So who are you voting for for Memphis mayor? It's the issue everyone's talking about. Of course, by the time you read this, it may be a moot point, but I think it's important to speak and write honestly about the topic. And what I've seen and heard and read during this election cycle troubles me.
The thing that's struck me about most of the conversations I've had and the e-mails I've received is that almost everyone is voting from fear. The fear expressed by some, for instance, that four more years of Mayor Herenton's increasing weirdness and erratic behavior — to wit: the press conference this summer claiming unnamed "snakes" were plotting to get him, or the one he staged with the city attorney two weeks ago about crooked or defective voting machines, etc. — will doom us to divisiveness and stagnation.
Conversely, comments I've heard and read from some African Americans indicate they are voting for Herenton because they are afraid that if a white candidate (Carol Chumney) wins — or a candidate they perceive as "not black enough" (Herman Morris) — they could be "throwing away" all the gains they've earned from having a black mayor for 16 years.
Then there's the "anybody but Herenton" crowd. These folks aren't worried about skin color, they just don't want Willie anymore. They're trying to decide between Chumney and Morris, based solely on which of them has the best chance to beat Herenton. They're constantly poll-watching, analyzing the percentages, waiting for the latest data, afraid they will pick the "wrong" candidate.
I know that each of the three major contenders for Memphis mayor has their true-believers, folks who aren't voting from fear or gauging the odds of one candidate against another. But I think a great many of the city's voters are voting to make sure something doesn't happen, rather than choosing a candidate they truly beleive in.
It's ironic and more than a little sad — given that this is the Flyer's annual "Best of Memphis" issue — that so many of us are voting not for who we think is best for the job, but to avoid the worst.