Lurleen’s Ghost: false prophets, empty symbolism, and the endurance of white supremacy

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Then the LORD said unto me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them. They prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought and the deceit of their heart.- Jeremiah 14:14

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. -1 John 4: 1

The Battle of Selma, an internecine conflict between Queen Hillary and the Safe Negro, Barack Obama, for the black vote, was waged in February and the combatants were both in rare form. To the uninitiated, it seemed that the courageous people who were battered and bloodied on the Edmund Pettus Bridge to secure African Americans voting rights inspired both. That would be wrong.

What the world witnessed was a big show of religiosity cynically calculated to pander to the vast majority of politically active and deluded black people facing a Hobson’s choice between two “articulate and clean” false prophets whose symbolic candidacies mask a hidden agenda to tend to America’s ruling class as servants and protectors of capitalist imperialism.

Michael Parenti, author of “Dirty Truths” has written: The history of the United States has been one of territorial and economic expansionism, with the benefits going mostly to the U.S. business class in the form of growing investments and markets, access to rich natural resources and cheap labor, and the accumulation of enormous profits. The American people have had to pay the costs of empire, supporting a huge military establishment with their taxes, while suffering the loss of jobs, the neglect of domestic services, and the loss of tens of thousands of American lives in overseas military ventures.

The greatest costs, of course, have been borne by the peoples of the Third World who have endured poverty, pillage, disease, dispossession, exploitation, illiteracy, and the widespread destruction of their lands, cultures, and lives.

The racial dimensions of our economic, political and military hegemony over the world’s people of color are an unstated but unmistakable form of white supremacy. Black Agenda Report has tilled the soil on this ground quite thoroughly. I highly recommend reading their piece on this subject. The meaning of Selma has been percolating in my mind for some weeks now and it gelled Friday while I dozed off in Barnes and Noble after work. What I would like to explore with you, if you’ll permit me, is the triumph of white supremacy over our politics and why I think Hillary and Barack are both agents of its facilitation.

In telling the story of white supremacy’s evolving political stranglehold, it is useful to examine the past as a template for the present.

One of the reasons I came to the south is because of its politics. Among the most colorful in the nation, the south has produced some world-class pols and demagogues. Some of the most notable: LBJ, Huey Long, and George Wallace. All three possessed an intuitive understanding of power. Both Huey Long and George Wallace understood the value of machine politics and the practical uses of propaganda.

Bill Clinton is not the first southern pol to advance his wife forward to maintain a foothold on power. Texas Governor James Ferguson was, running his wife Miriam and in his footsteps followed Alabama Governor George Wallace. Stephan Lesher, author of “George Wallace: American Populist,” picks up the story, “Wallace learned about the Fergusons shortly after Lurleen’s announcement; his source, of all people, was the President of the United States during a White House briefing on Vietnam for the nation’s governors…Then, Johnson regaled him with one of James’s 1924 campaign speeches in which he had explained how the couple would operate if Miriam was elected: he would be her number one assistant, he would say, but he would also “tote the wood and draw the water at the governor’s mansion.” Wallace knew a good line when he heard it-and adapted it in every speech he would make over the next months.”

George Wallace pursued the presidency with a vigor we’ve not seen recently until the emergence of the Clinton juggernaut. Running four times in 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976, he used every asset at his disposal to hold the Governorship of Alabama as a powerbase and springboard to the Presidency. One of those assets was his wife, Lurleen. Forced out by term limits in 1966, he ran Mrs. Wallace in his place as a surrogate. She pledged to the people that she would “let George do it” [run the state].

I have been thinking of the demure and modest homemaker thrust into the limelight by a controlling husband to maintain his own power and to make up for his unconscionable philandering. By elevating her to the governor’s chair, he gave her something no other man could: power and status. In so doing, he repaired their unhappy marriage. The same could be said of the Clintons despite Hillary’s unquestioned ability to run this country without her husband. She would not be on the cusp of making history without him. Echoing the Fergusons before them, we are still “getting two for the price of one.” And make no mistake, he is “tot[ing] the wood and drawing the water” for this campaign behind the scenes.

The campaign of 1966 was an interesting spectacle that reminds me of the current 2008 contest. The Alabama establishment had two contenders to choose from and chose only one: Lurleen Wallace and by extension, George. Former Governor Patterson who had defeated George for Governor in 1958 was a bitter segregationist. George’s spirited defense of white supremacy deflated his sails and she won going away. Patterson provoked the immortal statement from George in Marshal Frady’s legendary biography “Wallace,” “John Patterson out nigguhed me. And boys, I’m not goin’ to be out-nigguhed again.”

Indeed, he never was. He came to be seen as the personification of segregationist resistance. He introduced himself to the American people by way of an incendiary Inaugural Address penned by a Klansman in which he proclaimed, “Segregation Now! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!” Additionally, he reaped nationwide publicity for his melodramatic stand in the schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama. His demagogic advocacy of white supremacy connected him with the masses of disaffected whites fearful of black advancement. He turned their disaffection into an independent movement that mainstream Democratic and Republican politicians are still accommodating.

Dan Carter, author of the article “Legacy of Rage: George Wallace and the Transformation of American Politics” wrote, “Unwilling to listen to the dwindling handful of politicians who spoke of unpleasant choices, Americans willingly turned to the more satisfying task of exorcising demons. For politicians, it was a dilemma not unlike that facing George Wallace in 1962. I started off talking about schools and highways and prisons and taxes-and I couldn’t get them to listen,” he confided to an old supporter. “Then I began talking about niggers-and they stomped the floor.”

“Although working and middle class Americans in the 1960s periodically expressed uneasiness over inflation and the failure of wages to keep pace with the cost of living, widespread economic insecurity and declining incomes were not characteristic of the decade. It was primarily a sense of cultural and social dislocation- and out and out racism-that furnished the fuel for George Wallace’s angry rhetoric.”

Bill Clinton, although still a college student, was an active political operative by this time and a Capitol Hill intern for segregationist Arkansas Senator William Fulbright. He saw for himself how potent the politics of race was during the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas Public Schools a decade before. Governor Faubus parlayed his opposition to desegregation into an unprecedented six two-year terms as governor, a tenure equaled only by Clinton himself. In addition, Bill couldn’t have possibly missed Arkansas tepid support of LBJ in 1964 and its plurality support of Wallace’s third party bid in 1968.

Despite protestations to the contrary, white supremacy is still a factor today and has been supported by an exclusive focus on the integration of the ranks of politicians, public accommodations, and the desegregation of the public schools and institutions of higher learning. There is another institution, which is sadly deficient in its adherence to fairness and the rule of law: the judiciary. We’ve lost many battles and are losing the war.

The foundation of equal opportunity is crumbling before our eyes and the Roberts Court is leading the charge to destroy it once and for all. How did we get here? We got here because for some reason, we’re more concerned with electing politicians on the basis of showmanship-not policy. Politicians like Bill, Hillary, and Barack, use the politics of identity against us, rather than use it to create common ground.

The essence of their positions regarding judicial selection and due process reflect the political expediency of politicians on the make. Bill Clinton in 1992 famously executed Ricky Ray Rector, Christopher Hitchens described the incident Lobotomized by his own bullet, this disabled black convict did not understand either his trial or his sentence. Executed by Clinton to draw attention from the Gennifer Flowers flap (about which he also lied) Rector outdoes Willie Horton by every definition of racist grandstanding. His snuffing was not just an election tactic, bad enough though that would have been. In power, Clinton fast-tracked capital punishment to the point where even Republican governors and legislatures have had to try and slow it down.”

As President, he fast-tracked executions by signing legislation that increased the number of crimes that were death penalty eligible and which severely short-circuited habeas corpus, resulting in the dramatically increased possibility of executing the innocent. He even executed someone in Arkansas whose innocence was legitimately in question. Alexander Nguyen of American Prospect wrote, Also executed during the (1992) campaign was Steven Douglas Hill, who was convicted of shooting a state police investigator after he and an accomplice escaped from a state prison. Hill confessed to the crime, but his partner Michael Cox has insisted for years that it was he, not Hill, who pulled the trigger. In all, Arkansas executed four people on Clinton‘s watch.

Hillary stood by and never meddled in the process of shedding unnecessary blood to elevate themselves to the ultimate power of the Presidency. Given the choice between standing for what’s right and sacrificing power, she chose to support her husband and sacrifice a life giving the lie to the arguments regarding gender diversity in the ranks of elected politicians. While in the Senate, she and her rival, Barack Obama, have played it safe-very safe. The youthful opposition to the death penalty has given way to safe positions crafted to advance viable Presidential candidacies and leave undisturbed the grip of white supremacy over our Judiciary.

Bush has twice nominated arch Conservatives to the Supreme Court and twice Barack and Hillary refused to filibuster those nominations to death.  He and Hillary cast the right vote on the Alito nomination against cloture (shutting off debate), but they were just going through the motions.  Neither put up a fight against John Roberts, although they voted against him. A passionate level of opposition and principled advocacy would have sent a powerful signal to the civil rights community that those two meant business and would have provided political cover for their weak-kneed colleagues to man-up and follow suit.

John Kerry said it best of John Roberts, “Judge Roberts argued against using the “effects test” to determine whether section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was violated. Instead, he believed and “intent” test—requiring proof of a discriminatory motive should be required, regardless of the fact that many victims of discrimination would be unable to prove real discriminatory intent and therefore unable to enjoy the protections afforded by the Act. In some cases, the effect of Judge Roberts’ intent test meant that disenfranchised individuals had to prove the motive of long dead officials who crafted election rules. That is a foolish standard when it comes between citizens and their constitutionally protected right to fair representation in our democracy.”

As someone who represented a majority black legislative district created as a nod to the Voting Rights Act, Barack Obama, should have vigorously filibustered both of Bush’s reactionary appointments. Their collective hostility to the Voting Rights Act, Affirmative Action, and race discrimination claims were more than sufficient to ignite the fires of Barack’s righteous indignation. Alas, the safe Negro never gets angry or loses his temper on behalf of our people because it would get in the way of playing kiss-ass to Senate colleagues and the white power structure he hopes one day to join as our President.

So, chirren, let me end as I began because the scriptures are clear, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Hillary and Barack have both been tested in the heat of political battle for their progressive mettle and adherence to truth and in my mind, both have failed and revealed themselves to be false prophets and “New Democrats” in thrall to white supremacy.

12 thoughts on “Lurleen’s Ghost: false prophets, empty symbolism, and the endurance of white supremacy

  1. Cliff

    ns like Bill, Hillary, and Barack, use the politics of identity against us, rather than use it to create common ground.”

    They may also fear what they believe to be a higher power, yet they may be ignorant to the fact that God is the most powerful.

    Minister Benjamin Chavis Muhammad in the movie “Belly” (1999). “ They use what you fear against you, your fear of death, your fear of imprisonment, where in this world is anyone safe from death?” “You see the lies that you’ve been told”. The only way we can win, is not have absolutely any fear of them, and only fear God. 🙂

  2. Cliff

    “Politicians like Bill, Hillary, and Barack, use the politics of identity against us, rather than use it to create common ground.”

    They may also fear what they believe to be a higher power, yet they may be ignorant to the fact that God is the most powerful.

    Minister Benjamin Chavis Muhammad in the movie “Belly” (1999). “ They use what you fear against you, your fear of death, your fear of imprisonment, where in this world is anyone safe from death?” “You see the lies that you’ve been told”. The only way we can win is not have absolutely any fear of them, and only fear God.

  3. SB this was an inspirational post, and a tour de force of political observation from the perspective of race and class. I was nodding my head in agreement the whole way through. As painful as it is, we need to read the unvarnished truth, which is always in short supply but especially these days, it seems. Keep it coming!

  4. Ernesto,

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. I have been dying for hours for feedback. I was starting to wonder whether y’all disagreed or whether this is just a lazy Sunday afternoon. 🙂

  5. rikyrah

    This is one of the reasons why I am sooooooo glad I found Black bloggers. To be able to read unvarnished, no-holds-barred kick ass commentary from a Black perspective…I need this.

    These blogs are like being able to tap into that intellectual challenge that you could constantly get in college or grad school…but, with Black folk🙂

    Whether agree or disagree, the conversation is what’s important.

    This, from you, is kick ass, SB.

  6. NMP

    SB,

    I’m glad that you are correcting Bill Clinton’s bio. I only wish that more Black folks could see behind the veneer. I wish that you had added that while he was keeping company with Marian Wright Edelman and supposedly champioining her mission to ‘Leave No Child Behind’, he was earning the title of Prison President from groups like the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. When you ask how justice failed Shaquanda Cotton, you need look no further than the Clinton Administration where penalities for juvenile offenders stiffened. He was the hero of the victims’ rights movement, police and “law and order” pols like John Ashcroft who wanted to eliminate defendant’s rights altogether. It’s also worth noting that more minorities were incarcerated during the Clinton administration than the two previous republican administrations.

    As to Obama, I have to ask when is it appropriate for an elected official to behave contrarian to the views and wants of the constituency who elected him? I hear where you’re coming from, but IL isn’t MA, and I don’t think there would have been much support and appreciation from the MAJORITY (not just the South of Chicago) of the voters in IL if Obama had engaged in grand-standing that would not have effected the outcome, an absloute no-no for a freshman senator. If he had filibustered, it would have been viewed as a state embarrassment. As I’ve said before, I don’t think we have the luxury of of nursing moral victories at the expense of real poltical gains any more. Obama assuming the role of Black militant in the Senate would have only created a more hostile environment for would be Black Senate candidates.

  7. It’s always appopriate for a politician to vote their convictions whether the majority agree with them or not. It’s up to them to lead and educate the voters on the issues and why they are taking a stand for or against something. The country was founded on the very principal that elected representatives would do this…and not be a part of mob rule. Obama needs to lead and not timidly follow any kind of consensus that sells out what he stands for, IF he stands for anything, which is somewhat doubtful at this point in time.

    Sorry for the rant but it isn’t time for excuses…not while we still have people dying in a sham war.

  8. NMP

    Ernesto,

    With all due respect that’s a Utopian view point that has proven to have no value in a two-party system. The founders abhored the concept of political parties for that reason, but nonetheless it is our reality. Obama, like every other member of a two-party system, is beholden to the leadership of the party b/c the Party financed and organized his election. These decision are not made in a vacum. They are decided by Party leaders among whom were Schumer, Kerry, Reid and Kennedy who decided that it was NOT in the best interest of the Party fo filibuster. They capitulated in closed door meeting with Republicans. If Obama or Clinton, both Jr. Senators, would have ignored their leadership’s directive, they would have been lampooned in the press and marginalized by the Party. Subsequently, they would not have been able to sponsor or co-sponsor any meaningful legislation and effectively betray the trust and interests of the electorate in their respective home state whom they are most accountable to.

    Where was the outcry/mandate from the Black Community to oppose Alito’s or Robert’s nominations? Fixated on the Micahel Jackson or R. Kelly? Debating if Southern rap is killing hip hop? I would argue our own complacency is the greatest facilitator to White supremacy.

  9. NMP, I been called worse things than utopian, so I won’t take any offense there.😉 Suffice it to say that I have no argument whatsoever with you and the vicious reality, but it’s past time to break this cycle of capitulation. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney do not compromise on a damn thing, do they? Why then does their opposition?

  10. You get the Supreme Court you allowed through passivity.

    Which is why Barack Obama is still considered by me to be a triangulating twit on both the Roberts and Alito nominations. It’s easy to cast a “no” vote when you already know what the outcome is going to be.

    I’m in DC and I attended the Roberts hearing. What people didn’t see was the scuffling that took place outside of the cameras. Obama was about to vote against cloture on Roberts and Alito, and in both instances, he had to be pressured to vote for cloture…in fact, he was dragged, kicking and screaming to vote for cloture on Alito. Roberts, he said, didn’t have enough of a record to vote against his confirmation…

    When this court passes the final decision to outlaw EEO, let’s see how Obama handles that, if he’s allowed to remain in Senate chambers.

  11. NMP

    Ernesto,

    No disrespect intended AT ALL! The one thing, and I do mean one thing, that impresses me with Republicans is how they fall in line and on their swords for their true beliefs. Democrats are whimps! If they had any courage, they would have gone with Howard Dean in 2004, the one man willing to stand up to George Bush.

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