The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion James Clyburn: The fake fight between me and Cori Bush

Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in Washington on Nov. 19.
Congresswoman-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in Washington on Nov. 19. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

The Nov. 30 news article “Left’s breakout stars fight to shape Democratic agenda”  suggested that Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and I are in conflict. That may be a seductive narrative, but it is not accurate.   

Both Ms. Bush and I want an end to the killing of unarmed Black people. We want oversight and accountability of police actions. We want to see structural change and increased funding for mental health and drug counselors in police departments. We want to see an end to the militarization of those departments.

Like Ms. Bush, I began my political career as a protester. I met my late wife of 58 years during an incarceration that resulted from one of those protests. Although Emily and I almost always agreed on the purposes of our protests and political activism, we didn’t always agree on what approaches were best. We did agree that the slogan “burn, baby, burn” undermined our efforts and eviscerated political support we needed to succeed.  That is my fear of the slogan “defund the police.” I get that it is a rallying cry and shouldn’t be taken literally. But it is being weaponized by sinister forces and is undermining the political efforts of some reliable political allies.  

I prefer “reimagine policing” as a rallying slogan, but I am doing all I can to help Ms. Bush succeed. We are united in the goal of making desperately needed systemic changes to community policing. 

James E. Clyburn, Washington

The writer, a Democrat, is the majority whip in the U.S. House, where he represents South Carolina.

Read more letters to the editor.

Loading...