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Honest, well-intentioned people begin the New Year with resolutions. Bush Republicans start every year as they ended the last, with outrageous lies. Black mercenaries in the service of corporate dollars are available on any date to say anything, no matter how nonsensical, as long as they get paid.
Thus the Sunday, January 4 edition of the Washington Post exhibited a political fantasy so bizarre and without foundation, that it carried a disclaimer in the title. “Black Votes – No GOP Fantasy,” announced the headline to Jonetta Rose Barras’ opinion piece, which attempted to lend credibility to “the GOP's announced goal of winning 25 percent of the African American vote in 2004.” Barras then strung together the same flimsy set of false assumptions and contorted logic employed by other corporate hirelings to prove the absurd proposition that in order to retain Black loyalties Democrats must turn to the right.
Barras is, to put it bluntly, a hack for the bipartisan businessmen’s project to create the impression that political conservatism is on the rise among a “new” and “emerging” class of educated, upwardly mobile African Americans. It does not matter to corporate media – and certainly not to hustlers like Barras – that there is no evidence of such a phenomenon among the Black voting public. Big media’s mission is to create their own set of facts, treat them as if they are true, and convince the rest of us to act accordingly.
The GOP’s “outreach” sham
Corporations manufacture lies like God makes onions: one layer on top of the other. Therefore, before we examine Barras’ hand-me-down fantasies, we must first deal with the premise of her headline: that Republicans actually want to enlist large numbers of Blacks into their White Man’s Party. Every Republican political action since 1968 shows that the GOP runs its campaigns against Blacks, not towards them. Howard Dean was simply repeating what Black politicians have been saying for decades, when he declared last month: “To distract people from their real agenda, [Republicans] run elections based on race, dividing us, instead of uniting us.”
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. is truly his father’s son when he says, “Republicans have successfully exploited race (in proportion to black voting strength) since Richard Nixon's ‘Southern strategy’ of 1968, by, among other things, using racial code words: Nixon's ‘law and order,’ Reagan's ‘states' rights’ and ‘welfare queen,’ and the first George Bush's ‘Willie Horton.’”
NAACP Chairman Julian Bond spoke for every honest observer of the American political scene this past summer when he accused Republicans of appealing “to the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality... Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side."
Racial appeals are essential to the GOP’s formula in its southern heartland, the base upon which it builds national electoral victories. Just one year ago, President Bush chose the week of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday to restate his opposition to affirmative action, a theatrically timed message to the party’s race-base. Could such a party really be longing for an influx of ordinary Black voters into their Deep South precinct gatherings? Of course not.
The Republican Party’s central strategic concern is to suppress or contain the Black vote at any and every opportunity, through gerrymandering, election day challenges and intimidation, voter rolls purges, theft of ballots, felony disenfranchisement – every trick in the proverbial book. George Bush lives in the White House because of a successful assault on Black voting rights in Florida. He hopes to repeat the process in November. The Georgia GOP committed even worse crimes against African American voters in 2000, and is gearing up for another season. Yet we are forced into discussions about nonexistent GOP Black outreach strategies, simply because the corporate media pretends such things exist, and a few Black opportunists find it profitable to parrot the lie.
As we wrote in our November 20 issue, it is common knowledge among elections managers that the Republican “outreach” farce is aimed almost entirely at “the coveted suburban white ‘swing voter,’ whose self-image is that of a social moderate…. She is marginally more uncomfortable than her husband with the nagging suspicion that she might be voting her race, and needs reassurance from the party to which she otherwise leans, the GOP.” To satisfy her anxieties requires only the most modest Black presence in the party. Black appointees and business-type hangers-on serve this purpose. However, any serious challenge to the general white character of the party soon produces diminishing returns among the core, racist constituency, as the GOP learned in Louisiana, last November, when it ran an Indian-American candidate for Governor. Bobby Jindal was too close to Black to pass muster in Redneckland, although he did fine in affluent white suburbs.
GOP to Blacks: Don’t vote
The Republican Party systematically demonizes the mass of Blacks in order to mobilize a critical mass of whites – it’s that simple, and there’s not a chance in hell that they will abandon this strategy. The GOP’s Black “outreach” effort is, in typical corporate fashion, outsourced to a small and grasping grouplet unofficially headed by the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s favorite Negro, Armstrong Williams. The columnist and media entrepreneur got a chance to bum rush his patrons last year when Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott praised Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist Presidential campaign, a faux pas that led to Lott’s humiliating resignation as Senate Majority Leader. Williams staged a big show of demanding more money to recruit Blacks to the party. “Williams, for whom Hard Right Republicanism is the Living Word, pretended to slap his clients into racial sensitivity, demanding that they renounce lily-whiteness and buy into his bag of Black resumes,” we wrote in “Send in the Clowns: The GOP’s Two-Ring Black ‘Outreach’ Circus,” February 8.
Williams’ Washington-based activities have nothing to do with Republican Party policy-making or, aside from throwing money at image-building advertising in Black-oriented media, with grassroots Black mobilization. Most importantly, this circumscribed outreach poses no threat to the white mass base of the party, particularly in the Deep South. Rather, if Republicans follow the pattern of the 2002 campaign, they will produce extremely negative radio ads that are actually designed to suppress the Black vote – in line with the GOP’s traditional approach to the Black electorate. In a study of the effects of GOP political ads in 2002, Democratic National Committee operative Donna Brazile and pollster Cornell Belcher concluded: "Republicans are well-positioning themselves to suppress the turnout of African American voters via their specific negative attacks asserting that African Americans are taken for granted and Democrats are out of touch with the values of the community." (See , “Black Democrats Urge Media Counteroffensive,” November 28, 2002.)
Black appointees such as Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are there to provide color to the national face of the Republican Party, assuaging residual guilt among white swing voters, the real “outreach” targets. That’s the general plan.
So, where did the Republicans come up with the goal of capturing 25 percent of the Black vote? From nowhere – they just made it up and threw it out there to give the lie an air of earnestness, in the certain knowledge that corporate media would treat absolute nonsense as serious, newsworthy political business. Just as assuredly, African Americans would seize on the figure as containing some morsel of meaning, and start looking around to see if there was something that they had missed. The fantasy figure also provided an opening for hacks like Jonetta Rose Barras to write opinion pieces for papers like the Washington Post.
There is nothing in reputable polling data that indicates any Black groundswell whatsoever for George Bush’s party. (So-called polls from the Black Republican outfit BAMPAC are beneath professional discussion, comprised of statistical disconnects and pure chicanery.) An October CBS News Poll showed that three out of five African Americans were either very concerned about losing their job in the next year (54 percent) or somewhat concerned (6 percent). These figures indicate anxiety so pervasive among Blacks as to touch nearly every family. It is madness to believe that such an environment could produce an historic Black shift to the ruling Republican Party.
If she is in her right mind, Barras doesn’t believe the GOP’s grand projections either. Her mission is to sow confusion among Blacks in order to create space for an alternative, corporate-friendly African American leadership within the Democratic Party. That’s where the action is. Barras invokes the Republican threat in order to portray Black Democratic conservatives as the wave of the future, as opposed to the ”outdated” voices of the “far left wing of the party.”
Corporate America has digested the fact that the Black Republican project is hopeless. Significant numbers of African Americans cannot be gathered under the tent of an essentially anti-Black party. No Black Republican has been elected from a majority Black congressional district since Chicago Congressman Oscar DePriest left the U.S. House in 1935. Black Republicans win office through white votes, and cannot claim to represent significant Black opinion. Therefore, if corporations are to exert direct influence over Black electoral politics, they must do so within the framework of the Democratic Party, where the people are. Barras has enlisted as a propagandist in this corporate project.
Barras begins her argument with an unfounded assertion: “There has been a measurable rightward shift in the black electorate.” To back up this sweeping statement, she cites a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) 2002 survey, which recorded a decline from 74 percent to 63 percent in Black identification with the Democratic Party from 2000 to 2002. Black youth registered an even more marked drop in Democratic identification. The proportion of Blacks that identified themselves with the Republican Party went from five percent to fifteen percent in one age group. Overall, about 10 percent of Blacks in the pre-midterm election survey told JCPES they planned to vote Republican.
The problem is, Black voting behavior hardly changed at all. Indeed, Blacks voted more Democratic in 2002. “The two party black vote for the House went from 89 percent Democrat/11 percent Republican in both 1998 and 2000 to a 91 percent/9 percent split in 2002,” according to the Emerging Democratic Majority.
As reported in our analysis of the survey last year, “The JCPES poll, objectively reviewed, refutes the corporate media myth of creeping conservatism among Blacks, provides little basis for a groundswell of school voucher sentiment, and reveals no evidence that Black youth are lurching into nontraditional political allegiances. These are claims made by partisans of the Right, not by JCPES's Dr. David Bositis, a careful and conscientious researcher.” (See “Poll Shows Black Political Consensus Strong,” November 21, 2002.)
African Americans have clearly become disappointed in the Democratic Party, and less likely to wear the label, but not because of growing Black conservatism. On the contrary, the JCPES data show that in all categories of Black political self-identification – as Liberal, Moderate, Secular Conservative, or Christian Conservative – African American voting behavior was dramatically to the left of whites claiming the same identification. For example, “Black Secular Conservatives vote more Democratic than white Moderates, and only slightly less Democratic than white Liberals. Twice as many White Liberals will vote Republican as will Black Moderates,” and only 70 percent of Black avowed Republicans actually planned to vote for Republican candidates in 2002.
In other words, Blacks are clustered at the left end of the American political spectrum, and vote for the most progressive candidate available who they perceive as having a chance to win. Even those who consider themselves to be “conservative” turn out to be “moderates” in “white” terms, and Black Republicans often cannot stomach the Party on Election Day. The largest group in the JCPES survey, self-described Liberals (39 percent), are probably closer to “radical” on the American scale, the equivalent of what Harvard Black demographer Michael Dawson calls “Swedish Social Democrats.”
This leftish African American worldview explains why Blacks make up the only reliable ethnic mass base for progressive politics in the U.S., and why 20 of 54 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are Black, with these members comprising a majority of the Black Caucus in the House.
Barras and her paymasters draw a completely erroneous conclusion from the dramatic drop in Black youth identification with the Democratic Party. Most of the movement among young people between 2000 and 2002 was from the Democratic to the Independent column, signifying, according to the JCPES’s Dr. Bositis, that Black young people are becoming “weak partisans” who “vote much less than older blacks, and that is something to be concerned about."
Among the 18-25 cohort, there was no movement at all to the Republican identification column. There is nothing in the data to indicate that abandoning the Democratic label is evidence of an evolving conservatism. Rather, the data indicate an ominous Black youth withdrawal from organized politics, which can much more logically be attributed to frustration at creeping conservatism in the Democratic Party, since the Republican option is seldom exercised through word (to pollsters) or deed (at the polls).
“This is yet another sign of deep social crisis,” we wrote last year. If Jonetta Rose Barras and her ilk sincerely cared about Black America, they would be alarmed at the growing alienation of Black youth, instead of pimping off their despair by selling an ass-backwards, prefabricated interpretation of the JCPES poll.
posed this question in 2002:
Hack for the DLC
Barras’ bosses have provided her with a list of favored Black politicians:
All three of Barras’ icons are members of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the right wing of the Party. This is not surprising, since Barras is a servant of the DLC. Her March-April 2003 article in the DLC house organ Blueprint was a love note to Rep. Davis, who defeated Congressman Earl Hilliard on the strength of corporate and Israel lobby money just a few months before Denise Majette did the same thing to Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. Having knocked off two Black members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Right now claims to have tapped into a conservative current in African American politics. The reality is, Big Business, with the assistance of rightwing Zionists, have deployed their checkbooks to defeat progressive Black politicians. The same money draws flies like Barras, who are then provided space in corporate media
Barras quotes Democratic pollster Ron Lester: "Black political leadership is trending toward the Harold Fords and Artur Davises." This may be true – money has that effect on politicians. But let’s call the “trend” by its real name: subversion. The Right is buying its way into Black electoral politics like never before and sending serpents like Barras to hiss lies in our people’s ears.
Nevertheless, we are confident
that this will not be the Year of the Snake.