Black Power Politics

A polemic and critique of Black American politics and movement toward sophisticated applications,

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Location: New York, New York, United States

A veteran organizer in the “movement,” Gary James was a staff organizer in the borough of Queens for the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), from 1966 to 1971 under the leadership of the late Dr. George Wiley organization’s President. Gary James is a political analyst and free lance writer. He is the author of a book entitled ERACISM that will be released in the spring of 2007. The provocative "political faction" book highlights grassroots politics in New York from the late 1960s to the present. For a limited time the book can be accessed at his web site: www.garyjames.info

Thursday, August 10, 2006

African American Vote Hijacked By Jack-Asses & Rogue Elephants

Among the mosaic that constitutes "minority" politics in the United States, the African American vote is increasingly less influential despite it’s historical numerical advantage. Recent polling and census data indicate that the Latino American community has eclipsed the longstanding African American numerical edge as the result of recent immigration patterns from the Dominican Republic, South and Central America and Mexico, in the past generation.
Some in the African American community dispute the data and argue that a good number of Latino Americans are in fact Black Americans until they speak their indigenous language. Some suggest that there is political motive behind the Black-Latino juxtaposition and is a convenient if not classic divide and conquer scenario. And to compare a person’s phenotype with language as a distinguishing characteristic is an odious political machination. However, such arguments are superfluous and it avoids the political reality on the ground that Latino Americans have totally eclipsed African Americans in terms of raw political power whether or not they currently enjoy a numerical advantage.

Moreover, all other "minority" communities such as Asians, gays, Jews and women for example have more political leverage than African Americans despite their comparatively small numbers. Paradoxically, African American elected officials out number all other "minority" communities combined, but the proliferation of African American elected officials has not translated into political power for Black Americans comparatively.

The political odyssey of African Americans in the "new world" is perplexing when viewed through the lens of advancements made by African Americans following emancipation in the 19th century and the modern civil rights movement of the 20th century, juxtaposed to the current state of black political power here in the first decade of the 21st century. The state of African America political power is without question a complex and perplexing situation and merits strategic observation, critical study and a practical sustainable resolution.

Interestingly enough, the celebrated social, political and economic victories and advancement of African Americans during the modern civil rights movement of the 20th century are dwarfed by the achievements of Blacks in the 19th century following emancipation from slavery and the imposition of marshal law characterized as the period of "Reconstruction." Comparatively speaking the African American leadership of the 19th century were apparently light years ahead of their contemporary counterparts of the 20th century in terms of imagination, character, principles and elective achievements.

Concomitantly, the Democrat and Republican political Parties have effectively morphed to their current political rhetoric and applications from their respective polar opposite and both have virtually exchanged their politics as they relate the African American community. The modern civil rights movement of the 1950s, 60s and 70s was a cornerstone of the Democratic Party’s prominence during that dynamic period. Likewise it was the Republican Party of the 19th century that crusaded civil rights of the time in the framework on the abolitionist movement that facilitated an unprecedented number of African American elected officials and accumulation of wealth.

History is witness to Republican and Democrat Parties political ambivalence when it comes to the bottom line interests of the African American community and the enforcement of laws and statutes that safeguard their civil rights. Unfortunately, the level and quality of the current African American political and elected leadership continue to exacerbate the political crisis in the African American community and position the community at large as political pawns in the context of the generic "black vote" and power sharing process.
African American donkey’s (Democrats) and elephants (Republicans) of the 20th century have demonstrated political similitude and essentially function as gatekeepers for the ruling White political elites and have advanced no coherent agenda since the civil rights era, for moving Black Americans beyond subservient partisan politics. On the national as well as the local level both Democrat and Republican African American leadership have demonstrated no imagination or initiative for political and economic improvement beyond continuing the civil rights agenda items and self indulgence.

On the national political scene, the esteemed Congressional Black Democratic Caucus in the decades following its auspicious founding and the cumulative legislation enacted by all of its members cannot compete with the singular legislative achievements of the late Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. On the contrary the Congressional Black Democratic Caucus is renown more than anything for its weekend parties and social gatherings as apposed to power politics. In fact the caucus is informally referred to by many as the black Congressional ruckus.

For their part, "black conservatives" (Republicans) are apparently politically delusional in their attempt to intellectually justify and market the politics of "White Republican social conservatism" as a practical partisan political alternative to liberal Democratic paternalism. Unfortunately both national black Democratic and Republican Party leaders apparently lack the political imagination and independence to think and organize outside of the conservative vs. liberal political paradigm to argue and organize in the context of bi-partisan leverage power politics and the organic issues required to move the community from point A to point B.
In New York City the crisis in black politics is must acute and has caused substantial political disillusionment and apathy among black voters over the decades. In 1969 the election plurality was 80 plus percent as compared to half that (40 %) these days. And the percentage of registered voters as compared to eligible voters among black Americans calls into question the legitimacy of the inherited civil rights leadership. Internal rivalries among black Democrat and Republican leaders have further neutralized the potential of the black vote in addition to the lack of strategic deployment.

The longstanding political rivalry between the black political leadership in Brooklyn (vanguard) and Harlem (old guard) that began in the 1970s (when the Brooklyn contingent achieved elective office) has accounted for a traditional split of the black vote and has facilitated the current divide and conquer political scenario that plagues the Black community, particularly in city and state wide elections. The Latino American political leadership was played out of political by the political machinations of the "vanguard" vs. "old guard" when than Mayoral candidate Herman Badeo was undermined by the Black Democratic political leadership rivalry. As a consequence the potential of a "Black and Latino" electoral coalition for city wide office was seriously undermined for the future, not withstanding the one term of Mayor David Dinkins.

While the Harlem "old guard" political leadership has maintained hegemony over the Brooklyn "vanguard" to date, political cleavages are emerging within each respective political camp. As the prospect of the eventual retirement of the Congressman after 30 plus years in Congress looms large on the Harlem horizon. In Brooklyn Democratic leadership is imploding with the retirement of Congressman Major Owens and the internal challenge to unseat Congressman Ed Towns. As there is no apparent African American successor to the veteran Congressman within the Harlem "old guard" ranks or community at large, speculation abounds that Congressman Rangel may be the last Black Democratic Congressman to represent Harlem.

Be that as it may, it is highly unlikely that a Black, White or Latino Republican candidate would be competitive in the eventual sweep stacks to succeed Congressman Rangel. As a practical political matter there is no Republican Party in New York City in general and Manhattan in particular capable of competing. And the black GOP district leaders in Harlem have been effectively compromised by the Democratic Party operatives therefore they have no party infrastructure, political troops or leadership capable of fielding viable Republican Party candidates. Black GOP district leaders and candidates for political office are appointed by a haphazard and vest pocket arrangement and have no credibility or visibility in the districts that they represent.

This years gubernatorial election in New York State will likely mark a watershed for both local the Democrat and Republican Parties relative to Black electoral politics. In Brooklyn’s 11th Congressional District established in 1965 by way of the Voting Rights Act as a "Black" Congressional District is currently an open seat due to the retirement of 24 year incumbent Congressman Major Owens may get it’s first White Congressman. In typical political fashion the black political leadership has demonstrated how fragmented it is as three would be black Congress persons Chris Owens Jr., Yvette Clarke and Carl Anthony are competing in the party primary election. The likely result is that the three black hopefuls will cancel each other out thereby enabling the election of David Yassky. There is a three way primary contest 10th CD wherein incumbent Congressman Adolphus Towns is being challenged by Charles Barron and Roger Green, all three were former allies.

Despite the fragmented black political leadership, ultimately, a Democratic Congressional candidate will prevail as there will be no viable Republican Party infrastructure or candidate in Brooklyn or Harlem to be competitive. But it is a foregone conclusion that black Democrats are a diminishing political force in party power relationship yet the leadership continues to advocate a dead end partisan civil rights movement political agenda.

The Black political fragmentation in Harlem is a particularly interesting studying in view of its historic hegemony over the Brooklyn "vanguard" leadership. Under the veteran political of Congressman Charles Rangel, the political operative of an esteemed triumvirate that includes the honorable Percy Sutton and the honorable Basil Paterson, Harlem electoral politics has over the years enjoyed a reputation of being the hallmark of African American politics around the country. With luminaries like the late Congressman Rev. Dr. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and J. Raymond Jones referred to as the "Harlem Fox," Harlem became world renown as the foremost African American community world wide.

For most of his Congressional career the honorable Congressman Rangel enjoyed running on the top of both the Democrat and Republican Parties ballot, yet he has been a Republican Party basher throughout is career on Capital Hill. The longstanding political deal between the Harlem black Democratic leader and respective Republican County bosses was a benefit to White Republican Party county leadership who doubled as elected officials and had political assurances that their seat would be exempt from competition from black Democrats in particular. On the other hand, black Democratic elected officials received political assurances that the GOP would thwart the emergence of viable black Republican electoral opposition and leadership.
In the balance, the Republican Party district leadership infrastructure was rendered none existent and potential organic community based political leaders both Democrat and Republican continue to be cut off at their political knees. The process of marginalizing "unsanctioned" organic black political leadership is reinforced on the Republican aisle black political geldings who function as "house Negroes." Alternatively, insurgent black Democrats have to navigate invidious technical and legal tactics by incumbents to gain ballot status.

Former Bronx GOP district leader and titular head of the infamous and defunct National Black Republican Council (NBRC) and the New York State Council of Black Republicans for 25 plus years has help to the black GOP political power illusion by slight of hand and smoke and mirrors. Reported to be in charge of 44 states nation wide Brown has skillfully neutered the black GOP presence in New York City and in Washington. In Harlem, Brown was the central figure in positioning district leaderships of Mr. Leroy Owens, Mr. Ronald Perry and Mr. Will Brown (no familial relation), for county leader anointment. The pervasive political deception has effectively thwarted the emergence of organic community based Black Republican leadership in Harlem.
But the Republican Party has its own unique style of plantation politics that mitigates against the emergence of organic grassroots African American leaders. Lack of a party primary election facilitates the selection and anointing of district leaders and candidates for elective office. And the GOP political plantation operates on two basic principles. The first is to keep the "official" black Republican district leaders and leadership ignorant of the "how to" as it relates to the petitioning and ballot access process, hence no need for a primary. The second principle is to select candidates for elective office that are simply happy to run as window dressing but not interested in changing the local political status quo. Alternatively, some get to do cameos in conjunction with state-wide or national candidates.

It remains to be seen if this years slate of GOP candidates and "official" black leaders in Harlem will be helpful to the gubernatorial ticket and the growth of the party. Local Republican candidates in Harlem usually receive a single digit plurality in the general election and this year there are two perennial candidates and one no show candidate, which speaks volumes. Perennial candidates Al Mosley is running for New York State Senate in the 30th SD and Edward Daniels is running for Congress against the incumbent Congressman Charles Rangel. Will Brown district leader in central Harlem’s 70th AD officially declined to run for the New York State Assembly in the 70th AD on July 17, 2006.

Speculation abounds as to way Mr. Will Brown decided to pull out of the race at the eleventh hour and there is an interesting controversy as to way a replacement candidate was not selected. While Brown has been a district leader for several years, he first ran for public office in 2005 for New York City Council against incumbent Will Perkins. However, Brown’s campaign was the subject of a devastating controversy when in the December of 2005 edition of the Amsterdam News under the by line of Talise D. Moorer published a story with the headline:
"Bronx Students Get Lesson In Political Scam By GOP Candidate." According to the story a teacher June Smith Bryant of the Bronx High School for Law, Government and Justice alleged that the students were owed at least $1000 based on a contractual agreement they had with the Will Brown campaign. The political fallout and potential future fallout from this reckless and irresponsible act seriously put Brown off limits for another electoral run in the immediate future. Hence he was wise enough to assess that he should step down as a candidate for the New York States Assembly in the 70th AD, in the interest of the party.

On the other hand the issues associated with the fact that there is has been no replacement candidate named for the Republican Party line are a bit more complex and requires exploration in order to appreciate. Ms. Keisha Morrisey former GOP Assembly candidate in the 70th AD during 2000 and 2002 was ready willing and able to be a replacement candidate and there are others that may have been available such as Ms. Denise Johns (GOP aspirant in 2005 for New York City Council), but the state of the personal animus and political ineptitude carried the replacement process to its most illogical conclusion. Unfortunately both Morrisey and Johns had challenged the political status quo in the Harlem black leadership and were therefore ruled out by the black Republican leadership as replacement candidates.

Keisha Morrisey sent the following email to the honorable James Ortinzeo chairman of the New York County Republican Committee, Mr. Marcus Cederqvist, Executive Director of the county committee and Mr. Will Brown, district leader in the 70th AD as a potential replacement.
"I am writing in regard to the agenda that I discussed with Mr. Alphonso Mosley the candidate for the New York State Senate in the 30th SD in an attempt to unite the many factions of the Uptown Republicans, while working on his campaign. On Monday May 17, Mr. Mosley suggested to our district leader (Will Brown) that I replace the withdrawn candidacy of Mr. Brown and run for State Assembly along with him (Mr. Mosley State Senate) and Ed Daniels for Congress as a way to help accomplish the goal of unity in this years election."

"Although I may not be the Assembly candidate to at this time, I still believe that the unity agenda can be accomplished after talking with Ms. Denise Johns, Ed Daniels, Leroy Owens among others. I will continue to help grow the party by inviting young people into politics and to promote Republican candidates in general. I am in the process of developing a grassroots organization as well as my own political club. I want to share this information with you so that you can know what my agenda is from my mouth and in my own words."

"I intend to keep lines of communication open and I am available if you need to reach out to me. I understand that some wounds may not have healed due to various controversies in the past, therefore I want to be careful and cautious to make sure I communicate directly, so no one can speak for me. Thanking you for your consideration and time in advance. Keisha Morrisey."
But the plot thickens… Keisha was working with the grassroots GOP reform movement that drafted Al Mosley for New York State Senate because he (Al) was falsely accused of aiding Morrisey in her law suite against the Uptown leadership in 2004. Because of the accusations against Mr. Mosley he was passed over for consideration as the GOP designee for the New York State Senate in the 30th SD, although he (Al) had been the party’s Harlem electoral standard bearer and crusader for many previous campaigns. In the wake of the exclusion of Al Mosley as the party’s standard bearer for State Senate and his rejection by the uptown Republicans for the designation a petition campaign was organized by the grassroots GOP reform movement to draft Mosley as a GOP reform candidate and petitions were filed on July 13, on behalf of Al Mosley.

Following the filing of Mr. Mosley’s petitions he (Mr. Mosley) received a phone early on the following week from district leader Will Brown Jr. who invited Mr. Mosley to be the official party designated candidate for New York State Senate in the 30th SD, as the original candidate of record district leader JoLinda Ruth Cogen reportedly had no intentions to run. Mr. Brown told Mr. Mosley that he (Brown) was the candidate of record for Assembly in the 70th AD but had officially declined his candidacy. According to the taped conversation Mosley than touted Ms. Morrisey as a replacement candidate and Mr. Brown indicated that it was a good idea and asked Mosley to have Ms. Morrisey call him for that purpose…

Apparently the conversation between Ms. Morrisey and Mr. Brown was not productive as Ms. Morrisey is not the designated candidate and therefore there is no GOP candidate to compete against incumbent New York Assemblyman Keith Wright. Interestingly enough Assemblyman Wright successfully knocked his Democratic Party primary election competition off of the ballot and will face no opposition from either Democrat or Republican. Arguably the most vulnerable Harlem Democrat, the incumbent Assemblyman will get a free pass without even an illusion of GOP competition.

Alton Chase a longtime community leader and Republican Party activist and one of the architects of the GOP reform movement that drafted Al for Senate campaign said, "Apart from the personality and sophomoric political intrigues that typify Harlem GOP politics the bottom line is that the "official" uptown leadership have successfully picked off Al Mosley from the GOP reform movement to embrace him once again. Now that Mosley is apparently back in good graces with the uptown leadership fold it is clear that his agenda is divergent from the objectives of the GOP reform movement, Chase said. Mosley will face the winner of the Democratic primary battle between Bill Perkins and Ruben Vargez for the open Senate seat."

"The GOP reform movement deserves kudos from Mr. Mosley because the draft Mosley petition campaign secured his nomination and acceptance back into the "official" party fold. Also, the absence of a Harlem based State Senate and Assembly would constitute a major embarrassment and defect in the state wide gubernatorial campaign. At this point with only one candidate lacking on the uptown ticket it may be only a minor embarrassment."

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