Jim Clyburn is South Carolina politics.
You don’t get shit done down South or on a national political level without speaking with Clyburn first. The majority whip and third-ranking Democrat in the House is the closest thing to a political godfather that Democrats have and then-Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden knew that when Clyburn made a suggestion, it was really a request.
“It was Feb. 25, four days before the South Carolina primary, and Biden was blowing it again. Almost an hour and 45 minutes had passed already, and Biden hadn’t mentioned the one promise Clyburn had said would nail down Black votes in South Carolina, throughout the rest of the primary, and in the general election,” according to an excerpt from Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency, a forthcoming book by Jonathan Allen, senior political analyst for NBC News Digital, and Amie Parnes, senior correspondent for the Hill.
The excerpt published by NBC News continues:
Clyburn was shocked, but not stunned. He made a beeline for the backstage area. Pete Buttigieg approached to greet the most powerful Democrat in South Carolina politics. Clyburn brushed Mayor Pete aside. His eyes darted around, and he finally found Biden.
They huddled together out of earshot of the other candidates. There wasn’t much time until Biden had to be back onstage for the final segment of the debate.
“You’ve had a couple of opportunities to mention naming a Black woman to the Supreme Court,” Clyburn lectured his friend of nearly half a century, like a school teacher scolding a child. “I’m telling you, don’t you leave the stage tonight without making it known that you will do that.”
The excerpt explains that Biden knew he needed Clyburn’s endorsement if he planned on taking back the White House from the Decepticons. But Clyburn had reportedly been clear the night before during a private meeting with Biden that he needed to say he would name a Black woman to the Supreme Court. So Clyburn was making sure that Biden understood how it should go.
“Find a way to say that you were a part of picking the first Latina woman member of the United States Supreme Court and you’re looking forward to making the first African American woman a member of the United States Supreme Court,” Clyburn instructed, NBC News notes.
Clyburn believed that a Supreme Court seat would mean more to Black women—also known as the spine, soul, heart and voice of the Democratic Party—since those appointments are for a lifetime.
From NBC News:
The meeting was fresh and front of mind for Biden the next day, as he prepared for that night’s debate. He understood the difference between a narrow victory and a blowout: his margins with Black voters. If he committed to naming a Black woman to the Supreme Court, that might give him a lift. It would also help him with the CBC, meaning he could get a boost in delegate-loaded Black-majority districts across the country.
“I think I should do it,” he told his advisers.
“Don’t do it,” replied Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to the campaign, speaking in concert with the group. If he wanted to do it at some point, his advisers agreed with one another, he should make a carefully considered plan around announcing that. It wasn’t the kind of thing he should just throw out there on a debate stage. Besides, it might look like he was pandering and backfire. Biden was torn.
Symone Sanders said, huh?
We move on. We have to. It’s better this way. Trust me.
Then Biden took the debate stage and didn’t mention it. He didn’t note that he was considering a Black woman for the Supreme Court. Then during his closing remarks, he fumbled into a statement about looking to get a Black woman nominated and that would prove to be enough. Clyburn, much like the rest of America, had made up his mind; he would endorse Joe Biden. He was always going to because the only other choice was Cobra Kai.
After recalling a compelling story about an older Black woman summoning him to make his pick, Clyburn finally announced that he would put his money on the only horse that could take out Gargamel: Joe Biden.
“I decided right then and there that I would not stay silent,” Clyburn said. according to the excerpt. “I want the public to know that I’m voting for Joe Biden. South Carolinians should vote for Joe Biden.” Clyburn added that his own challenge as a public servant is “making the greatness of this country accessible and affordable for all” and that no one he’d ever worked with was more committed to that than Biden. And then, with his voice breaking again, he introduced Biden by calling him “my late wife’s great friend.” Clyburn wrapped his arms around Biden—literally, as Biden would say—creating a picture-worth-a-thousand-words image for local and national media outlets.
The tide shifted and support from Black America grew, and now we are all waiting for $1,400 stimulus checks.