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The Black Electorate Is On Trial, Not Congresswoman McKinney or Congressman Hilliard (June 17, 2002)

While it is appropriate for the Black community to point to the disproportionate influence that some members of the Israeli lobby have over Black elected officials and Black organizations, an exclusive focus on that reality is inappropriate. The Black community bears the bulk of the responsibility for changing the reality of the condition in which it finds itself, exemplified by the Democratic primary races in Alabama and Georgia, that find Black incumbents being opposed by Black opponents whose primary source of financial support is coming from New York City's Jewish community.

It really is a good thing that the relative "powerlessness" of the Black community is being put on public display. Perhaps, now Black America will come to terms with the fact that its lack of a clearly defined enlightened self-interest, and its relationship with the two-party system allows its mobilization and voting efforts to serve the interests of all of its prominent coalition partners more than its own. Feminists, Unions, Environmentalists, Civil Libertarians, Secular Humanists and the Jewish community all benefit more from the Black vote than does the Black community. These groups could never achieve what they do, through the auspices of the Democratic Party, were it not for the Black votes that perform the legwork on behalf of their interests.

But as individuals, White Democratic members of Congress - in both the House and Senate - benefit the most, politically speaking, from the Black vote. For those who doubt this, a powerful presentation of this reality was made clear during the April 25, 2002 edition of Inside Politics on CNN:

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Judy, how dependent are Democrats on the African-American vote?

Without black voters, the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections would have been virtually tied, just like the 2000 election. Oh no, more Florida recounts!


(voice-over): What would have happened if no blacks had voted in 2000? Six states would have shifted from Al Gore to George W. Bush: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oregon. Bush would have won by 187 electoral votes, instead of five. A Florida recount? Not necessary.

Right now, there are 50 Democrats in the Senate. How many would be there without African-American voters? We checked the state exit polls for the 1996, 1998, and 2000 elections. If no blacks had voted, many Southern Democrats would not have made it to the Senate. Both Max Cleland and Zell Miller needed black votes to win in Georgia. So did Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Bill Nelson in Florida, John Edwards in North Carolina, and Ernest Hollings in South Carolina.

Black votes were also crucial for Jon Corzine in New Jersey, Debbie Stabenow in Michigan, and Jean Carnahan in Missouri. Washington state and Nevada don't have many black voters, but they were still crucial to the victories of Harry Reid in Nevada and Maria Cantwell in Washington.

Nebraska and Wisconsin don't have many black voters either, but Ben Nelson would have lost Nebraska without them and Russ Feingold would have lost Wisconsin, too, in both cases by less than half-a- percent. Bottom line? Without the African-American vote, the number of Democrats in the Senate would be reduced from 50 to 37.


SCHNEIDER: A hopeless minority. And Jim Jeffords' defection from the GOP would not have meant a thing -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: We know the Democrats are aware of this. Bill Schneider, thanks very much.

Disproportionately, the Black electorate is the part of a larger coalition tree, which includes the Democratic Party, upon whom the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) depends upon the most. Black voters elect White Democrats who advance AIPAC's interests. At the same time, the Jewish electorate, though much smaller in size than the Black electorate, finds itself a more unpredictable and coveted vote, on the margin, by both political parties, than is the case with the Black electorate. And Jewish membership in political coalitions is less divisive and strident than is the case with Black and other groups who are often positioned in a negative way by both major parties in appeals to swing voters. The Jewish vote has no experience with disrespectful "Willie Horton", "Sister Souljah", or "Louis Farrakhan" demonization litmus tests like the Black community has been made to suffer. The Jewish community has skillfully avoided being "captured" like has been the case with the Black vote.

Paul Frymer in his book, Uneasy Alliances, explains this fact:

...racial cleavage, in conjunction with majority-based electoral laws, has created a set of incentives for party leaders to capture black interests and, in the process, make their concerns largely invisible in electoral competition. Envisioned by elites in the late 1820s as an institution to prevent racial issues from dominating the national political agenda, the two-party system continues to marginalize black interests in a way that is unique in American society.

While this argument is relevant for mainstream public debates about the relationship between African-Americans and the Democratic party, my not to argue that the Democrats could do more to help their African-American constituents. There is little question that is true - yet it misses a deeper point. As institutions founded in part to remove race from the national agenda, our national parties are bound by important structural incentives that ensure their ultimate failure as vehicles for racial progress. To implore the Democrats to do better is to ignore the incentives that lead them to do worse. The marginalization of black political interests in the party system endures in part because the institution was designed to create and maintain this marginalization. As long as racial cleavage remains ingrained in the underlying social fabric, party leaders will have incentives to avoid black interests in their quest for the median voter.

...While to some degree the presence of Jewish voters does attach a stigma to a political party, there is little evidence to suggest that adding Jewish voters to a coalition drives other portions of the coalition away. More important, party leaders have not perceived Jewish voters as divisive. Both parties make appeals to Jewish voters and they do so without fearing the loss of key coalition members of the median voter. With the survival of Israel being one the primary political interest of Jewish voters, the opposition party can appeal for their support without disrupting its coalition. President Harry Truman's comment to State Department experts who were lobbying for a softer stance toward Middle Eastern Arab nations is indicative: "I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents."

Mexican Americans are an interesting group with regard to electoral capture. In a number of ways, their interests and voting behavior resemble those of African-Americans, as they have low voting rates and high (although not equivalent) rates of support for Democratic candidates. And at times, some Republicans have attacked them on issues of illegal immigration, bilingual education, and welfare violations; more often, this has not been the case. Republicans have pursued the Mexican American vote, in part because of the group's concentrations in important electoral college states like California and Texas, and in part because they are not convinced that the Mexican American vote is loyal to the Democrats. But perhaps most important, there are generally few signs that Republican leaders perceive the Mexican American vote to be divisive for larger party building at the national level.

The two major political parties respond to, maintain and perpetuate racial realities that uniquely disaffect Black voters. Black voters are deceived into believing that one of the two political parties is significantly better than the other and overwhelmingly supports that party and subordinates its "Black" interests, supposedly for the good of the coalition, enabling its own marginalization or "political capture". Black leaders in the Democratic party perpetuate this myth and the Jewish political establishment takes advantage of this captured state and deception of the Black vote as it exaggerates the extent of the need for a Black and Jewish coalition - styling Jewish sympathy for the Black plight as Jewish empathy with the Black cause. AIPAC and certain other members of the Jewish political establishment then vicariously benefit from the power of the Black vote to support Democratic Party candidates - Black and White - who will make laws out of AIPAC position papers. In this way the AIPAC agenda and efforts against ucooperative Black members of Congress dovetails rather nicely with a portion of National Security Memorandum 46 which reads:

"In the above context, we must envisage the possibility, however remote, that black Americans interested in African affairs may refocus their attention on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Taking into account the African descent of American blacks; it is reasonable to anticipate that their sympathies would lie with the Arabs who are closer to them in spirit and, in some cases, related to them by blood. Black involvement in lobbying to support the Arabs may lead to serious dissension between American Blacks and Jews."

While a surface reading of the above may lead one to think otherwise, the goal is not to simply keep tensions between Blacks and Jews from disrupting the fabric of American civil society, but rather, that no amount of tension between American Blacks and Jews be allowed to disrupt the current power pyramid that exists which has the Black vote working on behalf of U.S. support of Israel. It is that form of dissension that both the national security apparatus of the United States government and Israel fear.

The sentiment and voting activity of the Congressional Black Caucus is absolutely an essential part of this objective, with CBC members out of fear of loss of positive publicity and financial support, swallowing whole, the majority of AIPAC's positions. Only a handful of CBC members choose not to consistently cooperate. Rep. Hilliard and Rep. McKinney are the most visible in this regard. However, even Rep. Donald Payne is under attack, with AIPAC and other members of Jewish political establishment privately going to New Jersey corporations asking that they not support the re-election bid of the Black lawmaker.

Exposing the hidden hand of external forces manipulating Black elected officials and Black voters to serve their own interests must continue. But an even more important step will be when the Black community determines to identify its own self-enlightened interest(s) and support and back such with the power of an unpredictable vote and financial resources. For all that they are doing, AIPAC isn't openly physically forcing a single Black person in their respective districts, in Alabama or Georgia, to not vote for Congresswoman McKinney and Congressman Hilliard or those Blacks who live within and without their districts to not make financial contributions to the McKinney and Hilliard campaigns.

AIPAC is banking on the sad tradition that an ignorant and fearful Black electorate will not recognize how it is being used to serve the interests of others or, would not have the courage to do anything to oppose such effectively. This is the real story behind what is happening in Alabama and Georgia. The Black electorate is being tested. If it passes this critical test not only will Rep. McKinney and Rep. Hilliard be returned to power, but a new day will have dawned in Black politics.

It is the millions of Blacks entitled to vote that AIPAC has placed on trial, not simply 2 members of Congress.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of or Black Electorate Communications.

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