The worst possible outcome of Tuesday’s election would have been that George Bush won with the help of a divided Black electorate. Instead, African Americans reaffirmed the vitality of the Black Political Consensus – our eyes firmly fixed on the prize: peace, jobs and justice. Despite faith-based blandishments to the sell-out branch of the Black clergy, massive deployment of the GOP’s gay wedge issue and, most hurtfully, the Kerry team’s initial determination to render African Americans invisible and mute in the campaign, Blacks stood like a rock in defense of their own interests. Undeterred by disinformation that insanely (or maybe just inanely) predicted a doubling of Black support for Bush, African Americans placed their numbers and sheer will in the path of the Bush II juggernaut. It rolled over us, by fair means and foul, but our Consensus – the impermeable historical glue that makes African Americans unique in the Diaspora – remained intact.
And, truth be known, we had more white people on our side in this election than at any time in modern American history – just not enough. The Bush men brag that their figurehead won more votes than any president, ever. Yet more people also voted against Bush than any previous president. We who have never – and will never – win US-wide power on our own, were on Election Day at the vortex of the struggle against an enemy that makes the planet shiver.
This is the cross we bear – and it muscles us up. That’s why the Republicans targeted Black precincts and voter rolls, everywhere – not just in the battleground states – in the attempt to bowl over the front pins in the Democratic electoral configuration. Republicans know where the center of the party’s demographic gravity lies, and they went for it, in full view of the world. After a ‘decent interval’ of cynical niceties – a charade that began on Wednesday and will be catered by Kerry’s DLC – the GOP has every intention to bring to bear the full power of the Bush II state against mainstream Black America political structures.
As ‘provisional’ citizens, we subjected ourselves to degrading identification interrogations, lined up like suspects deep into the night – or, as Harvard’s Dr. Michael Dawson puts it, ‘standing patiently for regime change’ – only to be finally assigned a ‘provisional’ ballot that may never be counted, or even known to exist. African Americans didn’t perform these electoral feats for John Kerry or any combination of white Democrats; we did it for ourselves, because we know what’s coming down the road.
An ‘inside’ job
‘We shall not be moved,’ went the civil rights song. Four years of mercenary Black faces in high Republican places – Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Rod Paige – have failed to move us from our righteous Consensus for social justice and international peace, or to dim our highly evolved vision of Black America’s singular mission. These are the cards we have been dealt by history. However, African Americans are especially vulnerable to demoralization from within.
In mid-October, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES), the venerable Washington- based Black think tank, announced that its 2004 survey of African American opinion showed that 18 percent of respondents ‘would like to see’ Bush win – dramatic ‘news’ that the corporate media snatched up and clutched to their bosoms like the Holy Grail. Breaking down the figures, the JCPES claimed that 29 percent of ‘secular conservative’ Blacks and 36 percent of ‘Christian conservatives’ wanted Bush to win on November 2. Eight percent of ‘liberal’ African Americans and 13 percent of self-identified ‘moderates’ also wished for a Bush victory. ‘I think Bush’s faith- based initiative, combined with the gay marriage issue and also Bush’s sort of overtly Southern religious personality has made him more popular among black conservative Christians,” JCPES research director David Bositis told the New York Times.
Apparently, the self-selected Black ‘conservative Christians’ were actually less numerous than the JCPES assumed, or didn’t understand the question, or said what they thought the pollsters wanted to hear.
Within less than two weeks, the New York Times and the St. Petersburg, Florida, Times claimed to have independently discovered that 17 and 19 percent of Blacks, respectively, had lined up in the Republican column. This, as headlines screamed the full extent of the Bush administration’s planned disruptions of Black voter activities. A disclaimer was issued by the two white papers on October 25, warning that their data could be off due to ‘large margins of sampling error because of the small samples of black voters.’ But by then, Republicans and their media allies were gleefully celebrating the giant crack in the Black Political Consensus, citing JCPES as the authority.
Head researcher Bositis began backing off the JCPES’s finding, telling columnist Deborah Mathis the 18 percent figure was ‘an outside number; something in the 12-14 percent range may be more like it. Even so,’ Mathis wrote, ‘that would be almost double what W got from black voters in 2000.’
When Black voters finally got to speak for themselves on November 2, Bush got 10 or 11 percent of the Black vote, respectively, according to Washington Post and CNN exit polls. The ultra-high profile presence of Condoleezza and Colin, the millions lavished on corrupt Rev. Greedygut preachers, the endless propaganda about a growing ‘new class’ of Black conservatives, the disinformation from the New York Times and, yes, from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies – all this and more over four years had moved the Black electorate a mere one percent or (maybe) two into the Republican ranks.
‘The turnout should wash away any doubt about the conclusions African Americans have come to about the legitimacy of this regime,’ said Harvard’s Dr. Dawson, a noted social demographer who, along with colleague Dr. Lawrence Bobo, has been studying racial divisions under the reign of George W. Bush. (See , ‘Blacks, Whites Live in Different Moral Universe, October 28.)
The JCPES, which over the years has accrued great authority as a source of data and analysis about African Americans, should take much more seriously the harm that it inflicts through data that is not put into proper context, or just plain bad data. This is not the first time that the Joint Center has given aid and comfort to the Hard Right through faulty questions and imprecise conclusions (see , November 21, 2002).
The Black Consensus is perhaps our greatest resource. As distinguished from a reflexive, unthinking sense of ‘unity,’ the broad African American worldview is based on generations of shared experience with the same foe: American white supremacy. It is, in a sense, our collective genius: the ability to sustain a humane and progressive Black polity while under constant assault from the larger society’s corrupting commercial, political and cultural forces – including the coercive powers of an ever-hostile state. The Black Political Consensus should never be artificially buttressed or exaggerated, but to the extent that it exists, it is our sword and shield. It takes us into battle, and prepares us for the next one. It sustained us through November 2.
Gays, Youth, Latinos and lots of whites
Union officials deeply involved in the get-out-the-vote effort in Detroit tell of ‘ferocious’ debates among rank and file Blacks over anti-same-sex marriage initiatives on the ballot in Michigan and ten other states, on Tuesday. While urban infrastructure and services crumbled around them, otherwise sensible African Americans allowed themselves to be engaged by the Republican’s wedge issue. On Election Day, Blacks were as likely as whites to vote against same-sex marriage – yet they did not take the bait set out for them by sell-out preachers, to vote for George Bush. There is no Black Consensus on homosexuality. The JCPES’s ‘Christian conservatives’ – however many there are – knew where to draw the line.
New lines are being drawn by white youth who, starting in the Reagan years, polled even more conservative than their Sixties-influenced elders. Deep in the bowels of Alabama and South Carolina, where overwhelming majorities of whites swear by Bush, white youth broke ranks this week. ‘Even in the bastions of the Confederacy young people were breaking for Kerry,’ Dr. Dawson told . ‘That’s the most positive sign for the future.’ Indeed, it is clear proof of the deep penetration of Hip Hop sensibilities outside of the Black community. White rapper Eminem’s anti-Bush video- animation ‘Mosh’ will likely, through the perverse mechanisms of corporate racism, cause record labels to loosen the political controls that have stifled many Black rap artists for more than a decade. Another political/cultural world is opening up even as the Bush men try to shut this one down.
Beyond the bling, Hip Hop activism is getting serious, portending a radically different – but no less rooted – political aesthetic as the Black Consensus evolves. (See , ‘Hip Hop Generation Agenda,’ July 1, 2004.) Maya Rockeymoore, author of The Political Action Handbook: A How To Guide for the Hip Hop Generation, speaks of ‘an unprecedented focus on the presidential campaign among the 34 and under crowd. The challenge will be to get them to engage in driving a transformational political agenda beyond November 3.”
Black youth are conscientiously assuming responsibility for the ancestral legacy. For many young activists, Hip Hop is a means to share African American wisdom and solidarity with the world. Bush can bum-rush the polls, but this show goes on. Harvard’s Prof. Dawson is cautiously optimistic, fearing that elections- programmed youth might ‘go into a three-year funk’ until the next campaign. ‘We have to organize from the grassroots up. It’s a perilous future. The national government is going to go after the NAACP and the unions.’
African Americans are approaching that future guided by a Consensus on core issues that has so far remained largely impervious to outside manipulation – although it is subject to diversions and distractions such as the ridiculous debate on gays emanating from a gay- saturated Black church!
The November 2 data on Latino voters is disturbing. Bush appears to have garnered substantially more Latino votes than in 2000, a development that some observers credit to deepening Hispanic involvement in the military. Yet, no group includes more families with members in the military than African Americans, who nevertheless are the least inclined to support U.S. adventures abroad. Many Latinos are apparently headed in a different political direction, but we should not draw general conclusions without a nationality-by- nationality analysis. There is a whole world of Spanish-speakers in the Americas. There is no consensus on Latinos among African Americans, or among Latinos, themselves. November 2 has presented us with troubling questions.
Christians from Hell
The swelling white Republican base that triumphed on Election Day, is a nightmare. Although their actual numbers may well have been augmented by electronic means in counties with computerized voting (including the whole state of Georgia, for example), there can be no doubt that the Bush victory was propelled by something very much like a mass social movement, with its own vocabulary and leadership structures. This is Bush’s army, says Dr. Dawson. ‘The Bush administration has achieved absolute mastery of white Protestants, particularly those with less education. This is damning for the country and its future.’
It is actually a familiar enemy, drawn from the same ‘stock’ that have cut off their economic noses to spite Black faces since the end of the Civil War. They were once the Dixiecrat base, who then became the southern Republican base, and are now tied together with similar white elements throughout the country by interlocking networks of churches and the Republican Party. The corporate media feign surprise and fascination at the emergence of this huge group of whites – a posture that strikes many Blacks as disingenuous, since those of us with southern roots know that crowd all too well. According to the Washington Post’s David Broder, ‘the exit poll indicated that about 22 percent of [Tuesday’s] voters were white evangelical or born-again Christians, three-quarters of whom went for Bush.’ That amounts to about one-third of Bush’s total national vote.
This indispensable core, which now acts as a mass citizen militia for Karl Rove and other Bush commandants, scares the hell out of many of the 44 percent of white folks who didn’t vote for Bush. Black Americans do not need European models of fascism to understand the grave threat these people represent to life and liberty. They are the folks standing under the tree, while we swing from the limbs.
These whites – or rather, their leaders – are masters of euphemism. They swamped the polls (with some technical and political assistance) on Tuesday with the words ‘moral values’ on their lips – white evangelical code for the ‘good people’ versus the ‘bad’ people. The ancient but still fiercely operative Black-white paradigm has been overlaid with ‘Arabs,’ ‘clash of civilizations’ and ‘homosexuals,’ but it’s still the same onion. The new texture of the old paradigm of oppression simply allows more whites to act/vote on what NAACP Chairman Julian Bond calls their ‘racist impulses.’ These are the impulses that fueled the Republican electoral machine.
On the other hand, we at believe that there is a far deeper and wider white opposition to the current regime than existed at any point in the supposedly ‘turbulent’ Sixties and early Seventies. Many anti-Bush whites are aware that when Black folks were disenfranchised by a criminal conspiracy of George W. Bush’s national government, they were also disenfranchised. Even larger proportions of white youth know the deal. Black people’s only obligation to them is the same one we have to ourselves: to lead.
Kerry’s separate peace
As usual, the corporate media pretend that the Republican’s bullying and official criminality in the weeks preceding Election Day – events they covered – never happened. John Kerry collaborates in the farce, proclaiming in his public concession speech that America is in “desperate need for unity, for finding common ground and coming together. Today, I hope we can begin the healing.”
But the troops who carried him, the Black men and women targeted for harassment and humiliation at the polls, are bleeding on the field, many of their votes never to be counted or even acknowledged. The vaunted legions of Democratic lawyers that were supposed to descend on Ohio and Florida to tear apart the rigged systems of electoral apartheid were told to stand down on Tuesday night. PBS News Hour’s Margaret Warner told viewers that Kerry’s legal team advocated a ‘scorched earth’ policy to challenge the crooked system until it screamed – a result Democratic troops would have cheered. Kerry overruled his lawyers, to make a false peace with the Pirates.
At Harvard, Dr. Dawson reports that ‘students don’t understand how Kerry could concede before all the votes, particularly Black votes, were counted. He owes those people, who stood for hours in line and were asked for multiple identifications. We have another bounced check.’
And what of the provisional ballots in Ohio, which Democrats at one time numbered at 250,000? What about all the federally-mandated provisional ballots in each of the 50 states. Are these all to be swept under the rug to avoid what Kerry calls ‘a protracted legal process?’ Once again, reconciliation between the rich and white trumps justice for Blacks every time.
In Florida, the computer-generated Bush-heavy election returns that so dramatically clashed with earlier Kerry-heavy human exit polls are now explained away as the result of the stealth invasion of Karl Rove’s church-based mass voter movement – a half-million strong evangelical invasion force that most hard-wired Republican pundits did not even know existed. As ‘Ghosts of Florida’ author Tom Grayman III writes, ‘by no method has it been determined that the [exit] polling was incorrect and the voting equipment was not.’
On Washington-based XM-Radio, talk show host Mark Thompson remarked that the ‘third eye’ of every Black person in America was wide open, blinking in disbelief as Kerry Democrats and Bush Republicans rearrange the facts about November 2, 2004.
The last thing America needs is unity with thieves, Pirates and punks. The nation and the world need peace, jobs and justice. Let’s get back to work.