(Politico) – On the boiling streets of Ferguson, Missouri, one recent image must have stung the state’s Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, more than others. Scrawled across a cardboard cutout featuring an image of Nixon’s face were the words, “M.I.A. AGAIN!”
Criticism of Nixon swelled after the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. Some faulted Nixon for failing to take the lead in addressing the situation, which resulted in mass—at times violent—protests and found the streets of Ferguson cloaked in teargas, patrolled by police in tanks and other militarized gear. Others decried his failure to name a special prosecutor to look into the details of the shooting, leaving the investigation to a local prosecutor with family ties to law enforcement.
While the furor over Brown’s death exposed historic racial divisions in Ferguson, it once again drew attention to the long-standing and unusual rift between the Democratic governor and potential 2016 presidential candidate and one of the party’s most loyal constituencies—African Americans.
“The black anger at Nixon runs deep,” State Rep. Paula Carter told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1997, referring to Nixon’s decision as state attorney general to block desegregation efforts in the state—a move some believed was meant to pander to white voters.