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, this spring.

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.

(For background on Cory Booker and the genesis of the Hard Right's New Black Strategy, see Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, April 5.)

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 of deceit

Counting 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 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 mouths.

Carving a lie in stone

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.

Tactically, 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.

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 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 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, Georgia.

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 of Hispanics.

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.

Whatever 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.

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.

The translator crew

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' "viability."

Earl 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.

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 as "immature."

Darryl 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."

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 agenda?

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 their worldview?

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 act

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 days.

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.

Professor 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.

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.

DeKalb 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.)

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 class?

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 common problem.

However, 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!

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.

Nevertheless, 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 shaky ground

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.

However, 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.

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.

When 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.

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 same result.

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 recommend.

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.

Certainly, 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?"

In the next issue of The Black Commentator: Fighting Back: Avenge McKinney by Defeating the Hard Right's New Black Strategy.

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Other commentaries in this issue:

America Held Hostage - by Bush: Public safety doled out for a political price

E-MailBox: Randall Kennedy and bad whiskey… McKinney: pain, sorrow and anger… Dr. Onyeani challenged on Zimbabwe… Offer to buy out The Black Commentator

A letter to our readers: Mugabe in the cross-hairs

Commentaries in Issue Number 10 - August 22 , 2002:

Zimbabwe's Mugabe and White Farmers: by Dr. A. Chika Onyeani, Guest Commentator

The Promise of Reparations

DC's Measure 62: A Green Light for Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation
by Opio Lumumba Sokoni, J.D., Guest Commentator

A letter to our readers: Fight on, Sister McKinney... Afghan dope on U.S. streets... Don't bet Black futures on the market... Rep. Clyburn bears witness to racist crime

You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety on the Past Issues page.