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This past election day, two new Republicans who happen to be black were elected to serve in the 112th Congress: Allen West from Florida's 22nd district and Tim Scott from South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. Both West and Scott's districts are overwhelmingly white, with West's district coming in at just 3.8 percent black and Scott's district coming in a much more respectable 21.1 percent black. Both men were endorsed by Sarah Palin and numerous other national and local conservatives, but not the Congressional Black Caucus. However, both men were invited to join the CBC, although Scott has declined membership. Needless to say, according to exit polls neither man received any significant share of the black vote in their respective districts.

Meanwhile, as I pointed out earlier this year, Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis has still received no invite from the CBC, even though he represents a district that is 60 percent black and where he routinely receives the lion's share of the black vote even when he has black primary challengers. Even though he was endorsed by Obama. Even though he was endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus!

Does this make any sense at all?

The real question here is who, exactly, does the Congressional Black Caucus represent? Do they represent themselves as members of Congress who happen to be black, or do they represent black voters? Because if it is the latter, it is pretty hard to argue that Allen West is the voice of Black America because of all three black voters in West Palm Beach. He probably only got one of those votes anyway. Similarly, it would be pretty far off to insist that Steve Cohen has no idea of what is going on in Black America when his district is the home of the Blues. So, is the Congressional Black Caucus an advocacy group for Black Americans in the halls of Congress, or is it a blacks-only private Congressional social club?

The CBC website says their vision and goal is:

to promote the public welfare through legislation designed to meet the needs of millions of neglected citizens.

I'd say the black folks of western Tennessee have a pretty long history of being neglected. They didn't sing the Blues because life was gravy.

Frankly, there is no reason at all for the CBC to keep Steve Cohen out but invite Allen West in. It simply makes no sense. The caucus isn't supposed to be about black legislators, but black constituents.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Dec 28, 2010 at 08:30 AM PST.

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