But the culprit here isn't racism, it's the corruption that is almost inevitable when any politician -- black or white -- is given a job for life. Charlie Rangel, the 80-year-old deposed chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is also in ethical hot water for a list of reasons too lengthy to recount here (but they include failure to pay taxes on unreported income -- awkward, given that he was, until recently, in charge of writing the tax laws). Rangel, one of Washington's most charming characters, ran his office like a pasha -- because he could.
Indeed, that's long been the problem with the CBC: its scandalous lack of accountability. Because of racial gerrymandering (cynically abetted by the GOP in the 1980s), black representatives have been insulated even more than other incumbents from democratic competition. Worse, the older generation of CBCers in particular actually believe this claptrap about being the "conscience of the Congress" (the Caucus motto). This has put the CBC to the left not just of the average voter but the average black voter. Less than 10 percent of the CBC voted to ban partial-birth abortion in 2003, even though a majority of blacks support the ban. A majority of blacks oppose racial quotas and support school choice, but the CBC claims to speak for them when taking the opposite positions.
Caucus members pulled this off by invoking racial solidarity and Tammany Hall tactics in their districts, while maxing out the race card with the media and their non-black colleagues in Congress. And that's what Waters and Rangel are doing now, the former explicitly, the latter implicitly. Both are demanding an immediate trial, before the November elections, which would hammer even more nails into the Democratic coffin. In effect, they're saying, "Let us off the hook or we'll take you all down with us in a racial spectacle."
Meanwhile, Republicans are laughing. Even the ones who don't watch "The Daily Show."