For the first time in history, an African American
group has graded the Congressional Black Caucus’s legislative
performance on a curve that reflects the Black Political Consensus.
The results were startling.
Harold Ford, Jr., of Memphis, registered only a five percent positive
grade, based on his votes on nine “bright line” issues that came
before him in this legislative session. David Scott, the Black
Congressman from suburban Atlanta, did little better. Scott rated
only a ten percent positive score.
Ford and Scott led the field of what the CBC
Monitor called “The
Derelicts of the CBC.”
“They are derelict in their duties to their Black constituents,” said
Leutisha Stills, who oversaw the study of the CBC’s legislative
behavior, this year. “The CBC Monitor is based on Black people’s
political views. Other organizations rate legislators in
ways that dilute African American opinion – that discount our view
of the world. Such a methodology diminishes the profound
lessons that Black people have learned in our centuries of struggle.
We must hold our own people to account for their political actions.”
Jared Ball, a Washington-based journalist who
called the CBC Monitor into existence, insists that accountability
is paramount. “There are
now 43 Black representatives in Congress,” he said, “one of them
a Senator. They must be held to a standard. That’s what the CBC
Monitor does: establish a standard.”
By the CBC Monitor’s standards, seven Congressional
Black Caucus members are derelict. The worst malefactors, including
Harold Ford (D-TN) and David Scott (D-GA), are Sanford Bishop (D-GA),
at 25 percent, Albert Wynn (D-MD), at 30 percent, Artur Davis (D-AL),
40 percent, Gregory Meeks (D-NY), 45 percent, and William Jefferson
(D-LA), at 55 percent.
These men have failed our people, and sold out to other interests.
The CBC Monitor gives credit to those members
who have stood tall, as well. They are called the Honor Society.
First among the honor
list is Rep. John Conyers, Jr., a founding father of the CBC from
Detroit, followed by Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA),
Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Robert Scott (D-VA), John Lewis (D-GA),
and Charles Rangel. All registered 100 percent grades. “These are
the stand up people,” said Leutisha Stills.
The CBC Monitor survey’s nine “bright line” issues
tracked the votes of members on the bankruptcy bill, estate tax,
REAL ID Act, Iraq authorization, Watt Amendment (federal authorization),
the class action bill, CAFTA, and the energy bill and Capps Amendment.
The Senate’s lone Black member, Barack Obama, earned a “C” grade
(70 percent) for his vote for the Republican-led so-called tort “reform” measure
that limited access to the courts for citizens harmed by corporations.
Obama’s vote placed him in the company of Edolphus Towns (D-NY),
Kendrick Meek (D-FL), and Sheila Jackson-Lee, who all scored in
the 70s – marking them as “underachievers” by the CBC Monitor’s
The majority of the CBC ranked in the 80s and
90s, earning “A”s
and “B”s. The survey found that these members are solidly within
the spectrum of the Black Political Consensus. That’s good news.
The defection to the Right of the Seven Derelicts, and the backsliding
of the Underachievers, is disturbing. The Derelicts must be ousted.
The Underachievers should be educated to respond to the people’s
will. The Honor Roll should be applauded.
For Whom the Bell Tolls
CBC Monitor Report Card
We at The Black Commentator praise the efforts
of the activists and scholars who have established a methodology
to hold Black politicians
to account for their behavior. It’s a new thing. For so many generations,
Black people were just so happy to have somebody of their hue in
office. Now, with 43 members in the Congress, it has become imperative
to exercise more discretion. Seven members have failed us – betrayed
us – and four are on the cusp of treachery. We must encourage those
members who have held fast to the Black Political Consensus to
stay the course, and to punish those who do not.
The CBC Monitor opens a new window on African
American political discourse. It is unacceptable for Members
of Congress like Harold
Ford, who represents extremely poor districts, to vote for a Republican
bankruptcy bill that creates an even worse economic environment
for their own constituents. It is despicable for representatives
of the Black and poor to vote to allow unearned wealth to be passed
on to unearning children, while the sponsors of such legislation
spout racist garbage about “welfare queens.”
The report from the CBC Monitor makes us hold our
breath, knowing that the Congressional Black Caucus has fallen
into such disarray.
But Jared Ball and Leutisha Stills have pointed the way. And the
finger points at all of us.