Each month one chapter excerpt of the ten chapter book will be posted on this website. The excerpts are the first draft of each chapter and represent a total of about 40,000 words, the completed book is projected to be between 80,000 and 90,000 words. Please know that these first draft excerpts have not been proof read or edited, as only the 3rd draft of the manuscript will be edited and proof read, prior to publishing. The next excerpt will be posted in April, and each month thereafter until all chapters is posted.
I invite all readers disposed to offer comments, reaction and feedback, etc. to the excerpts to please feel free to do so as I am pleased to receive it. Thank you
CONFESSION of a BLACK REPUBLICAN
Confession of a Black Republican, is the definitive political memoir of yours truly, Gary James. The starting point was 1980, when we organized a presidential debate between candidates Governor Reagan and Vice President Walter Mondale to take place at Fordham University in the Bronx, and moderated by the Mrs. Olovenick, an officer of the League of Women Voters. The event launched our colorful career as a leader of the grassroots activist wing of the Republican Party, based in New York. However, it was the reelection campaign of Reagan-Bush, in 1984 that our links to the national and state party were formalized, and over the past three decades we have continued to enjoy good relations with the nation and state party. The formalization of our relationship with the Republican Party occurred in April of 1984, by way of a letter to yours truly, the chairman of Voters Anonymous, on the letterhead of ‘Reagan-Bush 84’ and over the signature of Roger J. Stone Jr., Regional Director of the campaign.
I first affiliated with the Republican Party in 1967, at which time I was a staff organizer for the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO), in the borough of Queens, under the leadership of George Wiley, National President. In 1967, the organization implemented a national voter education and registration campaign in target states, which included New York. The organization developed a plan to generate funds to expand grassroots outreach efforts and organize against a popular welfare reform proposal. Specifically, NWRO was lobbying against and organizing around the highly touted Work Incentive Program (WIP). The soon to be President of the United States, Richard Nixon was a vociferous advocate of welfare reform and supporter of the program as compatible with his welfare reform ideas, should he become president. Mr. Nixon’s support for the Work Incentive Plan became the impetus for NWRO’s political strategy to generate a budget to expand our outreach community organizing and to hire additional staff. The first move was to publicly call for an evaluation of the efficacy and practicality of the Work Incentive Program. The second phase was to hit the streets with our education and registration campaign and to target Registration in the Republican Party as a tactic to put the GOP, and Nixon on notice.
Welfare mothers in NWRO and the unorganized community were very familiar and politically savvy regarding implementing various social/civil-action and the respectable political spectacle civil disobedient action. Moreover, at this point in New York, and other inner cities and urban centers, NWRO’s reputation preceded us. Some made compelling arguments that welfare mothers from around the country were the shock-troops of the civil rights movement. In typical movement style the Work Incentive Program acronym (WIP), along with a cartoon of Richard Nixon, with rallies and marches depicting Nixon, with a spectacularly long whip. The national voter education and registration campaign was successful in virtually all target communities. In New York City, the voter education and registration campaign made an impressive showing of new Republican Party registrants. I registered Republican during that grassroots campaign, and I remain proud to be a political pioneer of grassroots Republican Party activism politics. Our political strategy and tactics bore fruit and in addition to being awarded a grant to support our grassroots organizing initiative. But, by far the political coup for NWRO was the contract for an a million dollar plus to evaluate the Work Incentive Program. Our mission to have the WIP evaluated was achieved. Concomitantly, we were able to substantially grow the organization by way of the infusion of funds.
NWRO, was like other civil rights organizations of the 1960s and 70s, and were organized at the grassroots level from a liberal, progressive and leftwing ideology of the Democratic Party political spectrum. From the outset, civil rights were a social movement and did not become a political/social movement until the advent of the civil rights and voting rights legislation of 1964 and 1965 respectively. And the political crescendo that accompanied the emerging political/social movement’s groundswell enabled the liberal and progressive wing of the Democratic Party wrest the political control of the party from the southern conservative Democrats, a/k/a blue dogs. The political lock-down that social conservative control of the Democratic Party was utterly defeated in the wake of the success of the civil rights bills. Blue dog Democrats had to endure an ignominious political defeat, and the liberal and progressive wing of the Democratic Party assumed control until the advent of candidate Bill Clinton, and the Democratic Leadership Conference, DLC.
On the other hand, subsequent to their resounding political defeat in the wake of the success of the civil rights movement in 1964, social conservative Democrats established a political home in the Republican Party, and promptly began to rebrand the Grand Old Party, (GOP), from its eclectic, diverse and progressive roots as a political abolitionist party, to conservative. With the help of people like Senator Barry Goldwater, in congress and William F. Buckley on the ground advancing the right-wing political ideology, the new GOP has brandished social conservative ideology for more than five decades. The once diverse, eclectic and progress party of President Lincoln was rebranded to where it remains, as a social conservative and insular party, of the privilege demographic.
By the middle of the 1970s, the storied civil rights movement was on life support financially for various and sundry reasons. On the ground, civil rights morphed from a social movement, to a political movement, as a component of the Democratic Party. In the black communities around the country, the transition of the civil rights movement to political to electoral politics, altered if not blunted the impact black political activism. Democratic Party, and civil rights leadership orthodoxy, did a political merger, and black social/political activists became fascinated with electoral politics and the conventional Democratic Party leadership paradigm.
In the balance many communities were devastated and many so-called black militants, black power advocates, and independent thinkers, were denounced, and decried by ‘responsible’ Negro leadership. The merger between the civil rights orthodoxy and the Democratic Party created an political wedge between ‘responsible’ Negros and so-called black militants, black power advocates, radicals, leftists, communists, Marxists, etc. Accordingly, from the 1970s, to current time, there has been a proliferation of black elected officials around the country that are engaged in monolithic (one party) political leadership. Hence, black political patronage politics, personal economic empowerment, and an overriding ‘good job mentality’ has in large-part contributed to establishing what some argue is a the civil rights industry.
Subsequently, many in the black community have become fascinated, if not preoccupied with the politics of civil rights, which is a Democratic political phenomenon. However, civil rights political hegemony only exists in some quarters of the Democratic Party’s broad coalition. Therefore, while the civil rights agenda of the 1960s, and 70s was equivalent to advancing and improving the circumstances for black Americans, the civil rights agenda, such as it is has little if any relevance at all to the 21st century needs of the black community. Currently, the civil rights touts a social-justice agenda, and the black community along with other political ‘minorities’ compete on finite issues, resources, and media coverage. In the balance, conventional black political leaders, with the absence of ‘political-leverage’ politics, black elected officials and civil rights leaders have become marginalized and the black vote is essentially up for grabs.
As the result of the apparent political compromise between the Democrats and the civil rights leadership, the black political power advocates were utterly eviscerated in the wake of the informal political deal. By the middle of the 1970s, the civil rights movement was financially defunct, and the social movement known as civil rights, transformed ‘responsible’ black social activists into Democratic Party-political leaders.
By 1970, the trajectory of the civil rights movement going forward according the political assessment of some on the organizing staff of NWRO, the immediately political future was grim and the demise of the movement was inevitable imminent. There were several moving parts associated with the demise and one of the critical issues that handicapped the movement and stopped it in its tracks was the lack of funds to sustain the various stalwart civil rights organizations. There were persuasive arguments that emerged following the enactment of the civil rights and voting rights legislation. There was a prevailing sensibility that the cause of civil rights and voting rights had been won, therefore it was no further need for the donor community to continue funding it, because of the movements success.
There were other opinions as to the causes of the widespread recalcitrance being expressed on the question of the feasibility of a continuation of the civil rights movement, and the various views ran the gamut inclusive of the cynics. Yours truly was among a cadre of professional community/political organizers who were disillusioned with the merging of the civil rights movement with partisan Democratic Party’s retail electoral politics. We were not comfortable with the civil rights leadership political archetype, and the Democratic Party becoming the essential element for acceptance as a ‘responsible’ black political leader in the larger community. Our political disillusionment began in the tumultuous year of 1968 when a few of us began to feel the rhythm of a different political drum beat. Apart from our discomfort with the civil rights movement folding under the political wing of the Democratic Party, and the ignominious demise of the black power movement and its youthful and perhaps misguided advocates; the spectacle of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April and Senator Robert Kennedy in June of 1968. These profound life altering events generated much speculation regarding personal safety of black political organizers working on the national agenda, as lunatics and covert operations seemed to function at will, and with apparent impunity.
Without question an unconventional war was underway in various quarters, with special attention given too many black inner city and urban centers. A cadre of organizers met informally on a regular basis and ultimately a decision was taken to formally leave the movement and focus our black political empowerment agenda in our local communities. National movement politics, and black power politics was under assault and we had a better opportunity to survive in our local community. We ultimately broke political camp and establish our respective grassroots presence and advocated power politics by way of developing political leverage at the local level.
The borough of Queens was our base of operation, and we had a strong contingent that attended the National Black Political Convention, in Gary, Indiana, in 1972. The Gary convention was comprehensive and inspiring, and we met our objectives as we returned home and managed to win most seats on the Southeast Queens Community Corporation, the local antipoverty agency. We managed to squeeze out an election victory on the Southeast Queens Community Corporation and yours truly won the prime position of chairman of the board of the community corporation. Our team also won reelection to the South Jamaica Steering Committee, under the state Housing Development Authority, where yours truly was the chairman of the Multiservice Committee of the Steering Committee.
However, our controlling position on the bards of these agencies was truncated because of the escalating scandal known as Watergate, erupted which ultimately resulted in the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon from office. And because I was known to be a registered Republican, the only one in my generation in the activist community, we became collateral political damage in the wake of the political frenzy of the overwhelming Democratic Party electorate. In addition to my political adversaries began engaging in frenzied movement styled political rhetoric. Meetings became politically obnoxious and the public sensationalism that was often ridiculous. Tactics that we were very familiar with from the movement, that were now in political vogue, I was beginning to understand why the staff organizers were admonished not to link, and interface with local antipoverty agency people, and their operatives. The black political leaders associated with the Democratic Party, and the civil rights follow-ship was in fact political neophytes and they were utilizing tactics and strategy that we taught in leadership training workshops around the country.
We grew increasingly disenchanted with the fact that the black community inherited to the civil rights leadership orthodoxy in the framework of the Democratic Party’s new links to acceptable and ‘responsible’ black political leadership. Consequently, a cadre of organizers developed plans to utilize the political empowerment agenda to infiltrate electoral politics in the Republican Party. The substance of the book explores the Republican Party dispensation of our political career however I thought that it would useful for me to introduce the Democratic dispensation which includes my contribution in the political context of the civil rights movement and the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). Accordingly, we are pleased to introduce ‘Confession of a Black Republican.’