you believe the torrents of propaganda spewing from the corporate
media, Cynthia McKinney's congressional loss in Georgia signals
the end of Blacks as an effective political opposition in the U.S.
That is the goal of the Hard Right's New Black Strategy, the ultra-conservative
game plan inaugurated last January with Cory Booker's multi-million
dollar attempt to seize City Hall in Newark, New Jersey. The Black
Commentator has been describing this unfolding strategy since we
began publication, this spring.
after BC exposed Booker and his rich patrons, it became evident
that two additional targets were on the Hard Right's Black hit list,
and that the widely publicized springtime merger between the New
Black Strategy's corporate authors, the Christian Right, and supporters
of the current Israeli regime had become fully operational. The
Democratic Party had become the arena of ultra-conservative intervention
in Black politics, abandoning past, futile attempts to finance an
African American Republican base. Finances and media resources were
made available in abundance for the Hard Right's trio of Trojan
Horses: Cory Booker, Arthur Davis, and Denise Majette.
background on Cory Booker and the genesis of the Hard Right's New
Black Strategy, see Fruit
of the Poisoned Tree, April 5.)
Hard Right is aware that it cannot possibly achieve significant
Black conversion to its racist agenda. The new strategic objective
is to discredit African American leadership and the historical Black
political agenda by creating the perception of fundamental
divisions among African Americans. For this purpose, the Right need
only provide the finances and media clout necessary to create Black
voting minorities for its favored front men and women. The
strategy is sleek and efficient: actual defeat of targeted Black
Democrats is preferred, but not necessary for a declaration of victory.
win-win strategy of deceit
Earl Hilliard's congressional loss to Arthur Davis in Alabama, in
June, the electoral score in this new and deadly-serious game stands
at 2 - 1. However, the Hard Right and the corporate media view the
McKinney defeat as strike- three. Under the new rules, Booker's
unsuccessful challenge to incumbent Sharpe James was not a defeat,
since his backers' believe they were successful in creating a public
perception that African Americans are deeply split on basic
political issues. To achieve this, the Hard Right needs only to
be effective in interpreting the votes of the minority
of African Americans who pulled the lever for the Right-funded Black
from the enemy's standpoint, the political score is 3 - 0.
About one-third of Blacks voted for Booker, in
Newark; to the Right and its media toadies, victory meant that Booker
was "competitive" in the race. It appears that Arthur
Davis picked up about one-third of Black votes at Hilliard's expense,
in Alabama, pushing him over the top. Our analysis of the McKinney
race in Georgia indicates Denise Majette could not have garnered
more than 30% of the Black vote, amid mad waves of whites.
mattered little what the Black minority actually thought it was
voting for; motivations were crafted for them by the ventriloquists
and translators of the corporate media, think tanks and selected
experts. The opinions of Black majorities were dismissed, out of
far as the Hard Right and the general media are concerned, the Black
minority is the message, which they interpret according to
their own hostile agenda with no regard to facts or history.
It is a sick, made-only-in-America irony: The Right
is eager to spend vast funds to create Black voting minorities that
are arbitrarily described as "conservative," and invests
millions of words
of "analysis" interpreting the motives of these minorities,
all in the interest of burying the historical and contemporary voices
of overwhelming Black majorities. We are witnessing institutional
racism in high gear.
It is of paramount importance that we understand
the rules of this new game, which are hopelessly rigged in favor
of Hard Right moneybags and their servants in the media - the play-by-play
and "analysis" guys. The opposition doesn't have to win
elections, or sway Black majorities; they need only point to a "significant"
Black minority in a targeted, Black-on-Black contest, and put words
in their mouths.
a lie in stone
essence, the perception the Hard Right spends millions to create
is as follows: The Black middle class has evolved into a distinct
political entity, divorced in fundamental ways from the Black civil
rights-oriented agenda articulated since the early Seventies. It
is ripe for conservative ideas and rejects the style and substance
of current Black leadership, which is tied to the liberal wing of
the Democratic Party. Therefore, upper income Blacks can be successfully
wooed as a class, if an acceptable Black candidate is presented.
the authors of the New Black Strategy are careful that their chosen
Black candidates articulate no substantive positions that deviate
fundamentally from the historical Black agenda. As in all media
campaigns, it is the impression that counts, not the substance.
The Trojan Horse candidate remains politically innocuous; the media
explains what he/she represents, and how the candidate is perceived
by the public, especially the targeted "middle class"
minority among Black voters.
we accept the corporate media's analysis of the three elections
- frenzied propaganda campaigns in which they were assisted by a
full menagerie of Black parrots - the Hard Right will have won by
proclamation without having created even one program to benefit
the Black middle class that it claims as allies. However it
is defined, this "class" should feel profoundly ill treated
and misrepresented under the terms of the new game.
We have no doubt that, in time, this most vocal
segment of the Black community will loudly
reject the advances of the phony, stingy, lying suitor, who offers
the "class" nothing from his deep pockets, but merely
flatters the upscale voter with praise and attention.
We are only about a year into the Hard Right's
offensive. Most Blacks and progressives don't yet understand what
they are up against; our strategists seem confused, shocked at the
fury of the onslaught and demoralized by the defeat of a figure
of McKinney's stature. A great deal of energy and emotion were invested
in her congressional race. We must quickly adjust ourselves, because
we will inevitably lose more elections to the New Black Strategy.
Moreover, win or lose, under the new rules, each time a Black minority
sides with Right-backed Black candidates, their votes will be pointed
to as proof of an incipient, pro-Right movement among an ill-defined
African American "middle class."
The subtext of the Hard Right and corporate media
message is that Blacks have no broadly held opinions that Power
is obliged to respect; that there is nothing that can reasonably
be termed an inclusive Black agenda; that African Americans are
It does not matter that history and contemporary
facts tell us otherwise. The press will proclaim its own truths,
plucked from scripts written in Hard Right think tanks, just as
they have done in the three recent elections. We must accept the
prospect that, for years to come, much of our work will be of a
defensive nature, deconstructing these media-manufactured realities.
Get used to it.
Hard Right's goal is nothing less than to erase Blacks from the
political landscape of the United States. Having no "coherent"
opinion, we can henceforth be ignored.
There are means to fight back, pro-actively. In
the process, we can accomplish some overdue reworking of progressive
and Black political infrastructures, based on new realities in the
21st Century. First, let's discuss what actually happened on August
20, in DeKalb County, Georgia.
big money and the media herd entered the contest, Cynthia McKinney's
defeat should have been expected in a Georgia district almost evenly
split between Blacks and whites, in a Democratic primary that was
not really a primary at all, but an open house.
bare facts are simple: a 30% or smaller minority of Black voters
joined forces with an overwhelming majority of white voters to elect
the whites' default candidate, another Black woman. This distinct
minority of African Americans voted against a vocal, courageous
congressperson carrying ten years of her own political baggage and
additional decades of her politician father's accumulated enemies.
This minority of Black voters opposed McKinney for any number of
reasons. Together, the solid block of whites of all political stripes
and the disgruntled rump of Blacks totaled 58% of the vote. These
are the facts; the rest is propaganda and spin.
Majette majority could have been achieved with a far smaller Black
defection, depending on the degree of motivation among white voters.
has the election proven? Regarding Black political behavior,
it proves very little that we didn't already know or could reasonably
expect. The race showed that a non-threatening Black candidate,
unencumbered by a political history of her own, backed by mountains
of money and monolithic media, running against a crusading, principled
and sometimes abrasive Black incumbent in a southern district that
is just over half African American, can peel away a minority of
Black votes. This is no revelation.
are such contrary minorities among Blacks empowered to do? They
can throw elections to the white block vote. They can thwart the
will of solid majorities of Blacks in critical contests. They
have the limited power to act in favor of white opinion. They can
serve as a veto over the large majority of Blacks' political aspirations,
but only when acting in concert with solid majorities among whites
or, as threatened to be the case in Newark, a small number of whites
and a large population of Hispanics.
else of electoral significance flows from the August 20 results
in 54% Black DeKalb County, where even the smallest of divisions
in the African American vote can mean white triumph. Majette's real
feat lay in becoming a magnet for the masses of the district's whites;
had she been limited to just 15% of the Black vote, even media,
money and overwhelming white electoral support would have failed
their individual reasons, the Black Majette minority were, in fact,
mere spoilers, not harbingers of a new day of African American conservatism.
Little can be definitively said about them other than that they
found McKinney distasteful. Even if Majette's 30% represent some
coherent political grouping among Blacks - and that has not been
shown to be the case - they have no demonstrable utility except
as electoral weapons against the African American majority, certainly
not as a "class" in their own right.
the election results do not show that Majette supporters represent
a "class" at all but, at most, a tendency within an ill-defined
income group. Majette carried only one majority-Black precinct -
a mixed area - in the proudly "middle class" expanses
of DeKalb County. The more affluent Blacks tended to like McKinney
less, but not in majorities even among their mortgage-payment peers.
people so often referred to as the "new" Black middle
class should be horribly insulted by the casual way in which their
political leanings are translated for the benefit of the larger
white audience. In a perverse way, they are now more voiceless than
ever before. The media has become their ventriloquist, working from
a script thrashed out in a Hard Right think tank.
have learned to put "diversity" to their own uses, and
nowhere more successfully than among the ambitious Black scribes
of the corporate media. African American writers for the major newspapers
proved indispensable in transforming the Right's political wish
list into conventional wisdom. With even more enthusiasm than in
Newark and Alabama, these corporate climbers eagerly took the point
position in the assault against McKinney.
will mention only a few of these "interpreters" of Black
thought patterns, although they seemed to pop up like mushrooms
at every major newspaper. Terry Neal is an experienced reporter
for the Washington Post. Therefore, only a willful disregard of
truth can explain his statement: "The fact that Majette, Davis
and Booker were viable candidates at all suggests perhaps not a
sea change in black politics, but an ongoing shift and maturation."
what point did the three candidates become "viable?" Neal,
the translator-trickster, shoves the presumption of viability at
the reader. The "fact" is, Davis, Booker and especially
Majette, became viable candidates only because of overwhelming cash
contributions from the Right (all three) and Jewish supporters of
Israel's governing party (Davis and Majette), and through the shameless
collaboration of the corporate media (all three), including, of
course, Neal himself. The internal workings of Black politics had
next to nothing to do with the candidates' "viability."
Hilliard beat Davis handily in 2000; nothing had changed two years
later except money and media. Cory Booker was a suburb-raised first-term
councilman whose lack of political base was demonstrated when he
lost his own ward in the Newark mayoral race. Only extravagant money
and fawning media made him a threat to a four-term incumbent. Majette
was a low-key, local judge, while five-term McKinney had run unopposed
in two previous Democratic primaries, too tough to tackle. Majette
was made viable by benefit of a media and money maelstrom and the
resulting transformation of the primary into a free-for-all travesty.
also that Neal describes Majette's Black minority vote as evidence
of a "maturation" of the race. We must conclude that he
disdains Black majority opinion as "immature."
Fears, Neal's colleague in disinformation at the Washington Post,
displayed particular skill at scrambling numbers. Attempting to
explain the Black dimensions of the Hilliard and McKinney defeats,
Fears wrote: "Their core constituents either voted against
them or not at all, even though much of the black civil rights establishment
campaigned to get out the vote."
clever. Fears is so intent upon creating Black majorities opposed
to Hilliard and McKinney, he adds no-shows to the "anti-"
column, a device that, in a nation of chronic non-voters of all
races, can be employed against any candidate in any election - or
all candidates in all elections. The fact is, McKinney's roughly
49,000 votes exceeded her two previous primary totals by 7,000 and
9,000. Beyond that, we do not know what her "core" support
is - except that it is far larger than Majette's. Prior to the election,
it is doubtful that the white legions that voted for her could place
her face and name together.
we must emphasize that Black reporters for the corporate press were
among the most shameless mouthpieces for the political sentiments
and insupportable pronouncements of their editorial boards - an
apparent prerequisite of employment. However, even these conjurers
offered only anecdotal evidence for the proposition that an African
American "middle class" has declared its independence
from the "civil rights agenda" represented by McKinney,
thus signaling a fundamental split in African American ranks, one
that can be extrapolated to Black America as a whole.
run tell that: anecdotal journalism
Neal epitomizes the behavior of so many of his colleagues. Unable
to discover any firm policy differences among Black voters in DeKalb
County, he resorts to vague references to random conversations elicited
by (white) Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Ben Smith. "Many
black voters in McKinney's district seemed just as put off as white
voters by her suggestion that President Bush knew about the Sept.
11 terror attacks ahead of time and that many in his administration
stood to profit from the attacks," wrote Neal. How interesting,
and no doubt true. At least, it "seems" plausible that
"many" Blacks felt that way. Does this amount to a dispute
over the Black agenda?
by Ben Smith, Neal piled on more lightweight observations: "Some
number of blacks apparently were not happy that [McKinney] apologized
to a Saudi prince after New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani rejected
his $10 million gift for 9/11 victims. And some found her effort
to portray Majette as an establishment sell-out a bit over the top."
Well, "some" Blacks appear to have had a problem with
McKinney's attitude. Is this the source of the great divide between
the Black "middle class" and the poorer folks? Have differences
over September 11 caused wrenching divisions among Blacks, forcing
the affluent to evolve into a separate political entity? Are upper-income
African Americans more conventionally patriotic, more Bush-like
in their worldview?
then quotes the Atlanta paper's Ben Smith, directly: "Majette's
victory... confirmed the emergence of affluent African-Americans
as an independent political base, an electorate apparently turned
off by McKinney's controversial persona." Ah, so the real problem
dividing the classes is McKinney's personality. In other
words, the congresswoman is too brash and loud
for the higher income crowd, of which she is a member. Yet neither
Smith nor Neal explains how this difference over style - which any
fool lucky enough to be born Black knows has always existed within
some circles of Black prosperity - amounts to a substantive breach,
serious enough to cause "affluent African-Americans" to
emerge "as an independent political base." A base for
what policies? Was McKinney's agenda acceptable to affluent Blacks
before September 11? Does the Black agenda include any specific
position on the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks?
take the reader through this exercise to demonstrate the nonsense
at the center of the debate that has been foisted on Black America.
Differences do exist within the Black body-politic, but they are
not based on Israel or 9-11. Style is a factor in any election,
among all ethnicities. Substance is a different thing, entirely,
yet the massed media found no evidence of substantive cracks regarding
the historical Black agenda.
of divisions among African Americans had an easier time in Newark
and Alabama, where the challengers were significantly younger than
the incumbents. Since Majette and McKinney are about the same age,
the dividers were denied the "youth" angle. Instead, they
harped that McKinney was saying old things, in old ways, whatever
a class act
the white reporter, felt the need to seek racial authentication
for his interpretation of Black class relationships. He found William
Boone, professor of political science at historically Black Clark
Atlanta University. "There was a change in DeKalb [County],
and Cynthia didn't pick up on it," Boone told the reporter.
"There's a growing black middle class here, a middle class
that is much, much different from the black middle class of the
civil rights era."
now descend into a realm beyond reason. McKinney, who also taught
at Clark Atlanta, has represented the district in several of its
configurations for ten years. She knows it well. Boone's point seems
to lie in the difference between today's "middle class"
and the Black "middle class" of 30 years ago, back when
McKinney's father first became a state legislator after having served
as one of Atlanta's first Black police officers - quite a "middle
class" status in those days.
Boone offered an explanation of the differences between the middle
class of the early Seventies and DeKalb's current strivers, Smith
doesn't tell us; but that is of no consequence. Less than a decade
after emerging from the economic, political and social system of
Jim Crow, McKinney's father's middle class was not only of a different
composition than today's, its political options were radically different.
was just electing its first African American Mayor and Congressman,
both from the upper ranks of the Black social structure. The struggle
was for racial representation, period. Nobody was pumping millions
into "alternative" Black candidacies. There is no basis
for comparing the political behavior of yesterday's upper strata
Blacks with today's monied class. Indeed, so limited were Black
options 30 years ago, and so convoluted was the near-Jim Crow social
structure, that meaningful comparative data can hardly exist.
Boone said nothing useful. He didn't have to; he had done his job
by repeating the mantra, "middle class" this and "middle
class" that, signifying nothing.
far too many discussions of Blacks and class, it seems that any
household with at least one job, qualifies. Before we start dividing
the race along class lines, we ought to at least agree on where
the lines are.
County is unquestionably home to a relatively large number of Black
households earning higher incomes than the Black median, and a smaller
number who are living above the white median. The question is, what
part of the Black agenda is objectionable to a significant minority
of these people? (Remember, Majette carried only one mostly Black
precinct, so McKinney and her persona do not appear to be objectionable
to a majority of the district's Black middle class.)
the 2002 National Urban League State of Black America report, Harvard
professor of political science Martin Kilson states that the core
issues around which the Black political consensus is based are "housing,
jobs, education, criminal justice, and an overall pro-active
federal role in ending racism's impact in these areas through affirmative
action and related policies." Does anyone believe that serious
fractures threaten this consensus among the vast majority of Blacks,
including the middle class?
this progressive, race-conscious consensus holds for all African
American income levels, distinguishing the Black public from every
other American ethnic group. It is precisely this effective political
bond that makes the Black vote formidable. Frustrated in their attempts
to break this grand consensus, and conceding Black Republicanism
as an utter failure, the Hard Right now employs the full force of
its finances and corporate media to invent conflicts that do not
exist. What Kilson calls "signs of attitudinal fissures"
among African Americans along income and age lines are made to appear
as fundamental contradictions, requiring dramatic political demarcation.
at the Black Commentator are not worried about the durability of
the Black political consensus; it is built on real needs, real enemies,
and a common experience with a system of institutional racism that
whites show few signs of dismantling. As long as that system exists,
its destruction will remain a common project of Black America. All
authentic Black political discussion occurs within this context,
though the tones and textures of discourse may vary widely, as do
the specific proposals for confronting the common problem.
even a people so united can commit terrible blunders. They can be
fooled, even made to look and behave ludicrously - a luxury only
the powerful can afford. The "class" issue degenerates
to just such a point when measured against the Black agenda, or
consensus. Isn't the venerable NAACP a determinedly middle class
organization? What about the equally established National Urban
League? Don't most members of the Congressional Black Caucus come
from that loosely defined class? The upper income groups are over-represented
in almost every forum in Black America. They invented the
Black agenda, and nurture it, still!
or near the top of the Black agenda is affirmative action. It can
be argued that affirmative action as actually practiced in the U.S.
is most readily useful to the Black middle class, which is best
positioned to take advantage of those programs that still exist.
White conservatives regularly pound away at this point, yet we are
told that upper income Blacks are becoming more conservative. Do
they oppose affirmative action? Do the Black businesspeople of DeKalb
County reject set asides and preferences in contracting, programs
that are anathema to the Hard Right supporters of Majette, Davis
was said to have made statements opposing affirmative action, but
she denied it. So much for an emerging Black conservatism. If Majette
had been stupid enough to retreat from affirmative action, her right-wing
paymasters would have muzzled her, in fear that she might not attract
a sizeable enough minority of Black voters to defeat the dreaded
McKinney. Booker and Davis also stepped carefully around key Black
agenda items, understanding that their role was to disrupt Black
political leadership, not to self-destruct in the process. Trojan
Horses deal in stealth.
was left to professional propagandists of Hard Right think tanks
to explain that their subsidized Black candidates are cut from different
political cloth. On the day after McKinney's defeat, the American
Enterprise Institute's Norm Orenstien told the PBS NewsHour that
Davis and Majette "represent a new face for the Congressional
Black Caucus." Neither of the candidates had encouraged the
voters to believe that they would form a kind of conservative caucus
within the CBC. Like Cory Booker, they obfuscated about their obligations
to the people whose money had made them "viable." When
the subject moves beyond style to programmatic substance, the historical
Black agenda remains inviolable, especially among the middle
and for their own reasons, minorities of Black Democrats gave encouragement
to the Hard Right, during this first year of its New Black Strategy.
blood on shaky ground
Cynthia McKinney's Trojan Horse replacement arrives on Capitol Hill,
she is likely to be accompanied by two additional African American
members of the Georgia delegation. David Scott and Champ Walker,
from the Atlanta area and Augusta, respectively, are considered
safe bets to win their roughly 40% Black districts, in November.
Although they faced the same open primary system as McKinney, there
was no bum rush of the polls by whites from across the political
spectrum, as McKinney experienced. Their Democratic primaries were
party affairs - this time.
1993, the U.S. Supreme Court has frowned on efforts to create Black
"super-majority" districts, safe from white takeover.
The Democratic Party has reached broad agreement that it is in its
interests to spread Black voters around,diminishing the opportunities
for white super-majority, Republican districts. Under this formulation,
Blacks in districts that are racially balanced - like Scott's, Walker's
and, on the Black majority side, McKinney's - can theoretically
win Democratic primaries without white support. Blacks vote overwhelmingly
Democratic, while majorities of Georgia whites vote Republican.
white votes are required to win general elections in Black minority
districts and, as a practical matter, somewhat smaller white support
is necessary in districts like McKinney's, with a narrow Black majority.
Minorities of whites act as the swing vote; they have the power
to throw the election to whites or Blacks, any time they choose.
Hard Right's New Black Strategy empowers a minority of Black voters
to create a mostly white voting majority for conservative Black
candidates who have mass white appeal. This is what happened in
DeKalb County, Georgia.
congress reconvenes in January, there will be a distinct chill in
the air emanating from the Congressional Black Caucus, brought about
by the Hard Right's re-conditioning of the political environment.
The CBC will be several members larger, but far less secure.
have not yet mentioned voter registration and education, or the
turnout of McKinney supporters on August 20. It is not clear to
us that the McKinney turnout was as lackluster as anecdotally described
in the hostile press, or in the laments of the congresswoman's heartbroken
supporters. It is unwise to rely on the spin from either side. For
McKinney to win, the white-hot Caucasian invasion of the Democratic
primary would have had to confront an equally intense fury among
determined Black voters. As a practical matter, the defecting Black
minority killed that possibility. As we have noted, even half the
defections would have achieved the same result.
voter turnout in less affluent Black areas is a chronic and institutional
problem. We have nothing helpful to add to that discussion, except
to say that more, not less strident agitation is needed, based on
programs and platforms that have direct appeal to the constituents.
What is not in order is any attempt to tamper with a Black
consensus that is not in actual dispute; that is what the corporate
media prescribe, and it is pure poison, the same medicine the racists
of the Hard Right recommend.
a people besieged, African Americans are compelled to fight every
battle that is forced upon us. There is no choice. However, we must
also coldly analyze the relationship of forces, so as to understand
the likelihood of defeat, and prepare for it, psychologically. Otherwise,
both the troops and the leaders will burn out, quickly.
Hard Right's New Black Strategy is well thought-out. Almost limitless
funds are available to implement it. The corporate media are on
the same page as the Right-funded think tanks. The Democratic Party
consensus on congressional districting means that fewer districts
will be decisively Black. This means electoral dependence on the
votes of minorities among non-Blacks in the district. It also means
that a small minority of African American voters, the targets of
the Hard Right campaign, may thwart the wishes of an overwhelming
majority of Blacks.
must be prepared to lose some prospective and currently held seats.
The math says so. The greater danger posed by the Hard Right's assault
lies in its effect on Black politicians in general. Will they cower
in the face of the threat, adjusting their politics rightward in
hopes of avoiding the hit list? How big is the list? We shall see.
the Hard Right strategy should require us to re-think the intrinsic
value of Black faces in Congress. The prospect of infesting the
Congressional Black Caucus with members bought and paid for by Black
people's worst enemies, politicians who ran against the will
of Black majorities, gives pause. This is a subject for future discussion,
but for now it is appropriate to ask, rhetorically, "Is it
better to have in office a Black conservative Democrat, whose actions
and statements harm African American interests and undermine
the Black consensus, or a white Republican (or conservative Democrat),
who does us no internal damage?"
the next issue of The Black Commentator:
Fighting Back: Avenge McKinney by Defeating the Hard Right's New
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