August 31, 2009
Kennedy legacy: Black voters joining the Democratic PartyBy Andrew Walden
After nearly a week of incessant post-mortem vacuity, not a single commentator has hit upon the real legacy of the late Kennedy political dynasty.
The Kennedys are largely responsible for making African Americans dependent on an alliance with liberal Democrats. The result--highly unstable in a democratic society -- 90% of black voters regularly pull the Democrat lever.
The 90% solid black vote tips the balance in favor of Democrats in Missouri, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland. Without these votes, Democrats would simply cease to function as a national party. Without the Kennedys around to check anti-black electoral dynamics within the Democrats' ranks, it is an open question as to how much longer this arrangement can continue. The end of the dynasty could mark the beginning of the liberation of black voters from dependency on government.
It was the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy which finally brought the majority of black voters out of the Republican camp and into the Democratic Party -- for 95 years the party of segregation, and before that the party of slavery. Communist Lee Harvey Oswald murdered JFK in 1963. Taking Kennedy's place, President Lyndon Johnson forced passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act. In spite of the fact that Republican support was required to overcome Democrat segregationists in both houses of Congress, the votes sealed the liberal Democrats' deal with black voters. Younger brother Robert F. Kennedy, while campaigning for the Democrat Presidential nomination, would be murdered by Palestinian Arab Nationalist Sirhan Sirhan in 1968.
The price of Johnson's support for civil rights would be the "Great Society" programs which have done so much to destroy black families and--with disastrous consequences--weld black communities into dependence on the government-and the liberals who control social spending.
Their media acolytes endlessly portray the Kennedys' trajectory as morally based, but political calculation is more likely. John F Kennedy had been a close ally and personal friend of Senator Joe McCarthy and a staunch anti-communist throughout the 1950s. But as New England liberals, the Kennedys needed to manufacture a political base within the Democratic Party. Writing in Human Events, Frances Rice points out:
The Kennedys' political move was matched by the Republican "Southern strategy"--deployed to scoop up white Southerners abandoned by the national Democrats. This process -- which defeated efforts by George Wallace to form a segregationist third party -- began with the choice by the 1960 Nixon campaign to not match John F. Kennedy's telephonic shows of support for jailed civil rights activists.
The Southern strategy continued with Goldwater's openly anti-civil rights "states rights" 1964 campaign -- carrying five southern states for Republicans -- the first GOP Deep South wins since 1872. Nixon in 1968 carried six with another five going to the segregationist Wallace-Lemay ticket of the American Independent Party. By 1972, Republicans swept all 15 Southern states as the last ditch Democrat segregationist primary campaign of George Wallace was stopped short by a nearly successful bullet fired by Arthur Bremer.
For the first time since 1877, the Democrats previously solid South became Republican. But in 1976 Georgia Democrat Governor Jimmy Carter would win the Presidency with the backing of Southern states.
This is where Ted Kennedy first stepped in to secure the legacy of his elder brother -- by challenging Carter in the 1980 Democratic Primaries. Kennedy argued:
Kennedy took his challenge all the way to the Convention and refused to endorse Carter's campaign against Reagan. It worked. Ronald Reagan captured the support of Carter's "born-again Christian" backers and won all the Southern states except Georgia. The threat to the liberal-black alliance controlling the Democratic Party passed. By 1984 Jesse Jackson would be winning Southern Democrat Primaries.
Carter never forgot. The headline August 27, 2009: "Carter Still Upset with Kennedy 28 Years Later."
Carter was no segregationist. But it was important to defeat him because bringing black voters into the Democratic Party -- and keeping them there -- depended on driving white Southerners out.
In a 1970 New York Times interview, Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips explained the relationship:
The 1980 campaign was not the end of the story. At the beginning of the 2008 Democratic primary season, Ted Kennedy would for the last time play a key role in swinging Democrats away from another Democrat campaign basing itself on an appeal to white voters -- that of Hillary Clinton.
Although Bill Clinton was tagged "America's First Black President" by some, his political mentor was segregationist Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright. His partner, Hillary Clinton, was, like Barack Obama, a student of leftist Saul Alinsky. Alinsky's "community organizing" techniques were developed in segregated white Chicago communities such as "Back of the Yards" and "Bridgeport". Based on Alinsky's techniques, these "organized" communities helped launch Chicago's Daley Machine.
Bill Clinton's 2008 campaign strategy came right out of Hillary's infamous and long-hidden 1969 senior thesis on Alinsky. Alinsky's 13th Rule is: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it." For three weeks in January, 2008 the Clintons and their backers did their best to polarize non-black Democrat voters against Obama, bringing up Obama's admitted past drug use and firing off one-liners like "Lyndon Johnson," "fairy-tale," "shuck and jive," and "spade work" to increasing choruses of anger from liberals and conservatives alike.
But it backfired. Ted Kennedy reportedly phoned Clinton several times warning him to tone it down. Rush Limbaugh focused a spotlight on the racially divisive subtext of what he called the Democrats' "uncivil war." Al Sharpton said Clinton should "shut up." But Clinton took no heed, willing to gamble his own party for a return to the White House.
Going after black senators is a long Clinton tradition. Life Magazine gave Hillary an initial taste of nationwide media exposure for her 1969 Wellesley commencement speech in which she denounced the first black man to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 100 years. But that was different. Her target then was a liberal Republican, Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. In the eyes of Democrats, the Clinton attacks on Obama are wrong for exactly the same reason that Hillary's attack on Brooke was right.
When three weeks of racially tinged Clinton remarks ended with Bill comparing Obama's victory in South Carolina to those of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Ted Kennedy had heard enough. Kennedy had in 2005 famously blurted out "Obama bin Laden". But endorsing Obama, Kennedy told a cheering Obama rally January 28, 2008:
Caroline Kennedy, in a January 27, 2008 New York Times essay, called Obama "a president like my father."
Kennedy's reference to "Old politics" was a barely veiled assault on the Clintons for threatening to shatter the liberal-black alliance. The term also showed up in January 24, 2008 remarks by former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich:
It worked. Obama defeated Clinton in the primaries and the rest is history.
Now, with Ted Kennedy gone, who is left to keep these centrifugal forces in check?
Andrew Walden Edits Hawai`i Free Press