John Conyers is not an “icon,” as Nancy Pelosi would have it, or would pretend to have it anyway, unless you mean an icon for everything that went wrong with the civil rights movement.
He’s also an icon for identity politics (a favorite of despots globally), grievance culture and economic decline (Detroit). Oh, and there are the little matters of sexual assault and governmental corruption.
Finally, he’s an icon for rape — in this instance, of the American taxpayer.
Am I being harsh on poor John at 88?
Unfortunately, not much. How about your money paying — in secret — for his sexual (to be overly polite) dalliance(s)?
On Monday night, BuzzFeed broke the story that Michigan Rep. John Conyers paid a former staffer thousands of dollars in a settlement in 2015 after sexually harassing her and other women in his office and then firing her for refusing his advances.
He likely isn’t the only member of Congress to settle a harassment case. Since 1997, Congress has paid at least $15 million to settle complaints about sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act under the umbrella of the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA) of 1995.
The payments made to Rep. Conyers’s alleged victim came out of his taxpayer-funded office budget. Generally, though, these payments aren’t made by members of Congress or their offices. They’re made by a special section of the Department of the Treasury established under Section 415 of the CAA — and ultimately by the American taxpayer.
None of this should be a surprise. It’s all in the family. Conyers’ recently divorced (2015) wife Monica pled guilty for “conspiring to commit bribery” (2009), and was involved in numerous scandals during the twenty-five years of their marriage. (She served twenty-seven months in a West Virginia prison camp.) The decades of dubious activities by the Conyers have been well-known throughout Michigan and to many people across the country who follow politics — including, one would assume, John Conyers’ colleagues in Congress.
The real question: How did such a person remain in office for so many years and then become ranking member, until now, of the Judiciary Committee, of all things? It sounds almost like the UN.
The answer, my friends, is a bleak passage indeed, especially bad for African-Americans who were disastrously misled by people like Conyers from the time he and others formed the Congressional Black Caucus. Although they may not have realized it then, the formation of that caucus marked what was the ratification of a grievance culture, what Larry Elder so aptly calls “victimology.” The Black Caucus, racist in essence as would be a White Caucus, allowed many things to be excused in the name of the supposed racial advancement of African-Americans.
The result of that moral error was the reverse of what was putatively intended. We all know it now with the near-decimation (literally) of the black family that was once — not so long ago — one of the paragons of our communities. That demise has encouraged so many disasters from drugs to unemployment to crime and even murder. It’s an American tragedy.
Was John Conyers responsible for that by himself? Of course not, but he was a main aider and abetter. Most of what he did — including the demand for reparations — was ultimately about securing his own power. As long as African Americans thought of themselves as victims, he got elected.
But he was far from alone in this strategy. The Democratic Party is fully responsible. That party’s fervent embrace of reactionary identity politics creates and even deifies John Conyers and Maxine Waters at the expense of African American leaders who are genuinely forward-thinking and don’t regard black people as victims — a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I were an African American, I would despise the Democratic Party for what it has done to black people.
Unfortunately, the Republicans haven’t done much to rectify the situation. That was a promise, as I recall, made by Donald Trump. So far, however, that is largely unfulfilled, other than the general economic improvement we have been seeing. Some would say that is enough. All should be equal. And that’s true. But Jack Kemp-style tax remedies for our disadvantaged communities (obviously not just African American) have merit and are absolutely worth trying. Don’t expect the John Conyerses of the world (or the Nancy Pelosis for that matter) to lead the way, however. It’s not in their interest.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already. You can find him on twitter @rogerlsimon.