The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's accounts of the Cynthia McKinney - Denise Majette congressional primary race, which have served as the basis for widespread claims that Black voters are becoming more conservative, are bogus inventions, indefensible by any demographic and statistical standards. Denise Majette's claims to substantial African American support in the August election, as well as the political conclusions offered by the newspaper and the many media outlets that have cited its reports, are based on phantom voters, wishful thinking and phony numbers - lies made of whole cloth.

A comprehensive analysis of precinct-by-precinct returns for the recent election, along with DeKalb County GA's official statistics on voters by race in each precinct, reveals the following:

1. Denise Majette's share of the black turnout in the open primary was less than 20%, or between 10 and 12,000 votes, far less than the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "18,000 black voters who made up one-fourth of Majette's total [based on] vote totals in predominantly black voting precincts." (see footnote 1)

2. Rather than being elected by a "biracial coalition of voters," Denise Majette was the beneficiary of an abnormally large white turnout, which she carried at a rate of 90% or better. This "biracial coalition," hailed in the Washington Post (see footnote 2), the Journal-Constitution and elsewhere, is revealed on close inspection to be less like a patchwork quilt and more like a big white sheet.

3. The oft-told tale that the election results "confirm the emergence of moderate middle class and affluent African-Americans as an independent political base" (see footnote 3) is a demonstrable lie supported by neither the election returns nor the demographic data.

This Big Lie, that Majette's campaign assembled a "biracial coalition" incorporating substantial numbers of comfortably well-off African Americans ready to back a new and more "centrist" black leadership with their votes, has been widely quoted, repeatedly referenced and relentlessly recycled by the Washington Post and New York Times, by NPR, CBS, Fox News, and CNN, and by dozens of other print, broadcast and internet "news" sites in a manner more akin to the dissemination of urban myths and rumors than to any pretense of journalistic integrity, objectivity or fact-checking. Re-tellers of the tale like the Washington Post's Tony Neal frequently establish or bolster their credentials by embellishing upon it still further. Professional "observers" of the black political scene like Clark Atlanta University political science Professor William Boone gain national recognition by validating a "biracial coalition" that never existed. (see footnote 4)

By now, so many "journalists" and pundits of every stripe have uncritically repeated the canard that it threatens to become the commonly accepted wisdom. Fortunately for us, the lie is easily debunked.

Hard numbers and accepted statistical methods provide no evidence in "predominantly black precincts" of sufficient black Majette voters to indicate a new, rightward trend in DeKalb County, Georgia - much less to extrapolate for the rest of black America. The Majette vote closely tracks the white voter population through the district, never varying more than 18% from its white base. Finally, in the whitest regions of the district, the white voter statistics and the Majette vote virtually converge.

Figure 1, below, graphically depicts all of the district's precincts in the descending order of their percentage of black voters (red line) and the corresponding Majette vote (blue line). The green line is voter turnout. There is an inverse relationship between the percentage of black voters and the percentage of votes cast for Denise Majette.

Figure 2, below: This tight racial voting pattern is consistent in racially mixed areas. To demonstrate the true racial voting pattern in DeKalb County - as opposed to the anecdotal and imaginary "trends" promulgated by the Majette forces and her media patrons - divided the district into ten nearly equal groupings, or "deciles," of precincts, in descending order of Black population. (See Figure 2.) Only in decile 5, consisting of precincts with an average of 72.7% Black population, did the gap between white voters and Majette voters widen rather than continue towards ultimate convergence, and even then only marginally, at at 18%. McKinney won 58.4% of that decile.

 Decile

total
eligible
voters

white voter %

black voter %

Majette %

McKinney %

turnout %

1

34,784

3.9%

94.2%

18.5%

81.5%

32.6%

2

35,003

5.4%

92.7%

20.1%

79.9%

34.7%

3

33,705

9.2%

88.5%

25.5%

74.5%

36.9%

4

32,337

15.0%

82.1%

30.1%

69.9%

28.3%

5

33,890

23.6%

72.7%

41.6%

58.4%

26.5%

6

33,575

39.0%

56.0%

52.0%

48.0%

27.0%

7

33,361

72.7%

20.4%

83.9%

16.1%

27.1%

8

33,713

82.7%

11.7%

89.6%

10.4%

35.3%

9

35,491

90.4%

5.3%

92.5%

7.5%

40.0%

10

37,543

94.7%

2.0%

95.2%

4.8%

45.3%

(see footnote 5)

When the district's precincts are ranked by % of black voters and divided into 10 equally weighted segments or deciles, the only trends visible are

(1) candidate preferences overwhelming follow racial percentages,

(2) district's lowest turnouts are found in integrated precincts including those in the 60% and below black range carried by Majette, and

(3) district's highest turnout rates occurred where population is 85% or more white, where Majette won 90-95% of the vote. (see footnote 4)

This spread - beginning at around 16% and narrowing as precincts whiten, with a small bump in the middle - accounts for virtually all of the Black Majette vote. It is the salient fact that any demographer or statistician would immediately note as the defining characteristic of the election. It represents a numerical finger, pointing and shouting out "Liar!" at the reality re-write men of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Since raw racial segregation leaves little room for numbers mischief at the ethnic extremes of the district - in overwhelmingly Black deciles 1, 2 and 3 and ever-whiter deciles 8, 9 and 10 - the electoral alchemists at the AJC appear to be inferring strong Black Majette turnouts in the precincts of the middle deciles 4, 5, 6 and 7, hidden, somehow, by the integrated surroundings. Yet the racial pattern remains constant. In fact, the only distinguishing characteristic of the middle deciles is their dramatically lower voter turnout, compared to the whiter and blacker areas of the district. (See Turnout column in Figure 2, and the green line in Figure 3.) In these shrunken voter pools, there is nowhere to infer Majette's legions of African American supporters, unless one supposes that within these precincts are found corresponding hordes of die-hard white McKinney supporters.

If we are to believe the AJC's statistical slight of hand, we must swallow all three of the following assumptions:

  • that black Majette supporters in racially integrated precincts went for Majette in far higher proportion than black voters anywhere else
  • that these same black Majette supporters came out in far higher proportion than their white neighbors in those same precincts
  • since McKinney got a sizeable number of votes in those same precincts, while the AJC assigned Majette most of the black votes, white voters in those precincts must have come out for McKinney in suspiciously high numbers.

Each of these assumptions is dubious; together, they are fantastical.

Majette carried only a single 70% black precinct, and another that was 64% black. Where the percentage of black voters falls below 64%, Majette won all but one of them, a function of the racial spread in the voter turnout. In the 30 Dekalb County precincts that have 93% or more black voters, Majette garnered only 19% of the vote. Applying this voter turnout and preference pattern consistently across the district's black voting population yields Denise Majette an absolute maximum of 10 to 12,000 black votes, 6 to 8,000 short of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "findings."

Figure 3, below, shows the direct correlation between the percentage of white voters and the percentage of the vote received by Denise Majette in that precinct, conclusively demolishing the Majette claim of substantial black support anywhere in the 4th Congressional district.


Upon reaching the 75% white precincts, the gap between Majette's percentage of the vote and the percentage of white voters converges. Above 90% white, Majette's tally closely matches the percentage of white voters, having crept upward to an astounding 95% per precinct of votes cast.

To repeat, there is absolutely no numerical, no statistical, no factual evidence that Denise Majette's victory was based on the relatively small proportion of black votes she received. The affluent, centrist black voters who, we were told, flocked to her cause and were key to her victory are another urban myth. Majette was sent to Washington by an overwhelming turnout of white voters who supported her at a rate of over 90%.

We at The Black Commentator searched the election returns in vain for signs of the "18,000 black voters who made up one-fourth of Majette's total," as proclaimed by Ben Smith and David Milliron in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on October 14. Their conclusions depend upon the votes of people that never were; black and white ghosts, inhabiting "predominantly black voting precincts" that must be invented to accommodate a fictional political class of conservative black voters. For perhaps the first time in history, a significant white southern institution has resorted to, in effect, padding the black voter rolls!

The AJC, which led the Majette propaganda blitz that passed for "news" during the campaign, declined to spoil their spurious fairy tale with real statistics. Little wonder. To remedy this deficiency, herewith provides a link to the complete election returns and racial data by precinct derived from the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections, at end of this analysis.

There is no emerging cohort of black, centrist leaning voters. The figures are public, a link to the precinct-by-precinct stats is provided at the end of this analysis and we challenge the Drs. Bullock and Boone, at the University of Georgia and Clark Atlanta, along with their colleagues in the press, to show otherwise. It's an urban myth, concocted and spread by the AJC, the Washington Post, Fox News, NPR and other news and opinion outlets. Neither McKinney nor Majette constructed a "biracial coalition" for this election. Four-fifths of the black vote went to McKinney and 90-95% of the white vote to Majette. Whites turned out in bigger numbers, and their candidate won. Only this time, the candidate of the old white "solid South" is expected to join the Congressional Black Caucus amid a cloud of baseless obfuscation about a statistically invisible stratum of middle-class "conservative black voters" having elected her.

The very idea can be seen as part of an ongoing campaign to deny the existence of and invalidate the operations of what we at Black Commentator call the Black Consensus. When we're excoriated for describing Colin Powell as a "house slave" or Clarence Thomas as an "Uncle Tom" we are being denied the language to describe our common perceptions, our common predicaments, experiences and opinions. On the flip side, America's corporate media freely declare into existence a fictive stratum of colored folk among us with media-invented characteristics.

You can repeat an urban myth long enough and often enough to make some people believe it. But you can't tell it enough times to make it true. When Denise Majette goes to Congress she goes not as the representative of the imaginary new school of conservative-leaning affluent suburban black voters. She does not go as the result of any biracial coalition among the divergent communities that exist in the 4th district. Majette lost four-fifths of the black vote, but won 90%-95% of a strong white turnout in her district. Majette benefited from an unprecedented campaign of vilification against incumbent Cynthia McKinney, waged by allies and supporters of President Bush, from right wing talk radio hosts to reporters and pundits, who unanimously painted her as unprincipled, unbalanced, unpatriotic, a black racist and anti-Semite, an unapologetic supporter of "terrorism". This, along with a campaign specifically directed toward mobilizing the largest possible white vote, put Denise Majette in Congress and on the Congressional Black Caucus.

Majette will be the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to have arrived there by losing the black vote in her district four to one, while winning the approval of 90 to 95% of her white neighbors. When she takes a seat alongside authentic progressive legislators like Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, in the same room with Bobby Rush and Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis and others, she can be expected to represent the coalition that put her in office. And that coalition does not look like the real America. On the Black Caucus, Denise Majette's presence is an abomination. She is the epitome of the Trojan Horse in our midst. Like Clarence Thomas, who declines invitations to most social events due to his well-founded fear of public embarrassment, she ought to be shunned and shamed at every opportunity.

Bruce A. Dixon can be contacted at Bruce@Dixonmail.com. Mr. Dixon has compiled additional, important information on the contest in Georgia's 4th congressional district. Visit his web sit by clicking here.

makes available to its readers the complete precinct-by-precinct election results and demographic data used in this article. Click on the link below to read the data in PDF file format. http://www.blackcommentator.com/DekalbCountyGA_ByPrecinct_082002.pdf

Reading the data requiers the Adobe Acrobat Reader. If you do not have the Acrobat Reader, please click on this link to get a free copy. http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html

Footnotes:

1 - Vote Analysis: GOP Not Key To McKinney Loss, by Ben Smith and David Milliron in the Atlanta Journal Constitution October 15. http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/metro/election2002/1015mckinney.html

2 - "The politics of polarization finally caught up with her, and she was defeated by a candidate who was able to build a biracial coalition," said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.
"Bullock said McKinney's defeat also shows how much the Atlanta-based district has grown -- an effect that has diluted McKinney's original base.
"'She never adjusted to the changes of the district that elected her,' he said."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A43977-2002Aug21&notFound=true

3 - The unresearched and unsupported assertion first appears in a Ben Smith story "How Majette Beat McKinney: in the August 22 Atlanta Journal-Constitution http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/metro/election2002/22fourth.html. It was immediately picked up and repeated and embellished upon by Terry Neal in the Washington Post "McKinney's Loss Points to Larger Change: Moderate Black Politicians Continue Historical Rise http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A53533-2002Aug23&notFound=true

4 - "There was a change in DeKalb, and Cynthia didn't pick up on it," said William Boone, a political scientist at historically Black Clark Atlanta University. "There's a growing Black middle class here, a middle class that is much, much different from the Black middle class of the civil rights era. Cynthia had the civil-rights-era politics down pat. But the voters were looking for someone more focused in the issues, not just someone who is Black and will look out for them." Associated Press, August 22, 2002.
http://www.arizonarepublic.com/news/articles/0822mckinney22.html

5 - Georgia lists voters who have not voted in consecutive recent elections as "inactive" but still keeps them on the rolls for a limited time. Turnout figures in this analysis are based on a percentage of the "active and inactive" voters, since any "inactive" voter in Georgia is permitted to walk in and cast a ballot on election day, and in fact thousands did exactly that in this election. The racial percentages released by election authorities in this contest include "inactive" as well as "active' voters.

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Issue Number 15
November 4, 2002

 

 

 

 

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Other commentaries in this issue:

Guest Commentary 1
Harvard Professor Lambasts THE CRISIS Editor Martin Kilson says magazine bolsters NAACP foe

Guest Commentary 2
Land Struggles and Democracy in Zimbabwe
by Chris Lowe

Commentary
Wellstone: The best of them all

Briefs
Permanent war, permanent Uncle Toms
NAACP for peace
Solitary killers and mass muderousness
Prisoners of the American gulag

Re-Print
Politics Trumps Religion:
Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative
By Barbara Miner

e-MailBox
Belafonte’s courage
Race and war hysteria
Baraka’s verse
Unpaid debt in Zimbabwe


Commentaries in Issue 14 October 17 , 2002:

Permanent War: Permanent State of Emergency

Trojan Horse Watch: Bob Johnson’s message invades Black radio...Rep. Harold Ford: mess of the blue dog...The Trojan Horse TV show

Briefs:The Four Eunuchs of War...The most dangerous game...Smack, Blow, and Blowback...Lethally stupid and more...

IRAQ, WAR & COLOR RACISM: By Dr. David Graham Du Bois, Guest Commentator

A Jewish Peace Activist on Baraka’s Poem: Urban Legends by Rachael Kamel, Guest Commentator

e-MailBox: The Real Rosa Parks...NAACP challenged on war...Plato and the Emperor George...Deceitful billionaire busted...Anglo-Saxon alarmed

RE-PRINT: Harry Belafonte on Colin Powell...CNN Larry King Live Interview with Belafonte

Interview: Educate and Advocate - Henry Nicholas on social justice in America


You can read any past issue of The Black Commentator in its entirety by going to the Past Issues page.