The politically charged decisions by veteran Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California to force public trials by the House ethics committee are raising questions about race and whether black lawmakers face more scrutiny over allegations of ethical or criminal wrongdoing than their white colleagues.
Who might be raising such a question?
There's a "dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans," said one member of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The member said it's too easy for an outside group to damage someone's reputation by filing a claim with OCE. "This is stacked against you once an accusation is made," the lawmaker added. "You're guilty until proven otherwise."
First the obvious, I'm highly skeptical that, say, Charlie Rangel or Bill Jefferson are victims of any "dual standard." G.D. made a great point last week about confusing the health of allegedly black institutions, with the health of actual black people. The former is only important, in so much as it affects the latter. There's a similar disconnect that happens with black politicians, a sense that the collective interest is somehow perfectly aligned with some politician's individual interest. It is not clear to me that Rangel holding four rent-controlled apartments is somehow in the interest of black people in Harlem.
More extreme, in Tennessee, Willie Herenton's racist campaign against Steve Cohen posits that the mere fact of sharing an approximate skin-shade, necessarily, leads to better representation. This is laughable. And the black voters in Cohen's district--much like the ones in Artur Davis's district--evidently concur.
What is in the interest of black voters, and really all voters, are competitive races which prevent politicians from turning their districts into fiefdoms. What is in the interest of black voters, and really all voters, is a political class that does not wax indignant when questioned on ethics, or offer some version of "the other guys are doing worse" as an excuse. "Twice as good" was always the rule of our parents' generation. I suggest they employ it.
Still in all, I have probably said too much. The CBC's position on this is unclear from the story. For all we knew, said CBC member could just be Charlie Rangel. When anonymity is granted for mere speculating, who knows? Left unanswered is the extent to which there's debate within the CBC over a charge of a "double standard." Left unanswered is the extent to which African-American voters are concerned or even care. At the end of the day, you're left with the unsettled musings of some unnamed lawmaker who thinks his allies are getting a raw deal. Evidently this is news. When I last checked, there were over 700 comments.