Bush's Black Attack Dogs
The sham of GOP black voter outreach is over and the true Republican mission has begun: suppress the African American vote, by any means possible. To that end, the Bush men have enlisted the mercenary services of black front groups invented by right wing foundations in the 1990s to push for school vouchers and other elements of the Republican agenda. These bought-and-paid-for servants of the Hard Right took to the airwaves in August calling themselves People of Color United and spending a rich white Republican man's money to attack Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry as "rich, white and wishy-washy."
Virginia Walden-Ford, the operative who placed the attack ads on black-oriented radio stations in the "battlefield" states of Pennsylvania, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, is for all practical purposes a paid agent of the Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisc. She is a founding board member of the black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), the pro-school vouchers group conceived, birthed and jump-started with at least $2 million in 1999 by the far-right Bradley and Walton Family Foundations (Wal-Mart). Since George W. Bush assumed office, BAEO and a host of its vouchers/privatization siblings - each the incestuous spawn of the right's foundation funding network - have collected over $77 million dollars in grants from Secretary Rod Paige's Education Department. In effect, Virginia Walden-Ford's BAEO - which received $1.3 million in federal funds - has been "graduated" to a Bush administration functionary, while continuing to be subsidized by the Walton family, Bradley, and other far-right moneybags. These black attack dogs are well fed.
Walden-Ford's personal fiefdom, DC Parents for School Choice, which shares a phone line with BAEO, receives money directly from the Bradley Foundation - $125,000 in 1999-2001, according to journalist Barbara Miner. Writing in Shepherd Express in Milwaukee - an attack ad target city - Miner reported that Walden-Ford admitted also sharing Washington office space with Alan Keyes, the loony, perennial black Republican candidate for office currently running against Barack Obama in the Illinois Senate race. Unleashed, Walden-Ford is rabid. Miner writes:
As part of last year's debate over a federal voucher plan for Washington, D.C., her DC Parents group ran an ad comparing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) to Bull Connor, who set dogs against civil rights protesters. Another ad compared Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to arch-segregationist George Wallace.
Walden-Ford's previous boss, Robert L. Woodson, Sr., founder of the Washington-based National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE), served as an advisor to Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1996. Woodson's NCNE has received millions of dollars from right wing foundations over the years, including Bradley. This year, the Bush men gave NCNE a half million dollar Compassion Fund grant to identify and develop faith-based organizations to bring into the administration's orbit. The Bradley Foundation invented the faith-based concept for the Republicans, as a strategy to bribe black preachers into switching parties. Walden-Ford and her mentor, Woodson, are both deeply embedded in the Bradley-Bush matrix. As we said, this is an incestuous bunch.
The massive foundation - and now federal - funding to a tiny gaggle of black hustlers, and the tens of millions now being distributed to the black clergy through faith-based initiatives, is intended to create an alternative, conservative black leadership, or the illusion of one. It is a project in which the corporate media eagerly collaborate. However, the political triumph of this subsidized, corporate-selected, phony black leadership cabal is predicated on Republican rule. Therefore, their immediate assignment is to suppress the black vote.
The Walden-Ford ads, which mimicked President Bush's charge at the July National Urban League convention, that the Democrats take African Americans "for granted," are the "reverse of what the Democrats try to do," said Washington Post political writer Thomas B. Edsall in the August 16 radio edition of the Tavis Smiley Show. "The Democrats try to build turnout. These ads try to suppress turnout. It's an effort to keep the black vote down on the assumption that blacks vote Democratic."
Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the black Democratic Congresswoman from Cleveland and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, declared:"The reason they're running these ads...is that Bush has no record with regard to African Americans he can run on, so what he's going to do is go to the negative side. They are denigrating to African Americans, to think that African Americans would be stirred by an ad such as this to suppress the black vote. The ads are paid for by white, rich Republicans."
In an interview with Knight Ridder newspapers, Bradley-Bush operative Virginia Walden-Ford tried to frame the ads in positive terms. "I wanted people to think about the accomplishments of the administration and how it affects black people's lives," she said. But the ads said nothing about the Bush administration or its policies - because there is nothing appealing to say. They were designed purely to discourage blacks from voting.
Thus the farce - that Republicans were serious about garnering 15 to 25 percent of the black vote - came to an ignominious end, in August. Back in January, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie swore that increasing the GOP share of the black vote was "a top, top priority." Yet before the most intense campaign media activity had even begun, the Republicans set their black attack dogs loose with ads that blamed Kerry's absence from the Senate floor during a vote in May for the failure to extend unemployment insurance benefits - despite the fact that it was Republicans who opposed the extension. "Maybe Kerry thought the more of us who are unemployed and hurting - the more likely we would vote Democratic!" said the ad - as dishonest and cynical an example of campaign poison as has ever been broadcast on black-oriented radio. The ad wasn't pro-Republican, it was anti-black voting. The "alternative" – conservative black political leadership so expensively cultivated by the GOP and its affiliated foundations – has one purpose: to neutralize African Americans as a political force.
And no wonder. There is simply no match between the broad black political consensus and Bushite Republican ideology and practice. As Harvard social demographer Dr. Michael C. Dawson has observed, blacks "could all look like liberal Democrats compared to the rest of them [whites], but among each other, some blacks look like Mondale Democrats, some of them look like Clinton Democrats, and some of them look like Swedish Social Democrats - more of them look like that." Bush-type Republicans do not exist in statistically significant numbers in black America, despite Armstrong Williams' high profile in the corporate media and Clarence Thomas' odious presence on the Supreme Court. Bush will certainly get more black votes than he deserves, based on actual commonality of opinion - somewhere around the 8 percent he got in 2000. But the inferential data are more dismal for the Republicans than in any election since 1964.
A July CBS/BET poll of black voters revealed the Grand Canyon that separates African American opinion from that of whites - and the ocean that roils between Bush and the black electorate. Only 3 percent of blacks are "enthusiastic" about the Bush regime; 11 percent are "satisfied." Just 11 percent believe the Bush presidency is legitimate, having won the 2000 election fairly. (Only 32 percent of whites think Bush is an illegitimate president.) A mere 8 percent of African Americans say the Iraq war was "worth the cost." Significantly, only one in ten blacks think vouchers are the best solution to school problems.
The worst news for Republicans: 83 percent of black registered voters told pollsters that they would "definitely" vote in November, up from 71 percent in 2000, when blacks turned out in record numbers in many areas. GOP leadership is determined to blunt this fierce energy at all costs.
The Wild Card
There is great anger among African Americans, which can be invoked with the mention of a single word: Florida. However, there is also a wild card out there, a joker that black America has never before had to confront: the electoral effects of faith-based bribery of black preachers. Tens of millions of dollars have been doled out by faith-based offices in most federal departments: Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Justice, Education, Agriculture, the Agency for International Development. In June, the faith-based political grab bag was extended to the Veterans Administration, the Small Business Administration and the Department of Commerce.
Thousands of black clergy - heavily weighted with Pentecostals who, before the political money became available, largely eschewed temporal, electoral affairs - have applied for these grants and contracts. Are they capable of mobilizing large congregations for Bush, against the better judgement - the black consensus - among church membership? The great anomaly in the CBS/BET poll is black antipathy to gay marriage. According to the CBS/BET poll: "More than half (53%) of African American voters think there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Among voters overall, 39% share this view."
This is Bush's only opening for a "legitimate" inroad on black public policy opinion. As reported in our November, 2002 Analysis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies survey of African American opinion, self-described black Christian "conservatives" in fact vote overwhelmingly "liberal" - that is, Democratic. Will the huge influx of Bush faith-based money sway the congregations? We shall see.
Crimes Against Citizenship
We estimate that the GOP and its affiliates spent about $7 million on black media - mostly radio - in the 2002 non-presidential elections. 2004 will be a billion dollar spending spree. We can expect Republican circles to significantly increase their budgets for black media this time around - and that virtually all of it will go to negative, attack ads, much of it fronted by their black surrogates, largely drawn from the phony school vouchers movement. They will masquerade as "new" organizations such as Virginia Walden-Ford's People of Color United - but it's the same corrupt crowd of black mercenaries, working for the Bradley Foundation, Wal-Mart and Bush.
Meanwhile, the more familiar, down-and-dirty forms of black voter suppression will run rampant. That's why African Americans are so determined to vote, so that we can make up for the theft that is certain to be committed. MoveOn.org has joined Jesse Jackson and other black leaders to demand that the Republican National Committee "disavow all forms of voter suppression, including voter intimidation, misinformation, purges of voter roles that disenfranchise qualified voters, the threat to discount provisional ballots, and other actions that undermine the rights of qualified Americans to vote." According to a paper issued by the NAACP and People for the American Way, The Long Shadow of Jim Crow:This summer, Michigan state Rep. John Pappageorge (R-Troy) was quoted in the Detroit Free Press as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election."
It is foolish and ahistorical to speak of the possibility of tactical alliances between blacks and the GOP. One cannot forge an alliance with the man who has you in his cross-hairs. After the 1964 presidential election, in which Republican Barry Goldwater appealed direcly to the white Democrats of the South, the GOP began to consciously morph itself into the White Man's Party in Dixie. Like the Dixie Democrats, the Republicans fashioned campaigns that essentially ran against black people. It became the Dixiecrat Party, and has structured every national campaign strategy around its race-based stronghold in the southern states. Minus that secure base, the GOP would cease to be a national party - just as the Democrats would cease to be a viable national party without overwhelming black support. This is the gridlock that history has bequeathed us, which cannot be changed between now and Nov. 2, or any time in the forseeable future in the absence of the most intense and consciously transformative work by black activists and progressive allies within and outside the Democratic Party.
In that sense, nothing has changed since 1865. Except back then, the pro-slavery party (Democrats) didn't have a pack of black folks in suits suppressing the freedmens' determination to vote for radical Republicans.