House Majority Whip James Clyburn appeared on MSNBC on Thursday and suggested that he owes his current position in Congress to Democratic actions on race. As reported by Breitbart, Clyburn pointed in particular to legislation like the Civil Rights Act.
Clyburn’s comments came after host Katy Tur asked him about his response to journalist Tim Alberta’s claims that some “well-off Black voters” in Detroit feel that “nothing really changes for them” regardless of whether United States leadership is Democratic or Republican.
“My response to that would be, please take a little time and study your history,” Clyburn said. “Don’t tell me nothing ever changed.”
Clyburn pointed to the election of former Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in 1963 and contrasted it with the hypothetical alternative scenario in which former Republican nominee Barry Goldwater would have won the presidency.
“For him to tell me there would be no difference if Goldwater got elected rather than Lyndon Johnson, is he telling me the Civil Rights Act of ’64 did not make a difference? The Voting Rights Act of ’65 did not make a difference?”
The 79-year-old politician highlighted many purported successes of Johnson’s Great Society program, which pushed policy initiatives and legislation, including the Elementary Secondary Education Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Higher Education Act. Clyburn suggested that such achievements would not have been accomplished if Goldwater beat Johnson.
“So don’t tell me nothing ever changes,” Clyburn concluded. “That kind of defeatism would have me still in a cotton field, and I’m far from there.”
Clyburn has endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 election and is viewed by many as the reason for the former vice president’s primary success, which was driven by African American voters in South Carolina. But Clyburn has also faced criticism from Cornel West, a Black philosopher and political activist who endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
Per Corporate Crime Reporter, West attacked Clyburn for the money he receives from big pharmaceutical companies — allegedly more than any other member of Congress. According to West, Clyburn’s Black heritage is no excuse for his opposition to policies like Medicare for All, which would help African Americans and “working poor people.”
Clyburn recently made headlines when he pushed back against the movement to defund police departments. His pushback runs contrary to progressive lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. In addition, Sanders and Biden have also refused to support the progressive-led movement.