The Congressional Black Caucus' Political Action Committee will formally endorse Hillary Clinton today. Already, I'm seeing all kinds of pushback, calling the CBC sellouts, opportunists, fools. Some of the criticism coming from white Sanders supporters has more than a tinge of racist overtones.
And, to be blunt, that's what I'm addressing here. I have no inclination at all to tell black voters how to regard the CBC PAC's endorsement of Clinton. I do, however, have a strong inclination to push back on white voters who are using coded (or overt) racism to criticize the CBC.
No one, of course, is required to agree with the CBC PAC's endorsement of Clinton, nor even their decision to endorse at this stage at all. But it's bad faith to suggest that the CBC came to this decision without serious reflection and discussion.
Reading the Washington Post's story on the endorsement, before I saw any criticism of it, I was struck by how decent and democratic their process was:
[Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the CBC PAC] said that 90 percent of the 20-member board of the CBC's PAC voted to endorse Clinton, while none of the board members voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders and a few members abstained because they had not yet endorsed in the race.My thought, reading that, was: If only politics were always that respectful and considered.
On the neutral list was Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the No. 3 House Democratic leader and the most prominent South Carolina Democrat, who has since then said he is considering backing a candidate and that candidate, he suggested, is likely to be Clinton.
"That was certainly my intention," he said in an interview with The Washington Post of his initial plan to remain neutral. "But I am re-evaluating that. I really am having serious conversations with my family members."
...Clyburn didn't choose sides in the 2008 Democratic primary battle between Clinton and Barack Obama, and ended up arbitrating a nasty feud over allegedly racially-tinged comments by Bill Clinton after Obama's victory in the Palmetto State. And his backing could be crucial with African-American voters, who form a large portion of the primary electorate there.
Meeks made clear that if Clyburn objected to the caucus's endorsement of Clinton, he had the power to prevent it from happening. "He is an important part of the Congressional Black Caucus and an important part of what we do at the PAC, and we are endorsing tomorrow," Meeks said, laughing as he thought about the prospect of Clyburn objecting to the endorsement. "We wouldn't be going forward tomorrow."
I mean, I'm sure politics aren't always that respectful and considered even just within the CBC, because, you know, human beings. But in this case, that's a pretty solid process.
And it certainly wasn't one undertaken by fools.
I don't know what the official statement will look like, but it doesn't seem as though the CBC PAC is making this endorsement on the premise that Clinton is "better for black people," as has become an awful refrain during this election. I don't think that is their stance, and I suspect there is no one more keenly aware of multitudinous failures of Democratic leadership to center the needs of black USians than the Congressional Black Caucus.
Instead, it seems to be coming down to process, and who they believe is better prepared to get shit done:
"Many of these are first-time voters and Senator Sanders' message resonates with the younger generation because of the promises that he is making," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), chairman of the CBC. "But Mrs. Clinton and others are going to challenge the message by suggesting that it is unrealistic to believe that we can accomplish all of the things that Senator Sanders proposes."Which is a concern a lot of people have, myself included. It's not at all surprising that politicians, who will be tasked with the enormous challenge of trying to pass the next Democratic president's agenda, favor the candidate they regard to be more realistic about what can get done and how.
"They need to understand that when a candidate presents a message, you've got to pierce the message to determine whether or not it's realistic, given the political climate that we live in," Butterfield said. "It's not a negative, it's not an aspersion on the new voter. It's the fact that many of them are inexperienced and have not gone through a presidential election cycle before."
After all, if a president sends them a legislative agenda they have no hope in hell of passing, their constituents might well blame them for failing to deliver what the president promised on the campaign trail.
That's where the heart of the CBC PAC's endorsement seems to lie, to me.
Agree or disagree with their decision to endorse Clinton, I would hope we could agree it was not a simplistic decision made by sellouts and fools.