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If 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,
Soon 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.
on Cory Booker and the genesis of the Hard Right's New Black Strategy,
see Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, April
The 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.
A win-win strategy
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 candidates.
Thus, 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.
It 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 hand.
As 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
Carving a lie
In 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.
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.
If 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
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 politically incoherent.
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.
The 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,
The media stampede
Once 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.
The 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.
A Majette majority
could have been achieved with a far smaller Black defection, depending
on the degree of motivation among white voters.
What 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.
What 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
Nothing 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 her.
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.
Indeed, 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.
The 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.
Racists 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.
We 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."
At 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'
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.
Note 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
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."
How 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.
Again, 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.
Now run tell
that: anecdotal journalism
Terry 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
Informed 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
Neal 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?
We 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.
(Seekers 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 that means.)
Not a class
Smith, 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."
We 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
If 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.
Atlanta 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.
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.
In 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.
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.)
In 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
No, 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.
We 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
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
At 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 and Booker?
Majette 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.
It 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 class.
and for their own reasons, minorities of Black Democrats gave encouragement
to the Hard Right, during this first year of its New Black Strategy.
New blood on
When 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.
Since 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
A long siege
We 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
Poor 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
As 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.
The 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.
We 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.
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
In the next
issue of The Black Commentator:
Fighting Back: Avenge McKinney by Defeating the Hard Right's New Black