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A Troubled Alliance Endures

Blacks and McGovern

By Tony Hill

IN EARLY JULY, shortly before the Democratic Convention, Simon and Schuster published Julian Bond's first books. A Time to Act, subtitled. "The Movement in Politics," and sponsored as coming out party for the book at the White House Motor Inn in Atlanta. Twenty or so invited guests had already settled into the cocktails and hot and old hors d'oeuvres by the time Bond arrived, walking in on cat-lithe feet and wearing a vested blue suit. Just back from a trip politicking for George McGovern and about to leave on another. Bond made a relaxed beeline for the bar, greeting a friend or two as he passed with a Cheshire smile and a handshake. At the bar, he snared his drink like a swimmer taking a racing-turn in slow-motion and continued to make the rounds of the room. As we shook hands, I noticed that four letters were written in felt tip black ink across the carmel palm of his right hand. The letters were "FMBC". I asked him what they stood for.

"For McGovern Before the Convention," he said, his puckish face spread in the confident Cheshire, smile, and coasted off to corral a comely. Afro-coiffed Chisholm delegate and convince her to become FMBC her foxy self.

As it happens, this particular foray proved unsuccessful. The girl, one of a slate of student delegates for Chisholm from Atlanta University, had gone so curly for Shirley that not even Julian's notorious preachin and healin persuasion could dissuade her, or so she warned him. Cheshire eyes eyed her flattered smile, as the young Chisholm delegate pledged she would be sticking with her girl all the way, making no deals until Shirley said make them. The people had elected her to represent their support of the first black and the first woman to be a serious candidate for President, and she was going to fulfill her appointed mission at the Convention. Nothing could change her mind: she was going to stick with the sister.

SUDDENLY, THERE was something sweet and fetching, like magnolias, in the air. Julian magic was on the prowl. His eyelashes purring above the gentle, precise line of his pawing humor as he preached the virtues of being FMBC. Bond's playful political evangelism spread its sticky web. An elegant, feline charisma was at work.

What about the second ballot, he asked. She might be available. The Cheshire cat came back into Bond's smile. But, only if Shirley gave the word, she said. Of course, Julian replied. They could talk about it later ... sometime when her husband wasn't around to give her moral support. Gliding back towards the bar for a refill. Bond walked away knowing she knew she had just been wooed by the best, and he accepted the compliment. However, he also knew that she was not going to vote for George McGovern, because, among other things there wasn't going to be a second ballot. At the Convention, she stuck with her girl all the way, keeping her foxy self on the Chisholm trail.

But, a lot of little foxes never made it to Grandma Shirley's or forsook Uncle Hubert, because they got ambushed by Julian magic. One minute, there was magnolias, and then, suddenly, they were FMBC and, while Frank Mankiewicz was putting them down on the plus side of his delegate list, Julian Bond was strolling off on gilded splinters to ju-ju another stray.

In fact, Julian magic played such a critical role in the nomination of George McGovern that McGovern probably would not be in the position to have even the slim chance he does of evicting Richard Nixon had he not had Julian out preachin and healin for him. Although in the final tabulation of delegate votes, a large number of black delegates cast their votes for Shirley Chisholm in a symbolic show of black solidarity and strength; when it counted, on the credentials votes on the South Carolina. California and Cook County delegations, and on the initial Presidential rollcalls, blacks backed McGovern in numbers. Without this strong black support, McGovern might well have been stopped, and, without Julian Bond. McGovern never would have gotten it.

ORIGINALLY, JULIAN BOND had not intended to support George McGovern or any of the white Democrats dueling for the honor of jousting Richard Nixon. In fact, in August of 1971, at the strategy meeting of the Southern Black Caucus in Mobile, Bond had been instrumental in the framing and passage of a resolution urging blacks to collect and conserve their political torque, withholding any commitment to a specific major contender until after the attrition of the primaries or even after the Convention.

Like many blacks. Bond was deeply discontented with the Democratic party after the '68 campaign. With nowhere else to go blacks--as they had since the New Deal--had religiously voted Democratic in '68, and had voted in such numbers that one out of every five votes Hubert Humphrey got was cast by a black. But, blacks had gotten little, if anything, back from the Democratic party in return. With the exception of Bond's nomination for the Vice-Presidency and the seating of the Mississippi Loyalists, blacks had failed to get at the Chicago Convention the kind of recognition and power to which they were entitled. Moreover, after the Humphrey Muskie ticket was nominated, black politicians became the neglected step-children of the campaign, getting only the last-pickings of campaign resources and positions, and having no say in major decision-making. Perhaps worst of all, blacks had ridden a loser in '68, in trying their political future of Plubert Humphrey. For the next four years the critical domestic power of the Presidency would be in the hands of Richard Nixon, a man who owed them nothing and know it.

But, as disconcerting as the prospect of four years at the mercy of Richard Nixon loomed to black politicians and black people in general on the bleal: noon of his inauguration, was the fact that they had no guarantee that had Humphrey been elected, they would now be anything more than at his tender mercies once he had taken the oath of office. Essentially, this was the realization that despite Humphrey's personal reputation as a champion of black causes and the similar, if less impressive, reputation of the national Democratic party, blacks had failed to elicit from either anything save the same vague promises of patronage and progressivism that they had always gotten from the Democrats, and, more importantly, had failed to enhance their political hand to the point that they could expect anything more in 1972.

POLITICS, JULIAN BOND says in A Time to Speak, A Time to Act, "is not the art of the possible: for black people, most things are impossible. It is not the art of compromise: for black people, the compromise is always so complete that nothing is left when we are through. No, for black people, this art means simply the process of seeing who gets how much of what from whom."

To look out for their interests. "Black people must begin now, in this 1972 election year and afterward, in this country's districts, towns, and cities, the tremendous task of welding together a strong black electorate that will be prepared to make independent decisions about who and what black people vote for and against in the months and years ahead."

To begin this process, it was necessary for blacks to develop a political strategy for 1972 that would give them both a greater degree of independence from the Democratic party and a greater degree of influence within it. In his chapter on "Black Faces in High Places." Bond writes:

Black voters are in the same position in the Democratic Party as the man who was told only two airlines could take him where he wanted to go. One of the two had by far the best safety record but the worst record for hiring black people. He had to decide whether he wanted to be a race man or a live man. That is why independence is important for us. It is not going to be possible for 11 per cent of the population, disorganized and scattered to form a third party in 1972. It is possible, however to hold ourselves along and independent from some of the hustle and bustle surrounding the mynad Democratic candidates in 1972 even from the one candidate who wins the Democratic Presidential nomination and then to extract important promises from that Democratic nominee. Or to run our own candidate, a black candidate for President in states where such a candidacy could affect the outcome.

In short, Bond's strategy for the 2 electrons was even as late as March of this year for black people to tactically withhold their support from the major Democratic contenders until the point when that support would have its most protest impact on "the process of seeing who gets how much of what from whom," while at the same time, laying the groundwork for later actions through grassroots organizing and the favorite son campaigns.

However, by early April, when the Congressional Black Caucus held its forum on national priorities at Harvard, it was clear that no such neat, coherent, and subtle strategy as he proposed would or perhaps could be followed by blacks in 1972. Many old-line black politicians had already aligned themselves in the party center, backing either Humphrey or Muskie. Shirley Chisholm had announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination, with a spare and eloquent appeal for black support. Her entry into the race had upstaged the male members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were then forced to abandon their idea of promoting John Conyers, the handsome, young black Congressman from Michigan, as their candidate. Although officially neutral and internally divided, several Caucus members, led by Louis Stokes of Cleveland, favored, supporting Humphrey again, but this time, extracting concrete pledges from him in advance. The pledges were to be in the form of the black political agenda the Caucus was preparing to present to the Democratic Platform Committee. The agenda was to embody the spirit of the National Black Political Convention, held earlier in the year at Gary, and chaired by Caucus member Walter Fauntroy. It was the strategy of the Stokes faction of the Caucus to get Humphrey to publicly endorse the agenda in exchange for getting the support of a solid black delegate bloc.

But, George Wallace's smashing victory in the Florida Primary outdated, undermined, or reversed several of these black strategies. His victory not only thrust Hubert Humphrey far to the right of the position he held in his halcyon days, but it also made it more difficult for many blacks to believe that they could afford to withhold their support any longer from the more liberal Democratic contenders in hopes of getting more for that support later. If Wallace built momentum unchecked in the primaries, later might be too late.

Still, Julian Bond adhered o his own strategy, keeping his distance from the frenetic whirl of the primaries.

Then, George McGovern won in Wisconsin, and joined Wallace as a coming contender. Bond had known and liked McGovern from the time they had both been supporters of the antiwar movement and Robert Kennedy's aborted campaign. Although Bond felt that he and McGovern were in "pointed disagreement on a number of things," he thought that of all the candidates McGovern was "most right on most of the issues that I'm interested in." However, among other things. Bond was not' yet sure that McGovern could win. But, unlike other politicans who refused to support McGovern because of their doubts of his political viability. Julian Bond saw in the McGovern campaign a chance of "building a new kind of politics" and of exerting precisely that kind of political impact he had previously hoped to achieve by remaining neutral before the Convention.

Up until this point, McGovern's most glaring weakness had been has inability to draw a substantial share of the black vote. Eventhough he won in Wisconsin, he was unable to crack Humphrey's hold on Milwaukee's black wards. Although this did not make a critical difference in the Western primary McGovern's inability to reach the black vote promised to present more of a problem in the upcoming primaries in states where the black population was large enough to swing the election. In fact the problem of McGovern`s poor relationship with black voters and pol`s was thrown into high relief when he lost the Ohio- primary.

The race against Humphrey in Ohio has been rated a toss up and several McGovern people even felt their man held a definite edge. The early returns confirmed this prediction, as McGovern crept to a slim lead edging Humphrey in the industrial towns that should have been has strong ends. But, Big Labor had sunk most of its money into the Muskie campaign and when Muskie folded after Flonda and Wisconsin became wary of spending any more of its resources in the unpredictable prodigal primary run.Throughout election night in Ohio and into the dawn McGovern clung to his lead. But, then the returns from Cleveland began to come in.

In three out of four of greater Cleveland Congressional districts McGovern was clearly ahead, and it appeared as it be would win the state if he ran even close to Humphrey in Congressional district, the 21st largely black, the 21st is Louis Stokes's district. With Stokes favoring Humphrey McGovern's moguls had expected that Humphrey would beat them in the 21st, but they had not expected that precinet figures would run on the order of 109 to 1 and 120 to 3. In fact, as a steady stream of such figures came in from the 21st the McGovern people realized that they had been taken. And, they also realized that it was essential that they at least mend fences with black politicians, while at the same time attracting a larger following within the black community, if McGovern were to win.

Perhaps no one is as qualified as Julian Bond to accomplish both ends of this task. Soon after the Ohio primary, Bond met with McGovern and McGovern's minority coordinator. Yancey Martin, and an agreement was reached. In return for preachin and healin for McGovern. Bond was to get "the three things I wanted: partial control of campaigning in my area, the hon's share of the voter registration money for my area, and, after the election, patronage."

Bond started to work on his end of the bargain almost immediately. Along with John Lewis, the former head of SNCC who is now director of the Voter Education Project (VEP), he went to work on Coretta Scott King to persuade her to endorse McGovern and, equally important, campaign for him in California. Simultaneously, he scavenged the South for commitments to McGovern from previously uncommitted or Humphrey-learning blacks.

With Mrs. King, Bond toured California, urging blacks to turn their backs on Hubert Humphrey because Humphrey had turned his back on them, while praising McGovern's sensitivity and conviction. Largely as a result of Bond's activity. McGovern drew substantial black support for the first time in California, when, as it happened, he needed it most.

Returning to the South Bond turned up the charm on black delegates uncommitted to McGovern, convincing them by "sort of a mix of our persuasion and their own ability to make up their own minds" that the time was right to come out for that McGovern. "It comes down to a feeling that McGovern is going to make it with us or without us, and the general feeling is that it would be better with us," he explained.

By this time, Walter Fauntroy had also become very active in the McGovern campaign and in fact, the whole attitude of the Congressional Black Caucus was changing. Soon, they too decided to get on the McGovern bandwagon. After negotiating terms similar to those won by Julian Bond. Black Caucus leaders held a press conference to announce their support of McGovern. When Walter Fauntroy, the District of Columbia's nonvoting representative, delivered one of the speeches placing McGovern in nomination at Miami, it seemed that a mutually satisfactory alliance had at last been forged between black political leaders and the McGovern campaign George McGovern had gotten the Democratic nomination no one said he could get, and black leaders had gotten specific pledges from him about who was going to get how much of what from whom. For the moment, everyone was happy.

But, the period of enchantment was short-lived. First came the Fagleton affair, then the hassle with George Meany and other more conservative labor leaders who had been involved in the stop. McGovern campaign. Suddenly, the momentum that the McGovern campaign had accrued during the last primaries and the Convention had disappeared as unexpectedly as it had come.

Moreover, by late August, when black pols were woodshedding around the country to assess their situations and map strategy for the coming campaigns, the honeymoon of the marriage between blacks and McGovern was unquestionably over. Louis Stokes expressed the feeling of many: "We've been screwed again."

"The cat's a fraud." Congressman Bill Clay said of McGovern. Clay, a former chairman of the Black Congressional Caucus and one of the most respected black politicians in the country, and Stokes, the current chairman of the Caucus, charged that McGovern was reneging on all of his promises and wouldn't even given them an audience to discuss their dissatisfactions.

Even Julian Bond, who had met the previous weekend with McGovern and Gary Hart in Washington, guardedly expressed misgivings about the prenomination pact with McGovern: "It was easier for us to deliver to him than for him to deliver to us," he said.

A major factor in black disenchantment with McGovern was that he was failing to deliver the voter registration money and the campaign jobs that blacks had been promised. The procedure for this pre-election patronage was supposed to be that McGovern, in addition to hiring them for positions of authority within his own national voter registration campaign, would induce his contributors to donate funds to nonprofit, officially non-partisan voter registration groups on the local and regional levels. The particular groups that were to receive these channeled funds would be chosen by the black political figures who were the main McGovern operatives in different parts of the country.

In the South this was Julian Bond, and he chose as his pet political charities the Voter Education Project and the Youth Citizenship Fund. "In the South, there's only one group that effectively registers older black voters, and that's the VEP. And, there's only one group that effectively registers young people, and that's the Youth Citizenship Fund." Bond explains. However, perhaps also influencing Bond's choice of charities was the fact that James Bond. Julian's younger brother, heads the southeastern region of the YCF and that John Lewis, the former head of SNCC and a close crony of Julian's since their days together in the movement, is director of the VEP. This is not to suggest that Bond was motivated by nepotism alone, for, as he says, the YCF and the VEP are the best in their business, but it is indicative of the fact that an inner circle of black political figures made the pact with McGovern and were in the best position to profit from it.

However, as a result of the Fagleton crisis and Big Labor's break with McGovern. McGovern has had trouble enough trying to get the money he needs to pay his own workers, not to mention get his campaign contributors to donate money he needs to live up to his pledges. Consequently, neither the VEP nor YCF has yet to receive any of the promised funds from McGovern.

"You have to understand," said one McGovern campaign official, "that this is not the Republican party. If anybody hasn't been getting any money, it's because there's no money for them to get."

But the conflict between the McGovern campaign and blacks to whom it owes political debts is more than the product of the politics of poverty--more than an unsurprising consequence of the sheer feet that McGovern does not have they money to pay those debts off. When Louis Stokes said, "We've been screwed again," he was talking about more than money. No one ever supported George McGovern in hopes of getting rich by doing so. What Stokes was talking about is the fact that the McGovern campaign held out the promise of providing blacks with an opportunity of really getting into the business of politics--which is, as Julian Bond said, the business of deciding who will get what from whom--and he has as yet failed to live up to that promise.

In this context, it is far more significant that McGovern has gone against the advice of his Chicago operatives both black and white, including Jesse Jackson, and has endorsed the reelection of Cook Country DA Edward Hanrahan or that he is about to similarly disregard the pleas of many of his workers and supporters in Boston and endorse Louise Day Hicks, than it is that he is failing to produce the money promised to the VEP or the YCF.

In fact, perhaps it is as Julian Bond says: "The tragedy of black people in the election of 1972 is that there are few ways for us to go. Before the convention, there was McGovern, Muskie, Humphrey, and Shirley Chisholm. Now, it's reduced down to McGovern and Nixon."

So, it is. Such is the nature of the process of deciding who will get what from whom. Still, at the point of ultimate reduction stands McGovern. There is no alternative to consider.CrimsonTony HillSURGENT SURVIVER, McGovern's running mate, waves for the crowd.

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