Friday, May 06, 2005

Black Caucus shows constituent changes

WT reports Black Caucus shows constituent changes

About 35 years after its founding, Congressional Black Caucus members no longer vote lock step with each other and the Democratic Party, reflecting a significant change in the economic status and demographics of their constituents and their own political aspirations.

They have finally wised up. The Dems always took the black vote for granted, and it looks like the blacks are finally figuring that out.
....In the early days, members said, the caucus' mantra went hand in hand with President Johnson's vision to use federal policies to close disparities in employment, wealth, health care and civil rights between blacks and whites.
In other words buying their votes with handouts designed to keep them poor by giving them no incentive to better themselves
"When we first started out, we were dealing with a dozen members, and man, it was easy," said Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, a founding member of the caucus. But as the American social climate has changed and more blacks have moved out of poverty -- only a quarter of blacks are at the poverty level today, compared to more than half in 1965 -- the politics have changed, as well. More blacks are interested in lower taxes and pro-business policies that will lead to job growth.
I.E. Republican Policies
The changes have played out on a series of votes this year, such as passage of the Republican-led bankruptcy bill, which 10 members of the caucus voted for, and elimination of the estate tax, which drew eight votes from the 41-member caucus. Five members, all Democrats, voted for both measures: Reps. David Scott and Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia, Albert R. Wynn of Maryland, Harold E. Ford Jr. of Tennessee and William J. Jefferson of Louisiana.

Todd Zywicki blogged The article suggests that the key political dynamic at work is the growth in the black middle class and the growing recognition that many small businesses are minority-owned businesses. As a result, more members of the Congressional Black Caucus are taking the expressed views of small businesses into account in their voting pattern. As I noted earlier, when I attended the signing ceremony for the bankruptcy reform legislation, I sat next to the owners of a family-owned lumber store in rural New Jersey, who described for me the dramatic negative effects that bankruptcy losses can have on small businesses. And, of course, excessive bankruptcy losses are most likely to negatively impact higher-risk borrowers, such as young and minority borrowers, in terms of higher credit costs and reduced access to credit.

There may also be a generational change at work here, as those supporting these small-business initiatives also seem to be drawn from the younger and southern members of the Black Caucus (who joined most centrist Democrats in voting for bankruptcy reform), whereas the old rust-belt guys like Congressman Charles Rangel dismiss the votes as "just stupid" and John Conyers just chalks it up political ambition for higher office. In other words, it seems pretty clear where the new ideas in the Congressional Black Caucus lie on issues like bankruptcy reform.

The Senate roll call vote on the bankruptcy reform legislation is here; the House vote is here.

Betsy Newmark blogged Charles Rangel doesn't buy the idea that changing economics for blacks might lead to black Representatives voting differently than he himself votes. Catch this diplomatic and tolerant language.
"We have to be very, very tolerant of a person that votes stupid, because they may think they have a good reason and they are the ones who come down here, so you may think the vote is stupid but they know what they are doing," Mr. Rangel said.
Now, if you were one of the Black Caucus who just voted for the bankruptcy bill or the estate-tax bill, are you going to appreciate Rangel calling you stupid in public? Are you going to more or less inclined to follow his lead in the future? Who is the stupid one?

As more blacks enter the middle class and even the upper middle class, the more they see that Republican policies of tax cuts and encouraging opportunity for advancement are the way to go.

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