WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Despite combat-veteran and presumed-Democratic Presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) potential appeal to White males, he cannot win the presidency Nov. 2 without strong support from Black voters.

Mr. Kerry has been told that fact and he intends to work to get Black support, according to leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) who met with him for nearly an hour March 11.

“We had some real frank discussions about issues and procedures,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told The Final Call. “A whole lot of what we talked about had to do with how we should do, what we need to do. There is a reason there has been a big fall-off in minority presence at the polls.”


In 1992, there was a surge in Black voter turnout and Bill Clinton unseated incumbent president George H.W. Bush, according to Mr. Clyburn. Democrats also swept the House and the Senate. But in 1994, led by former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), “Republicans got the same amount of votes that they got in ’92, but in ’94 they swept us out of office, which means that somewhere between ’92 and ’94 there is a big fall-off of participation of Democratic voters, and we have seen that fall ever since.”

In order for the Democratic nominee to be elected, the Democratic “base,” particularly the party’s Black constituency, must be energized, Mr. Clyburn maintains.

But first, the Congressional Black Caucus must itself demonstrate more accountability to Black voters and to the”Black Agenda” in order to convince Black voters to support yet another White candidate in 2004, insists Dr. Ronald Walters, professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland.

“If they’re going to meet with (Sen. Kerry), what is their accountability mechanism going to be to us?” Dr. Walters asked in an interview. “Is this a ‘Star Chamber’ or are they going to make public what they’re talking to him about? Not that I don’t trust them, but the fact of the matter is, I’d like to know,” whether or not the CBC meeting with Sen. Kerry was “symbolic and pro forma rather than substantive.”

CBC members insist that it was a good meeting and that they cleared up some issues and misunderstandings, at the same time they solidified their intention to unseat incumbent President George W. Bush.

“I thought it was an excellent meeting,” CBC Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told The Final Call March 11. “First of all, we had 30 members of the 39 to show up, and we all agreed that this is a campaign for the future of America.

“We sat down and we went over all our issues. Everything from education to jobs, to health care, and we had pretty much agreement. One of the things that was very impressive was that he said that his first piece of legislation as president would be one on healthcare disparities, which of course is one of our number one priorities.”

“He also agreed to have an ongoing dialogue with the Congressional Black Caucus. He wants us to be in the forefront of the campaign,” Mr. Clyburn continued. “We told him that we were tired of being in the position of going around the country campaigning for, basically, White elected officials, constantly giving of our time, giving our weekends, time away from our families, but when it came to input as to policies, then we became invisible. He agreed with us that he didn’t want us to play that kind of role. And that he will be meeting with the Caucus at least four times between now and November.”

At Mr. Kerry’s suggestion, Reps. Cummings and Clyburn will serve at the upper level of the Kerry campaign, dealing with issues like the selection of Mr. Kerry’s vice presidential running mate, and when other major decisions are made.

“If you’re talking substance, then I think all of us ought to know what the issues are,” Dr. Walters said. He suggests that Black agenda conferences scheduled in Chicago and Boston, among others, should be used by CBC leaders for grassroots outreach and to discover views and agenda items that go beyond affirmative action.

“What I’ve suggested is that (the CBC) ought to become a part of these National Agenda conferences and that they deal with Kerry on these agendas,” said Dr. Walters, suggesting that the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend would be an appropriate time for them to announce what he’s agreed to and what he hasn’t agreed to.

“It’s an effort to try to surface an agenda in a public way and to try to make Kerry accountable for it. The Caucus has a role in that and they ought to seize it,” Dr. Walters said.

But CBC leaders feel that they did put the tough issues on the table. “Affirmative action is a big Black issue. Eleanor Holmes Norton had a very cogent presentation about that. Unemployment among Blacks being double what it is among Whites, Carolyn Kilpatrick led the discussion on that. Education, $9 billion under-funding of ‘No Child Left Behind,’ Major Owens and Chaka Fattah led the discussions on that,” said Rep. Clyburn.

“So, sure, we had all of what you call a Black Agenda,” he continued.

Another CBC member agrees. “The bottom line here, I think (Sen. Kerry) got a clear understanding that his election depends upon our community,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told The Final Call. “I think he can count and I think he showed it in this meeting today.”

Dr. Walters remains concerned that Sen. Kerry needs to get the message that the future White House needs to implement “not only general, but targeted, public policy to deal with the problems of the Black community. We have to ask any Democratic president to repeal ‘Three Strikes And You’re Out,’ mandatory minimum sentences, etc., etc. because they are responsible for this horrendous in-carceration rate of Blacks,” he insisted.

“That’s what I mean about accountability process. I’m comforted that (the CBC) is meeting with (Sen. Kerry), but I’m only so-comforted about that.”