folks and Bubba burst that bubble. When the election returns
rolled in on Saturday night, November 15, Republicans discovered
that their phony minority outreach strategy had failed its
southern test, defeated by an abused but still remarkably unified
Black electorate and a revolt among the party’s mass base in
the rural and small town white “heartland.” New Orleans Mayor
Ray Nagin’s cross-party endorsement turned out to be only worth
an extra four percent of the city’s Black vote, and the pro-Jindal
editorializing of two hustling Black newspapers, less than
that. Come January, conservative Democrat Kathleen Blanco (nee
Babineaux), from Cajun-land (politely referred to as Acadia)
will plant her undeserving behind in the Governor’s chair,
imagining that charm and vacuous “moderation” put her there.
Leroy (or more accurately, Leona) and Bubba know different.
“There was a quick, gut reaction to equate Bobby Jindal as an Arab Muslim,” says
Dr. Marshall Stevenson, Dean of Social Sciences at historically Black Dillard
University, in New Orleans. The fact that Jindal is of East Indian extraction “apparently
didn’t mean anything to the white rural voter.”
The ballot numbers testify that an American-born,
converted Catholic scion of an upper caste Hindu family is still
just a “sand nigger” to Bubba, who takes the creed of the White
Man’s Party seriously.
Phony GOP minority outreach
The national Republican Party made sure the
corporate media framed Bobby Jindal’s candidacy as historic, a watershed event in American politics. Having
captured white majorities all across Dixie during 35 years of a relentlessly
racist Southern Strategy – the trick that finally brought Republicans to
national parity with Democrats – the GOP now aims to trade in its bigoted
image for a more cosmopolitan one.
Focus groups consistently tell the Party’s corporate marketers
(and their counterparts in the rightist, southern-born Democratic
Leadership Council) that the coveted suburban white “swing voter,” whose
self-image is that of a social moderate but law and order and fiscal conservative,
is the key to permanent majority-party status. She is marginally more uncomfortable
than her husband with the nagging suspicion that she might be voting her
race, and needs reassurance from the Party to which she otherwise leans,
the GOP. In the Nineties the Bradley
Foundation, the Party’s most sophisticated propaganda factory and think-tank
funder (half a billion dollars in rightwing grant-making since 1989) began
pressing GOP leaders to aggressively groom selected members of racial minorities
for the dual purposes of (a) creating the illusion of a conservative, “alternative” non-white
(especially Black) leadership, and (b) assuaging the anxieties of white “swing” voters
unwilling to associate with an overtly racist party. Minority recruits were
placed on a dizzyingly fast track to Republican prominence.
Republican Party gave birth to the most cynical affirmative
action program ever devised, a flagrantly color-conscious
scheme to elevate to celebrity status non-white opponents of
affirmative action and mass-based minority political power!
Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal is the purest product of the GOP’s phony
minority outreach strategy. Meteoric is too tame a word to describe
Republican Political Affirmative Action Baby's astonishing trajectory over
the past eight years.
Fresh from two years in England on a Rhodes Scholarship, Jindal
was “adopted” by
Republican Congressman Jim McCrery and former U.S. Rep. Rob Livingston. Governor
Mike Foster appointed the 24 year-old to his Cabinet, as secretary of Health
and Hospitals. Two years later, Jindal was off to Washington to fatten his
resume as executive director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the
Future of Medicare. In 1999 Jindal returned to Louisiana as president of
the State University system. One year later, newly-elected George Bush was
persuaded to give Jindal a federal sub-cabinet position, assistant secretary
of Health and Human Services. The star-in-training was not yet 30 years old,
and had already been bestowed four high-profile executive jobs, two each
in Washington and Baton Rouge – hyper-grooming, to put it conservatively.
Jindal had become a
walking political advertisement of the GOP’s “color-blindness” – his
post-school life a carefully crafted ascent into the airy marketing
heights in which one’s very existence is politically coded. In
February of this year state and national party leaders were ready
to trot him out as their gubernatorial candidate, despite the
fact that the wunderkind had never run for office.
had told Bubba that his White Man’s Party was about to be so
dramatically integrated at the very top.
The chattering, clinking classes from the suburbs of New Orleans
loved the show, however – just as the Bradley Foundation folks
had predicted they would. Their media neighbors followed Jindal
through the bayous and hill country,
marveling at the warm reception the thin brown man seemed to elicit from
the pickup truck and Confederate flag crowd. Convinced that virulent, reflexive
white racism was largely a Black- and leftist-inspired invention, or a relic
of the long-ago past, or a channel that could be switched at will, the delusional,
self-absorbed, monied Republicans of Louisiana bankrolled and televised Jindal
into the top vote-getter in an 18-candidate nonpartisan primary, October
Although former Nazi and Klansman David Duke had garnered 70 percent of the
white male vote in his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid only 12 years ago,
the upscale suburbanites were satisfied that that page had turned.
Ray Nagin never sold out the Black majority
in New Orleans, since he was never a Black leader, nor had he
held elective office prior to winning the
Mayor’s job. Nagin is precisely what he appears to be: a businessman on the
make, adept at using politics to effect bigger deals, a prime advantage in
the thoroughly politicized world of cable television. The former $400,000-a-year
Cox Communications vice president’s main asset in the 2002 campaign was that
he wasn’t part of the local Black political machinery. It also didn’t hurt
to have the support of virtually the entire local corporate community.
Nagin’s anti-corruption platform won him majorities in Black
precincts, even as he opposed a Living Wage referendum that was
supported by two of every
three voters in the city. As reported
on May 8, 2002, Nagin “donated
money to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, prompting a group of Democrats
to run radio ads dubbing him ‘Ray Reagan.’ His courting of conservatives
included a call for repeal of the residency law for cops, provoking outrage
from the head of the city’s Black Organization of Police.”
Black New Orleansians seem to accept as a matter of course that
Nagin is a Republican with non-matching voter registration. The
Mayor bears an uncanny
political resemblance to another African American cable businessman: BET’s
Bob Johnson, a nominal Democrat who placed himself at the service of George
Bush’s anti-Estate Tax campaign, in 2001. (See to “BET’s
Black Billionaire Trojan Horse,” Oct 3, 2002.) Johnson gathered a Who’s
Who of Black media owners and executives to back Bush’s regressive legislation,
which would mainly benefit the very rich while draining the federal treasury
of funds for social services to the many. Most of the signatories are also
What sets this class apart from traditional Black business is their recently
acquired ability to directly negotiate substantial deals with large corporations
and their representatives in government, thus allowing this relatively tiny
Black circle to operate at a political distance from the community at-large.
Mayor Nagin, who remains a co-owner of the New Orleans hockey franchise,
made a career choice to move among the Republican elite. But could he move
significant numbers of African Americans into Republican voting ranks?
Kathleen Blanco was so intent on ignoring Black Democrats, she at times appeared
to be losing the governorship on purpose. So cluelessly grateful is the national
Party for having been spared yet another gubernatorial defeat, they now speak
of the schoolteacher who rose to Lieutenant Governor in 1996 as a bright
political star. If that is true, then the southern Democratic skies will
surely soon be falling.
Blanco got little African American support in the October primary, as Blacks
lined up behind two other candidates. After securing the runoff position,
Blanco stressed the similarities between herself and Republican Jindal,
declaring that their differences were matters of “style.” Anywhere outside
the Deep South, Blanco would be a Republican; she is anti-abortion
and anti-affirmative action. By the last week in the campaign, her defeat
appeared certain. Resisting the frantic appeals of her professional handlers,
Blanco had said virtually nothing that Black Democrats or labor wanted to
hear. A Market Research Poll showed Blanco ten points behind with five days
left in the campaign.
Finally, in the middle of the last week of the contest Blanco
allowed the release of TV ads critical of Jindal’s performance as Health and Hospitals
chief. Although Republicans and TV newsreaders instantly dubbed the spots “attack
ads,” the commercials, which noted cuts in staff and services during Jindal’s
tenure, were mild by current political ad standards. Nevertheless, an incredible “surge” materialized
in the polls, attributed to sudden interest among “low income voters.” It
put Blanco over the top on Saturday by 50,000 votes.
There was no question that African American
voters had bitten the bullet once again, despite the outright
disdain for Blacks shown by the top of the
ticket. State Sen. Cleo Fields and U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, both spurned
by Blanco’s right wing of the party when they sought statewide office in
1995 and 1999, respectively, hunkered down to defend Black interests, and
in the process, helped save white Democrats from themselves.
"In New Orleans, there were a lot of heated races," Fields told the
Baton Rouge-based newspaper The
Advocate, on post-election Sunday. "The [Democratic] party came together
in the last week or so, and the fact that they had races in New Orleans certainly
helped Kathleen with turnout."
“When it came down to Election Day, the traditional Democratic vote came out,” said
Dillard University’s Dr. Stevenson. In the school’s 75 percent Black Gentilly
neighborhood, Democrats won 81 percent of the votes. “The basic ward machinery
has getting out the vote down to a science.”
Jindal picked up nine percent of Black New Orleans, just four
points higher than the GOP norm – a demonstration of Mayor Nagin’s
near-irrelevance in a clash between the parties.
However, the most compelling numbers were clustered on the redneck side of
Unwilling to accept the brown Republican, the social base of
the White Man’s
Party cracked. Fox McKeithen, the sole surviving GOP statewide officeholder, knows
the math. "What I look at for a Republican to win, you have to beat
the Democrat at least 2-to-1 among white voters and [Jindal] hasn't been
able to do it for whatever reason," said the Secretary of State. In
previously GOP strongholds outside the suburbs of New Orleans, Jindal’s white
vote shriveled in comparison to past elections. Bubba and the Party leaders
weren’t sharing the same dream.
Statewide, Jindal garnered 62 percent of the white vote, compared
to nearly 70 percent in the suburbs. That wasn’t enough to overwhelm
a near-solid Black vote, despite a nine percent white advantage
in turnout (54 to 45 percent).
There are two lessons that emerge from the
Louisiana Governor’s race. First,
the GOP’s historic “transformation” from the White Man’s Party to something
more cosmetically cosmopolitan is a doomed farce. Bubba ain’t havin’ it.
The scheme was designed for “swing” voters, and only they believe the fiction
that race is not the engine that drives the large majority of white southern
voters. Republicans in Louisiana will likely revert to type next time around,
and the rest of crackerdom will eschew the Bradley Foundation’s experiment.
That means southern Democrats will not get another break, which
brings us to the second lesson: domination of the party in the
South by minorities
of whites is no longer tenable. In Louisiana, Blacks make up a majority of
the Democratic vote, while comprising 30 percent of the electorate. Yet white
Democratic leadership retards the vitality of the Black bloc, preferring
to act in its perceived racial interests until impending disaster dictates
otherwise. Southern Black Democratic leaders cannot continue to defend Black
interests on two fronts and shoulder general responsibility for the party,
too – the strains are clearly becoming unbearable.
Yet we know that America is the nation in which energized minorities
of voters carry the day. The best – no, the only – chance for social democracy in the
South in the foreseeable future lies with an expanded and fired-up Black
electorate; white “swing” voters are unreliable, and not worth the ritual
sacrifice of Black dreams and the resultant decay of African American political
In hindsight, the Jindal foray may have been a southern sideshow.
As a U.S.-savvy writer to the Indian newspaper The Statesman
commented, “Jindal wanted to
be the Clarence Thomas from the Indian American community and he lost.” GOP
leaders dearly love their colored pets, who serve psychological as well as
political purposes. But they will not sacrifice power in vain service to
a Bradley Foundation project. The GOP has no alternative but to remain the
White Man’s Party in the South, the tried and true mechanism for diverting
whites’ attention from the realities of their lives.
to view entire cartoon
Republican victories in the Deep South are driven
by wild-eyed, confederate flag-waving hordes that flock to the
GOP because it is the White Man’s Party. “Republicans
and conservatives are zealous…their people are fired up,” said
New Orleans Black Councilman at-large Oliver Thomas during the
last week of the campaign.
Blacks must become just as zealous in pursuit of social and economic justice,
and run over the weak white Democrats that get in the way. Who knows? Strong
Black leadership may even produce significant numbers of sane white southern
voters that we can actually count on. What is certain is that the status
quo in the Democratic Party cannot hold.