CBC Responds to Tea Party Comparisons
CBC communications director not happy with the comparison
Last week we asked “Why Can’t the Congressional Black Caucus Be More Like the Tea Party?” Today they are responding.
Congressional Black Caucus communications director Stephanie L. Young, part of a new breed among the caucus, there to inject some fire into the 41-year-old organization. When Young isn’t getting the word out on CBC initiatives and helping put together events like the CBC Annual Legislative Conference, she’s putting out fires like the one that erupted when we compared them to the Tea Party. Young found that article unflattering to the CBC and took the time to talk with Loop 21 to clear the record about who they are, and who they are not trying to be.
Loop 21: So, you felt the article was unfair? In what way?
Stephanie L. Young: You claim that we have the wrong message by saying the CBC should be focused on legislative solutions instead of the initial approach that we took by visiting five cities hardest hit by the current economic and jobs crisis. What you have failed to understand is that the jobs events were only one part of a multifaceted strategy, which included a national black leadership summit on the jobs crisis, over 50 pieces of job legislation, a comprehensive jobs legislation report, job creation recommendations presented to the President, and an upcoming report from our Jobs Commission, which convened during last week's Annual Legislative Conference.
Loop 21: It’s interesting that you mention there’s unfamiliarity with the platform, because lack of strong messaging at the CBC was one of the points made in the article?
Young: Wrong message? Hardly. I am hard-pressed to understand how a singular focus on jobs for a Caucus that represents the very group with the highest unemployment rate is in any way a wrong message.
Loop 21: How do CBC members feel about Rep. Cleaver’s leadership?
Young: You also claim that we have the wrong leader. I also think you are incorrect and am trying to understand how you reached that conclusion given the "For the People" Jobs Initiative happened under his leadership. The CBC has been the most active it has been in years under his leadership. As a result of his leadership, the Caucus has had two meetings with the President to address the most pressing policy issues of our time. We convened the first-ever Budget Commission (and produced a report), we held a summit for black student government leaders to reignite the black political pipeline, and we are preparing to roll out a major voter suppression/election protection initiative. Chairman Cleaver focuses on results-oriented leadership instead of paralyzing outrage that only restricts the ability to produce the real results our community needs right now.
Loop 21: Is there anything about the Tea Party’s influence that you or the CBC feel you can learn from in any way?
Young: The biggest difference between the CBC and the Tea Party is simple -- funding. As you may know, the CBC's funding was completely eliminated when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House. Funding was not just eliminated, but padlocks were literally put on the office doors to prevent members and staff from entry. The fact that CBC Members have figured out a way to ensure this organization's survival against all odds speaks volumes about their dedication to important causes, our mission, and the reason it is known to be "the conscience of the congress." One thing we don't have a problem doing is speaking out against injustices and organizing to address these issues in a real way.
Loop 21: Is the CBC’s considered too establishment to be a disruptive force in politics, and if so is that a hindrance to its success? Or a net benefit?
Young: In terms of being establishment or anti-establishment there’s a balance that, I think, onlookers need to understand. When members of the CBC criticize President Obama there is an immediate backlash. He is still tremendously popular in the black community. So in effect we’re turning off our own supporters. At least half of our members will need to be out in their communities to support President Obama’s re-election campaign. I don’t think anyone in the Democratic Party takes the CBC for granted in that respect.