The corporate-Republican onslaught against
the Black Political Consensus, conceived in the war rooms of rightwing
think tanks a decade ago, is in full fury. Massively financed by,
first private, and now public dollars, the campaign to create the
perception of an alternative, conservative Black “leadership” is
on the march in all regions of the nation, sowing confusion and alarm
among authentic African American political formations. As expected,
the corporate media certified that the 22 bought-and-paid-for ministers
and corporate front persons showcased at the White House last week
were, indeed, “Black leaders.”
“President Discusses Issues With Black Leaders,” announced the
York Times headline, featuring a photo captioned: “President Bush
met with about 20 African-American leaders for a little more than an
If the New York Times considers the handpicked gaggle to be “Black
leaders,” it must be true.
The Associated Press said so, too. “President Bush told black leaders
Tuesday that his plan to add private accounts to Social Security would
benefit blacks since they tend to have shorter lives than some other
Americans and end up paying in more than they get out,” said the AP
article, distributed worldwide.
The nation’s second most influential paper, the Washington
qualified the delegation’s status, describing them as “right-leaning
black leaders.” Does that mean they are leaders of other “right-leaning” Blacks,
or real Black leaders who happen to lean (or bend over) to the right?
Interestingly, the truly rightist Washington
Times gave the
most straightforward account, simply calling the pretenders “14 clergy
and eight executives of banks and nonprofit organizations.” The
Free Press played up the local angle, noting that four area
ministers were among the anointed and that Michigan organizations received
$61 million in faith-based money in 2003 out of $12 billion dollars
distributed, nationwide – the magnetic monetary pull that drew Bush’s
Black minions to his service.
By any measurement, the senior Black mercenary present was Robert
L. Woodson, president of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise,
former aid to Newt Gingrich, recipient since 1995 of more than $6 million
in rightwing foundation money, and now riding first-class on the federal
faith-based gravy train.
Orchestrating the show were the two men most responsible for keeping
the money flowing: Jim Towey, director of Bush's Faith-based and Community
Initiatives, and chief White House strategist Karl Rove, who makes
sure faith-based grants and contracts are manipulated for maximum political
effect – more Tom for the buck, so to speak.
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of Karl Rove the bribe maker
Prominent among the preachers was Rev. Eugene Rivers of the Ten Point
Coalition in Boston, described as “one of the leading proponents of
Bush's faith-based initiative.” Rivers voted for Gore in 2000 – but
that was before the faith-based bribes began flowing.
Michelle D. Bernard represents the more overtly Republican elements
in the Gang-of-22. Bernard is a corporate lawyer and senior vice president
of the Independent Women's Forum, which describes itself as a “research
group” but is actually paid by the Hard Right to counter the National
Organization for Women (NOW) on the talk show circuit. Her White House
appearance boosts Bernard’s stature as the “alternative” political
Black woman – in line with GOP philosophy: if you can’t get an African
American Republican woman elected by Black people, put her on generous
Upstaging the Caucus
By scheduling the servile delegation on the day before the Congressional
Black Caucus’s session with the president, Karl Rove not only upstaged
the 43 U.S. Representatives but also guaranteed that the Caucus would
share newspaper space with the Right’s hirelings. Both the New York
Times and the Washington Post conflated the Tuesday and Wednesday meetings
in the same articles, bestowing a kind of political equivalence to
the two visiting Black groups – precisely the goal of the GOP’s overall “alternative
Black leadership” creation strategy.
Thus, Bush’s Black Coalition of the Bribed shared equal presidential
face-time and media space with men and women who represent half a million
citizens each. A paid amen corner for Bush’s Social Security destruction
scheme received as much public policy (and media) consideration as
elected representatives eager to discuss important elements of the
historical Black Political Consensus: employment, education, universal
health care, affirmative action, peace and the fight against AIDS at
home and in Africa.
Bush’s 14 compliant clergy also upstaged an historic meeting of 10,000
delegates from four Black Baptist denominations, in Nashville, the
same week. Together representing 15 million members, the four denominations’ presidents
agreed to move towards a common agenda dramatically opposed to the
Republican administration – and fully in line with the historical Black
Consensus. According to the Chicago
Tribune, the Black Baptists:
“…declared their opposition to the war in Iraq and to the nomination
and expected confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.
”They also called for a higher minimum wage, discontinuation of
recent tax cuts, investment in public education and reauthorization
of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some provisions of which are
up for review in 2007… .
”Leaders also demanded that Bush stop privatization
of prison construction, reinvest in children's health insurance and
increase global relief for black nations such as Sudan and Haiti.”
Yet the New York Times said not a word about the huge Nashville
gathering – an event of potentially history-bending significance – while
the Washington Post ran a blurb in its News In Brief section, page
20. Network and cable news outlets were totally silent, although
they had all covered Bush’s 22 chosen Blacks at the White House – the
political equivalent of bling-bling.
With the eager assistance of corporate media, Karl Rove is handily
winning the battle of perceptions, creating the impression among
whites and Blacks that the tide is surging rightward among
African Americans. That’s bad enough – but on the ground, in localities
around the nation, corporate and public faith-based and voucher-advocacy
dollars threaten to savage historical Black political structures
and, ultimately, destroy African Americans’ ability to collectively
resist the Right.
‘Roving’ around New Jersey
The Right’s systematic assault on the Black body politic is dramatically
evident in heavily Black and Latino northern New Jersey, a focus
of Wal-Mart heir John Walton’s inner city pro-voucher “philanthropy” and
Karl Rove’s machinations among Black ministers. The two paths intersect
at the Newark-based voucher outfit Excellent
Education for Everyone, or E-3. The hyper-aggressive political front
can count on about a half million dollars a year from the Walton
Family Foundation ($400,000 in 2003)
and also benefits from federal Education Department grants to
the Hispanic Council
for Reform and Educational Options (HCREO), another pro-voucher outfit.
HCREO shares funding links (Bush’s Education Department and rightwing
foundations) with the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO),
one of whose founding directors, former and future Newark mayoral
candidate Cory Booker (see “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, April
5, 2002), was also a founder of E-3. (Booker received campaign financing
from the Waltons, as well.)
This isn’t conspiracy theory; rather,
it’s the result of strategic planning and funding by the Bush regime,
the Waltons and, especially, the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation,
which invented both the “Black” voucher “movement” and faith-based
initiatives in the mid-Nineties.
Also on E-3’s board is Rev. Reginald Jackson,
head of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey. Two weeks
before the recent election, E-3 announced:
“In an effort to focus constituents on the benefits
of choice, ministers and pastors in NJ began last Sunday (October
17) to deliver sermons on school choice and the need for parents
to support the advocacy efforts of the [New Jersey School Choice
Alliance]. ‘This is by far the most important, the most vital civil
rights issue facing us, and our children,’ said Rev. Reginald Jackson,
pastor of St. Matthews A.M.E. church in Orange, NJ….”
The most vital civil rights issue! Not affirmative action,
not racism in the criminal justice system, not the right to adequate
health care, but vouchers. What a difference rightwing money makes
in the priorities of a section of the Black clergy.
Contrary to Eagleton Poll claims that residents of poor New Jersey
communities favor school “choice” by up to 75 percent, a recent survey
by the Strategic Marketing Group found only 24 percent of Black Newark
households believe vouchers are the best cure for what ails education
in the city. No matter – the twin lures of faith-based funding and
vouchers are irresistible to ministers on the make, many of whom
operate – or would like to operate – private church-based schools.
Karl Rove took a keen interest in the Garden State, especially when
polls showed a surprising narrowing of the gap between Bush and Kerry.
Rove visited the Newark area twice just before the election, and
once afterwards, reserving special attention for Black clergy.
On election night, according to Lionel Leach, Director of the NAACP
National Voter Fund-NJ, “Bush got about 2900 votes in the Central
Ward in Newark, which is 82.6 percent African American, but you look
and you see that’s where the majority of churches are.”
Leach is also a member of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Commission. “New
Jersey has the most voter suppression in the country,” he says. The
GOP has “done everything possible to suppress the Black and Latino
vote.” In what appears on the surface like a kind of political schizophrenia,
Republicans use every legal and illegal means available to keep Blacks
from voting en masse, yet spend vast sums to gain the overt
or covert support of Black ministers.
Once the Republican strategy is understood, however, there is no
contradiction. The Right’s goal is not to convert legions of Blacks
to the GOP, which would seriously dilute the party’s white appeal
and is, at any rate, an impossibility. The Right’s real goal is to
create the impression of fundamental splits in Black ranks, and thus
subvert the credibility of mainstream leaders who hold to the historical
Black Political Consensus. Everywhere, there exist Black preachers
and hustlers who are willing to advance the GOP project. Money does
the trick. Marginal increases in Black votes for Republicans are
welcome, especially in close races, but this is not a battle for
the hearts and minds of Black America. Rather, it is an assault on
the historical unity of African Americans.
The Republicans need only a few Black faces to fill up a room, or
a television screen, and only a modest number of Black congregations
to demonstrate newfound credibility in the community. They can achieve
this at literally no cost, since faith-based and voucher advocacy
(“public education”) grants are paid for with tax dollars – public money.
The Time Line of Corruption shows just how far the GOP has traveled
in the decade since the Bradley Foundation devised its faith-based
and voucher strategy and sold it to the national Republican Party.
Back in 1993, Republican hit men like consultant Ed Rollins bribed
Black clergy to quietly discourage their congregants from voting,
as reported by a contemporary issue of the Columbia Journalism
”At a November 9 Sperling breakfast, Rollins, boasting
about how he had just helped win a governorship for New Jersey's
Christine Todd Whitman, said the campaign had spent about $500,000
to suppress the black vote. He said GOP operatives had made payments
to Democratic precinct workers in black areas on condition they sit
on their hands on election day. And he said the Whitman campaign
had contributed to church charities in return for black ministers
keeping mum on the virtues of Democratic incumbent James Florio.”
Today, Republicans offer corrupt ministers billions on condition
that they dramatically break from the historical Black Political
Consensus and, hopefully, crack the fragile Democratic coalition.
The homosexual “threat” is a smokescreen for treachery. For every
outraged Black preacher howling that he’s giving up on the Democrats
because of the gays, there is a check or the promise of a check.
And maybe a visit to the White House.