The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), minus influential Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), will reportedly rush to Hillary Clinton’s defense on Thursday when its leaders will endorse Clinton at the Democratic National Committee through its political action committee.
According to a Washington Post report, the CBC “will then disburse its African-American lawmakers to states where black voters are crucial, particularly in South Carolina’s Democratic primary on Feb. 27.”
The endorsement will come a day after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) met with Al Sharpton in Harlem after Sanders trounced Clinton in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), the Chair of the CBC PAC, told the Post “that 90 percent of the 20-member board of the CBC’s PAC voted to endorse Clinton, while none of the board members voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders and a few members abstained because they had not yet endorsed in the race.”
Clyburn, the No. 3 House Democrat and the most influential Democrat in South Carolina politics, reportedly was on the neutral list. Though Clyburn has suggested in recent days that he may make an endorsement, he told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Wednesday that he would not make an endorsement this week. Meeks told the Post that if Clyburn did not want the CBC PAC to endorse Clinton, though, he could have stopped it.
Black voters make up a majority of South Carolina’s Democrat primary electorate, and Sanders is trying to cut into Clinton’s support as his campaign has gained momentum. A December YouGov poll found that Clinton had the support of nearly 80% of South Carolina’s black Democrats while Sanders got around 20%. The Sanders campaign is hoping that young black voters will vote for him—and against the black Democrat establishment—just like young women have been supporting him while defying establishment groups like Planned Parenthood and establishment feminist leaders like Gloria Steinem.
The Post noted that Sanders’s rise among young black voters “has struck a nerve with veteran black caucus members who think the new generation is behaving naively.” Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) even said that young black voters “need to understand that when a candidate presents a message, you’ve got to pierce the message to determine whether or not it’s realistic, given the political climate that we live in” and claimed many of the black millennials that Sanders is attracting “are inexperienced and have not gone through a presidential election cycle before.”
Clyburn, whose annual “Fish Fry” is to South Carolina what former Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) “Steak Fry” was to Iowa, has a formidable political machine in the Palmetto State that could prove invaluable for Clinton, who must win South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary.
But Bill Clinton’s disrespectful phone call to Clyburn after his wife lost the 2008 South Carolina may make it more difficult for Clyburn to endorse Clinton.
In his 2014 memoir, Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, Clyburn revealed that Bill Clinton’s disrespectful 2:15 a.m. phone call after Obama defeated Clinton in the 2008 South Carolina primary “bothered me a great deal.”
According to Clyburn’s account, he had kept his promise to the Democratic National Committee to stay neutral in primary, but Bill Clinton ripped into him, blaming Clyburn for Hillary’s 2008 South Carolina defeat.
“If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one,” Clinton said to Clyburn. According to Clyburn, when he asked Clinton to tell him why he should have broken his promise not to endorse a candidate before South Carolina’s primary, Clinton “exploded, used the word ‘bastard’ again, and accused me of causing her defeat and injecting race into the contest.”