Black America dodged a bullet,
May 14. The national ultra-conservative network, after committing resources
that only billionaires can muster, failed in its first serious effort
to intervene directly in intra-Black electoral politics. Their champion,
33-year old first term Newark Councilman Cory Booker, lost his bid to
unseat 66-year old Mayor Sharpe James, 53% to 47%. But don't believe
for a second that the enemy feels whipped. The opposite is true.
Conventional wisdom and the
corporate media maintained all along that the Newark election
was a local battle pitting youth against age, in which money played
a large role. This shallow analysis contains just enough truth to mask
the essential lessons of the campaign. In a practical sense, the conventional
and corporate media line is a lie.
Newark election was no local contest. Rather, it was a test of the Hard
Right's new Black Strategy, applicable anywhere else in the country.
Other Right-driven campaigns will follow, thoroughly transforming the
way urban politics has been conducted for the last 30 years. The forces
that brought us Reagan and two Bushs named George have the money, media
and organizational resources to mount many Newark-type assaults on the
African American body politic. They now also have the political will,
and a dramatic near-success. From the Hard Right's standpoint, Newark
was well worth the effort.
in Many Forms
"I'm of the opinion
that Mr. Booker will spend about $10 million on this election,"
Sharpe James was quoted as saying in the last days of the campaign.
Actually, the latest official figures showed that Booker raised $2.8
million dollars to the mayor's $2.3 million, a fantastic feat for a
Yale-educated upstart with no local roots. Booker finished the money
race half a million dollars ahead of a four-term incumbent who was backed
by the entire city council (except Booker), the party apparatus of a
Democrat-controlled state, every union but the suburb-residing firefighters,
and many of the corporations with a stake in the city.
However, Sharpe James' $10
million figure is not far off the mark. In addition to besting the mayor
in cash, which Booker used to purchase great quantities of TV and radio
advertising time and to field a $200,000 army of "volunteers"
on election day, the challenger was championed by the entire New York-based
corporate media. The free publicity, combined with relentless attacks
against Sharpe James, was worth several times Booker's cash war chest.
New York news outlets have not paid such attention to Newark since the
1967 riot. Even Kenneth Gibson's historic 1970 campaign, resulting in
Newark becoming the first major American city to come under Black administration,
received nowhere near 2002's intensity of coverage.
Any news professional worthy
of the description understands that media unanimity on this scale is
the result of skilled orchestration. Booker's youthful, telegenic persona
doesn't even begin to explain the unprecedented, free print and electronic
blitz-especially the rapt attention of the New York Times and the national
to the Right (wing) People
The fingers that stroked
the media's keys are the same ones that gave Cory Booker his coming
out party, in October 2000, and facilitated Booker's next-day debut
on the front page of the New York Times. The Manhattan Institute is
a workshop of Hard Right propaganda. Its role in the ultra-conservative
network's division of labor is manipulation of media, in the media capital
of the world. The think tank is funded by the entire spectrum of reactionary
philanthropy, most notably the Bradley Foundation, the primary moneybag
for private school vouchers. Together, these outfits create "movements,"
publicize and credentialize "intellectuals" of the Right,
and foster electoral candidacies. Booker's Manhattan Institute luncheon
address was the culmination of a long process of vetting and grooming
by the right wing network's talent scouts, as well as the eager recruit's
active wooing of the most racist rich men in the country.
Booker knew precisely whose
resources he would tap to seize City Hall. His courting of the Hard
Right was anything but secret. Alarms should have gone off throughout
the national African American political community. With some exceptions,
progressive Blacks were blind and deaf to the threat. (See, How to Spot
a Black Trojan Horse, in this issue.)
Foundations and their think
tank offspring do not need to directly fund their political favorites.
All that is necessary to start the cash flowing is the proper signal,
one that is understood by the faithful. Booker's luncheon speech was
just such an announcement by the Manhattan Institute and its benefactors.
"Cory is alright," it shouted. "He's one of us."
As if with the flip of a
switch, the ultra-conservative money machine started churning out Booker
contributions from around the nation, from sources with absolutely no
material interest in Newark. That's the way ideological fundraising
is done. The only thing unusual about the process was the recipient:
a young Black man who was vouched for as an up-and-coming New Black
Leader, someone who could be trusted to keep the faith on private school
vouchers and, presumably, the rest of the Hard Right's political agenda.
Plus, he just might win, providing a voice and pulpit for propaganda
deep in the heart of urban America.
George F. Will's syndicated
howling served the same purpose. Keep the money flowing, he encouraged
his Hard Right brethren. Send Booker your consultants. Don't worry about
Anyone who thought that Black
and brown Newark was the intended audience for Will's March 17 column
has no idea how money and politics work in the U.S. Will was sending
a money message. The Hard Right invented this game. The process enthralls
Booker, a smart, articulate lawyer with no loyalty whatsoever to his
own people-the ultimate careerist.
in the Ranks
On Broad Street in Newark,
Sharpe James' administration initially failed to understand the nature
and extent of Booker's deepening connections. Not until the last month
of the contest did the mayor aggressively point out Booker's associations,
calling him "a closet Republican for vouchers," and tailoring
his media messages, accordingly.
The first domino to fall
is often the last to know. The next big city Black target will not have
that excuse, nor will he or she necessarily possess the organizational
advantages that allowed Sharpe James to overcome an all-out media and
In our April 5 and May 8
documented Booker's alliances with African America's historic foes.
Printouts of our articles were widely circulated by the James campaign
during the final weeks. We know we made a difference. However, unless
Black leadership begins an intense discussion of the new electoral threat
from the Right, Blacks will remain vulnerable to the enemy's institutional
Cory Booker's career path
among the arch-conservatives is already set. He didn't sound a bit worried
when the final numbers came in. "We lost one skirmish tonight,
but the battle continues," Booker told his friendly local newspaper.
"I was called many creative names during this campaign. But let
me tell the entire city and the nation that I have only begun to fight
for the people."
We know which people he's
There are plenty of Cory
Bookers out there. The Hard Right's coffers are full. Be prepared.
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