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Majority Whip Clyburn to Critics: Put up or Shut up!

Well, he didn’t exactly say that but I thought I’d implore a crafty yellow journalism technique to get your attention. I see it worked.

What Minority Whip James Clyburn really said during an on-the-record meeting with bloggers yesterday morning is that he wants people who question whether the Democrats in power, including the Congressional Black Caucus, have done much to advance the country to check out the record of legislation they’ve passed and to NOT sit out this mid-term elections in protest and frustration over the nation’s economic slump. Phew! What a mouthful!

That is the short version.  He made his address to me and and an  intimate group of eight to ten other “influential” African American bloggers.  The meeting  took place in the Majority whip’s conference room which is a generously- sized conference room in the Capitol, with warm brownish yellow walls lined with photographs of black Congressional elected figures of the past.

The esteemed Congressman who has a  grandfatherly air about him opened his chat by relaying a bit about the history of blacks in his party and telling us he’s not happy with the rhetoric and spin and the fact that many Americans are unaware of the Democrats’ record on legislation the party has passed since taking over control of the White House and both houses of Congress.  He wanted to set the record straight!

I got there just as the chat began and set up my laptop’s webcam to video tape the entire event while I took notes.

The four take aways I got from the meeting:

1. Clyburn is a great storyteller. He reminds me of a great uncle that I grew up with in my native Sierra Leone, West Africa. He has a bellowing voice that is reminiscent of what I imagine Frederick Douglass would have sounded like. The tone of the talk was conversational and at one point, I noticed us sitting around listening attentively.  We appeared as students in a lecture hall hearing a scholarly lecture about history.

While we are students of politics, social advocacy and civic engagement in theory, we are also astute social journalists and bloggers who have large and captive audiences that rely on us and our take on what matters most in politics for African Americans.  Many in the room have the power of pen and influence.  We are critical thinkers and able to see through the spin and smokescreen. We tell it like it is and do not mince words or write to comfort and console.  Notwithstanding all of that, for the most part, we were eager to hear the messaging and promised to dissect it appropriately for our reader communities.

2. The Democrats are keenly aware that the Republicans, the media,  the political strategists and analysts and the spin doctors have been controlling the debate for very long time.  It is quite true that other than a mixed reaction to the Healthcare bill, Wall street reform, the Stimulus bill, the Cash for Clunkers and the Bank bailouts, most Americans do not really know much about any other the legislation that the Democrats have passed.  I admit it. I follow these issues pretty closely and even I was wholly unaware of many of the programs until recently.  Imagine then for the average person who is too busy trying to earn a living, they really are not paying attention to these issues.  They should be though, right?

3. The Congressional Black Caucus holds 41 seats in the House of Representatives which are critical to legislation being passed.  Yet, the CBC is often called to task by many Blacks as to what they are doing for Blacks in America. So Clyburn, in no uncertain words, answered the challenge by telling those critics to check the voting record. No legislation passed could have done so without them, he said.

4. While the CBC may not necessarily lose their seats for midterms, what they do risk is losing some critical chairmanship which if the Republicans regain the House would mean that some of the most ultra-conservative right wing members of Congress that are ranking and have seniority may take over those chairmanships.  These new chairs could include some Representatitives that have joined with The Birthers to question the legitimacy of the President’s US Citizenship.  It would be from one extreme to the next.

In sum, don’t protest the economy and displeasure by staying home on November 2nd.  Instead get out there and vote for the long haul and against the alternative which is not necessarily good for the Black agenda, he said.

Below is a list of the initiatives that impact small business that I extracted verbatim from a fact sheet presented to those who attended yesterday.

The next step is to do some digging into the actual text of these bills. Extract the relevant information about implementation and enforcement and determine time lines and specifics. What good is it knowing about legislation if we do not know and understand the details?  Then check out what, if anything, the Republicans are offering for small businesses as an alternative or decipher whether they have assisted the Democrats in getting some of the most beneficial legislation passed that do not further degrade the current deficit.  We have to make these laws work for us, know about the loopholes and see how they can or cannot help our businesses grow and stay alive! Let’s get to it!

AMERICAN RECOVERY & REINVESTMENT ACT, enacted in the first month of President Obama’s term, to jumpstart our economy, create and save 3.5 million jobs, give a tax cut to small business and 95% of American workers, begin to rebuild America’s road, rail, and water infrastructure, and make a historic commitment to education, clean energy, and science and technology, with unprecedented accountability. (Signed into Law)

SMALL BUSINESS JOBS & CREDIT ACT, to leverage billions in loans for small businesses through a lending fund for community banks and provide tax incentives to spur investment in small businesses and the formation of new small businesses; fully paid for. (Passed by House)

PROTECTING AMERICAN PATENTS, providing $129 million in urgent funding, fully offset, to allow the Patent and Trademark Office to prevent additional backlogs in patent applications, as patents are critical to American innovation and economic growth. (On the President’s Desk)

AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION, to invest in modernizing manufacturing; basic R&D; high risk/high reward clean energy research; and teaching science, technology, engineering and math. (Passed by House)

JOBS FOR MAIN STREET ACT, to boost small business, rebuild highways, and hire and retain teachers, police, and firefighters; paid for by redirecting TARP funds from Wall Street to Main Street. (Passed by House)

SMALL BUSINESS & INFRASTRUCTURE JOBS ACT, to extend Build America Bonds to help finance the rebuilding of schools, hospitals, roads and bridges; and target tax incentives to spur investment in small businesses and help entrepreneurs looking to start a new business. (Passed by House)

INNOVATION AGENDA, investing $31 billion in science, technology, innovation, math education, cutting-edge research, advanced manufacturing technologies, and workforce training. (Signed into Law)

SMALL BUSINESS JOBS ACT, creates more than 500,000 jobs, leverages $300 billion in lending, and offers tax incentives for small businesses to help them grow, hire and fuel the economic recovery. (Signed into Law

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