Congressional Black Caucus Demands Thad Cochran Get More Progressive

Keith Naughton Public Affairs Consultant
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Just days after the disputed primary win by Thad Cochran, the Congressional Black Caucus began sending the senator a wish list. It’s only the latest in a long series of overreaches and bad strategy that has made the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) the most incompetent, irrelevant voting bloc in Congress. Locked into a self-righteous, “you-owe-us” mentality, the CBC not only undermines its own influence, but fails to serve its constituents.

While the result of the Mississippi primary is in dispute, the current outcome in favor of Senator Cochran is due in great part to the support of African-American voters. To put it bluntly, if the result stand Cochran doesn’t need them anymore (by the way, it is incredibly difficult to overturn any election results, so the possibility of a new election is very small).

In fact, to bring McDaniel’s voters into the fold, Cochran will need to push back against the liberal CBC. Cochran will need to re-establish his connection to the conservative majority in Mississippi. That certainly will not include agreeing to the CBC’s entitlement laundry list.

Ironically, because of the public way members of the CBC have made their demands, it is less likely that Cochran will agree to anything. Politicians of all stripes hate to knuckle under to public demands. They might do so if their political survival is at stake, but it won’t be if Cochran’s primary win holds up.

Shooting themselves in the foot is a just another day at the office for the CBC. Uncompromisingly doctrinaire leftism is what matters for them – and a victimhood addiction that would embarrass Gloria Allred. As a result, the Democrats take them for granted and the Republicans ignore them.

Case in point: In 2005 the Bush Administration made ratifying the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) a top legislative priority and was having a great deal of difficulty collecting enough votes for passage in the House.  Regrettably, this meant the candy store was open. The CBC had an opportunity. They could have provided a handful of votes for something that would have little to no effect on their districts in exchange for more funding for their pet programs. Low-income heating assistance, college scholarships, funds for charter schools – all were programs that the Bush Administration would have easily traded for votes.

Instead, the CBC stuck with the union-dominated, anti-trade Democratic line and voted no. CAFTA passed anyway and they got nothing. Rather than helping their constituents, the CBC put party loyalty first.

It’s no wonder Sen. Tim Scott and former Rep. Allen West declined to join the CBC. What’s the point? As long as the CBC does nothing but adheres to party loyalty and ignores the needs of their own constituents, the caucus only serves as a vehicle for bad politics. The purpose for an interest group caucus is to advance a set of interests ahead of partisan considerations. The CBC fails this basic political test. It’s just a forum for complaints and demands.

Only when the members of the CBC decide to look for ways to work across the partisan and ideological divide will they actually possess power and help their constituents. The last week shows they are far from figuring that out.