Watkins and Price: Democrats or Blackocrats?

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stocks.jpg
John Yeadon, Wikipedia Commons
Give Craig Watkins a little more power, and he'll be putting anybody who owes Lisa Blue money in stocks out front of the courthouse.
Not that the office of district attorney isn't political anyway. In the old days when the Republican old guard dangled the local district attorney on puppet strings, the office functioned as a kind of collection agency for the well connected. Walk away from a deal with one of those guys, and the district attorney would have you in front of a grand jury before you could say, "What country is this?"

So now that the district attorney is a Democrat from the other side of the tracks, that's all changed, right? Maybe not so much. Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has been making major moves to consolidate his political power, first by pushing his own assistant district attorneys to target and run for election against judges he doesn't like, now apparently by having his top assistant seek to oust the chairman of the county Democratic Party.

You could ask: why shouldn't a major figure in the local Democratic Party seek to consolidate his control over Democratic office-seekers and holders? Republicans do it. So what?

The so-what in all things Craig Watkins is the Hill case. Watkins was accused in that one of bringing criminal charges against a wealthy Dallas couple in order to help Watkins' political associate Lisa Blue collect money from them. Watkins won an appeal of a contempt finding in that case. Generally speaking, it's a pretty complicated matter without a whole bunch of heroes on any side.

But don't forget this part. After a full review, 204th Criminal District Judge Lena Levario, a loyal Democrat like Watkins, found that Watkins had cooked up a phony criminal case against the Hills in order to help Blue, a mega-donor Democrat, squeeze the Hills for legal fees.

Even back in the solid Republican days at the Dallas County Courthouse, I don't remember a district attorney in Dallas County ever getting hit with quite that explicit or damning an indictment of his basic integrity as a law enforcement officer. The so-what factor here is that Watkins has already demonstrated a penchant for official oppression, and he even does it in fairly heedless fashion. At least the Republicans showed us some respect by hiding their moves a little.

We have to ask: In an increasingly Democratic county, what will Watkins' penchant be if he achieves the power to decide who gets to be a Democratic candidate and who gets to be a judge? Woe betide the poor sucker who ever makes the mistake of owing Lisa Blue a nickel. We'll probably see him out in front of the courthouse with his face and hands sticking out of a box.

This is a political question, and in the end all of the answers must be political. If this is how the Democratic Party really wants to play it, then what can anybody else say? I guess the answer for people like me will be to go vote for Republicans, an awfully sharp stick in the eye but maybe I can make myself do it.

But I can't help wondering in the meantime what the hell's happening to Dallas County Democrats. The other day we had the ugly saga of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, arguably the county's most powerful elected Democrat, attacking Sheriff Lupe Valdez, another Democrat, on a racial quota issue in her command staff.

Ever since 2008, everybody talks about the big Democratic tide in Dallas County -- the blue tsunami. But I look at Price and Watkins in recent months and find myself wondering if they really are true Democrats. What if they are really just Blackocrats? What even minimal effort or proclivity does either of them show for reaching an inch beyond their own narrowly ethnic base to form common cause with any other Democrats?

The problem with being Blackocrats is this: Dallas County now is about 32 percent non-Hispanic white, 39 percent Hispanic and only 23 percent black. If we judge by the ethnicity of the kids who show up every year for school, the story in southern Dallas for the last several years has been one of fairly dramatic depopulation by black families. It's a good story, to the extent that it expresses black upward mobility, most of which tends to be up and out. Those black families who have earned their way to the suburbs are being replaced rapidly by Mexican immigrant families whose hard work and determination surely will carry them up that same road in the not too distant future.

But where does that leave the old-style Blackocrats, the ones for whom it's all black, all day, 24/7 and 352 days a year, the ones whose motto is, "You're all white. You can go to hell." I don't see a future in it. But then again, maybe that's because I don't want to.

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26 comments
Catbird
Catbird

Barack Obama and Erich Holder are doing the same thing in Washington. Are they Blackocrats as well?

ryan762
ryan762

It saddens me the way Watkins has acted in many instances, his initial unwillingness to pursue the constables, the Lisa Blue stuff, trying to turn the D.A.s office into a launching pad for friendly judges, etc., because Watkins was such an early leader on post-conviction DNA testing and righting wrongful convictions. He was one of the few in this state who simply agreed to let testing be conducted rather than waiting for an appeals court to force him too (Michael Morton sat in prison for six additional years solely because John Bradley refused to agree to testing. It took the 5th Circuit ordering the testing to get it done. All that time, Bradley was effectively shielding a serial killer from justice). Even after the state has repeatedly passed new laws to allow post-conviction testing, some District Attorneys continue to fight until the courts overrule them.

I know it's unpopular among many in Dallas to let innocent people out of prison, but it was something that, to me, seemed important and showed Watkins to be someone more interested in justice than in simply convicting whoever happened to be closest.

But he's just pissed away all of the goodwill he generated by putting crony politics ahead of his oath.

lzippitydoo
lzippitydoo

Finally a story that paints these 2 clowns for what they are - prejudiced loudmouths who have set the city back a few years. With Price and Watkins (and you have to include the minimal # of voters in the elections) in power, the black/white lines will always be considered a battleground - not any effort by them to make things work together! Neither would recommend a qualified individual over an unqualified minority to any of their respective responsible areas - because they will always feel like they are persecuted! John Wiley is glaringly obvious and Watkins took apart the DA's office and has made it his own harem!

Watkins and Price follow the lead of other area so-called leaders (Lipscomb, Hill, Ragsdale) that have kept the city polarized and divided!

The voters can get rid of these guys or their rif-raf will continue!

rusknative
rusknative

WHAT WE NEED is a water fountain art work that highlights WhiteSuppremacy over the victim blacks.....maybe Price can waste a whole lot of tax money on that kind of project in the Records Bldg....oh, wait....already done....what a statement about DALLAS.....

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

Among decent folks, instead of making up racist sounding labels, we simply refer to black Democrats as a demographic.


casiepierce
casiepierce

"We'll probably see him out in front of the courthouse with his face and hands sticking out of a box."

You reap what you sow...

notmadeomoney
notmadeomoney

"Even back in the solid Republican days at the Dallas County Courthouse, I don't remember a district attorney in Dallas County ever getting hit with quite that explicit or damning an indictment of his basic integrity as a law enforcement officer."

The only reason for this is because the Republican district attorneys were far more powerful with more financial and political capital backing them than Watkins could ever hope to have.  D.A. Wade was a complete scumbag, but accusations bounced off him like Teflon until after he was dead.


Your overall racial angle is pretty spot-on though, IMO.

James080
James080 topcommenter

Watkins and Price seem to want to turn Dallas into New Detroit. Given the volume of straight ticket low information voters in Dallas County, they'll likely succeed.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Only you could get away with a piece like that (ha!).  Even then, keep an eye on your colleagues.  If they  drift back just out of the effective casualty radius, you know you've been targeted.

I suppose the Blackocrats are taking their white votes for granted.

And there is a back story in play.  That redistricting fight was ugly.  There seems to be an undercurrent of bad blood between the Blackocrat old guard and and a rising Hispanic power base.

And Watkins ain't no Henry Wade.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Price and Watkins are both Dollarcrats. It's a common political metamorphosis that seems to affect elected officials of every political stripe.

The only "black upward mobility" they are concerned about is their own.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

" What if they are really just Blackocrats? What even minimal effort or proclivity does either of them show for reaching an inch beyond their own narrowly ethnic base to form common cause with any other Democrats?"

Yes. This.

Add Vonciel to the list as well.

PerryMoore
PerryMoore

"I don't see a future in it" either, but for your typical politician, the future is the next election cycle, and nothing more. When it comes to the future, we're all white, and we can all go to hell.

doublecheese
doublecheese

There is no future in it, that's for sure.  This is a national trend in demographics.  Black birth rates are declining rapidly (if it weren't for black women, a lot of abortion clinics would go out of business), and immigrant groups are rapidly replacing them.  There's a reason blacks are disappointed with Obama.  It's because he hasn't done shit for them (though they still support him).  The reason he hasn't done shit for them is because they just don't matter as much as they used to, and in the future, they won't matter at all.

RichGans
RichGans

you mean like taking DNA and not testing it, and having dozens of innocent people incarcerated...yeah, that was nothing *sarcasm*

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

Speaking of Price, what's the status of the federal investigation?

ruddski
ruddski

Speaking of labeling, is Steve Eager really an "online predator", as you claim in your most recent google groups posting? Or, are you trolling for lawyers again?

ruddski
ruddski

Eventually, the ruling Mexicrats will clean that all up.

James080
James080 topcommenter

@Montemalone  

Seriously, can you name a county-wide black democrat politician who isn't on that list?

ryan762
ryan762

@RichGans A lot of the cases in which post-conviction DNA tests resulted in exoneration were on evidence collected prior to the advent of effective DNA testing. Watkins deserves a lot credit for being willing to test without fighting it through the appeals courts like other DAs, but in many of these cases, it's not that the previous DAs chose not to do DNA testing, the cases just predated DNA testing.


But yeah, the way some of these falsely accused people ended up in prison was due to police and the DA pursuing cases with red flags that should have given them pause or, sometimes, due to police or prosecutors manufacturing evidence (one of the exonerees was convicted after the police report claimed that the victim not only told them the kind of car, kind of beer, and cross streets near where her rapist lived but also five of the six numbers of the license plate. Given the DNA evidence ruled out the accused, the logical explanation is that vague identification information given by the victim became much more concrete only after police had found someone who could be their suspect, i.e. they found a car and a black guy and then put his license plate in the report, claiming that the victim had given them that information before they came upon a suspect rather than after).

wcvemail
wcvemail

@Lakewooder Shortly after the start of that investigation, I dug out and published here a stat that the average FBI investigation of public figures takes four years. I may dig that up again today, but for now, bear in mind that we're not even at the two-year, halfway mark IIRC. 

Or the tl;dr version: "grinding along."

You've been absent from these pages for about that long, haven't you?

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

Thanks for the historic perspective.

Oh, I've been around, just a little less noisy - mellowing with age, maybe

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