Selma, Alabama, has produced the most reactionary Black Congressperson in modern times, part of the Democratic Party’s increasing servitude to corporate interests.
“Sewell’s counter-legislation would neuter the Sanders bill in most of the country.”
Rep.Terri Sewell, who has wallowed at the bottom of the barrel of the Congressional Black Caucus ever since she won election to her Alabama Black Belt seat in 2010, is stooping to new lows. Sewell this month introduced a bill crafted to nullify Sen. Bernie Sanders’ and Rep. Bobby Scott’s legislation to boost the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2024. The Sanders/Scott Raise the Wage Act would also ensure that the federal minimum wage will rise further as median pay increases. Terri Sewell’s new counter-legislation, dubbed the Phase-in $15 Wage Act, would neuter the Sanders bill in most of the country, staggering wage increases by region so that more than 40 percent of the workforce would still be making $10.50 an hour or lessby 2024, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, The EPI’s Heidi Shierholz says Sewell’s bill “locks in an economics of inequality.”
As per usual when serving the interests of capital, Sewell and her co-sponsors say they are concerned about small businesses that can’t afford to pay $15 an hour. “The cost of living in Selma, Alabama is very different than New York City,” said Sewell, claiming her bill gives communities “the flexibility to grow their economy” while still giving minimum wage workers a raise. But the end result of her legislation’s complex regional pay raise schedules would be to thwart achievement of $15 an hour almost everywhere except those localities that have already passed such laws on their own. Sewell’s contention that places like her home town don’t need $15 an hour don’t hold water, either. According to the EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, a single adult with no children already needs to earn $34,579 -- about $18 an hour -- to live in the area.
“Sewell would thwart $15 an hour almost everywhere except those localities that have already passed such laws on their own.’
Half of 13 Democrats that co-sponsored Sewell’s retrograde measure are freshmen that entered Congress in the 2018 Democratic “wave” –- meaning most of these surfers are anything but “progressive.” One of them is Lucy McBath, the Black suburban Atlanta mother whose teenage son was killed by a white man for playing music too loudly. She sided with Sewell to scuttle the $15 minimum. The “new class” that emerged from the 2016 congressional cycle was even worse, producing five new Black congresspersons, all of them warmongering corporate mutants (Al Lawson, FL; A. Donald McEachin, VA; Dwight Evans, PA; Lisa Blunt Rochester, DE; Anthony Brown, MD). But Terri Sewell is the queen of down-home Black corporate sleaze, having succeeded Black Georgian David Scott as the “Worst Black Member of Congress,” according to BAR’s Congressional Black Monitor of September, 2015.
Sewell inherited her reactionary politics –- and corporate funding – from her predecessor in the congressional seat, Artur Davis, a founding member of the historical first wave of reactionary Black federal lawmakers, birthed in the bowels of invading right-wing capital in 2002. Davis, a shady Birmingham prosecutor, was propelled to victory over relatively progressive Rep. Earl Hilliard in a tsunami of corporate cash, torrents of which also swept Rep. Cynthia McKinney from office in Georgia that same year and almost put 31-year-old Cory Booker in the mayor’s seat in Newark, New Jersey in his first shot at the job. (Booker’s multi-millionaire backers would send him to City Hall four years later.)
“The ‘new class’ from 2016 produced five new warmongering corporate mutants.”
It was corporate capital’s maiden voyage into local Black Democratic politics, a trial run to determine if corporate money could work the same grotesque political mutations in post-“movement” ghetto politics as it does in the rest of the U.S. polity. Lots of pro-Israel money was also in the mix, as Hilliard told The Black Commentator in July, 2002:
Hilliard: I just found out this past week, that there were people who were sent to Alabama that were on the payroll of corporations who were doing all the necessary ground work and preparations and…when they put the money in, the money came like, WOW! It came almost at one time, over a period of about 30 days. Sometime between the report that we got, which I believe was the report of the last of April, and the election, which was June 4, they raised about $700,000 - $800,000.
And between May 1 and June 20, he raised $1,098,000. This is pure cash, reportable cash. Even now, he still has money coming in.
But, it doesn't show the total amount, because there is no way you can calculate the services that he got. But I estimate that he got $2,000,000 worth of press, or more, from the Jewish press as well as the Republican press.
There's no question that it was well planned and, to be honest with you, well executed.
BC: Did the contributions to your opponent take you by surprise?
Oh yeah, it really did. This is the same guy that I ran against two years ago, and we were on, basically, equal footing. I had no real money and he had no real money. He said the same thing about me then, and I said basically the same thing about him.
BC: So nothing had changed, except the money?
Except money. And when he came with money, he came with negative ads. The ads were basically about my Middle East stands. I had voted not to send people to prison for life without parole, and he twisted that to say that I voted to let pedophiles out of jail.
BC: Who are these corporations?
Not just corporations, but organizations like AIPAC [American Israel Political Affairs Committee]. Mostly Republican operatives and Jewish operatives that were sent by different organizations and groups and corporations. None of this is in writing anywhere that I have been able to pick up. But I've talked to people who met these people, who talked to them, who dealt with them.
The only thing I know for sure, that I saw in black and white, is $1,098,000 that [Davis] reported. You can't take money from corporations, so that came from Jews and Republicans. There's no question where that money came from. Admittedly, it came from Jews and Republicans.
BC: The pro-Israel contributors made no secret of their support for your opponent. Was it their intention to make a public display of wealth?
Oh, definitely -- the seed of fear. It sends a message to every member of congress.
BC: What is the message?
Vote for Israel or face possible defeat.
Let me tell you when I first realized I had a problem. Several people called me and told me that my opponent was on national TV, MSNBC, CNN, and to turn to CNN and I could pick it up every hour. I said, No, man, that guy doesn't have that kind of money. So I turned to CNN. AIPAC was introducing him. They had had a fundraiser last night for him in Washington, he was on his way to New York for a fundraiser. Within two or three days the paper reported that, at the fundraiser in New York, there were about 300 people there, he raised $272,000. When I got that news, I had about $22,000.
Almost immediately, the next ads started, and they didn't stop. They increased in intensity.
I didn't have the money, so I just bought radio time. But what I did anticipate... I had done a poll, I was 24 points ahead [the same percentage as his 2000 victory over Davis] , so I figured I could ride the storm out. There was a third guy in the race. He was polling about 2 or 3 percent. He went to 11 percent. What the people tell me was, the ads got so negative against me, they didn't want to vote for [Davis] and they didn't want to vote for me, so they voted for that third guy, who ended up getting about 11,000 votes, which translated to about 11 percent.
It was rough. The ads never stopped. They were well prepared. I have to give it to them.
Derelicts of the House
In the Congressional Black Caucus, Artur Davis bonded with Atlanta’s newly elected David Scott, the bankers’ best friend; Harold Ford, Jr., who was on his way to becoming George Bush’s favorite Black Congressman; and Denise Majette, the former Republican turned Democrat who would spend one hapless term in Cynthia McKinney’s seat before fading back into obscurity. For the first time in history, the Black Caucus had a coherent, definable rightwing bloc. The capitalist electoral experiment of 2002 was the first of many great successes in turning the Black wing of Democratic Party into a fine-tuned corporate tool.
By 2005, the Black Caucus was voting with the corporate telecoms in greater proportion than the Democratic Caucus as a whole. The transformation from a mostly “leftish” Black Caucus to a reliably corporate body had taken only two congressional election cycles. (See BAR “Black Caucus Caves to Corporate Power,” 15 June 2006.)
“For the first time in history, the Black Caucus had a coherent, definable rightwing bloc.”
The Congressional Black Caucus Monitor defined seven members as “derelict” – the worst of the bunch. As The Black Commentator reported on September 22, 2005: “The worst malefactors, including the aforementioned Harold Ford (D-TN) and David Scott (D-GA), are Sanford Bishop (D-GA), at 25 percent, Albert Wynn (D-MD), at 30 percent, Artur Davis (D-AL), 40 percent, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), 45 percent, and William Jefferson (D-LA), at 55 percent.”
Artur Davis emerged as perhaps the most dangerous of the CBC right-wingers when he was “picked by Obama’s alter ego and future White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as co-chair of the southern region of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in 2005,” as reported by BAR. That put him in a position to find, mentor and fund clones of himself for Congress, spreading the corporate cancer. The power-proximity went to his head, and exploded. After a disastrous run for governor of Alabama in which he shunned the support and advice of Black Democrats, Davis went Republican in 2012 – and soon slipped into oblivion. But his seat had been filled by fellow bottom-feeder Terri Sewell, who tied longtime troglodyte Sanford Bishop, of Georgia, with a score of 20 out of a possible 100 on the CBC Report Card, meaning she only votes correctly one out of five times on key measures. Even the formerly “worst” CBCer David Scott does better, at 30 percent -- as did Artur Davis, in years past.
“Davis went Republican in 2012 – and soon slipped into oblivion.”
The arrival on Capitol Hill of a handful of leftish young Democrats, including Ilhan Omar in the Black Caucus, does not amount to a sea change in the political complexion of the Democratic Party. Rather, these leftish lawmakers are far outnumbered by the right-wingers in the Democratic classes of 2016 and 2018, including the six freshmen that voted with Terri Sewell to neuter the $15 an hour minimum wage. Even by bourgeois political standards, “progressives” make up only a handful of the Black Caucus.
The Democratic Party is the main agent for ruling class political control of the Black community. It has infested and suborned virtually all of Black America’s civic associations, rendering them useless to any self-determinationist project. In the Congressional Black Caucus, which as an institution abandoned Cynthia McKinney after she became a target of Big Capital and the Israel lobby, “progressivism” has withered to the smallest rump. Only three serving members of the Caucus voted both to halt the Pentagon’s 1033 program to militarize local police, in 2014, and against elevating police to the status of a protected class, in 2018. They are: Barbara Lee (CA), Bobby Scott (VA) and Maxine Waters (CA).
And one of them went Russiagate crazy.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].
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