Congressional Black Caucus could turn history again

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

There’s not much ado about President’s Trump’s State of the Union address right now, but there will be. Some members of Congress are considering boycotting his Jan. 30 speech.

The annual remarks to a joint session could see as much drama as the Golden Globes show, where sexual assault, harassment and rape colored what ordinarily has been a tribute to the men and women who make Hollywood the entertainment capital of the world.

Come next Tuesday, attention turns to the U.S. Capitol, that place other democracies try to imitate but never fully duplicate.

Expect a telling feature film. For instance, for the first time since its founding in 1971, not one founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus will be in attendance as a sitting member of Congress. Most have died, and some have simply moved out of the spotlight, like the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, who served as the District’s nonvoting delegate.

Rep. John Conyers resigned more than a month ago after being snagged by the sexual harassment hook. A Democrat who first won a Michigan congressional seat in 1964, Mr. Conyers is a former CBC chairman and continued to enjoy the dean label of the CBC.

He won a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, the panel with insight to landmark legislative affairs in education (Brown v. Board), and civil and voting rights (Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965). He also stood, marched and sang alongside millions of Americans as they pushed to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday.

Much has changed since the ‘60s — and the CBC is changing again. Some of its members plan to sit or stand shoulder-to-shoulder in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s circle and wear black to the speech, mimicking the visuals of the Golden Globes.

Some CBC members plan not to attend, including Rep. John Lewis, whose resume as a rebel at the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee almost got him and his speech at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington knocked off the program.

Mr. Lewis said he decided to boycott after Mr. Trump referred to “sh—hole countries.” Said Mr. Lewis, 77: “In good conscience, I cannot and will not sit there and listen at him as he gives the State of the Union address.” (No disrespect to Mr. Lewis, but as a civil rights leader he was whacked upside the head with far more damaging weapons than words.)

And then there’s the sexual innuedo from the leader of the CBC, Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, who last March chirped that Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway looked “kind of familiar” kneeling on an Oval Office couch. (Some jackasses stick close to their Southern roots.)

Regarding Mr. Trump’s speech, Mr. Richmond relayed that he and other members will decide whether to attend: “We could go, we could go and walk out, we could go and hold up fists or we could not go, or we could hold our own State of the Union. [T]here’s a million options we could do, but I think the most important part is to let people out there know that we’re still here, we’re still fighting, we really don’t care what he thinks about us.”

Well, ahem, the people “out there” don’t need to be reminded that they pay your salaries and that you are working on their behalf.

Politicians often forget they are not the boss. Their constituents are their bosses, and if they want to keep their House jobs, they have to get another two-year retainer.

If the president in his speech lauds how he plans to send bacon to Louisiana, Georgia, California, Michigan or Illinois, and their black lawmakers aren’t prepared to whip out their district’s (cast iron skillets and) infrastructure because they walked out or didn’t show up, humpf. Don’t blame Mr. Trump.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]