Cory Booker is back – like a recurring disease.
The former one-term city councilman whose wholly unproductive
career has been artificially sustained by Black America’s worst
enemies has amassed bundles of rightwing cash for his second
assault on Newark city hall. Booker’s stealth mission on behalf
of the far-right Bradley and Walton Family (Wal-Mart) Foundations,
under the tutelage of the hyper-racist Manhattan Institute,
once again threatens to provide the Right with a long-coveted
showcase for privatization and capitalism in-the-raw in urban
Booker is a unique danger to African American
interests, well beyond the boundaries of New Jersey’s largest
city. As in the Verizon television commercial in which a vast
“network” is arrayed behind the actor playing the cell phone
service subscriber, Booker is tightly wired into the interlocking
political networks of the Right. He is the darling and point
man for the corporate campaign to create a cadre of “New Black
Leaders” who will provide “authenticity” to reactionary social
policies hatched by the think tank servants of the super-rich.
May 9 is no ordinary Election Day – and it is
anything but a local affair.
Indeed, the upscale suburb-bred, Yale and Stanford
educated lawyer may be the purest specimen of the Black
Trojan Horse Democrat yet foisted on the African American
public by the likes of the Manhattan Institute – the outfit
that nurtured Charles Murray, author of The
Bell Curve, the infamous blood-libel book that attempted
to prove Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites – and
at whose “power
luncheon” Booker made his national debut, in 2000.
The 36-year-old Booker is the Right’s Young Black
Frankenstein, powered, as in his first mayoral run in 2002,
by constant infusions of corporate cash and free media. Or,
as his current opponent State Senator and Newark Deputy Mayor
Rice puts it, Booker is the “Six Million Dollar Man” – a
reference to his campaign war chest, a fantastic sum for a mayor’s
race in a city of just 275,000, and far exceeding the corporate
largess showered on the upstart candidate four years ago. The
$6 million figure is also by now out of date.
Sen. Rice’s underfunded organization finds it
difficult to even keep track of Booker’s capital accumulation.
Rice’s last campaign ad put Booker’s contributions at $4.1 million
– still far exceeding declared contributions in the 2002 race,
when Booker significantly outspent but still lost to incumbent
In both campaigns, Booker’s large contributors’
hailed from across
the nation, and their names looked nothing like a Newark
telephone book. That’s the rightwing network’s fine-tuned money
machine in motion.
Sen. Rice – and the city of Newark, itself – is
like an Indian surrounded by cowboys summoned from all points
of the map, eager to plant their alien flag. Rice is further
disadvantaged by the inexplicable behavior of Mayor Sharpe
James, who waited until March 27 to announce that he would
not seek a sixth term, leaving Rice just a little over six weeks
to stop Booker’s Right-financed juggernaut.
A Pact With the Devil
The Black Commentator is proud of the role we
played in exposing Cory Booker’s true political and financial
backers, in 2002. The Cover Story of our inaugural issue, “Fruit
of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002, was the first published
revelation anywhere of Booker's political genesis in
the bowels of Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation – George Bush’s
favorite foundation, the outfit that birthed a fully financed
Black school voucher “movement” out of thin air and hard cash.
As an original board member of the Bradley-created (and now
Alliance for Educational Options, and a co-founder of the
Newark voucher outfit Excellent Education for Everyone (E-3),
Booker worked his way ever deeper into the Right labyrinth of
mega-money, media manipulation, and raw corporate power.
So enthused with Booker was the Right in 2002,
one of their most esteemed members let the cat out of the bag.
Syndicated columnist George F. Will, whose politics would correctly
be called fascist in any part of Europe, traveled to Newark
to observe the campaign up close and gushed like a schoolgirl
at Booker’s rightwing credentials:
"Booker's plans for Newark's renaissance,"
Will's March 17  column informs us, "are drawn
from thinkers at the Democratic Leadership Council and the
Manhattan Institute think tank, and from the experiences of
others such as Stephen Goldsmith, former Republican mayor
of Indianapolis, a pioneer of privatization and faith-based
delivery of some government services, and John Norquist, current
Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, which has one of the nation's
most successful school-choice programs."
– from BC “Fruit
of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002.
his narrow loss to Mayor James, Booker’s rich rightwing patrons
were pleased; they had come within reach of their goal to capture
a large, majority Black city in the shadow of New York, the
nation’s media and financial capital. Through their sophisticated
propaganda network – euphemistically called public relations
or public information offices – the Right network kept Booker’s
name in the media during the four years in which he held no
public office. With eerie uniformity of content and style,
articles and personality profiles regularly appeared in various
media grouping Booker with luminaries like Barack Obama and
Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., the “New Black Leaders.” Yet the totality
of Booker’s public life experience amounted to only four years
as a city councilman who produced no meaningful legislation.
In November 2004, the out-of-office Booker remained
a corporate media star. An article in the influential Washington
Monthly spent almost as much time on Booker as its purported
subject, Barack Obama. Titled “The
Great Black Hope,” the piece began with Cory Booker’s name
(“Cory Booker was feeling good… .”) and catalogued the media’s
central role in the 2002 campaign:
A fever was building. Time profiled Booker;
“CBS Evening News” did, too. Though Booker was still only a
councilman in America's 63rd largest city, Democratic fundraisers
and operatives were also talking about a future White House
bid; The New York Times said he was “regularly referred
to as someone who will end up the first black President of the
Of course, the Washington Monthly was itself contributing
to the media “fever” over Booker.
Booker was defeated because, in the last weeks
of the race, Mayor James finally found ways to express what
BC had been saying all along: that Booker is
a wholly-owned property of the Right, a walking, breathing political
lie who masquerades as an urban reformer while serving masters
in corporate suites; a total cynic who relies on his youth to
promise a fresh breeze in African American politics, but is
in reality in league with Black folks’ oldest and most implacable
The corporate media were alerted to Booker’s connections.
Just two-and-half weeks after BC began operations,
the New York Times quoted Co-Publisher Glen Ford’s indictment
of the candidate in a front page profile of Booker, April 24,
[Ford] says Mr. Booker is allied with conservatives
seeking to dismantle public education, destroy affirmative action
and gain an urban foothold for their views. He points to a speech
Mr. Booker gave to the conservative Manhattan Institute two
years ago and a recent column by conservative writer George
F. Will that ridiculed Mr. James and lionized Mr. Booker. “He’s
totally cynical, careerist and mercenary,” Mr. Ford said. “They’re
backing him so they can claim a black elected official from
a black city.”
It’s the same game, this time around, with only
the slightest alterations. Although the New York Times quoted
Glen Ford in 2002, the paper never brought its reportorial powers
to bear on the specific connections revealed in BC’s
investigative work. The rest of the corporate media – print,
TV and radio – pretended that BC’s and the
Mayor’s charges were silly or, in most instances, ignored them
But the people of Newark got the word, despite
most of the media’s performance as extensions of Booker’s campaign.
Sen. Ron Rice is fighting furiously to resist Booker’s anointment,
on May 9 – to ward off a tragedy of enormous national as
well as local proportions for the Black polity. Rice has smoked
Booker out on his support for private school vouchers – the
Right’s main wedge issue to woo Black America – finally catching
the attention of the New York Times, April 27:
In a recent interview, Mr. Rice called Mr. Booker
a proxy for "ultra-white, ultra-conservative" outsiders
seeking to privatize the schools in a Democratic city that is
more than 80 percent African-American and Hispanic. He charged
that Mr. Booker was seeking to turn Newark into another Milwaukee,
where a voucher program has been in place since 1990, with mixed
results in terms of student achievement… .
Booker tried to wiggle, as usual, but he was caught.
“My determination is to reform the public school system, but
I will never oppose programs that help children," Mr. Booker
said in a recent interview in his 21st-story law office downtown.
"And if it doesn't hurt my main goal, my principal goal
of empowering public schools, I support that."
Booker’s benefactors, the Walton Family and Bradley
Foundations and the rest of the rightwing constellation in which
he travels, are unalterably committed to wholesale privatization
of education and everything else in the public sector they can
lay their hands on. That’s what Booker doesn’t want the Black
public to know.
It’s hard to fight the white ruling class, even
on ghetto turf – especially when it puts on blackface. But we
have entered a new and perilous era. Cory Booker personifies
the danger: the Black Trojan Horse, more likely a nominal Democrat
than a Republican, to better subvert from within the Historical
Black Consensus that has made African Americans the soul and
backbone of progressivism in the United States.
It is true that Booker is part of a new breed
– a crop of stealthy Black political assassins in the service
of rich gangsters. The hit on Black Newark is scheduled for
May 9. Everyplace else, is next.
BC Co-Publishers Glen Ford
and Peter Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack
Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.
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