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The corporate-Republican onslaught against the Black Political Consensus, conceived in the war rooms of rightwing think tanks a decade ago, is in full fury. Massively financed by, first private, and now public dollars, the campaign to create the perception of an alternative, conservative Black “leadership” is on the march in all regions of the nation, sowing confusion and alarm among authentic African American political formations. As expected, the corporate media certified that the 22 bought-and-paid-for ministers and corporate front persons showcased at the White House last week were, indeed, “Black leaders.”

“President Discusses Issues With Black Leaders,” announced the New York Times headline, featuring a photo captioned: “President Bush met with about 20 African-American leaders for a little more than an hour Tuesday.”

If the New York Times considers the handpicked gaggle to be “Black leaders,” it must be true.

The Associated Press said so, too. “President Bush told black leaders Tuesday that his plan to add private accounts to Social Security would benefit blacks since they tend to have shorter lives than some other Americans and end up paying in more than they get out,” said the AP article, distributed worldwide.

The nation’s second most influential paper, the Washington Post, qualified the delegation’s status, describing them as “right-leaning black leaders.” Does that mean they are leaders of other “right-leaning” Blacks, or real Black leaders who happen to lean (or bend over) to the right?

Interestingly, the truly rightist Washington Times gave the most straightforward account, simply calling the pretenders “14 clergy and eight executives of banks and nonprofit organizations.” The Detroit Free Press played up the local angle, noting that four area ministers were among the anointed and that Michigan organizations received $61 million in faith-based money in 2003 out of $12 billion dollars distributed, nationwide – the magnetic monetary pull that drew Bush’s Black minions to his service.

By any measurement, the senior Black mercenary present was Robert L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, former aid to Newt Gingrich, recipient since 1995 of more than $6 million in rightwing foundation money, and now riding first-class on the federal faith-based gravy train.

Orchestrating the show were the two men most responsible for keeping the money flowing: Jim Towey, director of Bush's Faith-based and Community Initiatives, and chief White House strategist Karl Rove, who makes sure faith-based grants and contracts are manipulated for maximum political effect – more Tom for the buck, so to speak.

Prominent among the preachers was Rev. Eugene Rivers of the Ten Point Coalition in Boston, described as “one of the leading proponents of Bush's faith-based initiative.” Rivers voted for Gore in 2000 – but that was before the faith-based bribes began flowing.

Michelle D. Bernard represents the more overtly Republican elements in the Gang-of-22. Bernard is a corporate lawyer and senior vice president of the Independent Women's Forum, which describes itself as a “research group” but is actually paid by the Hard Right to counter the National Organization for Women (NOW) on the talk show circuit. Her White House appearance boosts Bernard’s stature as the “alternative” political Black woman – in line with GOP philosophy: if you can’t get an African American Republican woman elected by Black people, put her on generous retainer.

Upstaging the Caucus

By scheduling the servile delegation on the day before the Congressional Black Caucus’s session with the president, Karl Rove not only upstaged the 43 U.S. Representatives but also guaranteed that the Caucus would share newspaper space with the Right’s hirelings. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post conflated the Tuesday and Wednesday meetings in the same articles, bestowing a kind of political equivalence to the two visiting Black groups – precisely the goal of the GOP’s overall “alternative Black leadership” creation strategy.

Thus, Bush’s Black Coalition of the Bribed shared equal presidential face-time and media space with men and women who represent half a million citizens each. A paid amen corner for Bush’s Social Security destruction scheme received as much public policy (and media) consideration as elected representatives eager to discuss important elements of the historical Black Political Consensus: employment, education, universal health care, affirmative action, peace and the fight against AIDS at home and in Africa.

Bush’s 14 compliant clergy also upstaged an historic meeting of 10,000 delegates from four Black Baptist denominations, in Nashville, the same week. Together representing 15 million members, the four denominations’ presidents agreed to move towards a common agenda dramatically opposed to the Republican administration – and fully in line with the historical Black Consensus. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Black Baptists:

“…declared their opposition to the war in Iraq and to the nomination and expected confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

”They also called for a higher minimum wage, discontinuation of recent tax cuts, investment in public education and reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some provisions of which are up for review in 2007… .

”Leaders also demanded that Bush stop privatization of prison construction, reinvest in children's health insurance and increase global relief for black nations such as Sudan and Haiti.”

Yet the New York Times said not a word about the huge Nashville gathering – an event of potentially history-bending significance – while the Washington Post ran a blurb in its News In Brief section, page 20. Network and cable news outlets were totally silent, although they had all covered Bush’s 22 chosen Blacks at the White House – the political equivalent of bling-bling.

With the eager assistance of corporate media, Karl Rove is handily winning the battle of perceptions, creating the impression among whites and Blacks that the tide is surging rightward among African Americans. That’s bad enough – but on the ground, in localities around the nation, corporate and public faith-based and voucher-advocacy dollars threaten to savage historical Black political structures and, ultimately, destroy African Americans’ ability to collectively resist the Right.

‘Roving’ around New Jersey

The Right’s systematic assault on the Black body politic is dramatically evident in heavily Black and Latino northern New Jersey, a focus of Wal-Mart heir John Walton’s inner city pro-voucher “philanthropy” and Karl Rove’s machinations among Black ministers. The two paths intersect at the Newark-based voucher outfit Excellent Education for Everyone, or E-3. The hyper-aggressive political front can count on about a half million dollars a year from the Walton Family Foundation ($400,000 in 2003) and also benefits from federal Education Department grants to the Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), another pro-voucher outfit. HCREO shares funding links (Bush’s Education Department and rightwing foundations) with the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), one of whose founding directors, former and future Newark mayoral candidate Cory Booker (see “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, April 5, 2002), was also a founder of E-3. (Booker received campaign financing from the Waltons, as well.)

This isn’t conspiracy theory; rather, it’s the result of strategic planning and funding by the Bush regime, the Waltons and, especially, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, which invented both the “Black” voucher “movement” and faith-based initiatives in the mid-Nineties.

Also on E-3’s board is Rev. Reginald Jackson, head of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. Two weeks before the recent election, E-3 announced:

“In an effort to focus constituents on the benefits of choice, ministers and pastors in NJ began last Sunday (October 17) to deliver sermons on school choice and the need for parents to support the advocacy efforts of the [New Jersey School Choice Alliance]. ‘This is by far the most important, the most vital civil rights issue facing us, and our children,’ said Rev. Reginald Jackson, pastor of St. Matthews A.M.E. church in Orange, NJ….”

The most vital civil rights issue! Not affirmative action, not racism in the criminal justice system, not the right to adequate health care, but vouchers. What a difference rightwing money makes in the priorities of a section of the Black clergy.

Contrary to Eagleton Poll claims that residents of poor New Jersey communities favor school “choice” by up to 75 percent, a recent survey by the Strategic Marketing Group found only 24 percent of Black Newark households believe vouchers are the best cure for what ails education in the city. No matter –  the twin lures of faith-based funding and vouchers are irresistible to ministers on the make, many of whom operate – or would like to operate – private church-based schools.

Karl Rove took a keen interest in the Garden State, especially when polls showed a surprising narrowing of the gap between Bush and Kerry. Rove visited the Newark area twice just before the election, and once afterwards, reserving special attention for Black clergy.

On election night, according to Lionel Leach, Director of the NAACP National Voter Fund-NJ, “Bush got about 2900 votes in the Central Ward in Newark, which is 82.6 percent African American, but you look and you see that’s where the majority of churches are.”

Leach is also a member of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Commission. “New Jersey has the most voter suppression in the country,” he says. The GOP has “done everything possible to suppress the Black and Latino vote.” In what appears on the surface like a kind of political schizophrenia, Republicans use every legal and illegal means available to keep Blacks from voting en masse, yet spend vast sums to gain the overt or covert support of Black ministers.

Once the Republican strategy is understood, however, there is no contradiction. The Right’s goal is not to convert legions of Blacks to the GOP, which would seriously dilute the party’s white appeal and is, at any rate, an impossibility. The Right’s real goal is to create the impression of fundamental splits in Black ranks, and thus subvert the credibility of mainstream leaders who hold to the historical Black Political Consensus. Everywhere, there exist Black preachers and hustlers who are willing to advance the GOP project. Money does the trick. Marginal increases in Black votes for Republicans are welcome, especially in close races, but this is not a battle for the hearts and minds of Black America. Rather, it is an assault on the historical unity of African Americans.

The Republicans need only a few Black faces to fill up a room, or a television screen, and only a modest number of Black congregations to demonstrate newfound credibility in the community. They can achieve this at literally no cost, since faith-based and voucher advocacy (“public education”) grants are paid for with tax dollars – public money.

The Time Line of Corruption shows just how far the GOP has traveled in the decade since the Bradley Foundation devised its faith-based and voucher strategy and sold it to the national Republican Party. Back in 1993, Republican hit men like consultant Ed Rollins bribed Black clergy to quietly discourage their congregants from voting, as reported by a contemporary issue of the Columbia Journalism Review:

”At a November 9 Sperling breakfast, Rollins, boasting about how he had just helped win a governorship for New Jersey's Christine Todd Whitman, said the campaign had spent about $500,000 to suppress the black vote. He said GOP operatives had made payments to Democratic precinct workers in black areas on condition they sit on their hands on election day. And he said the Whitman campaign had contributed to church charities in return for black ministers keeping mum on the virtues of Democratic incumbent James Florio.”

Today, Republicans offer corrupt ministers billions on condition that they dramatically break from the historical Black Political Consensus and, hopefully, crack the fragile Democratic coalition. The homosexual “threat” is a smokescreen for treachery. For every outraged Black preacher howling that he’s giving up on the Democrats because of the gays, there is a check or the promise of a check.

And maybe a visit to the White House.


February 3 2005
Issue 124

is published every Thursday.

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