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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Clyburn: 'We still refuse to admit that we have a race problem in this country'

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning to everyone, especially Rihanna and her baby boy. Tips? Comments? Baby pics? We’re all eyes: Have a lovely weekend. 🫶

In today’s edition … The new New York congressional map is expected to be finalized today and things could get more tense among Democrats, if that's possible … Colby Itkowitz and Rosalind S. Helderman look at how Pa. officials are girding for November as Donald Trump falsely assails another election … Amy Gardner on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger reelection race and how after standing up to Trump, he's now courting his voters … but first …

Rep. James E. Clyburn is very pessimistic about the country's future

In the aftermath of the mass killing at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, which police say was motivated by the shooter's racist beliefs, we sat down with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) to talk about the shooting and how it echoes a similar tragedy in 2015 in his home state when nine people were shot at a Bible study at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. The shooter, Dylann Roof, was sentenced to death for a federal hate crime. Clyburn also discussed racism in America and how this moment affects his view of the country's future. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Early: When you heard the news about Buffalo, what were your initial thoughts?

Clyburn:  Charleston. I've never gotten over Charleston and I don't think I will. And you know it's just a mystery to me that we've become so tolerable of these kinds of incidents. It seems as if they were just supposed to happen then you go and wait for the next one to happen. And they're going to keep happening. But look at where we are (in) the country. It seems to be it's coming from all sides. You wonder whether or not people just decided that the pursuit of a more perfect union has come to an end.

Early: How does Buffalo and El Paso —  hate-motivated shootings that have happened since Charleston — trigger a community that has gone through this?

Clyburn: Well, you know, I've thought that when the reaction of the families and survivors in Charleston, I thought it signaled an approach to this that would bring people together. But it seemed as if that was for only a news cycle. And it seems that people aren't interested in coming together. I mean, there was not a serious discussion at all. I mean, 10 people are dead and some Republicans are making a joke out of it. So I don't know. I just don't think that you know everything in the country now is just another profit motive. No matter what it is. 

Early: Did the community ever heal?

Clyburn: I think the Charleston community did. They really came together. But it didn't seem to have any kind of impact. A simple thing as saying — the three day waiting period [to purchase a firearm] is not enough. Maybe we need five days or ten days in order for these background checks to be completed. And when you look at the justification for the [gun background check] law itself as it stands, there's no intention for the law to be effective.

Early:  Buffalo and Charleston — is it a hate issue or a gun issue?

Clyburn: Oh the whole thing is conflated. It's all wrapped together. I think that's the whole reason for the deliberation of guns. And I've seen more discussion of [hate] this time than after [Charleston.] Dylann Roof made it very clear that his intent was to jump-start a race war. And he said that. But people just went on with the other things. Now, let's back up. And that's what this is all about. It's fear. In this whole notion of critical race theory, that's just something to check people against each other. It's just that's where we are in this country. And quite frankly, last year, this time I was in a different place than I am now. 

Early: In what way?

Clyburn: I thought in difficult times that this too shall pass. I'm not too sure anymore. I'm really not. 

Early: What changed?

Clyburn: Well, I've just seen that tolerance building. I mean, how could January 6 happen and be tolerated and that seems to be seeping deeper and deeper in the electoral process. 

Early: How do you legislate against hate?

Clyburn: You can only legislate a response to it. You never know what it is. It could be a severe enough punishment to be a deterrent. But if you don't ever admit that it's there, you can't legislate it. No problem can be solved until you first admit that the problem exists. And we still refuse to admit that we have a race problem in this country. And it's been there for over 400 years.

Early: How does the country admit there is a race problem?

Clyburn: There has to be, in my opinion, a very broad academic discussion away from the political arena. Not in search of sound bites or headlines. But whether or not there's going to be a thorough discussion of how to make headway. 

Early: President Biden was in Buffalo on Tuesday and focused his speech on race and hatred. Was that an appropriate message?

Clyburn: I heard it but I didn't think much about it because the power of the presidency in the black vote within electoral communities is pretty limited, and that's why I said this issue will never get properly addressed in the political arena. This country's in a place that will not allow for there to be thorough political discussion of any issue. Nobody is trying to solve the problem.

Early: What is the mood of Black voters right now?

Clyburn: Dangerous. The mood is very dangerous. It’s not a Democratic problem. It’s the country’s problem.

Early: Can you define dangerous?

Clyburn: The country is in danger of imploding. Democracy is in danger of disintegrating. And I don’t know why people feel that this country is insulated from the historical trends. These trends are just clear to me. This is clear to me from the day (Donald Trump) was sworn into office. His speech, if you can call it that, at the inauguration was very clear to me. But we chose to ignore it. Like we’re ignoring stuff now. This stuff is dangerous. But maybe autocracy is the future of the country. 

The campaign

Tensions among New York Democrats over the new congressional map could heat up today

Democrats are already heading into a challenging midterm season where they could lose control of the House with voters’ sour about soaring inflation and down on President Biden's job performance.

Now adding to that list of problems is a nasty intraparty fight that broke out this week over a new congressional map that is tearing apart the New York delegation, pitting members against each other and prompting calls of racism.

A map drawn by a New York court appointed special master, Jonathan R. Cervas, is expected to be finalized Friday, setting off a scramble among the state’s incumbent House members to choose where they will run. Some lawmakers are still pressing for changes to be made.

At the center of the storm is Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the head of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, who has already announced he plans to run in the state's newly created 17th district. But that could pit him against freshman lawmaker Mondaire Jones who has to choose between doing battle with Maloney or fellow Black progressive Jamaal Bowman in the 16th district.

Some Democrats say Maloney could run in the 18th Congressional district, which is a slightly less Democratic district, instead of either creating a bitter primary against a more junior lawmaker, who as head of the campaign committee he’s supposed to work to get reelected, or pushing Jones into a contest with Bowman that would pit two Black lawmakers against each other, ensuring the state’s delegation will be less diverse.

But that’s not all the drama. Black members of the delegation said the map violates the state’s Constitution by taking away black members of Congress. For instance, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a member of leadership, could be forced to run against another black Democrat, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.).

“Are you kidding me? That doesn’t happen by accident,” Jeffries said this week, noting that the black and Latino representation is “degraded” in all four congressional districts in Brooklyn and Queens represented by members of color.

Jeffries is running digital campaign ads in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Albany, the location of the New York appeals court overseeing the redistricting process. “Drawing a Congressional map that robs us of power and takes a sledgehammer to Black districts,” the ad says. “It’s enough to make Jim Crow blush.”

“That’s racially motivated. We all know that,” House Democratic Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), told The Early in an interview.

And that’s not all.

The proposed map would also lock two high-ranking Democratic committee chairs against each other in the same primary. The map combines the Manhattan districts of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N-N. Y.), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) the chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee, who have served together since the early 1990s.

How Brad Raffensperger went from standing up to Trump to courting Trump’s base

If you can’t beat them… “When Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) addressed the local Rotary Club here this month, he eagerly reminded the audience that he was the guy who resisted former president Donald Trump’s pleas to find enough votes to reverse the 2020 election,” our colleague Amy Gardner reports

  • “But in the next breath, the state’s top election official offered Trump voters concerned that elections could be compromised reasons to vote for him in Tuesday’s hotly contested primary: He supported legislation to tighten up the security around balloting — despite resistance from voting rights groups — and has made cracking down on noncitizen voting the No. 1 issue of his campaign, even though the evidence shows it is already quite rare.”
  • “That dual message reflects the delicate balance Raffensperger is trying to strike to win in a state where most Republicans still love Trump and believe his false narrative about the 2020 election. Squaring off against an ardent Trump acolyte, Raffensperger has chosen the path of political pragmatism, courting the former president’s base while not completely abandoning his image as the rare Republican willing to take Trump on.”

As Trump falsely assails another election, Pennsylvania officials gird for November

Meanwhile, in the Keystone State… “Trump escalated his baseless assault on Pennsylvania’s elections Thursday even as other Republicans declined to embrace his stance and election officials cautioned that his rhetoric could further erode confidence in the democratic system,” our colleagues Colby Itkowitz and Rosalind S. Helderman report.

  • “A recount is basically assured as Mehmet Oz, who Trump endorsed, now leads David McCormick by just 1,080 votes with thousands of mail-in ballots left to count out of the million-plus that were cast. The winner will go on to compete in one of the most consequential campaigns of the midterms against Democratic nominee John Fetterman.”
  • “The dynamic reflects how, following the precedent set in 2020, close elections may face scrutiny and doubt even when there is no evidence to support wrongdoing or error.”

The Media

Weekend reeeads: 


The Early would like an invite … for research purposes, obviously

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