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Georgia’s 4th congressional district is up for grabs again.  Late last week Cynthia McKinney announced her candidacy for the seat she lost two years ago to former black Republican Denise Majette.  Days later, incumbent Majette declared herself a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia’s July 20 primary election, abandoning the Atlanta district after a single term.

Denise Majette’s prospects for a second term in Congress were iffy at best.  Her 2002 victory was massively assisted by a national media campaign of slander against McKinney. Majette’s racially polarizing campaign concentrated on maximizing the white vote in a district almost evenly split between African American and white voters.  Majette joined the Congressional Black Caucus on the strength of less than 20 percent of the black vote, but backed by over 90 percent of an abnormally large white turnout – including tens of thousands of white Republicans who crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary election. 

Majette was unlikely to duplicate this feat in 2004. Georgia Republicans, with their own primary contests to worry about, are unavailable to knock out Democratic candidates in this year’s Democratic primary elections.  And while the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and others promulgated the myth that Majette’s election heralded the emergence of a new cohort of comfortably middle class, conservative-leaning black voters, no serious observers now believe Majette has a base among Dekalb County Democrats – least of all Denise Majette herself.

Instead, Majette hopes to find electoral strength in the weakness of the Democratic Party. As feeble a candidate as Majette promised to be in the 4th congressional district, her leap into the U.S. Senate race enables her to take advantage of the even greater debility of Georgia’s statewide Democratic Party.  Only a shell of its former self, the party has been hollowed out by the defection of most white voters and office-holders to the White Man’s Party, the GOP – a process that began in the 1960s and continues to this day.  Several white Georgia Democratic state legislators defected just last year, and the current Republican leader of the Georgia State Senate is a former Democrat.

A shell of a party

Georgia Democrats did the rest of the damage to themselves, by embracing the Bill Clinton/Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) brand of dollar-politics. This fatal, corporate-financed strategy encouraged white and Black Democrats to adopt watered down Republican positions in an ever-rightward search for white “swing” voters. Flush with cash, former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes outspent his Republican opponent four- or five-fold in 2002 – but lost. Without a progressive message, Barnes could not mobilize the Democratic Party’s base constituencies.

The statewide party remains moribund. With only four months left before the primaries, Democrats were unable to recruit a viable candidate for the Senate seat being vacated by the apostate Democrat, Zell Miller. Into the void walked Miller’s longtime political ally, Majette.

Like her fellow DLCers, Majette has no progressive message. Her only rallying cry to black Democrats in the general election will be that the other guy is still worse.  On the other hand, the DLC’s friends in the corporate media will be delighted to sell Majette to whites as a certifiable “moderate" who had the “courage” to stand against McKinney and the Black Consensus; someone for whom they can safely vote and know that they are not racists after all.  They will try to market Majette to black voters any way they can: as a Great Black Hope – or the only Black Hope – and as proof of their discredited thesis that black voters are aching to discover their inner conservatism.

In large and diverse jurisdictions, Democrats run strongest when they have truly progressive social and economic messages and can count on a large and unified black vote. Majette’s failure on both counts would seem to doom her in the primary, and doubly in a general election.  What use is a black Democrat who can’t mobilize black voters?  A Republican until recently, a protégé of Zell Miller, and a captive of the DLC, AIPAC and other interests, Majette’s entire political act consists of flogging out big numbers of white voters (including Republicans) to vote against black Democrats.  But in general elections, Republicans won’t need her; they can win on their own. 

As went to press, Capitol Hill’s Roll Call newspaper reported that the Congressional Black Caucus plans to offer Majette “the same level of support the group is giving Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama,” who last month won his state’s Democratic senatorial primary. The CBC decision is tantamount to an “anybody Black” endorsement policy.

Obama is a genuine progressive with an excellent chance to win, fully deserving of the CBC’s scarce resources. Denise Majette represents less than one in five Blacks in her district – a mercenary with no prospect of statewide victory, who should not be rewarded with African American support that she has not earned. The CBC has more pressing items on its agenda than wasting time, resources and prestige on a Trojan Horse’s political swan song.

McKinney vindicated

Middle East realities have overtaken and made ridiculous the national media’s 2002 vilification campaign against Cynthia McKinney, who retains popularity in the district.  In her formal announcement, McKinney reminded a Decatur, Georgia, audience that she was on the right side of history, all along:

"Two years ago I asked, 'What did the Bush Administration know, and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th?'  Today, the Bush Administration continues its refusal to tell the American people how it was that all fail-safe mechanisms and standard operating procedures failed to operate for the four separate hijackings that took place on that single day.  Furthermore, the American people only have assurances from the Bush Administration that the measures put in place since September 11th will actually protect us from another such tragedy.”

McKinney’s primary opponents to date are Cathy Woolard, the white, openly gay current president of Atlanta’s city council, and State Sen. Nadine Thomas. Woolard is a well-known politician who can raise lots of money in a hurry. Thomas was the first African American woman to serve in the Georgia State Senate.

We think it is a good time to recall the words of Los Angeles congresswoman Maxine Waters:

"It's not enough to take principled and courageous stands on the issues. Black and progressive elected officials have to know that when you speak truth to power... powerful interests will target you, will mobilize their resources... and come after you. We have to defend those correct and principled positions by hitting the street and organizing our own communities.... "

Cynthia McKinney has proven her courage as a congresswoman.  The next four months will test her mettle as an organizer.  If she can register and turn out a large enough vote in her base areas of Dekalb County, she will be returned to Congress.



April 1 2004
Issue 84

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