Which brings you to the two dilemmas of modern politics, two dilemmas of which I am sure my eagle eyed president is well aware.
Dilemma number one – if there is practically no political fallout to be expected among the constituencies of the CBC if he continues to keep its members at arm’s length the way he has been doing, why should he change now? Especially when his white Democratic House members who are in contested races are barely holding on to their seats as it is, and will face even bleaker prospects if Obama is seen to be pandering to a political group with a “black agenda.”
Dilemma number two – if the guy in front of you howling about why you aren’t doing enough for his community didn’t go out and raise $5 million or $10 million for you when you ran for president in 2008, and you know that your re-election bid is almost certainly going to cost more than the 975 MILLION dollars it took to lift your ass into the White House, do you do more for him, even if he is black, than you do for the guys who DID raise $5 million and $10 million for you, guys who you will most certainly need again.
Contrary to the opinion of the Two Erics who wrote the expose on CBC fundraising last month for the New York Times, the CBC is NOT a fundraising powerhouse. The $12 or $13 MILLION a year they are pulling in form corporate donors and lobbyists is CHUMP CHANGE compared to the $3.7 BILLION dollars flowing into Congressional PACs and political charities set up by our elected officials.
So what do you do if you are the CBC? Do you bluster and bray like John Conyers, because god dammit, I’ve been in the House so long I can’t remember when I got here, and skinny, snot nosed presidents like you, Mr. Obama, need to listen to your elders? Do you put on your best Fashion Fair makeup like Barbara Lee and invoke the background music of an old Negro spiritual while you demand a vague sounding measure of “presidential accountability” to the black community? Or encourage the rest of your members to attempt any of the other tough guy stances we see opposing politicians take in the movies, where they stare each other down for a few minutes until one side capitulates?
Calling the president on the carpet when his approval ratings among black Americans - remember them? the people who are the majority of your districts? - is fifteen points higher than any one of yours is the quickest way I know for you to get a "lose/lose" outcome today.
What they need to do is acknowledge the two dilemmas I’ve outlined above as his political reality – that in a world where race still matters, and many Americans, from those who know better to those in the media and those who don’t, are still a little unsettled by the reality of a black man running the country, coming up with special programs for black people that announce their intentions in neon lights is political suicide for man whose “district” is the entire country.
And then come to grips with the fact that for all the showmanship, Barack Obama is still a nerd at heart, a Mr. Spock like president who is data driven and inclined to agree with the experts.
So get your quants out, or fire some of the staff you’ve got and hire some real policy wonks with quantitative backgrounds, the kind of guys whose eyes glaze over at the words “regressive analysis”, and get them to work cooking up some win/win programs that can create opportunities or provide education or improve crime statistics in both your districts as well as some other reps whose support is critical for his administration.
Stuff them with plenty of numbers, and plenty of comparisons to other programs THAT HAVE ACTUALLY WORKED, and go light on the historical context, since we all know the tune. And make sure they leave a few gaps in the conclusions, so he has to call you when he sees something that doesn’t make sense.
Find some under-employed copywriters to help you come up with some buzzwords and acronyms that sound just like all the other initiatives that reward farmers or sugar growers or the pharmaceutical industry, and slap them on the cover sheets.
In a town too busy to think about doing the real work of gaming the system, CBC members, you all have a golden opportunity to walk away with the biggest haul black lawmakers have ever taken out of D.C.
Putting president on blast is NOT the way to do it.
All you really have to remember, CBC members, is this – no matter how black, no matter how “real”, no matter how in tune with you your constituents seem to be, they will trade each and every one of your asses in for a replacement Negro in a New York minute if it’s a toss-up between you and Obama.