The assistant Democratic leader in the House told MSNBC this morning that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is right about her read on how President Obama is perceived in the South.
“The south has not always been the friendliest place for African- Americans,” Landrieu said recently. “It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said “she knows the history of Louisiana, like I know the history of South Carolina.”
“And the fact of the matter is she reads some of the mail that she gets and I read some of the mail that I get. And for anybody to say that there is nothing that’s racial … you’re just not telling the truth. The fact of the matter is we know that with a lot of people — I don’t care what [Obama] does, he is not going to be acceptable because of his skin color,” Clyburn said.
“Now having said that, I do believe that those of us who are sophisticated in this process have got to do a better job of nuancing these things in a way that we can benefit from them. Because I think that when you talk about expanding Medicaid, in South Carolina 59 percent of the people on Medicare are children, 7 percent are senior citizens, 13 percent are disabled. And we should be focusing on those children, those disabled, those senior citizens. And a majority of the children, a majority of the senior citizens, a majority of the disabled, that will benefit from Medicaid are white people. These are not black people.”
The assistant leader said his party has “got to start focusing on that and developing a message that will make people come face-to-face with the realities of their conditions, and that is what we have been a little bit afraid of.”
“And I just think that that’s a fear that we just got to get over. We’ve just got to get over it because none of us can successfully change our skin color or — no more than we can change our agenda,” Clyburn continued. “And there are gender biases existing in this country. And we’ve got to work through those things. And those of us who are Democrats, we have a history of being fair on civil rights and those kinds of activities. We’ve got to stick with that agenda and work through it and don’t be ashamed or afraid of it.”