After eight years of complaining that President Obama didn't care about the black community enough, the Congressional Black Caucus, while not exactly having been the president's ally over the years, suddenly realizes how much of a danger Trump poses. Maybe they're finally going to get off their asses and do something about it.
Leaders of the group told POLITICO they have already begun discussing strategies to deal with Trump and any policies they believe would disenfranchise African-Americans — from public school funding to low-income housing to voting restrictions. Though the president-elect’s supporters call the alarm unwarranted, black lawmakers say Trump’s campaign and his Cabinet picks more than justify their concern.
“The stakes are incredibly high and our community is counting on us as the last line of defense between Donald Trump and the worst of what America could offer,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said.
“This is not the normal incoming president,” added Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “We had no plan for George Bush. I think Charlie Rangel and John Conyers would tell you they didn’t even have a plan for Richard Nixon. But this is not the norm.”
Incoming CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) is expected to outline his priorities for the new administration when he officially takes the reins of the caucus on Tuesday. Some members suggested challenging Trump on his home turf — Twitter — while others advocated nonviolent protests reminiscent of the civil rights movement.
Trump has tried at times to appeal to the African-American community. He talked about “a new deal for black America” on the campaign trail and predicted his plans to revive the economy would pay big dividends for minorities.
But Trump also often showed a deep misunderstanding of the socioeconomic makeup of black America and at times touted wildly inaccurate claims about African-American poverty and employment levels. His appeal to black voters for their support — “What the hell do you have to lose?” he said at one August rally in Michigan — was offensive to many.
Trump proposed blanket policies targeting ethnic and minority groups, like banning Muslims and building a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants. And he was at the forefront of the “birther movement," which CBC members viewed as a racially motivated attempt to delegitimize the nation's first African-American president.
"The campaign that we saw over the last 12 months is very frightening. And there’s been no effort on his part to even temper his comments since being elected,” said outgoing CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.). "It’s going to be very contentious, I suspect, if Mr. Trump even follows through on half of his promises during the campaign."
As I've linked at the start of this post, the CBC has been among President Obama's loudest critics on the left, and have often served to only help the GOP in convincing voters that Obama simply wasn't good enough as the nation's first black president. My personal opinion of most of these caucus members isn't very high at all.
Yes, they are products of extremely gerrymandered GOP-drawn districts, but they've been safe districts, and they've done nothing but worry about staying in power rather than helping President Obama when times were tough. It's precisely because their districts are mostly safe that they felt they could take potshots at the President.
Now however we're in the era of Trump and Cedric Richmond and the CBC have precisely one chance to convince me that they're ready to lead the fight against Trump. We'll see how they do.