The first would be a decision by the grand jury to indict police officer Darren Wilson. The indictment might stifle more outcry over the incident, or it might not. Consider that the prosecutor in the case has reportedly chosen not to push any specific charges, but instead has chosen to let the grand jury determine what, if any, crime has been committed. It’s possible that even an indictment, particularly one viewed as too lenient, might not be enough to deter serious outrage among civil rights leaders. Or a murder indictment might incite more discontent by validating the earlier concerns of protesters.
The second scenario is that the grand jury decides to hold off on an indictment until later, perhaps after the November elections. That would present an opening for civil rights leaders and political types to ramp up their angry rhetoric toward the authorities involved. While the prosecutor has suggested that he will finish presenting evidence by mid-October, the grand jury has until January to decide what, if anything, to do.
Then there is the matter of the Justice Department. Some believe the decision by the soon-to-resign Attorney General Anthony Holder to stay in office until his replacement is named will delay any civil rights-related investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. Others believe Holder will want to see that the issue is dealt with while he’s still on his watch. That would allow for a late October or early November hint, or even a forceful declaration, that a pattern of civil rights violations by the Ferguson police exists.
Virtually every scenario leads to the same likely result. By election time, Ferguson will be back in the news and could possibly be evoking a new round of protests and high emotions.
Whether any of that would be justified or not remains undecided for now. But we know that many of our nation’s top African-American leaders, including the attorney general, have reflected upon the difference with which blacks, and in particular black men, are treated by law enforcement and other authorities. It is a topic that can quickly get the attention of African-American voters.
And those voters and their turnout in this election season are critical to any hope Democrats have of holding onto control of the U.S. Senate. In states such as North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Arkansas, a stronger-than-usual turnout of African-American voters could take states once handicapped to go Republican in 2014 and hand them to Democrats, or at the very least throw several contests into post-General Election runoffs.
Racial politics is a tricky thing to deal with. I learned long ago that it is nearly impossible to judge how those of other races and ethnicities feel about their lives or how they are treated.
What is not hard to figure out is that the sticky situation in Ferguson has not gone away and may play a critical role in the upcoming elections.
Matt Towery is author of the book “Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency.” He has served as an elected official, has advised major national campaigns and heads a non-partisan polling and media company. He is also publisher of the Washington-based Southern Political Report, the nation’s oldest active political newsletter. Follow him on Twitter: @matttowery. To find out more about Matt Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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