Rep. Clyburn says this is the first thing Biden should do as president

Christel Deskins

EXCLUSIVE: The highest-ranking Black Democrat in the House has become a tastemaker in the 2020 presidential election Loading the player… Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, has become a bit of a tastemaker in this year’s presidential election. The 27-year congressman’s endorsement of now Democratic presidential presumptive nominee, […]

EXCLUSIVE: The highest-ranking Black Democrat in the House has become a tastemaker in the 2020 presidential election

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Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip, has become a bit of a tastemaker in this year’s presidential election.

The 27-year congressman’s endorsement of now Democratic presidential presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, arguably tipped the scale in his favor in February just days before his South Carolina primary win.

Since then, Clyburn, whose district includes one of the most populous Black cities in the country, has since become a confidant to the former vice president who surely can’t clinch the White House without strong Black voter turnout.

Read More: Rep. Jim Clyburn recalls his last conversation with friend John Lewis

(L-R) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) as he leaves the South Carolina Democratic Party “First in the South” dinner on February 24, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(L-R) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) as he leaves the South Carolina Democratic Party “First in the South” dinner on February 24, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In an exclusive interview with theGrio, Clyburn said that for Biden to win the presidency, his campaign will need to respond “to the dreams and aspirations of the American people.”

The congressman sees the 2020 election in simple terms. The fact of the matter is, one of two people will be inaugurated come January. It’s either going to be Joe Biden or it’s going be Donald Trump,” he said.

“I want all of us to work hard and stop comparing Joe Biden to the Almighty. Compare him to the alternative,” Clyburn said, apparently reacting to Biden critics within the more left-leaning factions of the Democratic Party.

“[Biden] may not be someone to stand on the corners and yell. He has a much more measured approach to governance than a lot of people. So let’s look at the substance and not get carried away with the style.”

Clyburn has also reportedly played a role in helping Joe Biden choose his vice presidential nominee, even providing a shortlist of contenders. Earlier in his campaign, Biden committed to choosing a woman as his running mate. The 77-year-old is reportedly considering names like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Val Demings and Susan Rice.

Read More: A conversation with Black Women about Biden picking Warren for VP

Sen. Kamala Harris (L) (D-CA), hugs Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden after introducing him at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School on March 09, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Sen. Kamala Harris (L) (D-CA), hugs Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden after introducing him at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School on March 09, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In light of social uprisings across the country over police brutality and racial violence, there have been calls from Democrats for Biden to specifically choose a Black woman.

Clyburn said it would be great to have a Black woman as Biden’s VP — but it’s not a “must.”

Having an African American woman on the ticket would be a plus. But not a must. The only must in this is to win this election,” Clyburn told theGrio. What’s also a must, he said, is a synergy between Biden and his running mate.

“People can see quickly when there is tension with the candidates … when they don’t present a united front,” he said. He noted that while Biden and former President Barack Obama competed against each for president, they were able to present a united front.

Read More: Obama and Biden blast Trump’s presidency during socially distanced conversation

“They came together because they complimented each other as a team,” Clyburn said.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to Vice-President Joe Biden during an event in the State Dinning room of the White House, January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to Vice-President Joe Biden during an event in the State Dinning room of the White House, January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

A cautionary tale of what happens when voters don’t see such chemistry, the congressman said, is Republican presidential and vice-presidential nominees Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin‘s unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2008.

“You could see right away that she and McCain were not compatible,” he said. “People could see it. They could feel it. And they demonstrated that when they went to the polls.”

If Biden is successful and is elected the 46th president of the United States, Clyburn said the very first thing he’d like to see done under a Biden administration is the restoring of voting rights in America. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, no longer requiring historically racist states in the South from needing federal approval before changing their election laws.

The Supreme Court ruling, Democrats and activists argue, gave way for voter suppression efforts to make it harder for minorities and other traditionally Democrat-leaning citizens to vote. Clyburn said he would “love” to see the passage of a voting rights bill that was recently unveiled by House Democrats named after the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-GA).

Read More: Symone Sanders on how Black voters can combat voter suppression

“Well, if we don’t get this John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act passed before the election, I would want that to be among the first things that Biden would do. Restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Clyburn said.

“John Lewis nearly lost his life. For that 1965 Voting Rights Act, we should remember John Lewis with a 2020 Voting Rights Act that would do what the Supreme Court said needs to be done in order to return the efficacy of that act.

Clyburn said he would also like to see broadband internet service be universal for every American. “I think that the next greatest thing for the 21st century is for every home to have accessible and affordable broadband,” he said.

“That’s the way we would have telehealth so that health care can be delivered to everybody. That’s the way to have online learning so that education can be adequate for everybody. That’s the way of making the greatness of this country accessible and affordable for all of its citizens,” he added.

“We ought to do that. And I think that when Biden is elected president we’re going to see it put in place. We’ll see a revival on Main Street like we’ve never had before.”

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