"Black candidates depend on 'cause' organizations - people like me - to get out the Black vote. Republicans develop 'get out the vote' organizations." - Julian Bond, NAACP chairman

"Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last." - Georgia Republican Governor-elect Sonny Perdue

Somewhere in the yawning political chasm between the quotations, above, lies the tale of November 5, the election that proved beyond any intelligent person's doubt that the Democratic Leadership Council is a ball and chain, dragging the national party to oblivion. Black voters at present have nowhere else to go, but they will not go there with the enthusiasm that has in the past been necessary to save the Democratic Party from itself. Until and unless that enthusiasm is rekindled, the party - in the South, quite literally - will drown in a sea of confederate flags waved by the likes of ascendant Republican Sonny Perdue.

"The external Democratic-leaning nonpartisan get-out-the-vote efforts did a good job," said Julian Bond, referring to organizations like his NAACP. "Turnout among African-Americans in most states was equal to turnout four years ago in the last mid-term elections. But Republicans this year built bigger, stronger, more effective get-out-the-vote organizations within their party. As a consequence, turnout rose among white suburban voters."

American elections are won by active minorities within the minority of people who actually vote. Victory goes to the party of enthusiasm. The faction that brings its stalwarts to the polls on election day seizes power. In mid-term elections, the triumphant minority is empowered to place its stamp on history while turning out less than 20 percent of the voting age public. The loser is the guy who does even worse.

Before we discuss policy, let's talk basics. There are no "mandates" from the people. The table below demonstrates that minority rule has long been the reality in United States electoral politics. Note the mid-term elections turnouts over four decades.

The non-voting majority

Voting Age Population
% Turnout of Voting Age population

The GOP turned out its minority of voters on November 5. Republicans spent an unprecedented $5 million on polling alone – five times what the party spent in 1998’s midterm contests – and turned over their get-out-the-vote operations to grassroots, rightwing zealots who really care about winning and know neighbors who think the same way. In Georgia, former Christian Coalition chief Ralph Reed activated the GOP and confederate faithful, swamping a state Democratic Party that used up its money advantage by acting like corporate Republicans, relying largely on television and radio advertising.

In state after state, the War Party had its troops – its minority – whooping and hollering to the polls, causing enough “upsets” to insure a Dixiecrat-like national judiciary for the next several decades, secure an even larger share of the nation’s wealth for the already rich, and plunge the world into endless war.

That’s because there is no peace party, no racial and economic justice party, no national health care party, no jobs for the jobless party – nothing for an enthusiastic minority to organize itself around to counter the other minority of greed, racism and war. In 2002, under the sway of the business-class Democratic Leadership Council, the Democrats failed even to pretend to have a mission.

In this context, it is remarkable that African Americans were able to muster our own minority of active voters to resist the Bigger Evil. History has made us the nation’s most serious and intelligent people. Blacks provided the bloc vote requested and expected, but even 90% African American voter loyalty to Democrats could not rescue Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, for example, from defeat in the race for Maryland governor. Her Republican opponent had a Black running mate, an option she had arrogantly rejected. Yet Blacks did not vote Republican. Only a few of us are stupid. Increasingly, however, our active ranks are wilting.

Forget, for a moment, about polls that indicate the directions of inchoate trends floating around in the minds of the various components of “the people” of the United States. “The people” do not vote; fractions of them do. The job of Blacks and progressives is to organize winning minorities who will represent the interests of the people.

African Americans cannot be expected to carry the dead weight of DLCers like Kennedy Townsend and the rest on their backs, forever. There is no alternative but to aggressively seize the party’s apparatus at every possible level, under the banner of clearly stated programs that will energize our minority of existing and potential voters. It’s the American Way.

Taking back the party

In an otherwise bleak landscape, it was fortunate that California Rep. Nancy Pelosi was positioned to take over as House Leader from the pitiful Richard Gephardt (MO), whose empty head was finally separated from its non-existent spine. Gephardt had walked into the Oval Office of his own volition, prior to the House vote on Iraq, to gratefully swallow George Bush’s poisoned pill. When two-thirds of House Democrats rejected the White House-Gephardt war powers resolution, his continued leadership and presidential ambitions died – the one welcome casualty of Bush’s war. Republican success on election day served to cover the body.

Pelosi is a member of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, comprised of the 58 most left-liberal members of the House. (The late Paul Wellstone was the only member from the Senate.) Twenty-two PCC lawmakers are African Americans – 38 percent of the total, accounting for three of five Black Caucus members. Three of the PCC’s six top officers are Black. Short of a John Conyers (MI) or a Barbara Lee (CA), Pelosi is as favorable to Black legislative interests as anyone on The Hill. Said Conyers, "To me she's got the goods that are needed and I think she would certainly make a good leader."

With Pelosi in leadership, the inevitable compromises with the DLC and the White House can at least begin from a reasonably Left position, rather than starting in the “center” and moving inexorably to the Right – the previous leadership’s clumsy style of dance.

The Progressive and Black caucuses actually do have new ideas, which were not allowed a fair hearing under a leadership perpetually in fear of being labeled “too liberal.” That’s why many of our readers have never heard of the PCC’s $200 billion Economic Stimulus Package, and why the corporate media is able to constantly pretend that Blacks and progressives are anachronistic rhetoricians. The party’s right wing succeeded in muzzling its left wing, ghettoizing the Congressional Black Caucus and progressive whites and Hispanics.

Pelosi’s rise may open a window. The Democrat Right didn’t count on the House revolt against the Bush-Gephardt war and was utterly unprepared for the November 5 returns, a “centrist” ideological annihilation so total, TV talking heads were crying out for a progressive comeback, if only to fill the dead air from the DLC. Progressives must act boldly, before the Corporate Consensus takes hold of the Party’s throat, once again.

Think big, act decisively

To counter the effects of the loss of one million jobs since 2000, the Progressive Congressional Caucus’s Economic Stimulus package would spend $200 billion to fire up the economy – a huge sum until it is considered that Bush’s war and occupation of Iraq alone may cost $100 to $200 billion dollars. Rather than tinkering with the economic crisis – a tax incentive here, a modest job-training program there – “the economic stimulus package must be large enough to have a significant impact on our $10 trillion economy,” reasons the PCC.

The package would immediately authorize $61.2 billion in larger and extended unemployment benefits – $100 extra a week – to help the jobless and create more consumer demand. Broke people can’t buy.

The caucus wants an $18.6 billion tax rebate to 51 million low-income people who filed taxes but received no rebate check this summer.

Additional billions would create affordable housing, invest in the nation’s rail network, repair water systems, construct and rehabilitate schools, help small businesses, and expand health care coverage. And, in a stroke that would affect the fortunes of millions of the working poor, the PCC package requires that “all federal contracts include living wages for all employees.”

The dollars would come from the only pockets available, thanks to just two years of George Bush: the rich who received the lion’s share of his tax cuts. The PCC table, below, shows where the money is.

Postpone Future Tax Cuts that Benefit only the Wealthiest Americans


Money Raised

Estate Tax

Postpone reductions after 2004 ($1.5 million exemption)
$122 billion

Income Tax Rate

Postpone future reductions of 39.1 income rate (2001 .5% reduction stays in effect)
$120 billion


$242 billion *

* Note: This tax cut postponement can be adjusted to equal the exact size of the stimulus package.

The PCC Economic Stimulus Package is worth a fight, and deserves lots of noise. Voices of “moderation” will urge caution, which is nothing but pre-packaged defeat. George Bush’s America is not ready for a full course press from the Left, goes the conventional wisdom. However, as Bob Herbert wrote in the November 11 New York Times, “In a nation that is divided almost 50-50 politically, the Republicans flew past their mandate a long time ago.”

Active minorities win.

Harold “Wrong Way” Ford, Jr.

With the rubble of Democratic compromise and collusion with the White House laying all around him, Tennessee’s 32 year-old Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. forges on in quest of a Senate seat. His single-minded, self-absorbed vision is all consuming. He is, he believes, chronologically destined for leadership of Black America – an illusion that is encouraged by his colleagues in the politically bankrupt Democratic Leadership Council, on whose executive board Ford sits.

Harold Ford has absolutely nothing to say, yet he aspired to be number one Democrat in the House, the better to launch his Senate bid. He is young, Black, “moderate” and, according to People Magazine, one of the ”50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” That, plus “new ideas,” should be enough.

Ford shares his “new ideas” with Blue Dog Coalition Democrats, the southern-based conservatives who welcomed him and Georgia Black Congressman Sanford Bishop into the club. Evidently, joining with the right wing of the party at every opportunity seems to Ford to be a good, “new idea.”

When Ford announced his availability for House Democratic Leader we thought it best to assemble his most meaningful statements. After all, his challenge to Rep. Nancy Pelosi was an historic moment for Black people, wasn’t it? Posterity deserves to know the passions that moved this man to action. We compiled a weekend’s worth of Harold Ford’s political thoughts, as told to the press:

The Simple Sayings of Harold Ford

Find the substance in these words of wisdom:

“It’s obvious that we need some fresh faces and in some cases fresh ideas.”
"It's rare that you get an opportunity, I think, to fashion a new direction for the party."
”I think my colleagues on the Democratic side are interested in radical change and, if they are, I submit that my candidacy and my leadership would offer that change. It would be not only me, but a whole new generation of leadership.''

"As much as I respect [Pelosi] and as much as I find her endearing, I just believe she would offer the same kind of leadership we've been used to – the same old ways of the past which have been proven not to work."

“There's a real yearning and a real appetite for change in the party.''

“If we're serious about moving forward, a team that I would assemble could accomplish a lot. It might be time for a clean break from the ways of the past.''

"We've allowed those who paid their dues to run the party for a long time and we're still in the minority."

In all the excitement, Ford failed to dwell on such “new ideas” as his support for the Iraq war resolution, Republican-style tax arrangements, and the far-right’s balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Ford stayed in the leadership race after the conservative Democrats’ favored challenger to Pelosi, Dallas-Fort Worth Congressman Martin Frost, dropped out. Frost is a much older, senior member whose ideas match very well with Ford’s, based on their voting records as rated by the NAACP, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the American Civil Liberties Union. In fact, Frost shares with Pelosi high ratings from the NAACP. Pelosi scores well above Ford and Frost on labor and civil liberties issues.


Harold Ford is not a Trojan Horse. He is just another DLC opportunist. He gives the illusion of leadership by distancing himself from other Blacks on carefully chosen issues, a maneuver that pleases corporate media and his powerful friends in the DLC and the Blue Dog Coalition. He is among their leadership – the people who lost all credibility on November 5.

Contrary to People Magazine’s aesthetic judgment, Harold Ford is not beautiful, either. There is nothing attractive about a young man who joins with old, rich men to condemn millions to death in unjust wars with no end.

Ford’s flashy run for House Democratic leadership was a personal publicity stunt, staged at the expense of serious political efforts to reorganize the Democratic Party into a mechanism that fights for racial and economic justice and international peace. As one of only four Black Caucus members to side with the Bush War Party, representing only a third of House Democrats, Ford knew he had no chance. He did, however, gain points from current friends and future allies.

Again quoting Rep. Conyers, "I don't think anybody is going to become the next minority leader of the Democrats that wants to go along with Bush on the war.”

A Senate seat may await Harold Ford down the road. If he gets it, will that really be our victory?

Diminished by comparison

When prominent Blacks are pressured to offer opinions on every word uttered by other prominent Blacks, at the drop of a hat, standards of intellectual rigor suffer. Silly and sad statements emerge from the mouths of people who should know better than to be baited by the likes of the Washington Times, the Republican-Moonie newspaper.

Rev. Al Sharpton and New York Rep. Charles Rangel couldn’t keep their mouths shut when asked their opinion of Harry Belafonte’s critique of Secretary of State Colin Powell. In the presence of mass media, the jaw loosens and lips shape nonsense.

Should Belafonte have compared Powell to a “house slave” of George Bush?

"Ninety percent of the black community wish that Harry Belafonte would have felt it and not said it," said Rangel, playing the role of odds maker of The Race, and revealing something about his own moral fiber at the same time. "Blacks love anybody who is achieving. The fact is that Mr. Belafonte's [comments] are not the consensus - and you don't get any more partisan than me. People are fond of Colin Powell."

Actually, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ biannual poll reports that 73.3 percent of African Americans were “favorable” to Powell, 5.3 percent “neutral,” 13.6 percent “unfavorable” and 7.8 percent “didn’t know” how they felt. “Love” was not in the questionnaire.

White people were almost 90% “favorable” towards the Secretary of State, indicating that lots of them may actually “love” him. Very few were unfavorable toward Powell.

Which leads us to wonder: Why doesn’t the Washington Times ask all the famous white notables why their people are so enamored of Powell? Near-universal affection among white Americans for a particular Black man would appear to be more strange and newsworthy a story for a white paper than Black snap judgments about other Blacks.

Rev. Sharpton attempted to be more discreet – when silence could have actually achieved it. Belafonte "could have chosen different language," said the National Action Network leader and soon-to-be presidential candidate. "I respect Colin Powell's achievements." This, from a man who, directing his remarks to George Bush at the October 26 anti-war demonstration, in Washington, said: “We are the patriots that believe that America should heal the world and not bring the world to nuclear war over the interests of those business tycoons who put you in the White House."

So, Colin Powell and his “achievements” are separate from the enterprise of war and the business of tycoons. Sharpton’s remarks are the definition of muddled thinking.

Belafonte has spoken clearly against racism and imperial adventure for many decades, when it was dangerous to life, liberty and property to do so. Belafonte walked with Paul Robeson. Sharpton and Rangel could learn from his example. Or just avoid the subject.

Progressive Congressional Caucus Economic Stimulus Package (Microsoft Word is required to read this document)



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Issue Number 16
November 14, 2002





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Other commentaries in this issue:

Trojan Horse Watch
Bush Funds Black Voucher Front Group... Your tax dollars pay for propaganda blitz

Dr. Todd Burroughs Defends CRISIS Editor’s "Opinion"... Dr. Martin Kilson Cites Lack of "Viable Analysis"... BC: Editor Valentine undermines NAACP

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Exposed... The Trojan Horse in CBC... Wild about Harry

Environmental Justice for People of Color... Summit draws 1,200 delegates to Washington

Guest Commentary
The Sniper & the Nation of Islam...By D.H. Muhammad

Commentaries in Issue 15 November 4 , 2002:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Bogus Election "Study"
Black Majette vote grossly inflated, analysis reveals By Bruce A. Dixon, Associate Editor

Guest Commentary 1
Harvard Professor Lambasts THE CRISIS Editor
Martin Kilson says magazine bolsters NAACP foe

Wellstone: The best of them all

Permanent war, permanent Uncle Toms
NAACP for peace
Solitary killers and mass muderousness
Prisoners of the American gulag

Politics Trumps Religion:
Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative
By Barbara Miner

Belafonte’s courage
Race and war hysteria
Baraka’s verse
Unpaid debt in Zimbabwe

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