CBC as a force of conservatism

This is just a hypothesis for the moment, mind you. But if science proceeds by testing hypotheses against evidence...

It struck me, thinking about recent essays like that of Tomasky on Dems ceasing to be a party of specific interests and turning to the common good, that the CBC might be feeling a little nervous.

They, after all, represent the paradigm special interest in the Dem party, and might feel that their unique place in the party would be threatened by the new approach.

Plus - the glory days of the civil rights movement are becoming ever more distant, and its veterans in the House ever older. When the likes of Conyers and Rangel decide to retire (I've no evidence that that might be imminent), a new generation of leader may well reconsider what the CBC is for and how it might change.

There is also the long-term increase in the Hispanic VEP, and consequent upsurge of Hispanic representation in the House, whose Caucus might naturally be seen as a rival for the CBC for influence in the House party.

I'm not sure exactly how relations between the CBC and various elements of the Dem leadership operate - on matters like committee assignments, priotizing legislation, and the like.

But, if the Dems organize the 110th House, those questions will naturally become much more pressing.

All of that would make understandable pressure from the CBC on Pelosi with a view to increasing the CBC's leverage in the counsels of the House leadership, thereby boosting the share of patronage it gets, its say in legislative priorities, the part of its members in media and other public projection of the House party, etc.

The cases of Jefferson and Hastings are wedge issues for the CBC, to the extent that they make Pelosi and the rest of the Dem leadership dependent on CBC leaders for intermediation.

In that way, the CBC would operate somewhat like a labor union, representing its members to management. (And, as far as possible, a closed shop, too!) The threat of collective action would carry weight because of the commonality of interest amongst the group, the perceived legitimacy of the interests they represent and the feared high cost to the House party (and the wider party, too) of a confrontation with them.

That would not be a healthy situation for any party leadership. It would, moreover, resemble in too many respects for comfort, the place once held in the party by the Southern Caucus.

Now, like I said, this is just a hypothesis. But, right or wrong, I think the position of the CBC in the House party over the long term needs serious strategic attention from the House leadership.

Tags: Alcee Hastings, Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic House Leadership, Pelosi, William Jefferson (all tags)

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