WASHINGTON (NNPA)—Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s Democratic Primary loss to political first-timer Denise Majette in Georgia indicates that progressive Black candidates must fight harder than ever to wake up apathetic Black constituencies... WASHINGTON (NNPA)—Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s Democratic Primary loss to political first-timer Denise Majette in Georgia indicates that progressive Black candidates must fight harder than ever to wake up apathetic Black constituencies and overcome growing outside influences, says McKinney’s campaign chairman and other political observers.
“We let it happen because all across America, there is apathy and complacency afflicting African-American citizens… It’s not White racism that’s beating us. We’re beating ourselves because we’re not participating in the body politic,” says Georgia Del. Tyrone Brooks, who has chaired McKinney’s campaigns for the past 10 years. “We as a people have been lulled to sleep by our successes. The comfort level is so high in the African-American community that we won’t respond to the challenge of voting until there is a threat–a real threat–to take away the right to vote.”
The heated contest between McKinney and Majette, a former state court judge, gained national attention because it was fueled by their opposing views on the Middle East conflict. Majette’s campaign was well funded by pro-Israel lobbyists, while much of McKinney’s funding came from Pro-Palestinian lobbyists.
Despite big name Black activists who campaigned for McKinney, including Minister Louis Farrakhan, Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and Atlanta-based civil rights leaders Martin Luther King III and Joseph Lowery, Majette won with 58 percent of the vote.
Angry White Republicans in North Dekalb skipped their own primary to vote against McKinney, who, in March, publicly stated that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of Sept.11 and that Bush ignored the warnings so that his associates could gain financially.
But it appears that McKinney, who received only 42 percent of the vote, also took a hard hit from her base in South Dekalb, where Black and other Democratic voters stayed home. For example, at Stoneview Elementary School, where 1,767 people came to vote in 2000, only 169 voted in the Aug. 20 primary, most for McKinney, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“It’s definitely a cause for concern as to why people did not come out to vote in a race that was so competitive and so highly visible, but it’s too early to tell the overall turnout in the Black precincts,” says Melanie Campbell, executive director and CEO of the National Coalition for Black Voter Participation.
Voter registration and get-out-to-vote work must be stepped up in the overall Black community, Campbell says. According to the U. S. Census, among a national total of 24 million Black people who are registered to vote, 15.3 million are registered and 8.7 million are not.
“It appears the Republicans wanted me out more than the Democrats wanted to keep me,” she told reporters at her campaign headquarters upon receiving the news of her loss.
“Sometimes you have to stand up to seemingly unbeatable odds, speak the truth to the most powerful interests to do what is right. Sometimes you win. And sometimes you lose,” she said in her concession speech.
Majette, savoring the win, said the district has changed since McKinney last faced Democrat opposition in 1996 when she took 67 percent of the vote in a four-way Democratic primary. “It is more representative of the diversity of this region, and it bodes well for the kind of coalition building that will be most effective in helping me serve this district.”
William Boone, a political scientist at historically Black Clark Atlanta University, agrees. Because of redistricting, there are many more pockets of 35 to 45-year-olds with higher incomes and more moderate views. “I think that’s what the [McKinney] campaign didn’t seem to grasp,” he says.
Boone says voters also were turned off when McKinney, who normally ignores her opponents, began speaking negatively of Majette. “She has had