Atlanta's mayoral race has captured national attention as Mary Norwood, a white front-runner, threatens to break the city's 35-year string of black mayors. The race got messy when two prominent professors urged black voters to unite around one black candidate "in order to defeat a (white) mayoral candidacy." The appeal to race was swiftly condemned as bigoted by prominent black leaders in the city. Interestingly, pundits within the conservative fold are interpreting the developments in starkly different terms. Is Atlanta a beacon of racial progress or something far from it?

  • Atlanta Has Sunk to a New Low," complains Crystal Wright at the right-of-center New Majority blog. She calls it typical "Atlanta style" race-baiting that preys on fears that black entrepreneurs will win less city contracts with a white mayor in office. Wright's lament resonates with her readers who imagine what would happen if the racial roles were reversed: "If whites were promoting racism like this, plotting to keep the black man politician down, because of the color of his skin, this would be a national headline news story for days on end."
  • Not So Fast, notes The Wall Street Journal's conservative editorial board. The editors focus on the local backlash to the professors' machinations and call it a sure sign of "racial progress." The piece cites City Council President Lisa Borders who the professors urged black voters to rally behind. Borders flatly rejected the endorsement calling it "absolutely wrong." The current mayor also called the approach "bigoted" and said Atlanta has been divided for too long. "What is heartening," the editors write, "is that these divisive tactics have met with complete rejection from her opponents." 
  • A Sign of Better Things to Come, agrees The Christian Science Monitor's Patrik Jonsson: "Atlanta—and the country—has changed. There's a black president. And in increasingly diverse Atlanta neighborhoods ... many blacks are sporting campaign signs for the white candidate." Jonsson suggests that race is becoming a secondary qualification for black voters who don't want to be seen as members of a special interest group, but rather as "individual voters looking for the best candidate."