The audacity of former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's assertion on Politico.com that “Obama needs to fire DNC chairman Kaine. …” cries out for a push back. The nefariousness of his comments negates the need for an item analysis. The focus, rather, must be the unbelievable nature of Wilder's self-imposed indispensability underpinned with a pompous sense of importance. Wilder has never been without flawed opinions and the fervency in making them known. The people need to be spared his pious rhetoric.
The whetstone of his pantomime of leadership has been the propensity to make substance irrelevant. Byzantine approaches have resulted in a myriad of successful failures. When the leaves of history books are peeled back on his historic election as governor no great deeds of his will be recorded. Revealed will be a vindictive, broken trust and chosen wrong era of governance. The ingloriousness of his tenure will be spotlighted by his willingness to be the unapologetic and unabashed advocate for the lacerated and bane agenda of neoconservatives. With principles sacrificed and integrity lost, Wilder was their reliable avatar to devalue the human spirit. History will confirm the errancy of Wilder's actions, which appealed to the anxieties rather than aspirations; and angst rather than hope of Virginians.
As a messenger who taints the message, it was incredulous that Wilder asserted that President Obama's administration is “not listening to the people.” Space will not permit the enumeration of the seamless web of his well-documented arrogance as a fomenter of immoderation where wedge strategies resulted in confrontation over cooperation.
Wilder was averse to a cardinal tenet of leadership: having a cause beyond oneself with the corollary purpose that's bigger than personal and selfish desires. Powers inherent in his various leadership responsibilities were not matched by humility nor leavened by sensitivity to the value of democracy. Development of democratic values was arrested on his watch.
Loyalty is a key requirement for respected leadership. Wilder's disloyalty to friend, family and foe knew no limits. It's unfathomable his traitorous attitude and actions toward the Democratic Party. Attacking the party should have been supplanted with the courage to confront the overt racism since the election of President Obama. A profile in cowardice emerges. Confucius prophetically predicted Wilder's sordid lack of courage: “To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.”
The most repulsive and inconceivable aspect of his disloyalty is related to the investigation of accounting for the huge residue in his inaugural fund. It was shocking and horrifying when it was widely and publicly reported that he blamed his son for this matter. In throwing his son under the bus, this proverbial blame shifting showed unimaginable disloyalty. A character flaw emerges.
Without a doubt there is one area of involvement that deflated his self-perpetuating grandiosity — his wisely aborted presidential candidacy in 1992. His shallowness on the national stage was pathetic and proved to be an embarrassment to Virginia.
One of his most infamous and scurrilous acts was the failure to support the Brown Scholarship program enacted in Virginia to ameliorate the devastating impact on those who were denied an education because of closing schools in Prince Edward County during Massive Resistance. Wilder was the only former governor who did not endorse this program, which would have benefited blacks. The resultant racial impotence of Wilder was riveting and revolting, making him the Clarence Thomas of politics.
The totality of Wilder's failures morphed into his role as mayor of Richmond. The city's at-large mayoral election should have engendered optimism and hope. Richmond inherited Wilder, who affixed his leadership responsibility to personal grudges and irresponsible, reckless and callous actions. Inexorable waste turned hope into headache, alienated rather than united and hurt rather than healed. His egregious abuse of power was punctuated with spitefulness instead of insightfulness. What he did to public education was unconscionable, unethical and culturally demented. It represented gross moral failure. Needed visionary strategies were displaced by a villainous agenda.
The “Urgency of Now” as articulated by Martin Luther King Jr. is applicable to the need to know this truncated version of Wilder's disastrous adventures. One would think that oblivion would be a virtue. Irrelevancy rules supreme as analogized by this vignette — Wilder's influence and legacy are “Like the blunted edge of a lawn mower — lacks the proper cutting edge to leave an effective leadership legacy on the grass of life.”
Roy A. West served as Richmond mayor from 1982 to 1988.