pic of himself.
The defeated incumbent, Bruce Austin, distributed his own flyers showing Wilson’s face and calling him a “right-wing hate monger,” but in the end, he lost by 26 votes. Wilson in turn justified himself by saying, “Every time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters.” Austin wants a recount, but analysts say Wilson’s victory should hold, sending him into office for a six-year term.
And the lesson in all this? Well, apart from Wilson’s cunning use of deceptive tactics that bent, but didn’t break the rules, the main thing is if voters want elected officials who are representative of themselves, they must research who the candidates are, even if it’s just for a local community college board election. Otherwise, intentionally or not, they’ll end-up electing more Dave Wilsons in the future.