Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sifting Through the Cropp

Tuesday evening, Linda Cropp (D-At-Large) stood in a steamy room above a tacky gift shop on Capitol Hill and made her case for why she should be the next mayor for the District of Columbia. In front of about fifteen people belonging to the gay-themed group “Out on the Hill”, Cropp recited her stump speech with the ease of a seasoned politician. Looking like a vertically challenged linebacker in a gold shoulder-padded suit jacket, Cropp spoke to the gathering about affordable housing, her part in the success of improving the District’s bond rating over the years, and her love of big-box stores like Target and Home Depot.

After she finished her brief economic lecture to the crowd, Cropp wrapped up her recitation and asked for questions. The homeowners in attendance immediately pounced on her with questions about taxes and the cost of living in the District. Two awkwardly dogged questioners did their best to impress Cropp and each other with their knowledge of residential taxes. Cropp did not seem impressed, but used the opportunity to correct the misstatements she heard the questioners make. She answered her questioners by reciting her love for affordable housing and big-box stores. One-track mind.

Perhaps it was the heat, but it was clear that some in the audience were getting bored during the Q&A. One attendee rolled his eyes, while others stared down at the drink they had in hand. Liquor often makes any meet-the-candidate night a whole lot easier to swallow.

Surprisingly, Cropp did not try to pander to the mostly gay crowd by discussing her accomplishments on behalf of gay citizens. Even after she was reminded by the group’s leader that she was speaking to a gay audience, Cropp kept pushing ahead with her economic message. She only got two gay-issue related questions before she had to pack up and go after about 45-minutes of meeting and greeting. One question, which I asked, had to do with gay youth and the other question focused in on her stance on gay marriage.

When asked for one specific policy initiative that she would push for as mayor on behalf of gay youth, she swatted away the question with talks of peace, love and happiness for all. Political, safe and boring.

When asked for her stance on gay marriage, she also gave a more political than principled answer. She is for gay marriage, but claims that now is not the time to discuss it or push for it. She is probably right on both counts, but her pragmatic answer was neither inspiring nor demonstrated qualities of a leader who will fight for principles.

The rumors about Cropp are true; she is a typical politician. She is more interested in discussing business deals and taxes than principled leadership stands that she has taken. She did not even mention her fight against Major League Baseball until someone complimented her on it, and even then she shrugged it off with a quick “thanks for the compliment” response. She shrugs off controversy.

Cropp is probably the most experienced candidate in the race for mayor, and she is probably the choice for safe, status-quo loving voters. She is certainly not a dramatic or risky choice. Cropp is a traditional “establishment” candidate. Do not look for fireworks in a Cropp administration.

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