Like Christopher Columbus blinking in shock at first
seeing an American Indian, John Kerry has just discovered African-American
Last Thursday afternoon, Kerry
landed at the NAACP convention, stepped off his slow-moving campaign
announced that he
was exploring for one million missing Black voters.
Let me explain – because the New York Times won't. In the
2000 elections, 1.9 million ballots were cast which were never
counted – "spoiled" is the technical term. Ballots
don't spoil because they are left out of the fridge. There's
always a technical reason: a stray mark, or my favorite,
from Gadsden County, Florida, writing in Al Gore's name instead
of checking a box.
According to data from the US Civil Rights
Commission and the Harvard University Law School Civil Rights
Project, about half
the nation's spoiled ballots – one million – were cast by Black
folk. Just as African American communities get the worst
schools, the worst hospitals, they also get dumped with the worst
voting machines, which eat, mismark, mangle and void ballots.
Poof! A million Black votes gone, zapped,
And the nasty secret is that for years that
suited many white leaders of local and state Democratic organizations – Zell Miller
of Georgia is a case in point – who feared Black voters as much
as they feared Republicans.
But change is coming, and not because John
Kerry and the men who think for him have changed. Change
is coming because African-American leaders are getting uppity
about the Democratic Party taking or
leaving the African-American voter as the mood and arithmetic pleases.
Here's how Senator Kerry got the message: Two weeks ago,
when I was in Chicago, Jesse Jackson asked me to join him for breakfast
at the Marriott Hotel. To my surprise, he'd also invited
Senator John Edwards. Jackson had made copies of my editorial
for the San Francisco Chronicle on the missing one million votes
... and wouldn't let the wannabe Veep touch his bagel until he'd
read every word.
Just when Edwards thought he could have a sip
of coffee, Jackson required him to watch the segment of our BBC
television special, "Bush
Family Fortunes," with the latest analysis on the non-count
of Black votes in Florida. In the 2000 race, 95,000 African-American
votes were dumped in the Florida swamps, marked as spoiled.
Edwards, succumbing to hunger, caffeine deprivation and Reverend
Jackson's intense interrogation, caved in and promised to take
the message of the missing Black votes to the white side of his
Congresswoman Corrine Brown joined us. When she read the
story and saw the film, she was ready to spit bullets. She
was especially upset that British television covered the story
while, in the USA, the Black story was blacked out.
The film clip would get the Congresswoman in
hot water. This
past Thursday morning, in Washington, she again watched a preview
of the BBC film and then marched down to the Capitol and denounced
the Republican Party for stealing the election in Florida. For
telling this truth she was censured by a straight-up party-line
vote in the House of Representatives and her remarks stricken. (I
would note that the President's flat-out fibs about weapons of
mass destruction remain on the record.)
Senator Kerry is no Corrine Brown. The man who would be
President is first trying out the 'D' word in front of the friendly
natives at the NAACP. But still, it's a first step: mentioning
out loud the massive, systematic Disenfranchisement of the Black
But the real change won't come until Kerry
can say the 'D' word in front of say, a gathering of the members
of his wife's country
club. And until he confronts the boys holding the electoral lynching
ropes in both parties.
I have a dream. I imagine John Kerry taking this message
to the floor of the convention next week and proclaiming, "Three
decades after Martin Luther King's murder, one million African-Americans
cast ballots never counted. This will not stand!" Imagine
it: At that moment, for the first time in a generation, the
Democratic Party will have nominated a Democrat.
The preview of the updated investigative
Family Fortunes," is included on Punk Voter (Volume 2) CD-DVD,
which will be released on August 10. "Bush Family
Fortunes - the DVD" will be released in September. Greg
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy. View his BBC television reports
and read the article, "ONE MILLION BLACK VOTES DIDN'T COUNT
IN THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION," from the San Francisco
Chronicle, at www.GregPalast.com.