Check It Out…The Congressional Black Caucus and the politics of complaint (June 28, 2017)


Do you remember the 2004 military draft scare?
Political rumors held that if President George W. Bush won reelection, he was going to reinstate the dreaded military draft by mid-2005. I didn’t think a draft bill existed and the rumors were created to increase the turnout against the President.
I was wrong.
Right before the 2003 invasion of Iraq Black congressman Charles Rangel introduced a bill to reinstate the draft. The bill had 14 co-sponsors, many were members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Rangel told the press his purpose was twofold. One, to jolt Americans into realizing a possible unilateral strike against Iraq. Two, to make it clear that if there were a war, there would be more equitable representation of people making the sacrifices.
Elaborating on the second point, Rangel stated those who made decisions to go to war would feel the pain involved if the fighting force included the affluent and those who historically have avoided this great responsibility. In other words, the bill was introduced to remedy the historical complaint that only the poor were drafted for war. (The Democrats always preach the rich need to pay their fair share, but this time it meant their fair share of body bags. There are no Geneva Convention rules in class warfare.)
After the invasion, Rangel’s first point was obsolete, but the jolt was realized during the election when rumors spread about “Bush’s secret draft plan.”
Eventually the House of Representatives convened to vote on the draft bill. It was struck down 402-2. But the two votes in favor weren’t Charles Rangel or his fellow co-sponsors in the CBC. Rangel said he voted against his own bill to protest that lawmakers did not hold any committee hearings to study if the military was overstretched. (Why didn’t the CBC hold them?) Then he complained it was a political maneuver by Republicans to kill the rumors that President Bush intended to reinstate the draft after the election.
Politics is the art of compromise, but Rangel demonstrated the politics of complaint.
A few months ago the Trump Administration had a “sit down” with the CBC. CBC chairman, Cedric Richmond, arrived with a 130-page policy report titled: We have a Lot to Lose. It was a mocking rebuttal to when candidate Trump asked Black voters what they had to lose by voting Republican. Richmond stated, “We never thought we’d agree on everything but we did ask for both sides to be candid so we could represent our constituents to the best of our ability.” Then the CBC agreed to hold regular meetings with the Trump administration.
Recently the Trump administration reached out to have a “regular meeting” with the CBC. Since the first face-to-face was a sit down, this second meeting was actually going to be the first meeting about policy.
But the CBC refused to meet the President.
The CBC complained that the Trump administration made no effort in the past 60 days to address their policy concerns and they didn’t want to participate in a presidential photo-op or star in a presidential reality TV show.
Let’s get this straight.
The CBC brought a policy report to a “sit down” in which the two parties agreed to have “regular meetings” to discuss policy. But the CBC refused to attend the first policy meeting because the administration didn’t enact any of the recommendations presented at the “sit down” in which no policy implementation was discussed.
After Barack Obama became President, the CBC complained that he met with congressional Republicans and conservative Democrats before he met with them.
When President Obama finally reached out to the CBC they didn’t refuse the invitation. Black congresswoman Corrine Brown, a military draft bill co-sponsor, said, “I think it’s very important that no group is taken for granted. It doesn’t matter who is President …If you’re not in the room, your interest will be left on the table.”
But it does matter who the President is…It determines whether or not the CBC will complain or meet.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at
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