The Political Ironist: Brown, Crenshaw Say Goodbye

September 21, 2016 4 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

From left: Corrine Brown, Alvin Brown, Ander Crenshaw

As two of Jacksonville long-time congressional stalwarts, Ander Crenshaw of Florida’s 4th district and Corinne Brown of the 5th district, say goodbye to D.C., each exit in his and her own way. Crenshaw bows out quietly almost in the same reserved way he served, while Corinne Brown storms off in a blaze of headlines stemming from a 24-count federal indictment for fraud and tax evasion. Always seeking attention, Brown no doubt would prefer a different kind of media spotlight accompanying her swan song.

Their careers were significantly different, each emblematic of the party they represented. Crenshaw built his reputation as a staunch supporter of the military, a safe and natural strategy given the large Navy presence in Jacksonville, while Brown represented a mostly low-income black constituency, whom she touted as the beneficiary of funding and projects she brought back to her district.

Despite the differences in their conservative and liberal approaches as bona fide members of their respective political parties, social scientists say their clothes may have provided the biggest tip off as to how their careers might come to a close.

Crenshaw in his gray and black suits fits the profile of a conservative who is perceived as self-controlled and reliable; whereas Brown’s more expressive clothing is viewed as individualistic and daring.

Studies show that we think not only with our brains but also with our physical experiences, including the clothes we wear.  The phenomenon is called “embodied cognition.”

A cinematic example of this is when Michael Keaton played the title role in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Just before filming he reportedly confided to his co-star, Jack Nicholson that he was anxious about how to play the part, to which Nicholson, a two-time Academy Award winner, responded, “just play the costume.”  

Brown wore her clothes as a sartorial power statement, often showcasing bold fuchsia, green, yellow and red like a Benetton baby boomer ad; her design patterns as striking as Picasso’s Guernica. During a career where she often took on cutting-edge social issues, she supported decriminalization of marijuana advocating fines rather than arrest for some one caught with small personal amounts. She also supported increased funding for treatment programs rather than building more prisons believing that we should listen more to doctors than the police. But along with such progressive social initiatives came questionable ethical behavior as when her daughter Shantel Brown received a luxury automobile as a gift from an agent of Gambian Millionaire Foutanga Sissoko, a friend of Brown who had been jailed in Miami for bribing a Customs officer.  Brown worked with then U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to deport Sissoko back to his homeland as an alternative to incarceration, raising questions of whether she violated the House Gift rule. In 2007, Brown found herself at the center of questionable ethics again, which seemed to presage her current federal indictment.  At that time, Brown’s same daughter served as a congressional lobbyist for the Florida firm, Alacade & Faye, whose clients included Jacksonville’s Edwards Waters College, to which Brown earmarked millions in federal funding.  
Crenshaw, with his muted black and grey suits, never had a hint of impropriety during his 16-year congressional career. The only ripple of political controversy came when he voted for the bailout of the banks in during the financial crisis of 2008, but then as if to placate his conservative supporters; he publically applauded the organizers and participants of the First Coast Tax Day Tea Party, which condemned any bailout.

You mix black and white and you get a Crenshaw shade of grey. But at least his post congressional life won't come in service to the state behind bars as will Brown’s if the Feds prove their allegations that she filled her personal coffers with $800,000 funneled through her “One Door” charity.  
It’s as if Brown’s bold and often audacious wardrobe reflected invincibility and a power reserved for Superwoman. And is sometimes the case with politicians, greed proves to be their Kryptonite.

Written by Mike Bernos

Mike Bernos  is an award winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.