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August 23, 2002

One last response on McKinney

Okay- I think this will be the last post on McKinney (the rest will stay in the comments) but Tapped, like others, is trying to avoid the core history behind black resentment over McKinney's and Hilliard's defeats. They argue:

"They didn't care that McKinney was black. They cared that McKinney was, in their estimation, anti-Israel. How does Tapped know this? Because their candidate of choice, Denise Majette, was also black -- albeit pro-Israel. AIPAC will no doubt do their best to ensure that Majette wins the general election, too.
This is why Tapped thinks it's baloney for black leaders to raise a hue and cry over Jews "picking" other black leaders, and for the media to indulge them in it. We also think that it makes more sense to have an open discussion about the disproportionate influence of a single-issue lobby, AIPAC, than to overlay it with a dubious veneer of racial politics.
The problem with these arguments, as reasonable on their face as they seem, is that the issue is not whether blacks in the district get to have a black face representing them in Congress-- it's whether they get to pick which one. The history is that white folks have been trying to anoint black leaders for years, centuries even, with Booker T. Washington being the crux of this debate a century ago. In many ways, it's even more subversive when white folks (or Jews or AIPAC or whoever) can find a black person to front for their interests. Look at Clarence Thomas, who claims authenticity as a black person to get appointed to the bench, but disparages the poor and black in many of his decisions.

The issue is also not just AIPAC, who is doing what any special interest group would do, but the larger social context that it is only two black incumbents who are losing this year. It is the particular marginal position of blacks, their lack of financial resources to defend those they see as their own, that makes that specific result so galling and threatening. Jews who were music executives or landlords among blacks in the past did not necessarily seek to exploit them more than they would whites, but blacks were more vulnerable financially, so the result was greater exploitation. So when a Jewish-dominated group (and I think that AIPAC has too much Jewish support to box away as some bland ethnically-neutral special interest) takes advantage of that vulnerability, it just rings historical bells that should have been left unrung.

I'll just end noting that Eric Alterman gets why this was so stupid and why Jews especially should be denouncing AIPAC's intervention in these elections.

Posted by Nathan at August 23, 2002 02:26 PM

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Comments

And because of AIPAC's involvement, that Magette voted for Alan Keys in 2000 and supports repeal of the estate tax got totally lost. Sure, she'll make a great Democratic representative.

Posted by: Paleo at August 23, 2002 04:01 PM

Your posts on the McKinney race seem to strongly imply two things: first, that Denise Majette was in essence the "white/Jewish" candidate and was more or less elected without black votes; and second, that only the black voters in her district have any real business passing any sort of judgment on McKinney.

On the first point, I haven't seen a breakdown, and exit polling in a congressional primary is (I'm guessing) rare, but there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence that a good many blacks did support Majette.

On the second point, about half the voters in McKinney's district are white. Don't they get a say in her fate too? It's not about "anointing black leaders"; it's about choosing a congresswoman. True, one can reasonably infer that the majority of Democrats in her district are black, but everyone has a right to representation no matter how they vote. I usually vote Democratic, and I live in a congressional district that hasn't gone Democratic in several decades, but that doesn't mean that I've been unfairly disenfranchised.

Posted by: Charlie T. at August 23, 2002 04:54 PM

1) It's not just incompetent Black candidates who lose primaries. Trafficant also lost a primary, for much the same reasons as Hilliard.

2) Neither Hilliard nor McKinney lacked for fianncial resources.

3) AIPAC didn't pick the winners. The voters did. In both races, the winning Black candidates received large numbers of Black votes, and dominant majorities of all votes in their districts. Both of the losing Black candidates had alienated their white constituents, which was stupid of them. Your implicit assumption that that white constituents (or white Jewish constituents? McKinney's district is allegedly 4% Jewish) should sit out primaries between black candidates is both offensive and unrealistic.

4) Finally, yo are wrong to ignore that some incumbents are really bad, and that the voters withing the district decided that both McKinney and Hilliard were bad. Getting them out and replaced with representatives who have a chance to do better for their districts is good for the districts, and for the national Democratic Party generally.

5) McKinney was also an embarrassment to the national and statewide Democratic Party, and her idiocies would have hurt Democratic candidates in the rest of Georgia. As you've pointed out elsewhere, an action that improves the Democratic party's prospects is good for working people everywhere.

Posted by: Arthur Stock at August 24, 2002 09:00 AM

So what if voters made the decision for the question at hand? If AIPAC had kept it's money out, then the same result would have occurred? If so, then the issue is their stupidity in feeding resentment. If not, then we are back to the undemocratic aspect of their intervention.

To repeat, if every incumbent black or white faced well funded challengers, there would be no controversy here. But they don't.

If most incumbents faced well-funded primary challenges, our Congress would not have the politboro-style 97-98% reeelection rates it has. But when Jewish money is used to make sure that it is only black politicians who face such challenges, then that differential reality is what is at issue.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at August 24, 2002 09:11 AM

So should the labor unions who gave money to McKinney have also deferred to unspoiled will of the black voters of the 4th district? Just what is it about "jewish money" that makes it so odious?
From your previous notes, it appears that you think the existence of anti-semitism makes it important for Jews to sit in the back of the bus and shut-up.

To me this all smacks of the dumb identity politics that lead so many to prefer the witless (and right wing) Ferrar to Green - and thus give the election to the republicans.

Posted by: citizen k at August 24, 2002 12:11 PM

Nathan - do note, while praising Alterman's take on McKinney, that Alexander Cockburn is hopping mad at Alterman's gratutitous labeling of him as an anti-Semite in that very article.

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn0823.html

More and more, I start to think that it is the particular duty of American Jews who oppose the policies of the Israeli government to defend gentiles accused of anti-Semitism for taking the same position.

Alterman is simply using Cockburn as a foil to build up his respectability quotient, while saying some things that I agree with. It is a sign of how debased discourse has become that we don't even notice it.

Posted by: thinks4himself at August 24, 2002 05:15 PM

Alterman isn't calling Cockburn an anti-semite, he
is simply reporting what is "sloshing around" on
the internet.

http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/2002_03_24_amygdalagf_archive.html#11201985

Posted by: citizen k at August 24, 2002 06:25 PM

I didn't think Cockburn's comments on this particular issue were out of line, but Cockburn himself has been specializing recently in only attacking other progressives, while giving a political pass to a range of conservative racists and antisemites in the process. Cockburn tends to take the "social fascist" line; ie. the greatest danger to the working class are social democrats who will gull the proletariat with reform.

On the identity politics issue-- Green essentially sunk his election the day he agreed to give Guiliani an extension on his term and the fact remains that operatives of Green ran some damn racist anti-Sharpton operations-- friends of mine working for Green were upset that this got out of control on the fringes of the campaign, but blacks had reason to be pissed at Green on both the Guiliani issue and the campaigning.

Frankly, Jews have the least basis for complaining about folks being oversensitive-- any hint of insensitivity to Jews and a politician is crucified by Jewish leaders (remember Hymietown?) The fact is that Majette was supported by a lot of Republicans and outside money to oust McKinney--- her supporters in the district have the right to feel aggrieved.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at August 24, 2002 07:25 PM

Nathan
Look I'm not defending Cockburn on every issue, just this one. His stances on Wellstone, and other issues have been pretty damned ridiculous. But he isn't an anti-semite and Alterman should know better than to call him one.

Posted by: thinks4himself at August 24, 2002 09:45 PM

Hmmmm....I don't see many progressives raising a fuss over the out-of-district money being spent by EMILY's List. Hell, we didn't see any indignation from progressives when Clinton/Gore was taking campaign contributions from the frickin' Chineese.

The fact that this all talk amongst the left is being generated by the contributions of one specific group probably is a good indicator of a prejudiced mind-set. At least all the evidence points that way.

Posted by: Outback at August 25, 2002 06:28 PM

Hmmmm....I don't see many progressives raising a fuss over the out-of-district money being spent by EMILY's List. Hell, we didn't see any indignation from progressives when Clinton/Gore was taking campaign contributions from the frickin' Chineese.

The fact that this all talk amongst the left is being generated by the contributions of one specific group probably is a good indicator of a prejudiced mind-set. At least all the evidence points that way.

Posted by: Outback at August 25, 2002 06:28 PM

We are arguing at cross purposes. You seem to believe that it is presumptious and immoral for a bunch of white jews to get involved in an election between two black wormen, and I think it is outrageous and presumptious that you can even make such a claim. CM, as was her right, became deeply involved in international issues. So she attracted the attention of interest groups, AIPAC and Indian and Moslem groups. As a result, we get a bunch of whining about "jewish money" that, in my opinion, tells us nothing more than that deep seated anti-semitism lurks close to the surface. I have no patience ofr complaints about Arab money either, it that makes you happier. If the NAACP or the Fruit of Islam were to send money to Brooklyn to make life difficult for a right wing Jew, I'd applaud. But I have a consistent moral point of view: I don't think that Jews have less or more rights than others. It appears to me that you want to argue that black politicians have a status that makes it wrong for Jewish organizations to attack them. I think that's dangerous nonsense and I doubt very much that CM would endorse your point of view. I suspect that Bush 1 happily made use of this foolishness on the part of some liberals to sneak the evil Clarence Thomas through.

By the way, for someone who wants to talk about historical context as much as you do, it's interesting what language you use. "Jewish money" is a loaded term. Complaining that the Jews "crucified" someone is a use of language that reminds me of the unelected Presidents call for Moslem nations to join the US in a "crusade" against terrorism. If you use such language, it is going to elicit a negative reaction.

Posted by: citizen k at August 26, 2002 12:48 AM

I've been thinking about Citizen K's argument and those of others who make the same points, and I've finally boiled down what bothers me about them.

This kind of activity that AIPAC engages in is not something a "mensch" does. A mensch doesn't flout his wealth and power in front of people who have less and rub their faces in it. Nor is it something that liberals ought to be getting behind. It's really as simple as that.

K - you are very bothered by the use of phrases like "Jewish money" because they bring to your mind echoes of past antisemitism and all the pain it brought us. You expect everyone to acknowledge and respect that pain and demand that they do so if they want to be our friend. But let me ask you, are you as respectful of their pain as you'd like them to be about ours? I don't think so. No, you expect them to respect our pain before feeling their own.

Your language is the language of "rights". "We're entitled to do what other power groups have always done, so why are you picking on US. Maybe you're anti-semitic, too." What about the responsibilities of power? Where have those gone? Funny, neocons are always lecturing blacks that they need to focus on their responsibilities instead of rights all the time.

And why does AIPAC spend so much time on Black antisemitism while "selling indulgences" to old anti-Semitic warhorses of the Christian right who find they can wipe away past sins by now supporting Israel for reasons of their own?

And what happens to the liberal agenda that's supposedly so important to you when you jump into bed with these guys?

Posted by: thinks4himself at August 26, 2002 09:44 PM

I'm not arguing that what AIPAC did was good or bad. What I'm arguing is that the reaction to AIPAC was in bad faith.
Let's summarize:
The election in Georgia was determined by many factors, both local and not. Outside forces putting money into the race included the labor unions that gave money to CM, many freelance lefties and liberals outside the district, Arab and Islamic groups, WorldCom, ... On the other side, AIPAC, money from Zell Millers contacts and an Indian PAC all weighed in. But instead of an actual analysis of what happened in the election, certain "leftists" began to jump up and down about "JEWISH MONEY" using one of the oldest anti-semitic cant phrases in the book.

Sin 1: singling out a Jewish lobby for what every other organized political group in the US does as standard business.
Sin 2: using racially inflamatory language. If you needed a term "AIPAC" would do. "JEWISH MONEY" will not.
Sin 3: Identifying one Jewish PAC as "THE JEWS" as if all Jews belong to a single, conspiracy.
Sin 4: Arguing that political disputes between black candidates are private business that nobody else can enter. This is a line of reasoning that leads to tribal elections. All Americans should participate in elections.

Sin 5: Arguing that the poor liddle black girl could not defend herself against the big bad white PAC. Condescension, anyone? CM is a grown woman, smarter than either of us, well connected, and experienced in political rough and tumble. A ten year incumbent, she fumbled an election but she does not need pity . And let's note that the 4th district is the home of many wealthy black people. Black Metro Atlanta is not cringing in fear, hoping that some brave New York Lawyer will rescue their community from the Big Bad Jews.

Sin 6: and where do you get off announcing that Majette and her many 4th district black supporters are stooges or worse?

Posted by: citizen k at August 26, 2002 11:12 PM

As a general rule, it is not very helpful to label a person as racist or anti-Semitic -- we do not know what is in his or her heart, so such judgments often involves speculation and leaps of faith. It is another matter, however, to describe specific actions or statements as racist or anti-Semitic, since we can judge them on their own, without reference to the motivation of the person who engages in them. Cockburn has clearly made a number of statements which are, I am afraid, anti-Semitic, and we should not avoid calling them for what they are.

Posted by: Leo Casey at August 28, 2002 02:45 PM

As a general rule, it is not very helpful to label a person as racist or anti-Semitic -- we do not know what is in his or her heart, so such judgments often involves speculation and leaps of faith. It is another matter, however, to describe specific actions or statements as racist or anti-Semitic, since we can judge them on their own, without reference to the motivation of the person who engages in them. Cockburn has clearly made a number of statements which are, I am afraid, anti-Semitic, and we should not avoid calling them for what they are.

Posted by: Leo Casey at August 28, 2002 02:45 PM

Despite his lame and half-hearted denials, Alexander Cocksucker is clearly a Jew-hating subhuman sack of shit. This is made clear by- among many other examples- his recent columns stating that "The Jews" control the media, his support for the persecution of Soviet Jewry during the 80s and his close alliance with blatantly anti-semitic militia groups like the Fully Informed Jury Association. It is truly a shame that this hideous savage was not in the World Trade Center towers on the morning of September 11. Hopefully, he will soon catch AIDS and die a prolonged and very painful death!

Posted by: Sam Sarkasian at August 29, 2002 02:08 PM

To Leo Casey -
I appreciate your distinction between the person and the statement. Yet I still question whether Cockburn has made anti-semitic statements. That would all depend on what definition of "anti-semitic" is being used and I am afraid the broad definition that has become fashionable recently has done much more harm than good in my opinion, for example restricting the bounds of permissible debate about the Middle East situation.

I know Cockburn has made some off-the-wall statements and I know he likes gettting drawn into ideological catfights, but most of the remarks I have heard about that some people find anti-semitic seem not to meet the standard, not the one I use anyway.

I have relatives who perished in the Holocaust. They were obvious victims of anti-semitism. My own father was prevented from joining the profession of his choice and had to settle for something else because at the time Jews weren't allowed into the schools that trained for that profession. He was a victim of anti-semitism. These are real anti-semitism. I never heard Cockburn advocate such policies. He has said things that make many Jews angry, but that's not the same thing.
So I would like to hear the things Cockburn has said that you regard as obviously anti-semitic.

And what the hell, Sam. While your coarse and juvenile epithets add nothing to your argument, I'd like to see the specific quotes you are referring to as well.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at August 30, 2002 07:25 PM

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