'Cancer' in the Congressional Black Caucus as That Body Has Become Increasingly Pro-Corporate and Anti-Community
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When the Congressional Black Caucus began its slide into irrelevancy, Al Wynn was there, one of four Blacks to vote to authorize George Bush's Iraq invasion, in 2002. By 2005, the list of irredeemable backstabbers had grown to ten, with nine CBC members joining Wynn in support of a Republican bankruptcy bill.
The cancer in the Caucus must be removed one cell at a time, but that requires courageous candidates backed by enough non-corporate money to go the distance. The larger challenge is to recognize that Jim Crow is over, and it's long past time to make Black politicians accountable.
In recent years, a cabal of corporate-bought members have degraded the cohesion and progressive legacy of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), reducing the once-proud body to an impotent shell. The fracturing of the CBC is largely the work of the Democratic Leadership Council, the bastion and bank of corporate power in the Party. As a Trojan Horse for Big Business on Capitol Hill, the DLC has suborned the most opportunistic members of the Caucus, awarding them with key positions and prime access to campaign cash. Among the worst malefactors is Albert Wynn, the mis-Representative from the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, and the DLC's corporate bagman within the Congressional Black Caucus.
By slavishly voting for corporate-backed legislation -- Republican bills supported by the DLC's right wing of Democrats -- Wynn's faction in the CBC give credence to the fiction, that African Americans are drifting politically to the right. Although having no basis in fact, this wishful canard holds that Blacks in more affluent districts are becoming more "conservative" -- especially in places like Prince George's County, Wynn's base and the most prosperous majority-Black county in the nation.
However, Albert Wynn looks like he's on the rocks. Donna Edwards, who came within a few percentage points of ousting Wynn, in 2006, despite a late start and bone-dry treasury, has the derelict congressman running scared and desperately attempting to revise his sordid record before Democratic primary voters have their say on February 12. A solid progressive, Edwards is confident she can dethrone the pretender, this time around.
"There is no excuse for somebody representing the 4th congressional district voting with Republicans and voting with President Bush," says Edwards, a longtime executive in the non-profit sector. "Where it's really coming home to roost, today, is with his bad vote on bankruptcy. When he sided with Republicans to undermine consumers' and homeowners' positions in bankruptcy court, we're seeing that come to roost today in the number of foreclosures going on in our district and around the country."
Edwards is referring to the disastrous Spring of 2005, when ten Black Caucus members voted with Republicans (and DLCers) to limit citizen access to bankruptcy court. A total of 15 Black congresspersons -- more than a third of the Caucus -- supported at least one of three key GOP measures on bankruptcy, the estate tax, and energy. Albert Wynn was one of four Blacks that supported all three Republican bills -- a total sellout.
But Wynn had been working for the other team for years. He and Harold Ford Jr. (TN), Sanford Bishop (GA), and William Jefferson (LA) were the only CBC members to support giving George Bush authority to invade Iraq, in 2002 -- the very same treasonous faction that would pitch their tents solidly in the Republican camp on bankruptcy, energy and the estate tax, in 2005.
It was the beginning of the end for the Congressional Black Caucus, as presently constituted. Ever since Wynn, Ford, Bishop and Jefferson defected to Bush, five years ago, the CBC has been incapable of taking a firm position to end the Iraq war, forcing progressive members to work outside of the Caucus. Beginning with Wynn's original Four Saboteurs, political corruption has spread like a cancer in the Caucus. In the Spring of 2006, two-thirds of the CBC caved to the telecom industry to support a bill that would have rolled back decades of hard-won Black gains in cable access -- a higher percentage than among Democrats in the House as a whole!
This steady Black Caucus slide into irrelevance, and worse, compelled long term activist and Prince Georges county resident Donna Edwards to challenge corporate power, in the person of Albert Wynn: "We need some regulation on the telecommunications industry, because some of our neighborhoods are completely left out of the next generation on the internet. The telecommunications giants are giving my opponent money, but they're not giving me money. I want to challenge the oil and gas companies and say, instead of giving you $20 billion in tax breaks, like my opponent voted for, I want to take that $20 billion and invest it in alternative sources of energy and research and development so that we can look at a new energy future that is not dependent on fossil fuels."
Wynn will, once again, outspend Edwards by millions -- the DLC will make certain of that. Former congressman Harold Ford Jr., once George Bush's favorite Black Democrat ("I love George Bush!" Ford gushed), now chairman of the DLC and a richly-paid vice-presidential flunky for Wall Street, was the speaker at Wynn's campaign kick-off, last summer. Nancy Pelosi, once co-chair of the Progressive Congressional Caucus but now indistinguishable from the DLCers that surround her as Speaker of the House, gave her blessings to a Wynn fundraiser, last weekend.
Edwards, however, has shown she can work wonders on a small budget, and an array of progressive organizations have pitched in. An assortment of bloggers centered on the Blue Majority has pledged to raise $150,00 for Edwards' campaign. Black internetizens, led by ColorOfChange.com, relentlessly champion Edwards' candidacy as a prelude to a wholesale cleansing of the CBC. "Congressman Al Wynn from Maryland's 4th district is a perfect example of the lack of accountability that's hurting our community," said a Color Of Change letter sent to tens of thousands of potential donors. It "is about whether or not representatives like Al Wynn can stay in office when they repeatedly cast votes against the interests of their constituents. It's about whether or not members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- which claims to work for the interests of Black people and describes itself as the "conscience of Congress" -- can afford to turn its back on the Black community."
Shocked at almost losing to Edwards' challenge in 2006, Wynn attempted to erase his 2002 pro-war vote by nominally joining the Out of Iraq Caucus. But anybody can place their name on that list, and it's far too late, now. Wynn's combined scores on the CBC Monitor's Report Cards, from September 2005 through September 2007, rate him fifth from the bottom of the class -- despite the leopard's frenzied recent efforts to change his spots.
Residents of Maryland's 4th Congressional District don't need a report card as testimony to Wynn's betrayal. "Prince Georges County is right now taking the highest rate of foreclosures in the state, and in my zip code, which is in a supposedly affluent African American neighborhood, people with college degrees and advanced degrees -- and we're facing the highest rate of foreclosures in our county," Edwards reports. "We need to get back to a system of regulating this industry that seems to have bought its influence all over Capitol Hill and is running away with the store against the interests of consumers."
What Black America needs is a Congressional Black Caucus that is accountable to the will its constituents. Al Wynn is only one of at least ten members that are beyond political redemption. Wall Street doesn't have enough corporate vice-presidential slots to accommodate these derelicts, once evicted from The Hill, so some of them may face financial hardship.
Let them take their chances in bankruptcy court.