[sixties-l] RE: sixties-l-digest V1 #386

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (jab@tucradio.org)
Date: 11/10/00

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    On Amy Woodman's post election Democracy Now, Cornell West who had
    supported Nader, explained the fact that once again 90% of the Black
    voters had voted Democratic by saying, that "the Black Leadership is in
    Al Gore's pocket." Dependent as they are on contributions from wealthy
    white contributors and from the Democratic National party itself, with
    few exceptions, and Cynthia McKinley is the only one I can think of now,
    they fall into a category that Malcolm X defined very well, and oddly
    enough they are all House members.  To put more flesh on West's remark,
    here is Prof. Manning Marable on the same subject written before the election:
    Jeff Blankfort
    Dr. Manning Marable weighs in on the green side and explains.
    Dr. Manning Marable is Professor of History and Political Science, and
    the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies,
    Columbia University.
    The vast majority of African Americans who vote in the November 2000
    presidential election will undoubtedly support the Democratic ticket of
    Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman. The national black political establishment
    including more than ten thousand elected officials, the Congressional
    Black Caucus, key black leaders of the AFL-CIO, and paid operatives
    within the Democratic National Committee - have for months spoken with
    one voice, unanimously praising Al Gore. 
    The black
    establishment's behavior and motivations are understandable. Big city
    mayors rely on federal dollars to address urban problems, and a Gore
    administration would certainly be preferable to the conservative
    policies of Bush. A strong black voter turnout for Gore could also
    contribute to Democratic majorities in Congress, which in turn would
    elevate a number of African Americans like Harlem Congressman Charles
    Rangel into powerful House chairmanships. Thousands of black
    professionals, managers and attorneys who are connected to the Clinton
    administration through networks of patronage and power, see Gore's
    victory as being essential to their own career advancement. Any private
    misgivings they still feel about Gore's embrace of the death penalty, or
    the anti-affirmative action positions of Joe Lieberman, are now
    effectively suppressed. Like loyal foot soldiers in a grand army on the
    battlefield, they are ready to hurl themselves against the ramparts of
    their political enemies. 
    Yet blind loyalty is
    rarely rewarded, whether on the battlefield or in politics. Those who
    declare their allegiances first rarely sit at the table when the spoils
    of victory are divided. Those who make up their minds last exercise the
    greatest power in politics, because they can leverage all parties into
    making valuable concessions. This is the strategic explanation why Gore
    and Bush are spending millions of dollars and the majority of their
    campaign efforts to appeal to so-called "swing voters," especially
    senior citizens and suburban middle class white women. Bush completely
    ignores the African-American electorate because he knows he'll receive
    few black votes, probably under 10 percent. Gore can also safely ignore
    us, because he knows we have nowhere else to go. Many black elected
    officials are only working just hard enough to have a decent black voter
    turnout, but privately don't want the overwhelming masses to go to the
    polls. If millions of poor, unemployed and working class African
    Americans were actually mobilized to participate in the electoral
    process, the outcome would be entirely unpredictable. Thus all too many
    black elected politicians and Democratic Party officials have become
    silent partners in the suppression of black electoral political power. 
    Since Bush represents no
    alternative, the real debate that ought to exist within the
    African-American community is whether we should vote for Gore or Green
    Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Black mainstream Democrats,
    most trade union organizers and many progressives are now resorting to a
    wide variety of explanations why black folk must remain doggedly loyal
    to Gore and the Democrats. Briefly, let's examine three of their main
    Argument One: "Gore's a
    positive good, not a necessary evil." This position strains credibility,
    even among members of the Congressional Black Caucus like
    Representatives Maxine Waters and Jesse Jackson, Jr. Gore has a long
    track record of hostility to black people's interests, especially on
    issues related to criminal justice and poor women's rights. It was Gore
    who pushed for the passage of the 1994 Crime Act, that broadly expanded
    the federal death penalty. It was Gore earlier this year who promised to
    cover America in "a blanket of blue" with the hiring of 50,000 more
    police nationwide. It was Gore, according to journalist Alexander
    Cockburn, who "has pushed for block grants for prison expansion in the
    states, with the proviso that such federal grants will be issued only if
    each state insures that prisoners serve at least 85 percent of their
    sentences." It was Gore as a Congressman who voted to ban federal
    funding of abortions for poor women, even in cases of rape. It was Gore
    who finally convinced Clinton to sign the destructive 1996 Welfare Act.
    It was Gore who almost single-handedly pushed Clinton's administration
    to the right, by hiring Reagan stooge David Gergen and sleazy political
    consultant Dick Morris. 
    Argument Two: "Gore's
    not great, but he's all we've got to defeat the Far Right." This
    argument does make sense, but only because Bush and Company represent
    repressive politics and policies that are both "bad" and "ugly." Liberal
    journalist Tom Wicker has recently posed a critical question in the
    Nation that must be answered seriously, even by Nader's supporters:
    "Whom do you want to nominate Justices for the Supreme Court in the next
    four years?" The next president will probably nominate three new
    justices to the Supreme Court. As Wicker suggests, "three more Scalia &
    Thomas- style votes would transform what's now a back-and-forth Court
    into a (conservative) bastion that could last for generations." Row v.
    Wade would probably be reversed, and the remnants of affirmative action
    destroyed forever. Gun control and campaign finance reform would be
    impossible. Wicker concludes that the best guarantee against any such
    outcomes is a big Democratic victory across the board in November. 
    Wicker, the well-meaning
    white liberal, is wrong here. The best way to defeat the Right is to
    build powerful democratic movements within black and brown communities,
    within labor, gay and lesbian, women's rights and environmental
    constituencies. Tactically, the black freedom movement and the
    progressive left should mobilize to defeat the Republican Right,
    especially in those local, state and national races where there is a
    clear and unambiguous distinction between the agendas of the candidates.
    One prominent example that immediately comes to mind is that of
    conservative Republican "Little Rickie" Lazio, the baby-faced
    reactionary masquerading as a moderate, who is challenging Hillary
    Rodham Clinton for the Senate in New York. 
    Argument Three: "Nader's
    no real alternative, and actually could be worse than Gore." In recent
    weeks, Nader has become the object of considerable attack from various
    feminist, gay/lesbian and minority constituencies. Patricia Ireland,
    president of the National Organization of Women, denounced Nader as
    "ill-informed about abortion rights, and accusing him of "ignorance" and
    "indifference" on women's issues. A San Francisco-based minority
    coalition of African Americans, Latinos and Asians described Nader as
    being "oblivious" to people of color and women. David Smith, the
    spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest
    lesbian, gay and transgender rights group has dismissed Nader as
    homophobic and heterosexist. 
    One can, and should
    seriously question Nader's views about racially oppressed groups,
    lesbians, gays and women. We must set that same high standard in judging
    any candidate. Yet what is also true is that most of Nader's
    liberal-left critics are privately in Gore's back pocket. The Human
    Rights Campaign, for example, endorsed Gore and is campaigning
    vigorously on his behalf. How and when did Al Gore become a fighter for
    black liberation? By what "magic" did Gore transform himself as a
    defender of gay and lesbian rights? What I find particularly offensive
    is the cynical manipulation of racial and gendered attacks against the
    Nader campaign, while saying virtually nothing about the devastating
    political hit poor and working class women of color have taken from the
    Clinton-Gore administration after the implementation of welfare reform. 
    In the 2000 election,
    our overall objective should not be to elect Democrats per se, but to
    mobilize working class and the poor, to enhance African-American and
    Latino political clout, and to defeat the Far Right. Voting for Nader in
    most states actually accomplishes these goals better than by supporting
    Gore-Lieberman. In the long run, we cannot rely on the Democratic Party
    to defend the people's interests, against the right. Only an
    independent, progressive people's movement challenging racism and
    corporate power can accomplish this. 
    The chief argument
    against voting for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader from
    black Democrats, organized labor, white liberals and even Marxists, is
    that he cannot possibly win, and that he could "give" the White House to
    Bush. For example, former United Auto Workers President Doug Fraser
    helped to block a UAW endorsement of Nader by declaring that "every vote
    Nader gets is a vote he takes away from Al Gore, not George Bush." 
    Jesse Jackson, Jr.,
    possibly the most intelligent and consistently progressive Congressman,
    makes the same point. After flirting with public opposition to the
    selection of Lieberman as Gore's vice presidential running mate at the
    Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles this summer, he pushed
    back from the political brink. White liberals, Jackson warned, may have
    the "luxury" of voting for Nader, a courageous and principled man who
    nevertheless cannot win, because they don't have to live with the
    practical consequences of a Bush victory. 
    Until several weeks ago,
    Nader's general approach was not to take this question seriously. In
    fact, he frequently has derided Gore as a "coward," and described the
    White House as "a corporate prison." A more effective and persuasive
    position would have been to say that on many public policy positions,
    especially on civil rights, women's and reproductive rights, on the
    Supreme Court and most labor issues, Gore is clearly superior to Bush.
    But on a number of other crucial issues, such as the immoral embargo
    against Cuba, military spending, trade and globalization, civil
    liberties, ending the mass incarceration of over a million African
    Americans and the vast expansion of the prison industrial complex, Gore
    is at least as bad as Bush. 
    Some honest liberals who
    are planning to vote for Gore have admitted that on some important
    issues, the Democratic presidential candidate may be worse than Bush. In
    a recent Nation article, Eric Alterman observed that "on trade and
    globalization issues, a Democratic President can turn out to be even
    worse than a Republican one. A Democrat carries sufficient clout to pass
    most agreements against both public opinion and the public interest, but
    lacks the power to force Republicans to accept the kinds of restrictions
    that genuinely protect the environment and workers' rights." As a
    result, the Clinton-Gore administration embraced global trade policies
    that the overwhelming majority of American workers and core Democratic
    voters opposed. Ironically, a Republican president might "result in a
    more unified opposition party" to globalization. Similarly, Gore
    completely supports the showering of the military with mountains of
    unneeded funds as well as a truly idiotic missile defense program that
    can only do untold harm to the nation's security along with its budget. 
    There are several
    clear-cut reasons why it is in the interests of black people, working
    people and progressives to vote for Nader over Gore. The first is the
    reality that the national election is really fifty separate state
    elections, based on the winner-take-all principle. Whoever wins a
    majority or even plurality of a state's popular vote wins 100 percent of
    that state's electoral votes. The Electoral College technically selects
    the president, not the people. And in several instances in U.S. history,
    candidates who lost the popular vote won the Electoral College vote and
    became president - for example, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and
    Benjamin Harrison in 1888. 
    In practical terms, this
    means that as of this writing, the presidential election is already over
    in about 40 states. Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and
    Washington, D.C. will be carried by Gore by margins of two or three to
    one. Gore has absolutely no chance in Texas, in most of the west except
    for the Pacific states, and the bulk of the South. In any state where
    there is today at least a ten point margin between Gore and Bush, every
    voter who is sympathetic to Nader can and should vote for him. Gore
    doesn't need your vote, and by supporting Nader, we can send a powerful,
    progressive protest message to the Democrats. 
    Nevertheless, many
    people who are afraid of voting for Nader because they might throw the
    election to Bush, the "greater evil," do have a valid point. A few
    months ago, I asked Lani Guinier whether she intended to vote for either
    Gore or Nader, and she astutely replied that the fundamental problem
    with U.S. politics transcends personalities. Our undemocratic
    winner-take-all voting system aggressively blocks real alternatives. 
    What we need ultimately
    is a voting system based on proportional representation, where minority
    groups could actually have real access to decision-making. Short of that
    goal, progressives should push for instant runoff voting or IRV. Adopted
    in Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom, IRV permits voters to
    choose their "favorite" candidate first, and then to select their second
    and subsequent preferences. If one candidate has a majority of all first
    choice votes cast, she or he is declared the winner. If no one has a
    majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, with the
    votes distributed to whomever was designated as the "second preference."
    The IRV procedure is still winner-take-all, but it would permit minority
    groups to effectively mobilize and run for public office, without the
    fear of throwing the election to their opponents. Comprehensive campaign
    finance reform, with the elimination of billions of dollars of "soft
    money" from the system, would also improve the political process. 
    Perhaps with the
    adoption of IRV and other electoral reforms, a Nader candidacy could be
    considered on its own merits. Right now, however, more than one half of
    all Americans consistently don't vote, and those of us who do vote feel
    completely disempowered by candidates and parties that rarely reflect
    our interests. This is the practical reason that African Americans
    should explore coalitions and joint activities with the Green Party. Any
    democratic structural reforms within the political process, or
    progressive changes in voter eligibility requirements (such as
    permitting ex-felons to vote in elections), is in black people's
    collective interests. 
    Second, a vote for Nader
    is essentially a vote against America's corrupt two party system. If
    Nader achieves at least 5 percent of the popular vote, the Green Party
    would receive $12 million in federal matching funds. Black progressives
    in Washington, D.C., New York, Connecticut, South Carolina and several
    other states have developed tactical alliances with the Greens. An
    independent progressive political party will never be built simply by
    voting for Democrats, no matter how "progressive" some of them may be. 
    A word about Ralph Nader
    himself: he is a dedicated, anti-corporate activist, the country's
    leading progressive voice for environmentalism, consumer rights, and
    against sweatshops and globalization - but he is hardly perfect. The
    movement around Nader is nearly lily white, and mostly middle class.
    Nader is personally and deeply committed to racial justice and women's
    rights, but doesn't adequately or clearly spell out his positions. The
    campaign's literature and staged public events make few efforts to reach
    urban black, Latino and poor people's communities. These are, after all,
    the greatest victims of corporate power, and they potentially represent
    the core constituencies for fundamental progressive change in the
    country. As long as the Greens are overwhelmingly white, they will lack
    the capacity to build or even to maintain a truly democratic movement. 
    In those few remaining
    battleground states like Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida,
    black, Latino and progressive activists admittedly have a difficult
    decision to make: do you vote for the politics you want, or the lesser
    evil? Noted black intellectual Cornel West, Transafrica executive
    director Randall Robinson, actor Danny Glover, Massachusetts activist
    Mel King, and dozens of prominent African-American progressives,
    including myself, are voting for Ralph Nader. Considering all the
    alternatives, we're convinced it's the best option we can take. 
    Dr. Manning Marable is Professor of History and Political Science, and
    the Director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies,
    Columbia University. "Along the Color Line" is distributed free of
    charge to over 350 publications throughout the U.S. and internationally.
    Dr. Marable's column is also available on the Internet at
    Copyright (c) 2000 Manning Marable.
    Paul Lauter wrote:
    > Jeff wrote:
    > >If Gore is elected, NOW, People for the American Way, Gloria Steinhem,
    > >the AFL-CIO, NARAL, the Sierra Club, ADA, etc. will resume the
    > >somnambulant positions they took during the Clinton-Gore administration.
    > > To believe otherwise is to anticipate the tooth fairy. While there is
    > >no guarantee these folks will show signs of life if Dubya wins, we know
    > >Jesse Jackson will have his bags packed.
    >         Yes, but there's a reason why Jackson's bags are packed and also why
    > 95% of African-American voters apparently went for Gore.  95%!  Look, I
    > don't want to demean in any way the seriousness of my comrades who went for
    > Nader, though I think they were mistaken.  Nor do I want to dispute the
    > reasonable case that on certain issues Gore would likely be worse than Bush.
    > Still, it seems to me that the reason blacks went so overwhelmingly for Gore
    > was that they do not, by and large, have the luxury of social space that
    > white (and middle class?) voters do have.  For many of us, Bush's
    > election--if that's what it is--won't make that much direct difference.  For
    > the overwhelming number of African Americans, as Paula pointed out, it
    > matters big time.  "White skin privilege" in the voting booth?  Paul

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