Last week in Washington was amazing! Thousands of the most articulate and well-dressed African Americans in the nation descended on our city. These dear people were the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) faithful followers, admiring friends, or earnest people looking for information and empowerment. Their trust in the CBC is based on the memory that older blacks were courageous political crusaders who set out to change the nation by being advocates for their people.
The vision of the original 13 members was “to promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens.” The CBC official website says, “The Caucus received its first national recognition when its members met with former President Richard Nixon in March, 1971 and presented him a list of 60 recommendations for governmental action on domestic and foreign issues.” Unfortunately, times have changed and so has the CBC. Today’s CBC, like so many of our national institutions, has fallen on hard times. In fact, it doesn’t seem as though they have had any new ideas for decades.
Therefore, many of my colleagues and I were shocked by the president’s flattery and hyperbole concerning the CBC’s service to the black community. In fact, the Los Angeles Times ran a headline that heightened my concerns, “Obama Salutes Black Caucus as the ‘Conscience’ of the U.S. Congress.” As the title of the article implied, the president affirmed the original intent of the organization and its current direction. In fact, he even went farther than that. He was commissioning them as his foot soldiers for the midterm elections.
Despite the president’s glowing endorsement, an objective assessment of the organization’s last decade shows they have strayed far from their mission. Therefore President Obama seems to be guilty of affirming a miscreant group for great campaigning, while ignoring their hypocritical lifestyles.
What do I mean by miscreant? First of all, the CBC has sold its collective souls to the Democratic Party. Blind allegiance is the only way to describe these Democratic loyalists. This blind allegiance prevents the black community from becoming a powerful swing vote that barters for great legislation, breakthrough policies, and targeted community programs. Instead, the CBC has only brought “scraps” back to its community. Even though the president has recently promised $850 million in federal spending over 10 years for historically black colleges and universities, it sounds like political pandering. This is just enough to keep naive African Americans on the political plantation through the mid-term and next presidential elections.
But what about the soaring high school dropout rates of black males? What about the high abortion rates? What about black unemployment that is double that of the rest of the nation? Or the foreclosures in some communities like Prince Georges County (suburban DC), which is the worst in the state? Or the rising cost of energy brought on by the administration’s energy policies that are little more than a regressive tax on the poorest of the poor?
Second, the numerous ethics investigations conducted in the last 5 years alone are a sign of great moral decay. For example, the recently discovered fact that Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) have given tens of thousands of dollars earmarked for needy students in their districts to various friends and relatives from as far back as 2005 is alarming.
In other cases, representatives like Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel are accused of using influence to gain handsome personal rewards. Waters (D-Los Angeles) allegedly used her influence to aid a bank in which her husband has a financial interest. Charles Rangel has been recently accused of 13 violations of congressional ethics standards.
Moreover, most Americans will also remember the story of William Jefferson and the $90,000 that was found “on ice” in his freezer. He had been Louisiana's first black congressman since the end of reconstruction; yet on November 13, 2009, Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years for bribery, receiving the longest sentence ever given to a congressman for that offense.
More recently, Jesse Jackson, Jr. has been implicated in the Blagojevich pay-to-play scandal. Despite these allegations, it is rumored that Jessie Jackson, Jr. will run against Rahm Emanuel for mayor of Chicago.
One critic of the CBC recently told me that the caucus specializes in grievance-based politics. It also refuses to work productively across the political aisles and rarely brings home uniquely crafted legislation to solve major community problems. He went on to say that performance doesn’t matter - you just speak the rhetoric of oppression and blame “the man.” Further, those who tell the truth about the need for personal responsibility in the black community are often labeled as “Uncle Toms” and marginalized.
Within this political and social rubric, corruption has historically been allowed as long as the corrupt politician never makes us face ourselves or truly addresses the thorny root causes of our problems. Well, it’s time for a real change! We need a change of conscience! November will arrive none too soon. It’s time to vote the CBC incumbents out. Let’s Keep Hope Alive!