The Congressional Black Caucus is rushing to defend Hillary Clinton, following what many black lawmakers said was an expected loss in New Hampshire but one that should not hurt her in the next round of voting.
On Thursday morning, the CBC’s leaders said they will appear at a club adjacent to the Democratic National Committee to formally endorse Clinton for president, through the CBC political action committee. The group will then disperse its African-American lawmakers to states where black voters are crucial, particularly in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Feb. 27.
“It’s one thing to endorse and do nothing. It’s another thing to endorse and to go to work,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), chairman of the CBC PAC. These lawmakers are, Meeks said, “people that can actually testify [to] the work that Hillary Clinton has done.”
Meeks 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.
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.”
In an interview with MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” the Democratic leader reiterated his comments that he is considering endorsing Clinton.
Clyburn said that he would not make an endorsement this week, but Meeks spent considerable time speaking with the South Carolina Democrat throughout Wednesday both privately and on the House floor.
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.”
Sanders’s rise, particularly among young voters — even young African-American voters — has struck a nerve with veteran black caucus members who think the new generation is behaving naively.
“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.”
“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.”