For a while there, Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) was threatening to lead a march in front of the White House during the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual legislative conference this weekend to protest President Obama’s response to the soaring African-American unemployment rate. He’s since backed down, because of the American Jobs Act that the president introduced last week — or so he says.
It’s more likely that somebody convinced Conyers that putting on such a spectacle was a really bad idea. But, according to Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, it would be a very different story under a different administration.
“If [former president] Bill Clinton had been in the White House and failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House,” he said in an interview with McClatchy newspapers.
Imagine the headlines that would fly around the Internet faster than you can press the “return” key if the CBC did lead a public protest: “Black Lawmakers March on Obama!” “Hundreds of African-Americans Protest in Front of the White House!” “Minorities Think Obama Is Clueless on Jobs and the Economy, Too!”
And the viral videos! Conservative news programs would put them on a constant loop and talk show hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh would be in heaven.
But the CBC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. At least a few members have, on occasion, whispered into Politi-Chick’s ear that they honestly believe the president hasn’t done nearly enough to target Black unemployment and live in fear that he’ll cave on the next big issue during critical negotiations with Republican leaders. Almost three years in, they’re still figuring out how to balance that fine line between criticizing administration policies and not appearing to criticize the man who leads the administration itself.
“This is an unprecedented circumstance where an African-American president who is an iconic, heroic figure enjoys a status with African-Americans that no one since Martin Luther King has enjoyed,” former CBC member Artur Davis told McClatchy.
I’m wondering if Obama, who has a pretty good sense of humor, will use the aborted protest as part of a joke when he addresses the group during Saturday’s gala dinner. If so, will it be a funny moment or plain old awkward?