August 31, 2006 - Issue 195


Radio BC Master Page

Radio BC: Electoral Politics Must Become Movement Politics

by BC Co-Publisher and Executive Editor Glen Ford

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Cynthia McKinney will be leaving the United States Congress in early January of next year, having lost a Democratic primary runoff election to an obscure former county commissioner named Hank Johnson. Also arrayed against McKinney were the entire Atlanta, Georgia and national media. McKinney is anathema to those who insist that racism is a thing of the past, that militarism is a virtue, that poverty is the fault of those who are poor, and that nearly a million Black people are incarcerated because African Americans are simply prone to criminal behavior. 

Those same forces took McKinney’s seat away in 2002, but she made a comeback in 2004. Now she must consider how or if she wants to reclaim the suburban Atlanta seat in 2008.

Georgia is a Diebold voting machine state. These devises “flip” more votes than McDonald’s flips hamburgers – and the flipping is always in one direction: to the candidate on the Right, usually Republicans, but also to Democrats like McKinney’s opponent Hank Johnson, who marketed himself as a politician who would not cause controversy.

“Phantom voters” somehow are allowed the privilege of casting ballots from precincts in which they don’t live, or that are not even in the congressional district. Candidate’s names fail to appear on the screen, or pop up in other districts, where they are not running. Strange things happen in the world of Diebold voting machines. In addition, Republicans have mastered the evil arts of redistricting to manipulate and confuse the electorate. McKinney’s district has been redistricted so often, many voters no longer have any idea which district they live in.

All of these factors worked against Cynthia McKinney. However, none of them explain the appalling low voter turnout that allowed Hank Johnson to run away with the show with only 42,000 votes in an overwhelmingly Democratic district of nearly 600,000 people. Minorities of voters turn out for American elections – the lowest turnout in the industrial world. U.S. elections are not decided on the basis of majority opinion, but which political camp can mobilize the most energetic minority – often far less than 20 percent of registered voters. Energized minorities win. Electoral campaigns must be extensions of actual grassroots movements. That’s how the Right took over, first, the Republican Party and, later, the whole country – not just by possessing mountains of money, but also by tapping into the grassroots rightwing organizations that can mobilize hordes of true believers, and get them to the polls.

If progressives are to defeat rightwing money and political networks, they must build organizations on the ground that work among the people all year long – not just in the few months before election day. In short, progressive electoral politics must function like movement politics. Otherwise, the energized rightwing minority will triumph, again and again. For Radio BC, I’m Glen Ford.

BC Paid Subscribers can visit the Radio BC Master page to listen to any of our audio commentaries voiced by BC Co-Publisher and Executive Editor, Glen Ford. We publish the text of the radio commentary each week along with the audio program.



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