The Black Community Needs a New Political Law Game

Maybe the answer is to stay outside the box

Contributor’s Riff

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by Alton Drew | originally altondrew.com | @altondrew

The political battle between the Executive branch and the Congress has been intense, to say the least, over the last twenty-seven months since Donald Trump took office.  With post-Mueller report hearings ramping up next week, the saga only promises to continue way into campaign season.

My friends and family have expressed varying degrees of interest, with a significant number of opinions fueled more by emotion and less by critical thinking.  For example, the constant reference to “collusion”, a term that has no legal meaning, is disconcerting because it provides an example of how people are ignoring the particulars (even when readily available for examination) and rolling with the globs of misinformation thrown onto the plate most times by the mainstream media.

Black Congressional Leadership is Wasting Political Power

What should also be disturbing is how two of the highest ranking Black members in the Congress, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), are spearheading the charge in the impeachment debate.  Their distaste for the sitting president is evident, but what is less evident is how the use of a potent political law instrument as impeachment is supposed to translate into any increase in political power, wealth, or capital for Black people.

If anything, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed caution about pursuing impeachment, appreciating the argument from some inside her party that pursuing impeachment could have a negative impact on the Democrats’ ability to oust Donald Trump from the Oval Office in November 2020.  Mrs. Pelosi’s hesitancy on impeachment should have provided Ms. Waters and Mr. Cummings an opening to show leadership and go against the impeachment grain, not because it would be in line with Speaker Pelosi’s sentiment, but as a signal that the energy expenditure behind impeachment does nothing for their prime constituency: Black people.

When You Are Marginalized, You Agitate

With at least 51 voting members in the U.S. House, Blacks in the Congress are in a position to be the pivotal swing vote on a number of issues including impeachment. Numerically, Nlack members of the House, where articles of impeachment would originate, could clog the wheel by holding back approximately 20% of the Democratic vote.  With this leverage, Black congressmembers could attempt concessions from either the House leadership or from President Trump, though it is less likely that the Black caucus would try to negotiate with the President for fear of becoming a pariah in the Democratic Party.

Therein lies a telling dilemma. If the premier block of Black Members of Congress cannot leverage numerical strength without fear of reprisal, what good is their strength?  Another irony is that for a group of Congressional members that represent a marginalized group, their fear of marginalization within Congress does not put them in a position to do more for their Black constituents.

Staying Outside the Box

On the other hand, maybe Black Americans, particularly those who embrace their status as marginalized, need an approach to political law that allows them to carve out their own independent niche - one that unapologetically finds the seams or openings in the political economy in order to access capital or create substantive platforms for constructing true communities. Current Black leadership is too afraid to do that.