Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Congressional Black Caucus

The Congressional Black Caucus was formally constituted in 1971. The vision was “of a caucus that would be the primary policymaking vehicle in the Congress for the interests of African Americans.” It has been a powerful caucus since. Rangel explains the factors which have reinforced this. “Its members are more strong willed than most, because they come from districts that are non-competitive in terms of national elections…Secure black seats accrue valuable seniority no matter the fortunes of the national Democrats or Republicans.” Rangel notes, “The CBC has to be very selective about the formal group positions it takes. We tend to limit ourselves to stances that each member is ready and willing to defend when an interviewer or political opponent throws it in his or her face….Today [2007] we may well be at the long run point of diminishing returns to ethnic block politics, at least in Congress. Our districts are increasingly pressed by the faster-growing Hispanic populations, and we will continue to lose our old, non-competitive seats to Latino challengers.”
CBC members Jim Clyburn and Bill Gray have served as Majority Whip and John Lewis has served as the Number Two Whip for the Democrats for over two decades.

A CRS report notes that “At times, the CBC plays an oppositional role, both within Congress and the established party structure. “The CBC also issues declarations of its policy agenda, distinct from either party’s agenda.”
The current Chair is Marcia L Fudge, who represents the 11th district in Ohio. 

[1] RANGEL, C. B. 2007. ...And I Haven't Had a Bad Day Since, New York NY, Thomas Dunne Books
St Martin's Press. p184
[2] Ibid. p184
[3] Ibid. p199-200
[4] Ibid. p201
[5] MANNING, J. E. & SHOGAN, C. J. 2010. African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2009 (CRS Report RL30378), Washington DC, Congressional Research Service. p7