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Blackroots Press Black Superdelegates

BY Ari Melber | Thursday, February 28 2008

Blackroots activists are taking on the Congressional Black Caucus again, urging the superdelegates to represent their constituents by backing Barack Obama.

ColorofChange, a netroots group that aims to "strengthen Black America's political voice," is rallying its 400,000 members today in an email campaign calling on Black superdelegates to "support the will of the voters." The group has drawn more attention in Washington since it helped oust CBC member Al Wynn, a periwinkle Democrat, by supporting Donna Edwards' victorious primary challenge this month. Obama is winning over 80 percent of rank and file black voters, and the CoC online petition gathered over 20,000 signatures so far.

Executive Director James Rucker name-checked a few CBC Clinton supporters in remarks to The Nation today:

Voters across the country are asking their representatives for an explanation. They are demanding that CBC members like Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones answer to the people who put them in office, not their political allies. It's deeply problematic that some members of the body that has historically defended the right to vote for Black Americans could now serve to undermine it.

The CoC effort comes as the civil rights leader and senior CBC member John Lewis dramatically announced that he is withdrawing his Clinton endorsement to honor a "duty as a representative of the 5th Congressional District to express the will of the people." The unusual move from a party elder intensifies the pressure on other Clinton superdelegates who hail from districts that supported Obama, as The Nation's John Nichols reported.

Lewis also faced a primary challenger who used his Clinton support to channel the Donna Edwards/blackroots message, as The Politico explains:

...it’s also true that [Lewis'] decision to flip comes not long after he drew his first general or primary election opponent in nearly a decade—a challenge rooted in Lewis’s previous endorsement of Clinton. “One who is an elected representative of the people must not ever get ahead of his or her constituencies,” said the Rev. Markel Hutchinson, his primary election challenger. “It is a complex quagmire that congressman Lewis is presently in, because instead of waiting and following the leadership and direction of his constituents and following the pulse of the community that he represents, he side-stepped his constituents.”

There is little reason to think that political expediency drove Lewis, a civil rights icon who is safely ensconced in his Atlanta-based seat, to make the jump to Obama. But there’s no question that, for many black politicians, the stakes have increased since Obama’s Jan. 26 victory in South Carolina, when he first displayed his tremendous popularity among African Americans by winning 78 percent of their vote. In the four weeks since then, black elected officials ranging from Virginia state Sen. Louise Lucas to New Jersey state Sen. Dana Redd to Georgia Congressman David Scott have switched from Clinton’s to Obama’s camp...

Today Rucker hailed Lewis' announcement as "an example for his colleagues in the CBC who have yet to publicly declare that they will support the will of the voters." The CoC petition does not ask for members to specifically back Obama, but to "support the voters' will."

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