Wed, 17 October 2018
It’s three weeks till the midterm election. In Georgia where I live the big contest is between Brian Kemp, the secretary of state, in charge of administering his own election for governor, and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Kemp is a longtime fixture in Georgia politics, an out and out racist who has purged hundreds of thousands of voters from the state’s rolls in the last several years, the latest a block of 53,000, about 70% of them African American voters. Abrams, who if she wins will be the state’s first black and first woman governor, has been the leader of Georgia Democrats in that state’s House of Representatives since 2011.
I’m personally and politically way over the notion that electing black faces to high places makes things better for ordinary African Americans. It’s good for the careers of those elected, for their investor-contributors and a narrow circle of people around them. But it just doesn’t elevate the situation of ordinary black people. It’s been tried again and again, and it just hasn’t panned out that way, so I can’t get excited about electing the first black governor. I ain’t mad at those who believe this lie, or even at those who tell it. I must have believed it once upon a time too, decades ago, my salary depended on it, and I certainly spent a good piece of the 80s and 90s helping sell this mistaken notion to others.
The Greens are not allowed on the ballot in Georgia, thanks to the politicians of both parties who don’t want the competition. So while the Republicans are busy disenfranchising people, and the Democrats are herding people onto buses for early voting, I’ll be in DC this weekend with Ajamu Baraka and Cindy Sheehan and others for the Womens March on the Pentagon. There are some things we’re allowed to vote for, when we’re allowed to vote at all, and some others we are not.
I live in Georgia’s 6th district, where the incumbent Republican congressional rep is the vile and corrupt Karen Handel, Brian Kiemp’s predecessor as GA Secretary of State.. The Democrat running against her is Lucy McBath, a black mother whose unarmed teenage son was gunned down in Florida in 2012. McBath is raising money at a terrific rate and has been polling within two points of Republican Handel for several weeks. Almost-a-congresswoman McBath has lots to say, unfortunately none of it very insightful, about gun safety. Beyond swearing fealty to the apartheid state of Israel, McBath has nothing to say about foreign policy, about the world beyond the shores of the United States. Not a hint. Not a word.
As I wrote last month, 22 out of 32 so-called progressive Democratic party candidates for Congress – those backed by Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress and Our Revolution – have nothing to say about foreign policy beyond support for Israel.
This is beyond troubling. It’s ominous. The US has more than 800 military bases around the planet, fleets in every ocean, and more nukes pointed at more places than anybody, and is bombing four countries that we know about. The US is flying drones over most of Africa, and has special forces operating on the ground in dozens of countries. The US of A spends more on the military than the next ten nations combined, and the military budget which most Democrats voted to approve, is likely to be paid for with cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and social security, and all the forms of federal aid (except police and prisons) provided to local governments.
Apparently there are some things the two capitalist parties will allow us to vote on, and some other things which are completely and utterly off the table, now and forever. Like empire. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s official corporate pocket, has embraced an unprecedented number of candidates straight from the military and intelligence sectors. Progressive Democrats running for Congress have with few exceptions, chosen to dummy up. But really who are the dummies here? Democratic congressional candidates like McBain are all accomplished grownups. They know where they stand, they just don’t want us to know for sure till after they’re safely elected. It’s a piece of contemptible duplicity which Democrat voters train themselves to accept. It’s one more reason I can never be A Democrat again.
I’m under no illusion that there will be hundreds of thousands of people at the Pentagon this weekend. Those kind of numbers usually come from hundreds of hours on the part of paid organizers, and tens or hundreds of thousands spent on logistics, which usually comes from the nonprofit sector – corporate philanthropy. In their infinite wisdom, the masters of philanthropy do not fund that kind of thing.
There’s a critique of the weekend march on DC or Wall Street or your local center of power as well which asks what are we accomplishing when we don’t disrupt business as usual, a critique that wonders, when we show up and holler slogans and speechify into streets that are empty but for the crowds we bring, what are we accomplishing? I’m not sure.
But this year, nobody is allowed on the Georgia ballot except Republicans and Democrats, and with nearly all the Democrats pretending they don’t have a position on empire, a march on the Pentagon, the first in 50 years, seems a sensible step on the way to building a visible and powerful movement for peace. I’m sure those of us in DC this weekend will be considering what the steps after this look like.
For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Please know that Google and other corporate social media do suppress the availability of Black Agenda Report’s content in search results and other displays. The only way to be certain you’re getting resh news, commentary and analysis from the black left is to visit us at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button so that our free weekly email with notices and links to all our content arrives in your email box every week.
Wed, 26 September 2018
For a politician’s biography, the Sam Pollard documentary currently available on Netflix, which recounts the life and career of Maynard Jackson, the first of Atlanta’s six consecutive black mayors, is remarkably free of politics. But when you think about it, this should not be a surprise.
After all, politics in any and every historical era is how we humans address our collective affairs. Politics is how we struggle to determine who produces what for whom, and under which conditions. Politics is how we decide which groups of people get to access the resources and the wealth that the planet provides and which its people produce, and which groups see their needs ignored. It makes perfect sense then, for elites to protect themselves by constructing fake histories which portray their own triumphs as virtuous and inevitable, histories which minimize or deny the very existence of struggles from below conducted by and for the masses of people who actually produce the wealth which elites mostly take for themselves, histories stripped clean of inconvenient politics.
The Pollard film walks us through Jackson’s illustrious family history, the grandson on his mother’s side, of John Wesley Dobbs, an influential college educated postal employee and Prince Hall Grand Master who prescribed “bucks, ballots and books” as the keys to black uplift. Dobbs was a key player in registering tens of thousands of black Atlanta voters in the 1940s, a time when many rural black Georgians were either illiterate or not allowed to vote. His efforts were widely credited with getting the city of Atlanta to finally put street lights on Auburn Avenue, where many black businesses were located, and to hire the first handful of black Atlanta cops, who of course were not permitted to arrest white people. It’s not in the movie, but Billy McKinney, decades later a Georgia state representative, and the father of former Atlanta congressperson Cynthia McKinney was one of those first black Atlanta cops.
Jackson’s dad was a prominent black Atlanta pastor and his mother was one of six Dobbs daughters all of whom graduated from Atlanta’s Spelman College, earning her PhD at the University of Toulouse in France. Upon her return to Atlanta she was the first black person granted a library card by the city’s public library. If there was such a thing as an African American elite, Maynard Jackson was born into it. An exceptionally smart young man, he was admitted to Morehouse at 14, graduated at 18, and bounced around a little before obtaining a law degree in North Carolina. According to the movie, it seems Maynard Jackson never much considered a career doing anything else other than running for and winning elected office.
In 1968 Maynard Jackson ran for US Senate against arch-segregationist senator Herman Talmadge, who’d inherited a political career from his daddy, three term governor Eugene Talmadge. Jackson lost, but thanks to the black vote he did carry the city of Atlanta. The following year he was elected Atlanta’s vice-mayor, and four years later at the age of 35 he became the first black mayor of Atlanta.
The movie dwells nostalgically upon the star studded celebration which attended his ascension to mayoral office, and contemptuously dismisses the aspirations of the black masses who voted for Jackson and his successors, saying they somehow expected the election of black mayors to solve all their problems. Pollard spends the biggest chunk of the movie following the ins and outs of Jackson’s struggles, in his three terms as mayor, with Atlanta’s white elite to put black faces on the boards of banks and planning bodies, and his adamant insistence that black companies be cut a fair share of city contracts and professional services. It’s quite clear that for the film makers, for Jackson’s contemporaries who they interviewed, and for Maynard Jackson himself, that the project of diversifying and opening up the capitalist elite was then and remains today the main objective of black politics, not the struggles of ordinary people for jobs, decent wages, housing, health care, education, justice and peace.
The movie goes so far as to portray the effort of Maynard Jackson and former mayor Andrew Young in which they shamelessly invoked the ghost of Dr. Martin Luther King to bring the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta as some kind of visionary achievement that really put the city on the map, whatever that term means. In real life, as lived by most residents of cities which “win” the right to host the Olympic Games, the prize consists of an orgy of predatory real estate speculation in which entire low to moderate income neighborhoods are demolished to make way for stadiums, luxury hotel and tourist destinations, for upscale shopping and residential development, all of it lavishly subsidized with tax dollars taken from property taxes and wages of the poor, not from the wealth of the rich. Atlanta was no exception to this rule. Neighborhoods surrounding the Olympic sacrifice zone experienced precipitous increases in real estate taxes and rents to levels which Atlanta residents who were there before the Olympics could not sustain. The lion’s share of the displaced Atlanta homeowners and renters were of course black. But their struggles, their politics have no place in the self-serving histories written by the black elite, so the movie just doesn’t see them.
This political biography ignores the political struggles of ordinary Atlanta residents for decent housing, wages and working conditions, when they could get a job at all. It never mentions the decades long fights for universally accessible health care which resulted for a time, in a well funded health care system in Atlanta’s Fulton and Dekalb counties – the Grady Hospital system, parts of which endure to this day. Tellingly, it omits Maynard Jackson’s decisive and shameful intervention in the 1977 strike of Atlanta’s heinously abused and underpaid black sanitation workers, in which the first black mayor hired scabs and mobilized SCLC, black pastors and civil rights leaders against self-organizing black workers standing up for their human rights.
The only person the film makers interviewed who wasn’t a family member, a successor, aide or associate of the late mayor or reverends named Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson was a relative of one of the victims of Atlanta’s child murders during Jackson’s final term as mayor. To hear them tell it, that and the insurrection following the Rodney King verdict, and Jackson’s failure, typical of every other deeply change the institution of policing beyond hiring and promoting more black officers, were the only real failures of Jackson’s career.
Sam Pollard’s kind of political history with most of the politics removed is the rancid foundational myth for the long running hoax of Atlanta as North America’s Black Mecca. Fact is, Black Mecca was never anything other than the self-promoting, self-serving and self-celebrating PR campaign of black elites. As I wrote back in 2005,
“Today's elite black leadership does not measure cities by their incarceration rates, nor do they measure their own performance by the prevalence or absence of child poverty, affordable health care, equality of access to good education or any of the things that matter to ordinary black families. What matters to these "black leaders" are big-ticket projects, bragging rights, relentless self-promotion, and the accumulation of contacts, contracts and personal wealth. "Black Mecca" was always intended to be where their dreams came true, not ours.”
For a generation now, Atlanta has been among the top four or five US cities for black millionaires. But 2013 census data plainly reveal that among the 71 US cities with populations over a quarter million Atlanta ranked 14th in child poverty with 35%, more than a third of its children – you can bet they’re mostly black children – in households below the poverty line. That yardstick pegs Atlanta's performance as a bit better than Cleveland, Newark, St. Louis or Milwaukee, but worse than Chicago, Los Angeles, Philly or Houston. But child poverty, let alone black child poverty is just NOT the the sort of measure of the learned scholars and practitioners employ to evaluate the efficacy of what passes for black politics.
The accepted wisdom ignores these things, and the Sam Pollard documentary lazily slides right into that established groove. The film does get a couple of important things right. Jackson’s enduring political legacy was the cynical hoax of Atlanta as Black Mecca, and his career, which relied on the votes of black masses whose votes were mobilized behind the first black mayor who they imagined would deliver for their class instead of his own foretold the career arc of the first black president early in the 21st century.
I’d give the thing two and a half stars out of five.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Please note that Google has limited public access to Black Agenda Report, suppressing the appearance of our material in search results for almost 3 years now, after the Washington Post endorsed a specious claim that we were somehow under the influence of the Russians. We are the first and as far as we know the only black owned and operated outfit to enjoy this distinction. Facebook’s recent partnership with the Atlantic Council puts deep state intelligence and propaganda operatives in charge of what you can and cannot see on Facebook as well. So the only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left is to visit us at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the SUBSCRIBE button, so you’ll receive links to all our newly published print and audio content in your email inbox each and every week, free from the interference of the corporations which otherwise run the internet.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He livesw and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Thu, 20 September 2018
Ten years ago it was 2008. With the presidential election less than two months away the single minded focus of political conversation in black America was electing Barack Obama the first African American US president. I want to say it was a peculiar political moment, but it was way longer than a moment, it was a whole peculiar political season which began more than a year before his election and lasted for some during most of Obama’s entire eight years in office.
If you were black, and you had a demand or a criticism of the black presidential candidate it was your obligation, many of us told each other, to sit down and shut up and unite behind the man so he could get elected. As a prominent black Atlanta pastor fresh back from several campaign stops with Obama told me
“We've got to unite and build a wall, a solid black wall around Brother Obama…If we can build that solid black wall, if we can unite black people behind Brother Obama, he will have the power to do anything he wants to do. Can't you see it? If we do that, nothing any of his opponents say or do will be able to touch him.”
The pastor pretty much got his wish, and that wall of black unity erected around President Obama proved among his most valuable assets.
But it didn’t protect him against the charter school sugar daddies intent upon privatizing public schools and throwing a hundred thousand qualified black teachers in the street. It didn’t protect President Obama from letting go the too-big-to-fail or jail banksters at a cost of trillions, while allowing 3 million families, an outsize chunk of them black families, to lose their homes. The black wall around President Obama didn’t protect him from bombing seven or eight countries, keeping troops in Iraq, escalating the war in Afghanistan, bombing Somalia, Yemen and letting torturers go without prosecution.
In the end, the wall of black unity around Barack Obama freed his hand to ignore black demands upon him, if we’d possessed coherent political sense to make any in the first place.
Ten years later, we’re doing the same thing with black candidates for governor in Florida and Georgia. If you’ve got any demands to make upon, any critical evaluations to make of Florida’s Andrew Gillum or Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, we’re told, it’s your duty to sit down and shuddup for the sake of Black Girl Magic or Black Unity or just beating the rabid racist pro-Trump Republicans they’re running against.
You’d think there would be a lesson we could draw from the Obama experience, or for that matter from the election of black mayors in scores of big and medium sized cities throughout the country in the last generation. The politics of black representation – that is, putting black faces in high places only benefits a narrow section, a small class of black people – elements of the professional and business classes and aspirants. Unity behind black mayors don’t prevent black neighborhoods from being gentrified out of existence, electing black prosecutors and police chiefs don’t prevent racist cops from gunning down black citizens with impunity. The black president didn’t prevent hundreds of thousands of black families from losing their homes. Choosing black sheriffs and prison officials doesn’t stop them from locking up black juveniles with adults, and it doesn’t bring educational programs or medical or mental health care into the prisons, which are disproportionately black and brown.
It’s pretty obvious that the politics of black representation are fraudulent. It’s a fraudulent politics because real life experiences within and without what we’re accustomed to calling the black community are determined by class, and the income and wealth differentials among black Americans are wider than those among whites.
In the next few weeks Black Agenda Report will take some closer looks at Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, both of whom, if the polls are to be believed, are within striking distance of becoming governors of their respective states.
The wall of black unity that was built around Barack Obama protected him from accountability to the precarious working class to which most of the black population actually belongs. It enabled Barack Obama to make promises – like raising the minimum wage, and making it possible for people to join unions – promises he immediately forgot once assuming office. Gillum and Abrams have made promises too, on raising the minimum wage to a living wage, on Medicare expansion and more. Abrams is even on record as using the words “housing” and “human right” in the same paragraph. That’s impressive.
But there are no organized forces in our community which really represent the class of black people whose job and housing situations are balanced on the knife edge of precarity, who are being bled white by payday lenders, who cannot afford medical care even if they have what passes for insurance under Obamacare, who need child care and would join or form a union if federal and state laws didn’t favor the bosses at every turn. There are simply no institutions in the black community which can hold a Stacey Abrams or an Andrew Gillum or any supposedly progressive politician’s feet to the fire.
We have the power to elect them, after wealthy donors have conducted what Paul Street calls “the money primary.” But we don’t have the power to make them DO anything, especially if we build that wall of black unity around them. A class-blind black politics, as elder Adolph Reed reminds us, is also the politics of a particular class. That’s what’s real.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Please remember that Black Agenda Report is being suppressed by Google, whose search algorithms deliberately suppress the appearance of our content in search results on the grounds that we may be under the influence of foreign powers. So the only way you can guarantee that you’re receiving fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left each week is to go to www.blackagendareport.com and hit that subscribe button to have our free weekly email newsletter with links to all our newly published content in your email inbox each and every week.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be contacted via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Thu, 13 September 2018
Two Thirds of "Progressive" Democratic Congressional Candidates Are Silent on Foreign Policy. Why? Don't They Trust Democratic Voters?
There are serious obstacles to a Democratic sweep of the House in November. But what will we get in the event it does happen? Most of the progressives are entirely silent on foreign policy. What does that mean?
We’re told there’s a blue wave coming in November that may sweep a Democratic majority into the House of Representatives. How likely is that, and if it happens what will we be getting?
To achieve a Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives Democrats must overcome the result of two decades of relentless Republican gerrymandering in state legislatures. Traditionally the maps from which congressional representatives were elected were only drawn once a decade based on census results, but beginning in the 1990s Republicans asserted and won the right to re-draw legislative maps pretty much whenever they feel the need. Their technique is to concentrate Democratic voters into a relatively small number of districts where Democrats reliably win by enormous margins, while spreading out the Republican vote to a greater number of districts in which Republicans reliably win with much smaller margins. This is how Republicans are able to elect dozens more congressional representatives with a million or two fewer votes than Democrats.
Democrats could have fought this on the federal and the state level, in the courts, in the legislatures and the streets beginning when they still had the upper hand in the 1990s. But they did not. And so they, and we are where we are.
Unlike the right to possess a gun, the right to vote is not guaranteed in the US Constitution. So any state or county city official can block or obstruct or take away your right to vote, with a new law or with an administrative decision. The omission of this right from the Constitution, the absence of any mass movement demanding voting rights, and the laziness of Democratic party honchos has allowed a veritable briar patch of laws and regulations calculated to disenfranchise Democrat leaning voters, making it harder to register, more difficult to vote, and allowing their votes under some circumstances not to be counted.
Throughout the 70s, 80s and into the 90s, Democrats had many, many chances to introduce laws, to campaign, to generate street heat in support of voting rights, even to campaign to amend the Constitution and make local interference with voting rights impossible. They didn’t, and so again they, and we are where we are.
When Republican officials threw out tens of thousands of Detroit votes, more than the margin by which Trump won Michigan, Hillary Clinton refused to fight for her own vote, refused to raise a public objection. A similar thing happened in Wisconsin. It fell to Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate to file lawsuits demanding recounts in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to expose the fundamental level on which US elections are rigged and gamed. A Michigan judge eventually ruled that the public had no right to an audit of the vote.
Late in the Obama era and continuing into the reign of Trump, there were selective and malicious criminal prosecution of organizations and their members conducting voter registration, early voting, and absentee ballot drives. From Mississippi to Michigan activists have been victimized by police raids and had spurious criminal cases manufactured against them for voter registration and GOTV activities which were never criminal matters before. There have also been also deliberate purges in multiple states of voter rolls designed to throw hundreds of thousands of likely Democratic voters off the rolls. In Georgia where I live, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, is a right wing extremist named Brian Kemp who’s also Georgia’s Secretary of State has been in court this year defending an attempt to purge some 50,000 voters from the state’s rolls.
So once again we are where we are, and Democrats have a far steeper uphill climb than they ought to thanks to two generations of their own laziness and misleadership.
So what will we get when and if a 2018 blue wave sweeps a Democratic majority into Congress?
Let’s take a look at some of the organized forces fielding and assisting Democratic candidates this year.
There are the CIA Democrats backed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee...
The World Socialist Web Site, wsws.org, one of the web outlets which along with Black Agenda Report was deemed a tool of the Russians, and which like Black Agenda Report has been suppressed by Google ever since, published a 3 part article on March 8, 9 and 10 called The CIA Democrats. In it, Patrick Martin named more than 30 former CIA and State Department officials, military death squad and kidnapping – uhh maybe I mean “extraordinary rendition” operatives and their civilian bosses who were running in Democratic congressional primaries. The only good news in that article is that some of the spooks, military types and bloody handed civilian and military officials were running against each other. A little more than half of them lost. But 19 of those CIA Democrats named by Martin survived Democratic congressional primaries in their respective states to face Republicans in November, many of them in vulnerable districts.
They have the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the official deep pocket of the party through which bribes – I mean campaign contributions are funneled from corporations, wealthy individuals and anonymous sources to deserving congressional candidates.
For the record, their names and districts are in the print version of this article. Some of them will certainly win, and every one that does will make the world, our world, a little worse.
And there are the allegedly progressive Democrats
There are 3 national outfits providing techincal and fundraising assistance, expert personnel and endorsements to supposedly progressive Democrats. They are Justice Democrats, Brand New Congress, and Our Revolution. They had a big hand in the victory of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez in New York, and dozens of congressional, state level and local Democratic primary campaigns.
31 congressional candidates endorsed by one or more of these progressive outfits survived the Democratic primary to face Republicans in November. Black Agenda Report took a quick look at the web sites of those 31 progressive candidates for congress. You can find the list with links to their web sites and issue positions at the end of the print version of this Black Agenda Radio commentary.
All but one or two say they support Medicare For All, though it’s not clear whether they mean the straight no chaser version or the watered down one full of exceptions now pushed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Just about all say they’re refusing corporate bribes – damn I mean contributions. More than half say reforming the criminal justice to provide education and job training for inmates system is among their top priorities, and have something to say about net neutrality. Nearly all embrace more pro-active and sensible measures to address climate change, to uphold the rights of women and LBGTQ people, and immigrants, and more. Most have something to say about gun violence, but it’s a safe bet that none of them are educating anybody about the fact that the 2nd amendment of the US was enacted to facilitate slave patrolling, land stealing and the genocide of indigenous people.
What stands out in the web sites of these progressive Democrats is that 21 out of 31 have absolutely NOTHING to say to voters about war or peace, about the military budget which consumes roughly a trillion dollars a year. And that’s not counting the two candidates whose sole mention of the world outside the United States was opining that we should fully fund the State Department in one case, or put more emphasis on diplomacy in another.
9 or 10 out of 31want to help the vets, respect the vets, listen to the vets and the active duty military, improve medical care and job opportunities and such, though one outlier, ER physician Matt Morgan in Michigan wants to privatize the VA into some kind of nonprofit. Only a couple of those candidates who list veterans affairs among their priorities have anything to say about the use to which veterans are put. Only one or two of the “respect the veterans” progressives come anywhere near mentioning what you can hear at the beginning of most NFL games, that there are hundreds of thousands of US troops in more than a hundred foreign countries, with aircraft, satellites, and warships over, on and beneath all the seven seas, and more than 800 military bases outside the US on every continent except Antarctica.
Sometimes what you leave unsaid is more eloquent and damning than what you say. For 21 out of 31 so-called progressive Democratic candidates, the world outside the US, the American global empire, and the globally integrated capitalist economy either do not exist at all, or just don’t make their top ten or top twelve list of priority issues. How do we explain that?
These are not young people trying to find their feet. They’re not running for library board or water commissioner, they’re running for Congress, the ONLY federal elected offices that exist apart from the president and vice president. Most have been in public life a good while, about a third have served as state legislators or other local elected officials. These are boys and girls who know how to ride, and this ain’t their first rodeo. They are relatively smart and savvy people with other smart and savvy people working with and for them, folks who carefully weigh and calculate and consider every word that appears on their web sites as well as everything they leave out.
There are only two possibilities. Either two thirds of our progressive Democrats running for Congress this year really are true believers in the US right to make up its own facts, to declare offshore law free zones like Guantanamo, to invade other countries at will, killing millions and wreaking incalculable havoc upon their infrastructure, societies and ecologies like in Southeast Asia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and just don’t want to say it out loud, or our progressive Democrats don’t believe it but imagine they need to remain silent and pretend to be true believers in the US empire to get elected. Either way, two thirds of the new blue wave of progressive Dem congressional candidates believe they can get away with silence on foreign affairs.
This would make the supposed progressive new wave of Democrats about as effective at opposing the empire as the old Democrats already in office. As we pointed out a month or two ago, a solid majority of House Democrats didn’t just vote for Trump’s record military budget. They raised it tens of billions above Trump’s initial proposal to show military contractors, who gave more to Hillary than they did to Trump that they, not Republicans were better friends than Trump’s party. Even a majority of the House Progressive Caucus voted for it. Ultimately the increase alone in the 2019 military budget is more the entire military budget of the Russian federation.
This is also why Democrats, not the other US government party revived the century old tradition of American hostility toward Russia, adopting the evidence-free fabrication of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections, and deploying the same intelligence agencies which assured us that Iraq had poison gas and nukes to tell us the Russians gamed the election. Not one of the progressive Democrat candidate supported by Brand New Congress, Justice Democrats or Our Revolution has the principles or the courage to question the cynical RussiaGate hoax.
For what it’s worth, if you check out the foreign policy positions of Justice Democrats and Our Revolution they are pretty sketchy. Brand New Congress goes a bit further, actually mentioning the current intervention in Syria and the ridiculous military budget. When it comes to empire, all of three are on board or largely silent. So it’s no surprise that the candidates they bring us will have the same views. That’s what it is to be a progressive Democrat these days.
Like the CIA Democrats, some of them will certainly win. But whether they will make the Congress any more productive for raising wages, protecting peoples rights to education, health care, housing and the like, to ending wars and making the world better is an open question. And most are unwilling to talk to us about war and peace.
For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com where you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter delivering to your inbox all the content we publish each week. Since the Washington Post has accused us of carrying the Russian line Google has suppressed the appearance of our content in search results, and some other corporate social media have done similar things. So the only way you can guarantee you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left every week is via dark social media – which is what the marketing consultants call dark social media because they cannot trace it.
You can find our audio podcasts, Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher and wherever else you get your podcasts. If it’s iTunes don’t forget to leave us a glowing review, because that’s how other people find out about us.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and serves on the state committee of the GA Green Party, which is legislated off the ballot in that state by the two government parties. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Fri, 31 August 2018
The Manufactured McCain and the Real McCain
There’s a real John Sidney McCain III and there’s a fake one, manufactured for the public relations of US empire. Imperial PR needs to justify, even sanctify the ecocidal and genocidal rule of the rich by portraying its servants not as the venal and bloodthirsty thieves they are, but as the brightest, the best, the most noble and deserving among us. The Manufactured McCain whom the corporate media will spend another week on top of the previous one lifting up to the heavens bears only passing resemblance to the real John McCain. The real McCain was no hero. He was a lying, bribe taking, neo-nazi sympathizing politician and war criminal, who served the US empire and himself for all of his long life.
By 1904 the US had coveted Panama, the northernmost province of Colombia for some time. US global ambitions dictated the need for a canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The French had already tried to build the canal and failed at a cost of billions in today’s money and 22,000 dead – black laborers recruited from around the Caribbean who mostly perished from disease. When the Colombian government refused to simply hand Panama over on US terms, President Teddy Roosevelt sent down a battleship or two and some Colombians in Washington DC were recruited to declare independence. The US immediately recognized the government of the new republic, which granted Washington the power do do pretty much whatever they liked. Like the French before them, the North Americans imported tens of thousands of black labors – not their families, only the laborers – from around the Caribbean to build the canal, and they imposed a vicious southern US-style Jim Crow regime upon what they called the Canal Zone. Another 6,000 black laborers and a few hundred whites died building the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914.
The real John McCain was born in 1936 in US occupied Panama, which the empire’s law at the time considered an “unincorporated territory of the US.” That’s why McCain never took part in the Republican birther craze, which falsely claims that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and why the Manufactured McCain never talked much about his birthplace.
The real John McCain spent many childhood summers at Teoc, the 2,000 acre Carroll County Mississippi plantation which belonged to his great great grandfather Dr. William Alexander McCain. The antebellum McCains once owned at least 52 slaves who made their masters quite wealthy raising corn and cotton. There are still black McCains in Carroll County whose ancestors were owned by white McCains with whom they neither claim nor deny any blood kinship. The black McCains hold a family reunion every other year, and though they did invite Senator McCain he never attended. One of William Alexander McCain’s grandsons made brigadier general in the US Army, and another, Henry Pinkney McCain was a US Army major general. A third of Dr. McCain’s grandsons was Senator McCain’s grandfather, a 4 star US Navy Admiral. His son, Senator McCain's father was also a 4 star US Navy admiral. Their ancestors include officers in the American Revolutions related to the family of George Washington.
Despite the real McCain’s military-aristocratic lineage and those childhood summers on the plantation, the Manufactured McCain campaigning for president in 2000 ridiculously claimed he didn’t think his family had ever owned any slaves. Reporters had to produce documents with the names and descriptions of 52 McCain plantation slaves before the Manufactured McCain acknowledged his family had been slaveholders. “ It makes sense… I didn’t know that,” he reportedly said.
The manufactured war hero VS the real accident-prone pilot.
The Manufactured McCain sometimes called himself a “fighter pilot.” That’s not what the US Navy called the Real McCain. In navy language, fighter pilots are the elite of the elite, the ones who fight other planes in the air. The Real McCain flew ground attack aircraft, which in Vietnam meant bombing mostly undefended civilian ground targets.
The real McCain was a slipshod and reckless pilot who totaled 3 aircraft in incidents where navy investigators pinned the cause of the crash upon lapses in pilot’s judgment, in each and every case contradicting the Real McCain’s official reports of those accidents. A 2008 Los Angeles Times article titled “McCain’s Mishaps in the Cockpit by examines the Real McCain’s 3 plane crashes in some detail. Aircraft are not cheap, and it’s hard to believe any military on earth allows pilots with three at-fault plane crashes to keep his wings. That is, unless you’re US Navy royalty, the son and the grandson of admirals. Decades later, as a politician writing one or another version of his autobiography the Manufactured McCain was more truthful, describing a 1961 incident in which he flew into power lines in southern Spain causing a local blackout, as “daredevil clowning.” He managed to bring the plane back to the carrier that time, trailing ten feet of power line, so that didn’t count among the Real McCain’s at-fault plane crashes.
McCain was assigned to Yankee station off the coast of North Vietnam where he took part in Operation Rolling Thunder, the US code name for 31 months of the bombing of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and killed tens of thousands of civilians at the very least. McCain flew 27 ground attack missions before being shot down in October 1967 trying to bomb a Hanoi power plant. Many have argued that bombing undefended civilian targets is a war crime. That’s certainly the way the Vietnamese viewed the matter, and they subjected the already seriously injured McCain and other downed US pilots to close confinement and torture. His own mistreatment during 5 years as a prisoner of war was the reason why Senator John McCain would later publicly disagree with 21st century US policy that publicly embraced the idea of torture.
When the Vietnamese discovered that McCain was US Navy royalty, they sensibly offered him early release ahead of pilots captured before him. Just as sensibly, he refused the offer, and the manufactured narrative of John McCain as the heroic prisoner of war began to be established, and since has been added to many times by his own writing and speeches and by others connected to actual events and not. Released after five and a half years imprisonment, he was already a kind of celebrity. McCain remained in the Navy several years after his release. His final Navy assignment was US Navy liaison to the Senate. During this time he divorced his first wife and married Cindy Hensley, daughter of one of the biggest beer distributors in the country. Hobnobbing with politicians and military contractors seemed to suit him, so he left the navy in 1981, as Jeff Gates put, cashing in his war hero chits to start a political career.
The Manufactured McCain: the straight talking war hero as venal bribe taking politician.
While still in the Navy McCain had campaigned for Ronald Reagan vigorously enough to earn warnings from his superiors, and to be a frequent guest of honor at Reagan dinners. He moved to Arizona to campaign for Congress. According to Jeff Gates’ book Guilt By Association: How Deception and Self Deceit Took America to War, his wife received a gift of $689,000 from her wealthy family just before or at the beginning of his congressional run, which probably enabled him to lend his own campaign $167,000. McCain’s prenuptial agreement allowed him to omit his wife’s multimillion dollar income and holdings from public financial disclosures.
Fresh from his insider stint as Reagan’s favorite dinner guest Navy liaison to the Senate he campaigned as the straight talking political outsider and war hero, winning election in 1982. and again 1984. As expected, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, who’d been the 1968 Republican presidential candidate retired in 1986 and McCain won the seat. Among the early investors in McCain’s political career was a Phoenix millionaire Charles Keating who got in on the ground floor. According to Gates in the aforementioned book:
“Keating family members and employees made 40 donations to his first congressional campaign, at least 32 to his second… no less than 45 when ran for the Senate in 1986…
“The McCains made 9 vacation trips on a jet owned by Keating’s company including … trips to Keating’s posh resort in the Bahamas. Only after the S&L scandal years later did McCain reimburse Keating…
“McCain’s wife and father in law invested $359,000 in a Keating shopping mall deal. Their profit remains unknown.”
In 1984 Keating bought a California savings and loan with 26 branches. Under Presidents Carter and Reagan restrictions on how and what savings and loan institutions could invest had been repeatedly loosened. Keating was one who pushed even these limits and purchased legislators by the pocketful to sometimes meet directly with federal regulators to argue his case. The so-called Keating Five were a handful of senators receiving $1.3 million in contributions, of which McCain got $112,000. They met with federal regulators on a number of occasions, and according to one regulator, argued Keating’s case like defense lawyers. Republican John McCain was one of these, along with Democrats John Glenn and Alan Cranston and two others.
A few years later, 1,038 Savings and Loan institutions went belly-up, causing the savings of hundreds of thousand to vanish overnight, and the fund which supposedly insured them unable to cover the losses. The $150 billion savings and loan scandal was the biggest financial crisis in recent history till the crash of 2007-2008 and bribes paid to the real McCain were directly instrumental to making it happen. McCain was to spend 32 years in the Senate, and became the go-to guy for a galaxy of military contractors, telecoms, Big Ag, Big Real Estate, Big Pharma, Big Energy and more, and the Manufactured McCain ran for president in 2000 and 2008.
From 1992 till weeks before his death John McCain served as chairman of the International Republican Institute, a US government funded organization that interferes in the political processes of scores of other countries, training rebel groups to overthrow inconvenient elected governments, like that of John Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and many others. McCain and the IRI were prominent backers of neo-nazi politicians and armed militia groups in Ukraine who are now part of that country’s army and civilian government. To be fair, the Obama administration and Democrat Hillary Clinton were big backers and enablers of the same forces. After all this is the US, where we do have two government parties to choose from, not just one as in some backward and benighted places. Democrats and many in the so-called resistance are throwing flowers at the grave of John McCain. It’s a bipartisan thing.
During his 32 years in the US Senate, the real John McCain was a consistent warmonger, advocating US military intervention in Africa, South America, Korea, and almost everywhere. He sang “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” before a veterans group, and called demonstrators against Henry Kissinger “despicable scum.” The record of his public calls for coups, invasions, blockades, bombings and assassinations to advance US military and economic domination of the planet is far too long to list.
All this explains why corporate media are lifting up their whitewashed and manufactured version of John McCain. He’s one of their own, a genuine war criminal and loyal servant of capital. Lifting him up, creating and embellishing his heroic story lifts up and legitimizes the rule of the rich. Now they’ll be looking for parks, schools and airports to name after him. Just as the elementary school in Aaron Magruder’s Boondocks was named after J. Edgar Hoover, we’ll soon see John McCain’s name staring back at us from what little public property is left. Get ready for it.
Don’t forget that since Black Agenda Report was accused 3 years ago of being under Russian influence, Google and other corporate social media have suppressed the appearance of our content in search results. So the only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news commentary and analysis from the black left, as we’ve offered the last 13 years is dark social media – email. Go to www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our content each week by direct email, which Facebook and Google cannot block and be sure to share it with friends and others by email. Give Black Agenda Radio and Black Agenda Radio commentaries a good review and rating on iTunes while you’re at it, please. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Sun, 26 August 2018
Early this month, Cori Bush was defeated in the St. Louis MO congressional primary, by Congressman Lacy Clay. Clay has held the seat since inheriting it from his father in 2001, and his father had it for 32 years. That’s 50 years of a congressman named Clay. Missouri’s first district includes Ferguson, an inner suburb of St. Louis. When four summers ago we saw a handful of public officials in the streets trying to chill out Ferguson protestors, there was a black congressman among them. But that was Emanuel Cleaver, from Kansas City, not the black face who’s family by then had repped the district a good 45 years.
Challenger Cori Bush lost no opportunities to remind people that Clay was AWOL during the entire Ferguson episode, but it was not enough. Bush campaigned on free college, not accepting corporate money, raising the minimum wage, restraining killer cops, more money for public education and Medicare For All, but that wasn’t enough either. She had a great personal story too, a single mother who earned a nursing degree, and spent a while living out of her car. Bush won the backing of Justice Democrats, a national outfit that had quite a lot to do with the mechanics of the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez campaign in the Bronx a few weeks before. Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, Bush is not a member of Democratic Socialists of America, and has never identified herself as a socialist.
So how exactly did she lose? Nobody else seems willing to offer explanations, beyond shallow wisdom that “St. Louis MO ain’t da Bronx.” The folks who had a thousand good reasons Ocasio-Cortez was the front end of a blue wave have passed on explaining why this blue wave missed in Missouri.
The first thing to see is the obvious, that St. Louis really is NOT the Bronx. Ocasio-Cortez was a working class Puerto Rican woman in a largely Latino district, and her opponent was a 20 year incumbent white guy who was obviously ready to leave for a more lucrative career as a lobbyist. Lacy Clay on the other hand, really wanted to keep that St Louis congressional seat. In 2016 he faced another black woman who’d been tear gassed in the streets of Ferguson, state rep Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who got 24 thousand votes to Clay’s 56 thousand. So unlike Crowley in the Bronx, Clay didn’t sleep the 2018 race, he ran up 81 thousand votes to Bush’s 53 thousand.
Another dimension in which St. Louis is not New York is voter turnout. New York Republicans and Democrats have deliberately engineered primary elections for low turnout, requiring votes to register as Democrats many months prior to election day just to be eligible. But in Missouri you show up and ask for the Democrat ballot. So Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s 57% of the vote was just under 17 thousand. But Clay’s 57% share in Missouri was 81 thousand, again to Bush’s 53 thousand. Ocasio-Cortez said it took 120,000 phone calls to get that. I don’t know yet how many calls Bush needed to get her 53 thousand but I’ll be asking.
We have to look at the national organizations which backed Ocasio-Cortez, Bush and the rest of this blue wave which is supposed to swamp Congress and state legislatures in 2018. There are at least 3 organizations which help raise money, funnel experienced campaign help, do social media, recruit national phone and text banking assists and more. Those would be Our Revolution, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. Brand New Congress claims to have “recruited” Ocasio-Cortez, who was previously one of those in charge of Bernie Sanders’ New York effort. A leader of Justice Democrats served as Cori Bush’s communications director, and both outfits named Bush, who’d run statewide in Missouri for US Senator in 2016, as one of their own. Unlike Ocasio-Cortez Cori Bush has never been a DSA member either, and has never called herself a socialist.
What Brand New Congress, Our Revolution, and Justice Democrats have in common are three things.
The first is a commomn commitment to taking over or rescuing the Democratic party.
The second is a real reluctance to make any but the sketchiest reference to anything that takes place outside the US – as if the US didn’t have troops in a hundred foreign countries, at least 800 bases in a hundred countries and a trillion dollar military budget supported by most of the Democrats in Congress. Justice Democrats has a statement at the end of their foreign policy that seems to put the military budget around $100 billion instead of the actual trillion, which ten times that size. Cori Bush’s page is typical of the blue wave, it doesn’t mention anything on foreign policy or empire at all.
The most optimistic way to see this collective blind spot is that maybe the blue wave of Congressional candidates don’t want to incur the wrath of the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is running about 40 former CIA, Homeland Security, State Department, local police and military types for Congress this year, and has plenty money for last minute negative media offensives against would be peacenik congressional candidates in places where they don’t even have candidates.
The least optimistic view is that sketchy or absent references to US empire and foreign policy are how the blue wave candidates signal their willingness to adopt the imperial consensus if they are lucky enough to get elected. After all four fifths of the Congressional Black Caucus and just over half the House Progressive Caucus just voted for Ttump’s record military 2019 military budget.
The third thing they all have in common is that few or none have distanced themselves from the drumbeat of RussiaGate, the nonsense that holds Russia responsible for Trump’s victory in 2016, that posits a credible ongoing Russian plot to steal the US elections. To our knowledge none of the blue wave candidates nor the national outfits which back them have stood apart from themselves tendency to label anybody to their left stooges of Russia either.
Bringing it back to St. Louis, Cori Bush had to face something Ocasio-Cortez didn’t. It was something her blue wave backers hadn’t dealt with either. It was the peculiarities of black politics in the US. The 1st CD Missouri is 50% black and there are some unique and well established characteristics of the Democratic party in districts like that, whether they’re in Chicago or Philly or Dallas or Atlanta or wherever.
The first is the black church, which is ridden with local, and since the advent of Bush’s and Obama’s faith based initiative, federal patronage. Black churches are often tied hand and foot to local politicians for everything from real estate deals to charter school contracts, and their leaders are often fixtures in local Democratic party affairs, even public officials themselves. The second is the nonprofit industrial complex, a literal army of advocacy groups sometimes doing housing and homeless activism, sometimes feeding the hungry, sometimes doing worker centers, womens health, tenants rights, LBGTQ activism, environmental stuff. There’s another section of the nonprofit industrial complex which can’t even be called nonpartisan with a straight face, offshoots of the NAACP and the Movement 4 Black Lives. These forces are tied to the political preferences of their corporate philanthropic funders. Executive directors of nonprofit organizations who don’t find a way to support the right Democrats in primary season and all Democrats in general election put their careers, the livelihoods of all their employees, and the outfit’s good works in jeopardy. And there are the unions – heavily public sector and disproportionately people of color, again all tied to the most right wing established Democrats on the local, state and federal level.
Unlike the troops the blue wave outfits can raise once every two years, these things are permanent institutions in black communities. Remember when Atlanta civil rights icon John Lewis stood up in Ebenezer Baptist Church to tell young black folks that free college tuition and free medical care were un-American and the crowd was with him? That’s the complex of forces against which relatively leftist electoral candidates in black communities must run. In old school political language that’s called a Machine, a standing bunch of political institutions which can put significant money into broadcast ads and mailings, speakers and preachers into pulpits, hundreds of bodies in the street and hundreds more the phone banks. Clay had them, and Bush did not. All Bush had was what she could raise on the issues.
The big blue wave outfits probably hadn’t done much work in black communities and didn’t know this. Maybe they were listening to DSA theoreticians like Adam Hilton who imagine the Democratic Party in such places has no real organization. But it’s organized, and it’s very, very real. If you’re going to knock out the right wing Democrats who dominate the electoral politics of black communities you have to do more than hire the right black consultants, although Black Voters Matter and the Movement For Black Lives Electoral Justice Project will be glad to keep taking your money. Somebody has to build some other permanent organizations, some other centers of popular power in those communities. It hasn’t been done yet, and won’t be done before the 2018 midterm elections. That’s why Bernie didn’t crack the black vote in 2016, and that’s why the blue wave didn’t crash Missouri in 2018. It’ll be why the wave misses in other black constituencies.
For Black Agenda Report, I’m Bruce Dixon. Please know that Google and other corporate social media suppress the appearance of Black Agenda Report’s articles and commentary. The only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis in audio and print from the black left each week is by going directly to our site at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribing to our direct from us to you FREE email newsletter containing links to everything we air or print each week. That’s why they call email the dark social media, because it can’t be stopped or tracked – yet. So go to www.blackagendareport.com and subscribe, it’s free.
Thu, 9 August 2018
We all learned in school that some countries have a single governing party. If you’re not in that party, you can’t be part of the government. The US has two government parties, Republicans and Democrats, both funded by the corporations and wealthy individuals who make up this country’s capitalist elite. If you’re not in either one of the government parties, you’re denied access to media and in many states, laws are passed specifically to keep you off the ballot.
While the two parties are funded by pretty much the same class of people, their social bases are different. Since the 1960s, Republicans have made it clear that they are the white man’s party, the party of war abroad and racist reaction at home. Democrats, for electoral purposes are obliged to stake a contrary claim. Since the election of Donald Trump Democrats have branded themselves “the resistance.”
This month the House and Senate passed the reconciled version of the 2019 Pentagon budget on to the White House. On TV and establishment media they call it a defense budget, but that’s branding too. The second world war which ended in 1945 killed 60 or 65 million people, after the first world war claimed 30 million only a generation earlier. This sort of gave war bad name. So in 1948 they changed the name of the US Department of War to the US Department of Defense. With the stroke of a pen, wealthy merchants of death as they were widely known, the war contractors, all became patriotic defense contractors. The US Secretary of War became the US Secretary of Defense, and the US war budget, by far the world’s largest, became the defense budget. And so it’s been for seven decades.
Early this month, the House and Senate passed the reconciled version of the US war budget to the president for signatgure. It’s the earliest in the budget cycle Congress has done a military budget since 1996 or 1997, when a Democrat in the White House and Democrats in Congress were anxious to assure Republicans that they were all on the same side.
They call this year’s atrocity the John McCain National Defense Authorization Act, worth a record $716 billion. This total doesn’t include the budget of the Afghan war, which lives somewhere else, or the budgets of several other known programs, and there are secret budgets for more or less secret programs as well. Nobody really doubts that actual US military spending has hovered around a trillion a year for several years now.
So how did the resistance perform? In the Senate the vote was 87 to 10, three not voting. Only 8 Democrats resisted. Among them Liz Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand. Dick Durbin of Illinois also voted against the Pentagon bill. This is purest theater, because Durbin since 2005 has been Democratic Whip in the Senate, the man responsible for lining up the votes of his fellow senators. If this meant anything to him, why did only 7 other Democrats vote with their supposed leader?
In the House the vote was 351 to 66, with 139 Democrats voting yes, 49 voting no, and 5 not voting. So the resistance was really the assistance, voting almost 2 to 1 to continue spending as much on US wars around the world as the next nine or ten countries put together.
The Congressional Black Caucus was even more eager to assist the US posture of global war than Democrats as a whole, a pattern Glen Ford has called out repeatedly in recent years. CBC members voted 34 to 8 in favor of the permanent war budget, which includes Trump’s military parade, a new Space Force, and scores of drone bases in Africa that put almost the entire continent under US cameras and guns. Noted progresssive Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim in Congress, abstained. The CBC members who found the spine to cast votes against the war budget were Bonnie Watson-Coleman, Barbara Lee, John Lewis (who does have a US Navy oiler named after him), Hakim Jeffires, Yvette Clarke, Karne Bass, Bobby Rush, and Hank Johnson.
The House Progressive Caucus did a little better, but still only 28, less than half its membership of 64 opposed the Pentagon budget. That’s what it means to be a progressive Democrat these days.
When most of the so-called progressives are pro-war we can legitimately say that the resistance is really the assistance.
For Black Agenda Radio I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email notices of new content. Google and other social media continue to suppress our content in search results, so this is the only way you can be certain you receive fresh weekly news, commentary and analysis from the black left each week.
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Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Tue, 7 August 2018
There’s fake news. And then there’s fake history. Fake news lies about the world as it is. But fake history is the context for fake news. Fake history sanctifies abominations past and present. Fake history erases the struggle over thousands of years between those many who produced the planet’s wealth and the greedy few who appropriate it for themselves.
Being born in the US the middle of the 20th century, I got the same massive doses of fake history as everybody else. They told me told the Greeks were the world’s only early adopters of democracy. I was taught the fairy tale of the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving. I played cowboys and Indians. My history books spoke glowingly of the Manifest Destiny bestowed upon white America to devour the continent of North American, murdering and dispossessing its inhabitants. I learned a very little about slavery in school, very little, and much more, almost everything of any value, afterward.
And like everybody else, I was treated to an entirely fabricated history of the Second World War. Lying about the World War 2, what came before and afterward was and remains today a central facet in the US mythology which justifies and undergirds its settler state at home and its global empire aborad.
Briefly, we’re taught that Nazi Germany was just plain inexplicable evil, that this Hitler dude came to power with his Nazi party, they persecuted Jews, gypsies and dissidents, they conquered France and they menaced England but were stopped short when they lost the battle of Britain in the air. Eventually the US joined the war, invading North Africa, defeating the Nazis there, going on to fight the Germans in Italy, and eventually staging the D-Day invasion of France. They marched into Germany to finally defeat the Nazis and hanged a number of Nazi officials for war crimes and genocide at Nuremberg. The Russians, the Soviet Union at the time, we were taught, were sort of in the war too as allies but soon after the defeat of the Nazis they became enemies, and have been that ever since.
Nearly all of that is horseshit.
When the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917, the US used troops already in Europe to fight the Germans in World War 1 to joinewith Britain, Japan and more than a dozen countries and invade the new nation, taking part in the bloody and disastrous Russian Civil War. The Bolsheviks won that civil war and founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the world’s first avowed socialist country. The US did not diplomatically recognize the USSR until 1933, and ruling elites in the US and Europe conspired constantly to undermine and subvert the USSR at every means and at every turn.
In February1933, a month after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, a mysterious fire in the Reichstag, the German Parliament building was blamed on the Communists. It became the excuse to grant absolute power to Hitler and his Nazi party, which promptly opened up concentration camps for communists, socialists, union members, Jews, gypsies, dissidents of all kinds. Nazism became the official ideology of the German state, holding among other things that the main threat to civilization was Jewish-led communism. Hitler spells it all out in a book called Mein Kampf, how Germans were the center of a so-called aryan race destined to rule over the rest of lesser humanity, and obligated in the very short run to make war upon the subhuman populations to their east from Poland to the steppes of Russia and Siberia, also eliminating communism from the face of the earth.
Hitler very much admired the example of North America, which he regarded as an exemplary model of white supremacist conquest, murdering and thoroughly dispossessing a native population. He named his personal armored train Amerika.
Western elites including prominent US corporations like Texaco and bankers who included the Bush family, and IBM did business with Hitler and aided the rearming of Germany. In 1939 and 1940 Nazi Germany absorbed Austria, Czechoslovakia, invaded Poland and beat the French army down enough to force French leaders, many of whom sympathized with the Nazi ideology anyway to collaborate with Hitler. Germany bombed Britain but stopped short of invading the British isles to turn east toward the Soviet Union, and the ultimate Nazi goals of conquering and displacing entire populations of what it regarded as subhumans there and ending communism once and for all.
The Nazi invasion of the USSR was, all by itself the largest and bloodiest war in human history. Germany sent more than 3 million men in 149 divisions into Russia. They plundered and burned and razed entire rural districts, villages, slaughtered the populations of entire ancient cities, and made a point of rounding up Jews and communists. In many places they found significant numbers of like-minded collaborators. They killed millions of Soviet civililans and soldiers, and aimed to starve out the Russian population to make room for German settlers in the near future.
Multiple standalone battles, like Stalingrad in 1942-43 or the 900 day seige of Leningrad accounted for a million or more deaths each, dwarfing the US loss of some 400,000 during the entire war in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. The USSR lost 26 million lives in the war, about a third of them military the other two thirds civilians starved or murdered. The USSR spent a million lives liberating Poland, and another million plus liberating Hungary, Romania, parts of Yugoslavia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. The battle of Berlin alone cost the lives of yet another million Soviet soldiers. The USSR is 25 years gone now, but Russians remember.
The USSR begged Britain and the US to open a second front in the west, and Franklin Roosevelt promised to do just that before the end of 1942. But he allowed the Brits, led by Winston Churchill to dissuade him. Britain thought it more important to preserve its own empire, first by securing the link to India and the Far East through Suez, so the Americans landed in North Africa instead of France. Some American politicians, like Harry Truman who would succeed Roosevelt as US president argued that the US should help the Nazis if the Soviets were winning and the Soviets if the Nazis were winning so as many as possible would die. When the North Africa campaign was wrapped up, the Americans and Brits invaded Italy instead of France, prompting US General George Marshall to accuse his superiors of “periphery pecking” instead of fighting the war. The US conducted bombing raids from bases in Britain, but delayed its land invasion of France till June 1944 when the defeat of Nazi Germany was already assured, and the outcome of the war no longer in doubt.
There’s a famous photo of US Marines raising a flag at the end of the horrific battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific. But there are no pics of Brits or Americans raising the Union Jack or the stars and stripes over the ruins of Berlin in 1945. That’s because the Brits and Americans never got to Berlin, they never intended to. American forces never faced more than an eighth of the German land forces at any time during World War 2. The Soviet Red Army raised the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag at war’s end. At the victory celebration in Moscow, the Red Army threw the hundreds of the banners of Hitler’s legions on the pavement before Lenin’s tomb. The Brits and Americans didn’t capture enough of these to make a good parade.
US president Roosevelt died 3 weeks before the Nazi surrender, and was succeeded by Harry Truman, who instantly adopted a profoundly hostile policy toward the USSR. American use of the first atomic bombs against Japan, which had been seeking to surrender was perceived as a threat to the USSR, rather than a military necessity to end the war. US intelligence agencies aided the escape of thousands of Nazi war criminals to the Western hemisphere. America placed other ex-Nazis in positions of responsibility in the German regime set up in their occupied zones, and prevented the early reunification of Germany, turning the boundary between Soviet and Western occupation zones into a fortified international border. Truman’s warlike stance against communism and the USSR was inherited and greatly expanded upon by his successors, former General Dwight D. Eisenhower and John Kennedy, both of whom menaced the USSR with nuclear weapons and placed nuclear missiles in Turkey next to the Soviet borders. Russians remember this too.
Sixty million people perished in World War 2, but the US emerged with relatively light losses, most of the planet’s intact manufacturing capacity and as the world’s leading creditor, owed money by friend and former foe alike. It was to be the dawn of an American Century, in which the US called the shots for the entire world. The fake history we were and still are taught purposefully erase the fact that it was the Russians, the Soviets at the time, who defeated Nazi Germany, not the Americans and Brits. Without the defeat of Nazi Germany, the last 70 years would be vastly different. To cite only a couple of possibilities, Brazil’s ruling classes were firmly pro-Nazi and Brazil has the largest black population of anyplace outside Africa. What would have happened there? How would decolonization in Africa have proceeded in a world dominated by Nazis?
Today in Eastern Europe, where the US has installed anti-communist and often pro-fascist regimes, the graves of fallen Soviet soldiers who liberated those places from the Nazis are being defaced. Polish governemnt officials just hosted a gathering of 60,000 pro-Nazi demnstrators from across Europe. School children in Austria and Lithuania are being taught today that the Russian communists started the war, and Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (along with key Republicans – it’s a bipartisan thing) directly and conspicuously aided forces that included open neo-Nazis to stage a coup in Ukraine, on the western borders of Russia. Neo nazi units are now incorporated into the Ukrainian Army.
None of the US antics over the last 70 years are remotely justifiable without the fake history we were taught, and still allow to be taught about the Second World War. For more than 70 years now the politicians of both US capitalist parties – both US government parties, have built their politics on this fake history. US troops are still in Germany, still in Japan more than two generations after the war, and the US maintains an empire of a thousand military bases on six continents and fleets in every ocean.
Hostility toward whatever regime sits in Moscow has been the bipartisan bedrock and staple of US imperial policy for a century since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. This week Congress passed a record Pentagon spending bill, earlier in the legislative cycle than any time since the 1990s. Most of House Democrats, the so-called “resistance” to Trump supported it, in their continuing bid to be more warlike than Trump and the Republicans.
The rest of the world will do what it must, but only Americans can shut down the American empire. And we can only do that if we begin to shake ourselves free from our fake history, and face the real world around us.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where you can subscribe to our free weekly email notifying you of all new audio and print content at Black Agenda Report, your source for news, commentary and analysis from the black left since 2006. You can find our audio commentaries and our weekly Black Agenda Radio program on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.
Please be aware that Google and other corporate marketing platforms have asserted the right, and in the case of Google are already suppressing Black Agenda Report articles, audio and video in search results. So the only guarantee that you’re getting access to to Black Agenda Report is to securely subscribe to our email updates. This is Bruce Dixon for Black Agenda Report.
CORRECTION: Soviet losses at the battle of Berlin were in the range of 2 or 3 hundred thousand, not a million, still a horrific sacrifice in a military operation of about 2.5 million soldiers.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and may be contacted via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Wed, 25 July 2018
So many people call themselves "organizers" these days that the word is meaningless. The Alexandra Ocasio-Corte campaign supplies left electoral and other organizing efforts with a real world organizing benchmark -- the AOC unit -- 120,000 phone calls.
This is Bruce Dixon from Black Agenda Report with the latest in our series about organizing, what for reference sake we’ll call the 200 series. If you haven’t you really should check out the 100 series which we did two or three years ago. While of course you can always Google Black Agenda Report, organizing 101, you should be aware that Black Agenda Report is one of the news outlets – the only outlet owned by African Americans and aimed at a black audience, for which Google deliberately suppresses search results, on the basis that we are tools of the Russians or something. So the ony reliable way to find Black Agenda Report’s Organizing 100 series is to visit our site at BlackAgendaReport.com, and click the links there.
Everybody’s an “organizer” nowadays, to hear them tell it. Ever notice though, how almost none of these organizers actually tell us what that means, what this “organizing” stuff actually is? That should make you wonder a little bit right there. The fact is on the lips of many, it doesn’t mean anything at all. So let’s fix that.
In a recent interview broadcast on Daniel Denvir’s The Dig podcast, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez spelled out the technical essence of her successful campaign effort. She said it was shoe leather canvassing, a lot of door to door work in which the canvassers dropped written material on and actuallly talked with every registered voter who’d come to the door, and that’s easier in New York City than in many places, since the doors are relatively close to one another. They made sure to extract phone and email contact information from potential supporters. They distributed literature at public places, street corners, transit stops and gatherings of all kinds in the district, not just in the spirit of passing the paper, but with the specific aim of extracting email and phone contact information from people in these encounters as well. The AOC social media campaign focused on engaging the contacts gained by the door to door canvass and the street operation, so they were not just shouting into the void. And most importantly of all, Ocasio-Cortez says they made about 120,000 phone calls.
Social media is great. Literature is necessary Appearing in debates and public stuff is useful. But without those 120,000 phone calls, the people whose door you knock on in April will have long forgotten you by a June election. You have to make a LOT of intial contacts and a lot of following up by email, by text messages, and you gotta do thousands, tens of thousands of phone calls. The volunteers who make the calls were recruited from among the enthusiastic supporters encountered in the canvass, on the street, and through the social media aimed at supporters encountered those ways.
This is the essence of electoral organizing. You contact people win person with your message, and you stay in touch frequently enough and long enough to stampede them out to vote election day Since votes are actually counted, the way the organizer knows the job is going is to count the new contacts made each week, the number of first time and follow-up calls made that week.
Numbers measure the organizing process. If your electoral campaign or so-called organzing effort is not making hundreds or thousands of in person calls (not robocalls) every week to your new and old contacts, whatever you’re doing is NOT organizing. Organizers who don’t set numerical goals and strive accountably to meet them are faking the funk, it’s that simple. Numbers measure the organizing process, not signs and banners. Not “visibility” and not carrying a sign at somebody elses march or protest. In fact when your people DO attend the marches and protests put on by other outfits and fail to bring back new names for your people to contact in follow-up they too are helping you fake the funk.
Leafleting at street corners, transit stops, picnics, public events and places? Is your practice and your pitch tailored to bring back new names, phone numbers, email address? If not you’re scattering paper into the wind. Organizers get the digits and get them called back. Organizers make and sustain contact with the people they reach, and in electoral contests, that’s at least till election day. That’s exactly how Ocasio-Cortez said it was done, and it’s a formula decades old. It just has to be done.
They call 93 million miles, the distance from the earth to the sun an astronomical unit, an AU. So let’s give Ocasio-Cortez her unit, the AOC unit – 120,000 calls. Since most of us haven’t scaled up like that, we should probably call a mere 20,000 just a plain old generic unit. To keep from mixing apples with lawn furniture let’s stipulate that robocalls and text messaging do not count toward these units, that they are tallied separately. So the useful questions is how many people are on your email lists? How many new names did you add to your database this month, and how many will you add next month? How many phone calls is your organizing effort making this month? Half a unit, 10,000 calls? A full unit, 20,000 calls? If you’re not asking these questions, answering them and taking steps to get and sustain those numbers, whatever you’re doing ain’t organizing. Numbers tell the story. Get some numbers so we can tell some accurate stories.
This is North America. The almighty market uses the media to inundate us with a flood of 24/7 entertainment, making us the best entertained and the least informed people on earth. There’s plenty of public conversation, but what exists there serves the market, not those who want to make the world a better place. We don’t have much media access because the big media are owned and operated by billionaires. There is little place in their matrix for us. We have to grab people on the street or in their doorways or workplaces or public events and get them into OUR conversation. We have to supply and to engineer some of that conversation, we have to foster it, to host it and to sustain it if we intend to build a popular movement that will someday have the power to change this world for the better. 120,000 calls. Measure your organizing efforts against that. Ask how many calls is your organizing project making this month?
If you’re and your fellow “organizers” are not asking and answering these questions, whatever is going on is NOT organizing.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, where we have 12 years of news and analysis and commentary from the black left, new articles every Wednesday of every week.
Thu, 19 July 2018
Less than a month ago, the president instructed the Pentagon to draw up plans to house 120,000 immigrants in what it described as “austere tent cities” – in plain language deliberately cruel concentration camps, apparently on military bases. The projected expansion of the US gulag is equivalent to throwing up a brand new California (129,000 inmates) state prison system almost overnight. Nothing like this has been publicly contemplated in any of our lifetimes. This is a new and uniquely dangerous moment in US political history.
So where is the Green Party? When the news became public, every vaguely leftish nonprofit and political outfit with two laptops, a cell phone, a pulse and a mailing list was appealing for funds, many calling virtual and in-person public meetings and actions at airports, detention centers, and other locations. But not the Green Party. Determined to be and to remain irrelevant, the Green Party has barely acknowledged this pivotal juncture. Although the Green Party has a substantial national mailing list, it has not bothered to explain itself or educate the public on this political moment, to give or ask for any clear stand on the part of state parties and activists. If an opposition party won’t seize the chance to grow in influence and numbers at times when millions of people are looking for effective ways to stand up, it’s hard to see that party growing into any kind of relevant force in the nation’s political life.
The Green Party has an outreach committee but no outreach operation. The Green party has a media committee but no real press operation. The Green Party has a ballot access committee, and although the party is banned from the ballot in more than a dozen states, its cannot be bothered to devise any credible plan, any achievable campaign to put itself on the ballot in those states. I know this because I was part of the crew which researched and drew up the bare bones of such a plan in 2015, a full year and more before the election for the Jill Stein campaign. But by December of that year the party’s presidential campaign was moonwalking away from any attempt to a wage coordinated ballot access drive in those key states, which contain about one eighth the nation’s black voters.
In the weeks before and after the inauguration of Donald Trump, when hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets the Green Party made no attempt to call its own meetings or events. Party leaders utterly ignored the chances to raise a million or two party-building dollars, along with opportunities for priceless visibility and outreach by putting its 2016 and 2017 presidential and vice presidential candidates on the road for a month-long “victory tour.” As a national organization, the Green Party is really good as an idea, but a hot mess as far as implementing that idea. There is, as I outlined a few weeks ago in Why Our Green Parties Haven’t Taken Off, the Green Party lacks any coherent organizing methodology, has no political clarity, has no structures to promote internal democratic discussion. Many of its activists and leaders seem to imagine they can self-organize with methods similar to those of Republicans and Democrats, and that only electoral campaigns, which they often have little idea how to conduct, will build a party. And in the name of diversity and inclusion the Green party has empowered token caucuses which pretend to represent African Americans and others, but which are centers of opportunism.
In its defense, the party was organized by liberals two decades ago who correctly assessed the WHAT – the need for something outside the two government parties but didn’t have much a grip on HOW to make any of it happen. That part is for those of us on the scene today to figure out, and the mistakes of two decades are ours to recognize, to learn from, and to undo. Or not. I still think we can undo a lot of them.
This weekend the Greens hold their annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Like many others, I won’t be there because no votes are taken or decisions are made at the meeting. The most you can do at Green annual meetings is meet some people in person you otherwise only encounter online, and be one of hundreds of faces in an applauding crowd. That didn’t seem worth the whole weekend, or the trip.
But the Greens elect several members of their national leadership body, their steering committee this weekend. I believe it’s still possible to turn the thing around, and I’m one of the 150 people who get to vote in that election. I’ll be voting for Greens who make no bones about being avowed socialists, and who understand the nature and the urgency of the tasks before them. If the Green Party can be saved, and transformed into a useful vehicle in the struggle, a lot rides on the vote this weekend. The choices are pretty stark. But at least they ARE choices.
For Black Agenda Report I’m Bruce Dixon. Google and other corporate social media are suppressing our content in their search results, so the only way to ensure you get notified of new content each week at Black Agenda Report is to visit us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our weekly notices of new content via email. You can also find our one hour Black Agenda Radio show and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on SoundCloud, Libsyn, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Thu, 12 July 2018
In 2005 and 2006 Democrats John Kerry and Barack Obama on the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to delay, filibuster or even closely question Bsuh's Supreme Court nominees Sam Alito and John Roberts.
We cannot and should not blame Trump and the Republicans alone for the Supreme Court. Leading Democrats had a big hand in it too.
The US Supreme Court has been around as long as the Constitution itself, more than two centuries now. Since the Warren court of the 1950s, Republicans have been quite open about their intent to pack it with judges who will repeal birth control, civil rights, labor rights, minimum wages, environmental regulation and most of the 20th century. Democrats, if they were ever a party of the people, as opposed to another party of the elite, have had sixty-some years to craft their own strategy to thwart Republicans. But no such strategy has ever emerged because Democratic elected officials have much more in common with their elite Republican counterparts than they do with the unwashed masses who vote Democratic, and who can always be rallied with the cynical cry that only electing more Democrats can save them from an evil Republican Supreme Court.
Back in 2005 the second President Bush nominated John Roberts as chief justice. The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee was the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. The most celebrated, widely quoted, and closely watched Democrat on the judiciary committee was the acclaimed constitutional scholar and freshman from Illinois, Barack Obama. These were the guys on point for Democrats that season.
John Roberts had a long history of hostility to birth control, to voting rights, to organized labor, black and brown people, anti-discrimination laws and to anything else which might mitigate or restrain the rule of the rich in even the smallest degree. As a DC circuit court judge he “legalized” after the fact Bush’s illegitimate detention and torture at offshore black sites. As a private attorney he represented mining companies defending the horrifically destructive practice of mountaintop removal, and he was part of the Bush V. Gore legal team which succeeded in letting the Supreme Court overrule the ongoing tally of votes in Florida and declare Bush the winner. Roberts was also a board member of the rabidly right wing Federalist Society, which seeks to overturn virtually all civil rights and environmental law, and all regulation of so-called “free markets” whatsoever.
Republican leaning corporate media rejoiced, saying they were finally gonna get what they wanted. Environmental, voting rights and civil rights organizations sounded the alarm, but to little avail. Elected Democrats, their supposed champions, along with Democrat-leaning corporate media whined that there was insufficient evidence of Roberts’ rightward leanings to invest much effort in stopping his ascent to the court. Ranking Democrat John Kerry and Barack Obama were urged to filibuster the Roberts nomination. They pretended to entertain the idea a while, but did not. Both Kerry and Obama failed to oppose the Roberts nomination in committee, where they could have imposed substantial roadblocks and opened an ongoing debate about the sinister role of the corporate funded Federalist Society. They voted against the nomination on the Senate floor, where it made no difference, and John Roberts got on the Supreme Court with no serious opposition.
The next summer, in 2006 when Bush nominated Sam Alito to the Supreme Court the exercise was repeated. Samuel Alito had an even more balls-out reputation as an opponent of civil and human rights. Republicans exulted while lawyerly Democrats and their media mouthpieces claimed there were no smoking guns to tell whether Alito was actually the kind of judge Republicans claimed he was. Kerry and Obama, both lawyers of course were urged again to vigorously oppose the nomination in committee, and above all to make Alito’s membership in the Federalist Society a major point in opposing him and the entire wave of Republican judges it vets and spawns for local benches and the federal judiciary.
The Federalist Society was founded during the first term of Ronald Reagan in 1982, and immediately attracted lavish funding from a galaxy of right wing foundations, deep corporate pockets and wealthy individuals including the Walton Family Foundation, the Koch Brothers, the Scaife, Coors and Heritage Foundations. It swiftly established chapters in law schools across the country and became the go-to portal for young Republican lawyers on the make. The Federalist society also has working groups of law school professors and groups where practicing attorneys and prominent jurists meet and associate with law students, and in which legal arguments for new corporate rights are developed, rehearsed and fine tuned. For about a generation now, practically no Republican attorney has snagged a spot on state or federal judicial or prosecutorial benches, or appointed to federal agencies without the stamp of the Federalist Society on his or her resume.
As the two Democratic leaders of the Senate judiciary committee, Kerry and Obama were urged again and again by civil rights, environmental groups, by labor unions – by all the advocacy groups which supposedly represent the Democratic party’s base voters, to stall, to delay and to vigorously oppose the Alito nomination. By the summer of 2006 it was clear that Democrats would take back the house in November, and possibly the Senate as well. This time, Kerry and Obama said they were considering filibustering the nomination. But they didn’t, and even worse, they refused to question Sam Alito on his association with the Federalist Society, which might have made that organization’s stranglehold on Republican prosecutorial and judicial nominees an ongoing issue.
After perfunctory questioning, Kerry, Obama and their committee passed Alito out to the full Senate where he was confirmed with no significant opposition. To this day, the corporate funded Federalist Society is still choosing a huge share of judges and prosecutors.
Let’s be clear… the courts in the US were never intended to be a small d democratic institution. The founding fathers were quite open about their intention to insulate judges from the will of the electorate, even when only white men with substantial property were allowed to vote. From the nation’s beginning, its courts have always been an elite institution, staffed by and answerable to elites, not to the people. And the US elite is thoroughly bipartisan. Vigorous Democratic opposition to Federalist Society nominees a dozen years ago by leading Democrats, most notably by then senators Barack Obama and John Kerry might have made kept dozens or hundreds of right wing judges off the bench and made it impossible for Trump to nominate his latest corporate mouthpiece. It didn’t happen because elite Democrats have far more in common with elite Republicans than they do with mere Democratic voters.
So the answer to Democrat excuse makers who sagely assure us that elections DO make a difference is yeah, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But fighting, resisting injustice, exploitation and oppression always makes a difference. Too bad that’s simply NOT what Democratic elected officials actually DO.
For Black Agenda Report I’m Bruce Dixon. Google and other corporate social media are suppressing our content in their search results, so the only way to ensure you get notified of new content each week at Black Agenda Report is to visit us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button to receive our weekly notices of new content via email. You can also find our one hour Black Agenda Radio show and Black Agenda Radio Commentaries on SoundCloud, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a state committee member of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Sun, 1 July 2018
Being the only sober guy at a victory party is isn't fun. After writing earlier this week that we can sometimes elect progressives but we can’t hold them accountable, friends and comrades are all over Facebook accusing me of negativity, saying I got no analysis and I'm a magical thinker. I dunno, let’s see.
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez won the NY 14th district Democratic primary earlier this week with only 16 or 17 thousand votes, a strikingly low number that wouldn’t carry most such primaries. According to Democrat chairman Tom Perez, she has no Republican opponent in November, so she's in. That's a victory for sure. At least for a while, she'll be able to put out her message which includes abolishing ICE, free tuition and Medicare For All in places that till now have rarely given a professed socialist the mic. That’s a good thing.
But there are four points to look at here, which I touched on my previous piece and posts on Facebook. I’ll dive into them just a little deeper here.
1. THE OCASIO-CORTEZ NUMBERS AND WHAT THEY MEAN
Historically NY authorities have rigged primary elections for low turnout. You can only vote in a NY primary if you're pre-registered a party member months in advance, so only 271,000 voters were eligible in the first place. The low 13% turnout in that contest was actually higher than in some neighboring NYC districts. The engineering of low turnout primary elections allows Machine politicians to monopolize their party’s nominations by getting out their relatively small and dependable vote and not getting the masses too excited over much of anything till the November general election when their numbers are needed to defeat suburban and upstate Republicans. Except for New York’s partisan registration it's the same system used by the Daley Machine in Chicago until 1980, when we broke it open to elect Harold Washington in 83.
Still, 16 or 17 thousand votes in a congressional district of 750,000 is far from a socialist landslide. Winning a congressional seat with that small a vote is a rare feat made possible by some local features that seldom occur outside New York City. While the Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez crew no doubt worked their asses off to get what they got, the same money and effort in most other places would not have done the trick in a congressional race. The 14 NY CD was a target well chosen by the folks at Brand New Congress , whom Ocasio-Cortez says asked her to run.
That’s running and interpreting the numbers through the lens of history, and applicability to other contests, not negativity or magical thinking.
2. JOE CROWLEY PRETTY MUCH GAVE UP THE SEAT
After 10 terms in Congress and with lots of corporate friends, Joe Crowley knows he can start at seven figures, at least six to twelve times his congressional salary plus bonuses as a lobbyist. That had to be a powerful motivation not to campaign too damn hard, and another circumstance unique to this particular contest.
The career path from legislator to well paid lobbyist is also not magical thinking, it's an American tradition. Ignoring this tradition and its likely effect on Crowley’s campaign might be magical thinking though.
3. DEMOGRAPHICS MATTER, MESSAGING MATTERS
Ocasio-Cortez correctly portrayed Crowley as an arrogant lazy white boy deep in the pockets of corporate contributors allegedly representing a majority Latino district. That was a necessary and highly potent message needed to raise turnout enough to make the difference in a contest with historically low voter participation. A former Bernie campaign staffer, she also ran to the left of most Democrats, campaigning on free college tuition, Medicare For All, unambiguously denouncing the Gaza massacres and jumping with both feet on the massively unpopular Trump policies of tearing families apart at the border. This too is classic US left electoral strategy aimed at raising turnout among the folks who ordinarily pay little attention to elections, a tactic the electoral left has to repeat everywhere.
The phenomenon of white politicians representing minority districts is not as common as it was a generation or two ago. Neoliberal black and Latino politicians have moved into most of those spaces, and are far less vulnerable to attack purely on representationalist grounds. So that part of the Ocasio-Cortez playbook is not something that leftists will often be able to duplicate.
Assessing the relative importance of demographic factors and the messaging they enable is not magical thinking. Gauging the applicability of the strategy that achieved victory in the NY 14th CD to other contests across the country isn't legerdemain or sophistry either, it's the kind of common sense we must employ if we intend to achieve leftist victories elsewhere.
4. US LAW AND CUSTOM MAKE CANDIDATES ENTREPRENUERS, NOT RESPONSIBE TO ANY LEFT CONSTITUENCIES OR INSTITUTIONS
I caught flack too for pointing out that under US law and custom candidates and office holders are free to do pretty much do what they like. This is true even in the Green Party, let alone the Democrats. Political campaigns are top-down affairs in which the candidate gets the final word on everything. Anybody who's actually worked a campaign knows this.
While there are no institutions under US law and custom that can hold leftist candidates and officeholders accountable to left constituencies or organizations, it's a fact that there are a galaxy of institutional levers and pressures operating inside the Democratic party aimed at flipping progressive elected officials rightward.
In my previous piece and Facebook posts I never touched on how socialist Ocasio-Cortez is or isn't nor on her foreign policy stands if she has any, which Berniecrats frequently don't, something that ought to make us a little uneasy. Bernie Sanders calls himself a socialist too, just with an imperialist foreign policy. I did say that progressive candidates and officeholders do sometimes flip, a little at a time or all at once, and when they do we have no institutions with which to punish them. "Feet to the fire" and "holding them accountable" are actually the phrases of magical thinkers because no means have yet been devised which enable the left to do those things.
I got in trouble for observing that while we can elect progressives from time to time we cannot compel them to remain that way. Until we figure out how to build institutions that can, we are at the mercy of their individual moral and political compasses. The need to develop left institutions to which progressive candidates can be held responsible is an acute one, which the Nation in its slavish devotion to the Democratic party predictably ignores. Noting this truth got me accused of being a petty, lazy purist and ultraleftist. Oh well. Sober analysis may not be what some people wanna hear at a victory party where everybody’s popping champagne corks, dancing the electric slide and toasting the universal lessons of the Ocasio-Cortez victory without the bother of real analysis.
Being the sober guy at a victory party kinda sucks that way. But real talk, we’re all gonna have to sober up eventually and figure out which parts of the Ocasio-Cortez playbook are peculiar to and which ones are applicable outside a majority Latino New York City district, and we have yet to devise any means of holding progressive politicians truly accountable. Those who think we don’t need critical analysis or institutions to enforce accountability are the magical thinkers.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Sun, 1 July 2018
Yesterday Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez won a NYC Democratic congressional primary in a majority Latino district against the arrogant right wing,out of touch white head of the Queens Democratic party, who hadn’t even seen a primary challenger since 2004. The white guy was so deep in the pocket of corporate contributors that he was one of the few favored to succeed or oust Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. That’s how the two parties choose their leaders in every state legislature and both houses of Congress – they’re the ones who bring in the most donations from wealthy corporations and individuals.
Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on single payer health care and free college tuition. She denounced the latest massacre in Gaza. She says ICE ought to be abolished, and the day before the election she was at a South Texas immigrant detention center. She’s a young working class Puerto Rican woman who reportedly refused corporate cash and was working a real job, waiting tables at the beginning of her campaign. She’s a DSA member and professes to be a socialist. And now she’s the Democratic nominee in a New York City congressional district. What does it all mean?
For a lot of people on the left, it’s an occasion for celebration. I can understand that, I worked my behind off in campaigns against the Daley Machine in my native Chicago for a quarter century. We elected progressives to the city council, county offices, the state legislature, to Congress and 1983 and 87 the mayor’s chair. I helped register hundreds of thousands of people to vote. I and the folks I worked with imagined that we could build a movement that might transform the Democratic party from below. It didn’t work out so well.
It turns out that both elected officialdom and the Democratic party are institutions, and institutions change individuals way more often than the other way around. Some of our folks backed away from their commitments little by little, others frankly flipped, some were isolated and outlasted till they could be outspent. Despite the phrase being on everybody’s lips, we never figured out exactly how to hold anybody’s “feet to the fire,” to enforce any sort of accountability.
We were and still are at the literal whim and mercy of our candidates and officeholders. When Chuy Garcia ran for mayor of Chicago he refused to stand up in front of the Homan Square black site and denounce the thing. He even called for the hiring of a thousand more Chicago cops, and his movement supporters were utterly unable to talk him into the first position or out of the second. Even the Greens are not immune to this phenomenon. When Jill Stein chose to back away from a 2016 ballot access drive in Georgia and North Carolina there was nothing Greens in those states could do. Nothing. So exactly what does holding a candidate or office holder accountable look like? Do any means currently exist which enable us to do that? Maybe not. Maybe this is something we’ve yet to build.
Late last year, in a two day Movement School session in Jackson MS, Kali Akuno, the co-founder of Cooperation Jackson observed that in Jackson the movement forces proved they could elect a Chokwe Lumumba, the father and the son, mayor. But several years and multiple elections into the project, they still didn’t know what degree of support there is in Jackson for their agenda of radical economic transformation.
We figured out years ago how to win elections under the right circumstances. Ocasio-Cortez was a Puerto Rican woman running against a lazy white incumbent in a majority Latino NYC district, and she built a competent organization. It should have been surprising if she’d lost. Her expressed views on most issues are laudable. What we rarely bother to think through is what we actually GET when we win.
When we’re victorious in executive branch offices like mayoral elections, our candidates actually become responsible for administering the austerity and cuts. That’s what’s happening in Jackson MS and Newark NJ, to name just a couple places. We’ve been electing progressives here and there for a long time now. It’s time ask whether our ability to elect progressives has far outstripped our ability to exert real pressure upon them. Are we transforming the Democratic party, or are we merely legitimizing it, and launching yet another glittering career?
I don’t pretend to have the answers. But these are questions which ought to be asked. And we can't be too thirsty to ask them.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. He lives and works near Marietta GA, and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Find an updated analysis of the Ocasio-Cortez victory here.