Adolph Mongo: Michigan Congressman John James Can't Remain Silent While His Party Advocates Hate and Bigotry

March 24, 2024, 10:14 PM

The author is a politcal commentator and consultant and host of the weekly podcast, "Detroit in Black and White." He previously worked in Mayor Coleman A. Young's administration.

By Adolph Mongo

U.S. Rep. John James (Facebook photo)

The Michigan county once known as the home of Ronald Reagan Democrats, over the years has become a diverse community. I never thought that I'd become so interested in Macomb County politics. But as more and more Black Detroiters move to this area, I’ve started to pay more attention to the political happenings of our neighbors to the east.

As a veteran of running campaigns and advising elected officials for over 35 years, I once looked at many Macomb politicians as racists and bigots. I thought they often played the race card to get elected and reelected. In 1992, residents of East Detroit passed a referendum changing the city's name to Eastpointe. Many residents didn’t want to be associated with Detroit, the state's Blackest city.        

A former state representative from Macomb County name David Jaye, didn't think slavery was evil, insisting it provided jobs and meals for Blacks. The bigoted politician also opposed affirmative action, complaining that it put strugglinng Whites at a disadvantage. Sounds like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.           

When I was growing up, Macomb County had a terrible reputation among people of color. My mother told me a story of a Black motorist from out of state, who got lost in the city of Warren in the late 1960s. Thinking that he was in Detroit, the man flagged down a Warren police officer and asked for directions to the Black area of the city.

10th Congressional District

The White officer directed him to the all-Black Detroit Memorial Park Cemetery, on 13 mile and Mound. My mother said she had read the article in one of the local Detroit newspapers. But the county has come a long way since the 1960s. Black migration from Detroit to Macomb County has increased,and that voting block is flexing its power.

Consequently, the faces of Macomb County leaders are rapidly changing. Eastpointe's previous mayor was Monique Owens, a Black woman. The city is represented in Lansing by Kimberley Edwards, a Black state representative.  The city of Warren last year elected its first Black council person. And the former all White Macomb County Circuit Court has an African American judge sitting on the bench.

The increasing voting power of the Black voters in Macomb County may decide the winner in the 10th Congressional District, which includes southern Macomb County, Rochester and Rochester Hills in Oakland County.

The contest is likely to pit, as it did in 2022, veteran Democratic politician Carl Marlinga against Republican incumbent Congressman John James. Voters will get a chance to choose between right and wrong, with the wrong being John James.

Black Voters and James

Black voters you think, would gravitate towards James, even split their ticket to vote for him. James, is a polished, family man, West Point graduate and business executive.

But James and campaign advisors don’t care about the sizable number of Black voters in the 10th District. He has handcuffed his campaign to the Donald Trump train of bigotry and racism. While Trump and James' Republican allies around the country vote to eliminate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, ban Black authors from libraries, erase Black history and make false claims that the military is accepting and promoting unqualified Black people, James has been silent.

John James and Carl Marlinga

And when former Auburn University football coach, Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, held up key military promotions for months, saying women and Black men who were being promoted were unfit and not qualified to be leaders in the military, there was not a peep out of James. Tuberville made millions of dollars off the sweat and hard work of Black athletes.

Meanwhile, Marlinga, a former Macomb County prosecutor and Macomb County Circuit Court judge, who lost a razor-thin vote two years ago against James, has quietly over the years, made his mark fighting and advocating for equal rights. When he was the Macomb County prosecutor, he hired African Americans as assistant prosecutors and brought more women into the office. It was not a popular thing to do.

Marlinga and Race

Marlinga said his views on race were shaped by the one year he spent in an integrated school while growing up on the eastside of Detroit. “I went to Courville School in the kindergarten. My best friend was a Black kid named William. My relationship with him helped shape my views on racial justice.”    

“When you spend a whole year with a Black kid as your best friend, he added, "it teaches you about humanity. I grew up in a society that was racist. When Martin Luther King said, 'I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls,' I always think about William and often wonder how he is doing and did he do well in life.”

Marlinga said as an attorney and prosecutor, he fought to exonerate the wrongfully convicted that earned him praised from Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project. “I am proud and honored."

As someone who has voted the majority of the time for Democratic candidates, I have not been afraid to call out those leaders in the party for taking Black voters for granted and voting against our interest. My feud with former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm created a firestorm from party leaders, who accused me of being a closet Republican. Far from the truth.

They were mad at me for running a full-page ad in the Michigan Chronicle accusing Granholm and the state Democratic Party of not hiring Black consultants, not spending money with Black vendors and just wanting Black campaign volunteers; but not as paid consultants.

Things changed quickly as her campaign starting hiring every Black political operative in sight. Constructive criticism can make things happen.

James has every right to be a Republican. But he does not have the right to ignore the needs of the voters in the 10th Congressional District.

He doesn’t have the right to control a woman's body. He can’t remain silent while his party advocates hate and bigotry in this country.

James does residents in Macomb County a disservice when he turns a blind eye, not challenging the chaos and disorganization that is eating away at the root of his party. He needs to come out against his party leaders' bullshit.

He has remained silent while leaders of his party have attempted to pass draconian laws, and roll back the rights of Black voters. He has remained silent, while Governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas rewrite Black history, and ban books in their states.

His silence says it all.

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