From Cynthia McKinney to Katha Pollitt,
to the ILWU to Paul Krugman
by Alexander Cockburn
One less radical black voice in Congress. One less champion of labor. One less brave soul unafraid to jump the traces of political orthodoxy. Cynthia McKinney, five-term US rep from Georgia's Fourth District, was beaten in Tuesday's Democratic primary by Denise Majette, also black, a former judge, put in with the help of lots of money from American-Jewish groups and by a hefty Republican cross-over in Georgia's open primary.
Don't you think that if Arab-American groups or African-American groups targeted an incumbent white liberal, maybe Jewish, congressperson, and shipped in money by the truckload to oust the incumbent, the rafters would shake with bellows of outrage.
Yet when a torrent of money from out of state American Jewish organizations smashed Earl Hilliard, first elected black congressperson in Alabama since Reconstruction, you could have heard a mouse cough. Hilliard had made the fatal error of calling for some measure of even-handedness in the Middle East. So he was targeted by AIPAC and the others. Down he went, defeated in the Democratic primary by Artur Davis, a black lawyer who obediently sang for his supper of the topic of Israel.
Then it was McKinney's turn. A terrific liberal black congresswoman. Like Hilliard she wasn't cowed by the Israel right-or-wrong lobby and called for real debate on the Middle East. And she called for a real examination of the lead-up to 9/11. So the sky fell in on her. Torrents of American Jewish money showered her opponent, a black woman judge called Majette. Buckets of sewage were poured over McKinney's head in the Washington Post and the Atlanta Constitution.
Here's how it worked. McKinney saw what happened to Hilliard, and that American Jewish money was pumping up Majette's challenge. So she went to Arab-American groups to try to raise money to fight back. This allowed Tom Edsall to attack her in the Washington Post as being in receipt of money from pro-terror Muslims. Lots of nasty looking Arab/Muslim names suddenly filled Edsall's stories.
Now just suppose someone started looking at names in the pro-Israel groups funding Majette who by mid-August had raised twice as much money as McKinney. Aren't they aren't supporting and helping fund terror that has US-made F-16s machine-gunning kids in Gaza? What's the game here? It's the reiteration of the same message delivered to politicians down the years, as when Senator Charles Percy went down. Put your head over the parapet on the topic of Israel and the Palestinians and we'll blow it off.
Oh, and when furious blacks start denouncing the role of outside Jewish money in the onslaughts on Hilliard and McKinney, what then? First stage: imply the money from Jewish-American groups came in reaction to money from Arab-American groups, as with this typical AP paragraph: "Middle East politics played an unlikely role in the race. McKinney drew campaign financing from out of state, including money from pro-Arab groups, while Jewish groups helped fund Majette's campaign. The race echoed the Alabama primary this year that cost Democratic Rep. Earl Hilliard his job. Hilliard received support from Arab groups after supporting a Palestinian state, while his young opponent had the backing of pro-Israel groups."
Then there'll be intricate articles with intricate exit poll calculations promoting the conclusion that the money from the Jewish groups "wasn't a factor". Then there'll be an avalanche of hysterical columns about the ever-present menace of black anti-Semitism.
Yes, Katha Pollitt, you did raise a little stink in The Nation re McKinney, in overly decorous but still commendable terms, which reminds me, here's what I wrote to a fellow angered over a piece by Ellen Johnson we'd run in CounterPunch, criticizing you for saying Dennis Kucinich's position against abortion rendered him ineligible as the progressives' 2002-champion.
"Hi Matt, I'm forwarding your note to Ellen, and she may drop you a line, but allow me to say that I think your reaction is too hasty. Ellen raised some very serious points about the monoptic way NOW and leading feminists address the abortion issue. I think it is right to emphasize that we should battle for social conditions where abortion ceases to be regarded by many progressives as a prime indicator of freedom and liberation for women.
"Surely you cannot regard the killing of fetuses as somehow, an intrinsically "good thing". The real friends of abortion are the Malthusians who want to rid the world as much as possible of the "over-breeding" and disruptive poor, particularly minorities. Just the other day in New York I listened with some astonishment as two progressive lesbians who had just had an unsuccessful effort with a turkey baster to get one partner pregnant, cheering the news that Mayor Blumberg has instructed that New York doctors (I guess somehow those attached to the city payroll, I'm not sure of the details) b e trained in aborting fetuses. Would you see anything sinister or out of whack about that?
"More generally, I think the liberal women's groups gave Clinton the pass on savage assaults on the poor because the Clintons unrelentingly preached commitment to abortion. In sum, we ran the piece because we think it is high time to get beyond bunker liberalism, where progressives huddle in the foxhole, holding onto "choice" as their bottom-line issue, with a sideline in telling black teen moms that they are socially irresponsible. Best Alex Cockburn"
The ILWU? That's the West Coast Longshoremen. Their contract expired at the end of June. The contract is being renewed on a daily basis . The employers are playing very tough, well aware that the Bush high command has told the ILWU leaders that Bush would invoke Taft Hartley, bring in troops if necessary, destroy the ILWU as a bargaining agent for the whole West Coat. Separately Tom Ridge, calling in his capacity as chief of Homeland Security has done some heavy breathing in the ear of ILWU leaders about the inadvisability of a strike at this time.
The ILWU's coastwide contract was won in the 1934 strike, along with the hiring hall, which replaced the old shape-up system where the boss could keep out organizers and anyone liable to cause trouble. These are bedrock issues for which strikers fought and died in 1934, in San Francisco and in Seattle.
The west coast Longshoremen stand as a beacon of what union organizing can do. Of course the Bush White House yearns to destroy it, maybe using the War on Terror as half a pretext. If ever there was time for solidarity, this is it.
Krugman? He has just conceded that maybe neo-liberal policies haven't worked too well in Latin America. Look it up. It's in his column for August 9, "The Lost Continent". He spent 184 words on the matter. "Why hasn't reform worked as promised? That's a difficult and disturbing question."
Well, gee Paul, since you constitute the entirety of the Democratic Party's opposition to the Bush administration I know you're as busy as hell. But since you and your crowd supervised a good deal of the economic destruction of Latin America, and your economic faction offered all the basic rationales for that devastation, I sure hope you return to the problem. Maybe you won't be so snooty about the opponents of "free trade" and all that jazz. Maybe even have a quiet word with Friedman.
Alexander Cockburn is a nationally syndicated writer, and the co-editor of Counterpunch, the nation's best muckraking political newsletter, where this article first appeared.