James ClyburnLongtime JJP readers will know that we’ve been both highly critical and at times laudatory of the Congressional Black Caucus and its members. The Caucus has gone from totally ignoring black bloggers, to lambasting/dismissing our communities’ opinions entirely to now sitting down to talk with some of us. Congratulations JJPers – you helped make that happen and I think it represents progress. Ultimately it’s necessary for an older generation to sit down with the hip hop generations to talk about the issues of the day and how they impact our nation. The power transfer has already begun and I think there’s information and passion on both sides to be shared.

This meeting with Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) on Sept 30 happened while I was out funeralizing for my grandmother’s passing. Sad that I missed it. That said, Danielle Belton of the Black Snob and I had a dialogue over email about it and I thought her post was a good summary. It’s still relevant since it’s about the midterm elections and well, those haven’t happened yet! Many of you will recall that Clyburn was a special target of ours during the push to encourage black elected representatives to vote with their districts as superdelegates for Obama over Clinton in 2008.

Bloggers in the house with Rep. Clyburn who is one of the most powerful men in Congress/Washington/the World in his position as Majority Whip included Kristal High of Politics365, Garlin Gilchrist of Center for Community Change and Jeneba Jalloh Ghatt of JenebaSpeaks.com among others.

In the meeting, Clyburn gave a passionate defense of recent legislation such as healthcare, the President, the CBC and warned what the country might face in a Republican takeover of both houses. Here’s the Black Snob’s account of the meeting (read the whole thing at BlackSnob):

Clyburn was holding an on-the-record chat with black bloggers, invited to his office at the Capitol, the latest high profile interaction a member of the Democratic Party has made in an effort to reach out to the African American online community to build support for candidates in the contentious midterms where the Democrats face losing their majorities in Congress.

Democrats and President Obama have received criticism from the left for the health care legislation, which they charged did not go far enough. Some are now abandoning their support, leading Clyburn to decry their actions. Pointing out that if members of the pro-civil rights coalition had stopped supporting pro-civil rights candidates simply because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t contain everything they wanted — a provision on protecting the right to vote by getting rid of literacy tests and poll taxes — the movement would have dissolved.

The 1964 Act did not cover voting rights in order to insure passage. It only outlawed discrimination in the private sector.

“Some said we rather not have any bill at all if you take voting (rights) out,” he said. “There was a split among the Civil Rights community … But (President) Johnson had the votes so he went for it.”

Clyburn argued that Liberals need to have the long-view.

“(President Lyndon) Johnson said a half a loaf is better than no loaf at all,” Clyburn said.

In 1964, Johnson was up for election against Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, a hardline, anti-civil rights conservative from Arizona. With the help of activists and supporters, Johnson won the campaign, Democrats took majorities in Congress. With their wins came the passage of a multitude of bills that helped the African American community and poor people — from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the Great Society Plan — the latter of which that would go on to be expanded under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

“Suppose those people who walked off the field said I’m not going to vote (in 1964),” Clyburn asked. “We didn’t walk off the field. We defeated (Barry) Goldwater.”

Clyburn said for young people to become disillusioned and give up support for the President and Democrats now was irresponsible.

“Give me a break. How foolish is that,” he said.

Clyburn also launched into a passionate and at times defiant defense of the Congressional Black Caucus against criticism that they haven’t done enough for African Americans.

“There are 41 African Americans in our caucus and you don’t get to 218 (a majority vote in Congress) without us. We’re busting out butts out there to get to 218,” he said. “We passed the black farmer’s bill five times! We passed the damn bill! But (the CBC) ain’t in the Senate. Y’all ought to be camped out at the Senate, but you keep coming around here asking what are you doing? What are you doing?”

The representative was referring to the fact that the House has been successful at passing legislation that was part of the President’s agenda, as well as legislation that helps African Americans, but in many cases those bills have been tied up in the Senate. He also pointed how money for historically black colleges and universities, as well as community colleges was passed in the health care bill due to reconciliation.

“The Black Caucus did that!” he said.

[snip — read the rest here]

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