Wed, 11 February 2009
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“The damage inflicted on independent Black politics may be irreversible.
With his plans to expand on George Bush’s so-called Faith-Based Initiatives, President Barack Obama has endorsed and made his own, the most backward, reactionary scheme of the previous administration to further undermine progressive concepts of government in general and the integrity of the Black body politic in particular. By his endorsement of the politics of faith-based bribery on an institutional scale, Obama once again reveals himself as both an opportunist of the lowest order and a reflexively rightwing oriented personality. On this issue, he has made himself identical to Bush, and embraced a great corruption.
Let us remember from the outset what George Bush intended when he launched his Faith-Based Initiatives at the beginning of his disastrous regime. Bush’s political strategy for Black America was based on two pillars: support for inner city educational privatization through school vouchers, and direct cash payments to church-based organizations to provide a range of public services previously the domain of government agencies. The doubled-edged strategy was a stroke of evil genius, a scheme hatched by the far-right Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the primary source of Bush’s domestic social agenda.
Through massive financing of a previously nonexistent network of Black school voucher supporters – which had been invented out of whole cloth by rich white benefactors – Bush hoped to create a critical wedge between African Americans and teachers unions, the twin bastions of urban Democratic politics. To an alarming degree, he succeeded.
“Thanks to Barack Obama, faith-based bribery may now become a permanent fixture of the American political landscape.”
Even more insidious was Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives, whose goal was two-fold. First, he would disguise the massive defunding of public services for the poor by pretending that subsidies to religious service organizations could accomplish the same goals. Second, Bush hoped to recruit corruptible elements of the Black and brown clergy to the Republican cause, by dangling federal grant moneys in front of their noses. Thousands of greedy ministers took the bait, bringing their compliant congregations with them. The combination of school vouchers and faith-based bribery created the perception, if not the reality, of a growing Black trend to the Right. Bush had in great measure succeeded in encouraging and exploiting the worst tendencies within the Black Church.
Barack Obama has chosen to continue down the shameless path pioneered by George Bush. Faith-based Initiatives undermine the progressive tradition of the Black social gospel, beckoning preachers to pervert their ministries in return for government dollars. It is no less a corruption in the hands of a Black Democrat than under the white Republican, George Bush. Obama has expanded on Bush’s assault on the separation of church and state, and on the credibility and integrity of the Black Church.
The damage inflicted on independent Black politics may be irreversible. What began as a cynical ploy by Republicans to subvert a segment of the African American clergy is now being institutionalized by America’s first Black president. Thanks to Barack Obama, faith-based bribery may now become a permanent fixture of the American political landscape – a weapon of mass moral destruction that can be wielded by any party in power.
Barack Obama, who is so quick to critique Blacks on their alleged failures in morality, nutrition and even hygiene, encourages the pollution of the Black church with the rankest kind of pork barrel and patronage politics. In this regard, Obama is of no higher moral caliber than George Bush.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.