Has President Obama killed off the Congressional Black Caucus? From the very beginning, President Obama and his campaign promised the CBC nothing, so no one – not even the 42 CBC members – should be shocked that, at this point, they have gained minimal legislative progress with Obama in the White House and that they have apparently lost much of the influence they had in Washington.
The President and his administration seem to have unique disregard for the CBC. This could be because, at the beginning of his candidacy, many of its members urged him not to run while they publically supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for President. Since taking office 16 months ago, he has been slow to meet with the Caucus and when he did it was after meeting with old-line civil rights leaders.
If President Obama does not find a way to empower the CBC, he has effectively neutralized it, not just for the duration of his Presidency, but for future administrations as well. The issue could have repercussions beyond this moment; the after-effects could be even more damaging under a Romney, Pawlenty or Palin presidency. For now, the Caucus is made to sit at the small table and be quiet; under the next Republican presidency it may have to eat outside.
With the election of Barack Obama, power shifted for black Americans in ways that none of us were ready for, and collectively, we still haven’t wrapped our minds completely around what his presidency and administration can mean for the future of black people on a practical level. With his election, we had every right to be elated and overjoyed; the experience was cathartic for most of us. We needed that moment after eight long Bush years. We needed some relief from the burden of being overlooked and underserved in America.
The irony is that the CBC probably had more leverage with Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter than with President Obama. Those two previous Democrats couldn’t afford to have African-American constituents see them seem high-handed with the CBC. President Obama doesn’t have that problem. Many people voted for more than Obama. We also voted for a Democrat with a broad progressive agenda and trusted that he would aid all the underserved in a way that no other President has in the last fifteen years.