Cly­burn will need al­lies to move up in House lead­er­ship

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY EMMA DUMAIN


To as­cend to one of the top two House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship slots next year, Rep. Jim Cly­burn needs to at­tract law­mak­ers like

Rep. Ro Khanna.

Khanna – an In­di­anAmer­i­can fresh­man Demo­crat from Cal­i­for­nia and proudly lib­eral – didn’t know much about the South Carolina Demo­crat un­til mid-Oc­to­ber, when the two men toured His­tor­i­cally Black Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties around Cly­burn’s dis­trict.

Now Khanna’s back­ing Cly­burn for Speaker or Ma­jor­ity Leader if Democrats win con­trol of the House, as­sum­ing Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal­i­for­nia, can’t win the top job her­self.

At 78 and the high­es­trank­ing black law­maker on Capi­tol Hill, Cly­burn would be the first AfricanAmer­i­can to hold one of the top two con­gres­sional lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

“It would be some­thing so good for this coun­try to see – that, at this time in par­tic­u­lar in our na­tion, de­spite all this di­vi­sive­ness and set­backs on race, there is still a for­ward march of progress,” Khanna said. “(Cly­burn’s) fa­ther was not al­lowed to grad­u­ate from high school be­cause he was black … and Cly­burn rises to the very top of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. That is the story of Amer­ica.”

Khanna’s ex­cite­ment about Cly­burn il­lus­trates the open­ing Cly­burn has to climb the ranks: By ap­peal­ing to other, upand-com­ing House Democrats who want to make his­tory with the first black speaker.

But Khanna’s jour­ney also high­lights the chal­lenges Cly­burn faces in build­ing his base. Af­ter a 24-year con­gres­sional ca­reer as a savvy in­sider, rather than a self-pro­mot­ing me­dia per­son­al­ity, not ev­ery House Demo­crat knows what he does and why he might de­serve a pro­mo­tion.

That’s why, with­out even know­ing if Democrats will win a House ma­jor­ity on Elec­tion Day, Cly­burn has to make his case.

He and his al­lies will need to talk di­rectly to the Khan­nas of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus – mem­bers who might chafe at the op­tics of tak­ing down the first woman speaker and re­plac­ing her with cur­rent num­ber two Steny Hoyer of Mary­land, a white man who is also ey­ing the speak­er­ship.

As iden­tity pol­i­tics have over­taken the Demo­cratic Party, mem­bers could be asked to con­front whether the high­est lev­els of elected lead­er­ship should re­flect the party’s di­ver­sity.

There’s a con­stituency for such an ar­gu­ment. Af­ter the midterms, the Demo­cratic Cau­cus could be more di­verse than it has ever been.

The Con­gres­sional

Black Cau­cus alone is cur­rently made up of 45 of the 193 House Democrats, and af­ter the elec­tion, that num­ber could grow to the low to mid 50s.

Twenty-six House Democrats in the Con­gres­sional His­panic Cau­cus are ex­pected to re­turn in the next Con­gress and that con­tin­gent could pick up ad­di­tional mem­bers. Four­teen House Democrats now iden­tify as AsianAmer­i­can, Asian-Pa­cific Amer­i­can, or South AsianAmer­i­can.

Two Na­tive Amer­i­cans and a record num­ber of women are poised to win their elec­tions as Democrats, too.

And South­ern­ers who want re­gional di­ver­sity in their lead­er­ship – and be­lieve the Demo­cratic Party needs to do a bet­ter job mak­ing in­roads with south­ern vot­ers — could also be swayed to­wards Cly­burn.


If Democrats re­take con­trol of the U.S. House, Rep. Jim Cly­burn of South Carolina, the high­est-rank­ing black law­maker on Capi­tol Hill, could be­come the first African-Amer­i­can to hold one of the top two con­gres­sional lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

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