The Politico reported over the weekend on how the first two Southern GOP House members since Reconstruction are hinting around about how they’ll approach – or not approach – the Congressional Black Caucus in the weeks/months to come:
[Allen] West [FL22] told POLITICO he’d “absolutely” be interested in joining the CBC. “That has been a monolithic voice in the body politic for far too long. There is a growing conservative black voice in this country,” West said, that needs to be represented in Washington.
West, of Florida, and Tim Scott of South Carolina will be the first two black Republicans to serve in Congress since J.C. Watts, who refused to join the CBC, and the first black GOP members from the Deep South since Reconstruction, but the two have different ideas about whether they should join the CBC, which hasn’t had a Republican member since Connecticut Rep. Gary Franks, who lost his seat in 1996.
“I haven’t really decided. I’m probably leaning against it at this point,” said Scott, whose 89-year-old grandfather was with him Tuesday night when he won a seat in South Carolina’s 1st District. “My experience has been the whole notion of one nation — so I really shy away things that create some kind of boundaries. … It highlights the divisions I’ve been pushing forward to erase.”
Scott served in the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus, he said, and “had some great relationships for the first year. But we were so often on a different page that — it was a good time, but besides building bridges in relationships, which was incredibly important — it didn’t serve my legislative objectives. So I didn’t join the second year.”
I can understand the rationale of both men and support them both, whatever they decide to do. I have a feeling, though, that in West’s case he’d join (if “allowed”) not to “break bread” but instead to shake things up in what has historically been nothing more than a Socialistic pro-Cuba caucus masquerading as a caucus for “black lawmakers.” He’s pretty much said as much:
Conservative West, who seldom discussed race in his campaign, is critical of the “failure of the liberal welfare policies in the black community” and says the caucus could use some ideological diversity.
West and the caucus have already crossed paths.
U.S. Rep. and Black Caucus member Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, enlisted other caucus members to oppose West, bringing U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., to West Palm Beach to stump for Klein.
At a debate last month, after Klein criticized West for being at an event with members of the notorious Outlaws motorcycle club, West noted Klein had campaigned with an “impeached federal judge,” a reference to Hastings’ removal from the federal bench by the Senate in 1989.
And since he said Klein was bringing up “guilt by association,” West brought up ethics investigations of Black Caucus members Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and the conviction of former caucus member and freezer cash-stasher William Jefferson of Louisiana.
Hastings didn’t return a call asking for his thoughts on West.
Asked how he anticipates getting along with Hastings, West said, “That’s up to him. I can get along with anyone as long as they’re doing the right things for the people of South Florida.”
Scott may very well decide to avoid being a noisemaker when it comes to this hostile-to-conservatives monolithic group and instead “make noise” for his district in other ways while serving the first of what hopefully will be many terms in the US House.
Either way, best of luck to them both.