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Friday, April 28, 2006

You can win, but you gotta run the place

Cory Booker

The Black Commentator has a nice piece on Booker, but it seems to miss the special way they do things in North Jersey

Cory Booker is back – like a recurring disease. The former one-term city councilman whose wholly unproductive career has been artificially sustained by Black America’s worst enemies has amassed bundles of rightwing cash for his second assault on Newark city hall. Booker’s stealth mission on behalf of the far-right Bradley and Walton Family (Wal-Mart) Foundations, under the tutelage of the hyper-racist Manhattan Institute, once again threatens to provide the Right with a long-coveted showcase for privatization and capitalism in-the-raw in urban America.

Booker is a unique danger to African American interests, well beyond the boundaries of New Jersey’s largest city. As in the Verizon television commercial in which a vast “network” is arrayed behind the actor playing the cell phone service subscriber, Booker is tightly wired into the interlocking political networks of the Right. He is the darling and point man for the corporate campaign to create a cadre of “New Black Leaders” who will provide “authenticity” to reactionary social policies hatched by the think tank servants of the super-rich.

May 9 is no ordinary Election Day – and it is anything but a local affair.

Indeed, the upscale suburb-bred, Yale and Stanford educated lawyer may be the purest specimen of the Black Trojan Horse Democrat yet foisted on the African American public by the likes of the Manhattan Institute – the outfit that nurtured Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, the infamous blood-libel book that attempted to prove Blacks are intellectually inferior to whites – and at whose “power luncheon” Booker made his national debut, in 2000.

The 36-year-old Booker is the Right’s Young Black Frankenstein, powered, as in his first mayoral run in 2002, by constant infusions of corporate cash and free media. Or, as his current opponent State Senator and Newark Deputy Mayor Ron Rice puts it, Booker is the “Six Million Dollar Man” – a reference to his campaign war chest, a fantastic sum for a mayor’s race in a city of just 275,000, and far exceeding the corporate largess showered on the upstart candidate four years ago. The $6 million figure is also by now out of date

Sen. Rice’s underfunded organization finds it difficult to even keep track of Booker’s capital accumulation. Rice’s last campaign ad put Booker’s contributions at $4.1 million – still far exceeding declared contributions in the 2002 race, when Booker significantly outspent but still lost to incumbent Sharpe James. In both campaigns, Booker’s large contributors’ hailed from across the nation, and their names looked nothing like a Newark telephone book. That’s the rightwing network’s fine-tuned money machine in motion.

Sen. Rice – and the city of Newark, itself – is like an Indian surrounded by cowboys summoned from all points of the map, eager to plant their alien flag. Rice is further disadvantaged by the inexplicable behavior of Mayor Sharpe James, who waited until March 27 to announce that he would not seek a sixth term, leaving Rice just a little over six weeks to stop Booker’s Right-financed juggernaut.

A Pact With the Devil

The Black Commentator is proud of the role we played in exposing Cory Booker’s true political and financial backers, in 2002. The Cover Story of our inaugural issue, “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002, was the first published revelation anywhere of Booker's political genesis in the bowels of Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation – George Bush’s favorite foundation, the outfit that birthed a fully financed Black school voucher “movement” out of thin air and hard cash. As an original board member of the Bradley-created (and now Bush-financed) Black Alliance for Educational Options, and a co-founder of the Newark voucher outfit Excellent Education for Everyone (E-3), Booker worked his way ever deeper into the Right labyrinth of mega-money, media manipulation, and raw corporate power.

So enthused with Booker was the Right in 2002, one of their most esteemed members let the cat out of the bag. Syndicated columnist George F. Will, whose politics would correctly be called fascist in any part of Europe, traveled to Newark to observe the campaign up close and gushed like a schoolgirl at Booker’s rightwing credentials:

"Booker's plans for Newark's renaissance," Will's March 17 [2002] column informs us, "are drawn from thinkers at the Democratic Leadership Council and the Manhattan Institute think tank, and from the experiences of others such as Stephen Goldsmith, former Republican mayor of Indianapolis, a pioneer of privatization and faith-based delivery of some government services, and John Norquist, current Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, which has one of the nation's most successful school-choice programs."

– from BC “Fruit of the Poisoned Tree,” April 5, 2002.

Despite his narrow loss to Mayor James, Booker’s rich rightwing patrons were pleased; they had come within reach of their goal to capture a large, majority Black city in the shadow of New York, the nation’s media and financial capital. Through their sophisticated propaganda network – euphemistically called public relations or public information offices – the Right network kept Booker’s name in the media during the four years in which he held no public office. With eerie uniformity of content and style, articles and personality profiles regularly appeared in various media grouping Booker with luminaries like Barack Obama and Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., the “New Black Leaders.” Yet the totality of Booker’s public life experience amounted to only four years as a city councilman who produced no meaningful legislation.

In November 2004, the out-of-office Booker remained a corporate media star. An article in the influential Washington Monthly spent almost as much time on Booker as its purported subject, Barack Obama. Titled “The Great Black Hope,” the piece began with Cory Booker’s name (“Cory Booker was feeling good… .”) and catalogued the media’s central role in the 2002 campaign:

A fever was building. Time profiled Booker; “CBS Evening News” did, too. Though Booker was still only a councilman in America's 63rd largest city, Democratic fundraisers and operatives were also talking about a future White House bid; The New York Times said he was “regularly referred to as someone who will end up the first black President of the United States.”

Of course, the Washington Monthly was itself contributing to the media “fever” over Booker.

Booker was defeated because, in the last weeks of the race, Mayor James finally found ways to express what BC had been saying all along: that Booker is a wholly-owned property of the Right, a walking, breathing political lie who masquerades as an urban reformer while serving masters in corporate suites; a total cynic who relies on his youth to promise a fresh breeze in African American politics, but is in reality in league with Black folks’ oldest and most implacable foes.

The corporate media were alerted to Booker’s connections. Just two-and-half weeks after BC began operations, the New York Times quoted Co-Publisher Glen Ford’s indictment of the candidate in a front page profile of Booker, April 24, 2002:

[Ford] says Mr. Booker is allied with conservatives seeking to dismantle public education, destroy affirmative action and gain an urban foothold for their views. He points to a speech Mr. Booker gave to the conservative Manhattan Institute two years ago and a recent column by conservative writer George F. Will that ridiculed Mr. James and lionized Mr. Booker. “He’s totally cynical, careerist and mercenary,” Mr. Ford said. “They’re backing him so they can claim a black elected official from a black city.”

It’s the same game, this time around, with only the slightest alterations. Although the New York Times quoted Glen Ford in 2002, the paper never brought its reportorial powers to bear on the specific connections revealed in BC’s investigative work. The rest of the corporate media – print, TV and radio – pretended that BC’s and the Mayor’s charges were silly or, in most instances, ignored them altogether.

But the people of Newark got the word, despite most of the media’s performance as extensions of Booker’s campaign. Sen. Ron Rice is fighting furiously to resist Booker’s anointment, on May 9 – to ward off a tragedy of enormous national as well as local proportions for the Black polity. Rice has smoked Booker out on his support for private school vouchers – the Right’s main wedge issue to woo Black America – finally catching the attention of the New York Times, April 27:

In a recent interview, Mr. Rice called Mr. Booker a proxy for "ultra-white, ultra-conservative" outsiders seeking to privatize the schools in a Democratic city that is more than 80 percent African-American and Hispanic. He charged that Mr. Booker was seeking to turn Newark into another Milwaukee, where a voucher program has been in place since 1990, with mixed results in terms of student achievement… .

Booker tried to wiggle, as usual, but he was caught. “My determination is to reform the public school system, but I will never oppose programs that help children," Mr. Booker said in a recent interview in his 21st-story law office downtown. "And if it doesn't hurt my main goal, my principal goal of empowering public schools, I support that."

Booker’s benefactors, the Walton Family and Bradley Foundations and the rest of the rightwing constellation in which he travels, are unalterably committed to wholesale privatization of education and everything else in the public sector they can lay their hands on. That’s what Booker doesn’t want the Black public to know.

It’s hard to fight the white ruling class, even on ghetto turf – especially when it puts on blackface. But we have entered a new and perilous era. Cory Booker personifies the danger: the Black Trojan Horse, more likely a nominal Democrat than a Republican, to better subvert from within the Historical Black Consensus that has made African Americans the soul and backbone of progressivism in the United States.

It is true that Booker is part of a new breed – a crop of stealthy Black political assassins in the service of rich gangsters. The hit on Black Newark is scheduled for May 9. Everyplace else, is next.

BC Co-Publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble are writing a book to be titled, Barack Obama and the Crisis in Black Leadership.

If it were that simple, Richard Parsons would be running for Senate against Hillary Clinton. But Booker's problem is the problem of North Jersey politics. He may have his white backers, but how many are in Trenton? Because if they aren't, he won't be doing much.

We are in the land of North Jersey politics, where Machiavelli could have learned a few lessons. Now it may seem "inexplicable" and "counter-inutative" that James got all goofy in running and then dropping out, unless you know North Jersey politics, intimately.

The reason Booker can win is simple: corruption. People are tired of a government which does nothing for them and makes their leaders rich. It's easy to snipe at Booker until you actually spend time in Newark. The place needs more change than a hockey arena.

People desperately want a change from the corrupt machine politics of North Jersey and he is clean and neat.

But like many things, politics in North Jersey are deceiving. There's a reason that Sharpe James had a seat in Trenton. There's a reason he's keeping that seat. And it's about fucking with Cory Booker.

The thing is that Booker was going to win at some point. But this is the point and why no one is beating the bushes for Rice, who could raise a shitload of money if the machine turned on. In fact, James could have run one more time and then resigned. But he didn't.

Why? Because they're gonna give Booker his chance, and then help him fail. All those right wing think tanks can't do shit in Democratic-controlled Trenton. And Corzine isn't going to piss off his North Jersey backers.

The South Jersey folks hate Newark, and won't do shit to help it. So exactly, who are Cory Booker's friends and how can they help him? With newspaper articles? The Mahattan Institute isn't going to the State House to lobby for vouchers and the teacher's union is almost as powerful there as it is in New York. I can see Booker and his friends marching up to the state house, a nice place, and getting swallowed up whole.

Wisconsin and the GOP who ran it in 1990 and New Jersey in 2006 could not be more different. Booker has enemies afoot in Trenton and not too many friends. But notice the absence of race baiting so far in this election. That's no accident. The machine wants a Booker victory. They want him to win, and then they will unleash hell. And after four years of no cooperation, and open hostility, he will go off to be a lobbyist.

Why now? Because there is no better time to have Booker elected, with virtually no friends in Trenton, the GOP at low ebb in the state, and him on the hook for Newark's problems. Unlike James, who has a machine and friends in Essex and Trenton, Booker has friend with money and no pull and the NJGOP is not going to spend a dime to alienate their suburban voters to help Newark.

When X doesn't happen, you can bet the community will be outside city hall. The voucher plan? George Will has no pull inside the Statehouse. The bet is that the teachers will block it, because they have votes, and Booker will be left impotent.

If Booker had more of a base in the community, he might be able to fight, but the fact that James virtually stepped aside and left Rice to fend for himself is no accident. They're gonna squeeze him between the unions and the black nationalists, who still have a big voice in Newark. Just because he can win, doesn't mean he can run things.

They'll let him sit in the big chair, but if he doesn't go along with James and the rest of the Caucus in the statehouse, nothing much will happen.

His friends have money, but they don't have pull or much of a voice in North Jersey.

posted by Steve @ 7:17:00 AM

7:17:00 AM

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