Jonathan Chait

Americans Hate Everybody

By

Washington mayor Adrian Fenty gets booed everywhere he goes despite having a stellar record:

Adrian M. Fenty wasn't even at the Academies at Anacostia graduation ceremony in the District on Friday, but when the mayor's name was mentioned, an unmistakable chorus arose: "Boo!" many in the crowd shouted.

Almost simultaneously, across town, where Fenty was attending a funeral for go-go great Anthony "Little Benny" Harley, his attempts to deliver condolences were nearly drowned out by a similar din. The taunts were so thunderous that Pastor Deron Cloud had to grab the microphone to calm the crowd at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

"This is not the place," Cloud said, to no avail.

The chorus heard 'round some parts of the District is one of vocal dissatisfaction for the 39-year-old Fenty. It's a far cry from the summer of 2006, when drivers honked excitedly whenever they saw him campaigning for mayor. Then, residents were as tickled to see the young candidate come to their doors as if a celebrity had dropped by with a sweepstakes prize.

Now, Fenty is in a contentious battle with D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, his chief rival for mayor, in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. Supporters say that the criticism and boos are unfair, particularly because city services get high marks, students' test scores are rising, and new libraries, schools and recreation centers have opened citywide.

The Post interprets this as a reaction to the perception that Fenty is aloof and high-handed. I have another interpretation that won't surprise regular readers of this blog. In 2006, Fenty was not the incumbent, and the economy was not in a recession. Not he is and it is. Fenty's unpopularity among black Washingtonians has been described as a reaction to his style and perceived favoritism of upscale white neighborhoods. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that unemployment is catastrophically high in poorer, non-white parts of the city.

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