A Message to Presidential Candidates: A Winning Strategy Includes a Plan for Black America
“You want our vote, come get our vote.”
—Angela Lang, executive director, Black Leaders Organizing for Communities
The nation recently experienced a midterm election of historic dimensions: more than 47% of eligible voters cast a ballot in November—the highest percentage since 1966. Black voter participation drove were a significant force in driving that turnout, and in electing the most diverse Congress in history.
But, as the presidential primary cycle begins, candidates cannot expect to see an equal level of enthusiasm unless issues of racial and economic justice are addressed.
In fact, Black voter turnout fell seven percentage points in the last Presidential election, falling from a high of 66.6 percent in 2012 to 59.6 percent in 2016. National Democratic Committee Chair Tom Perez blamed the drop, in part, on candidates’ failure to engage the Black community: “African-Americans—our most loyal constituency—we all too frequently took for granted. That is a shame on us, folks, and for that, I apologize. And for that I say, it will never happen again!”
The upcoming Congressional session will demonstrate whether incumbent lawmakers— most of whom will be running for reelection in 2020—truly are making an effort to engage the Black community. Following an intensive campaign by the National Urban League to urge diversity in Senate hiring, only two Senators have hired Black chiefs of staff—Doug Jones, who credited Black voters for his surprise victory in 2017—and Elizabeth Warren, who has just declared her intention to run for President.
Research has shown that, more than ever, Black voters are basing their decisions at the polls on issues of racial justice and economic opportunity. A poll conducted by a coalition of civil right groups just after the midterm elections found that “to have similar or greater wins in 2020, candidates must invest in and engage communities of color and the issues that matter most to these constituents.”
Yet, only 57% of Black voters were contacted from a campaign, political party, or community organization about voting in the months prior to Election Day.
The poll further found that Black voters support policies that unite and strengthen the nation:
• Equal pay for men and women (88%)
• Congress should pass the Dream Act (81%)
• Strengthening the Affordable Care Act (79%)
• Sexual harassment is a major problem (84%)
• Congress should enact strict gun laws (81%)
Candidates across the political spectrum who are searching for a blueprint for a platform that will address the concerns of Black voters can find it in the National Urban League’s Main Street Marshall Plan.
The National Urban League and the Urban League Movement take seriously our responsibility to challenge candidates for the highest office and remind them. Over the course of the 2016 election season, we invited all declared candidates to participate in a Civil Rights Briefing. We also hosted a number of presidential candidates, Republicans and Democrats, at our Conference. We are prepared to do the same, and we will expect every candidate to explain his or her plan to address racial justice and economic opportunity and face questions about the above issues and more.
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A New Year for Children
As we begin the New Year, every new headline reminds us that these are very tumultuous times. I start this season redoubling my determination to focus all my energies towards helping build a transforming movement for children to end child poverty and inequality at this extremely dangerous time of attempted regression. And we must all strengthen our efforts to continue to try to provide a moral compass and example for our young and organize relentlessly to protect all of our children. The Children’s Defense Fund’s mission to leave no child behind and ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities has never been more important. These are extremely perilous times for children and for our nation and world. Although we face unprecedented challenges and threats to the safety and well-being of children at home and around the world, we must all resist and take whatever actions are required for as long as it takes never to go backwards.
So often we procrastinate and make excuses for our inaction, depression, and despair. It’s not the right time. I can’t make a difference. It’s not my business. Nobody will pay attention. It’s overwhelming and my little bit doesn’t matter. We must struggle with ourselves and ask God’s forgiveness and help to keep being useful and not let daily distractions keep us from pushing forward. And we always must remember that it is always the right time to do right. I share an adapted version of Madeleine L’Engle’s poem “First Coming” (used by permission in my book Guide My Feet as published in Imagining the Word):
God did not wait till the world was ready,
till . . . nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy God came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
God came, and God’s Light would not go out.
God came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love:
These words are a reminder and encouragement for all we must and will do in the new year. As the holy season comes to a close and the time for new beginnings emerges, let’s commit to moving forward together for children with purpose, determination, gratitude, and joy.
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Cardin, Collins Bill to Protect Federal and Other Government Workers Hurt During Shutdowns Introduced for 116th Congress
Currently, 420,000 federal workers are being forced to work without pay, and another 380,000 federal workers were sent home over the holidays without pay.
WASHINGTON (January 3, 2019)—Thirteen days into a government shutdown, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and 28 Senate colleagues have re-introduced legislation that would protect federal and other government workers from the repercussions of this and future lapses in federal appropriations. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which the Senate passed by unanimous consent prior to Christmas in the 115th Congress, would guarantee that furloughed federal employees will be paid retroactively and stipulates that all employees shall be paid as soon as possible after the lapse in appropriations ends. The bill also clarifies that excepted employees who have scheduled previously approved leave occurring during an appropriations lapse may indeed take that leave without undue penalty. The bill also clarifies that its provisions also apply to employees of the District of Columbia (DC) Government, D.C. Courts, and D.C. Public Defenders Service, who are also affected by federal government shutdowns.
“Federal workers are dedicated public servants who simply want to do their jobs on behalf of the American people. They shouldn’t continue to suffer—working dangerous jobs without knowing when their next paycheck may come, or being forcibly furloughed and unable to carry out their mission—because of extreme partisan gamesmanship,” said Senator Cardin. “This and all government shutdowns have real consequences for hard-working federal employees across the country and the local economies they support as consumers. Congress should pass this bill and the president should sign it as a symbol of good faith and respect for the men and women who keep our country safe and moving forward.”
“The partial government shutdown represents a failure to govern and harms not only those who need to interact with the closed agencies, but also hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families,” said Senator Collins. “Civil servants bring dedication, competence, and experience to their work, and I appreciate all that they do for our government and our nation. Our legislation would guarantee that they are paid retroactively as soon as appropriations are restored. I am also continuing to discuss with the White House and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle ways to bring an end to the shutdown so that furloughed federal employees can return to work as quickly as possible.”
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National Capital Region Delegation Secures Elimination of Holman Rule in Rules Package for 116th Congress
WASHINGTON, DC (January 2, 2019)—Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD) and House Democrats from the National Capital Region today announced that they have secured the removal of the Holman Rule from H. Res. 6, the Rules package for the 116th Congress. The Holman Rule allows restrictions on federal offices and programs, including the reduction of individual salaries, to be added to must-pass appropriations legislation.
Congressmen Hoyer, Gerry Connolly, Don Beyer, Anthony Brown, Jamie Raskin, Reps.-elect Jennifer Wexton and David Trone, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton issued the following joint statement:
“With our first votes, House Democrats led by Members from the National Capital Region will demonstrate our commitment to restoring support for the federal workforce in Congress. By eliminating the Holman Rule from the House Rules package for the 116th Congress, Democrats will end an underhanded GOP tactic to sneak attacks on federal employees into must-pass bills.
“As we remove the Holman Rule, we are also seeking solutions to end Trump’s government shutdown and his 2019 pay freeze for the civil service. Federal employees work in every Congressional district to provide vital services that help keep our nation healthy, safe, and strong, and their ill treatment at the hands of the Trump Administration and Republican leaders is one of the most disgraceful elements of the past two years. That era is now over, and we will continue to ensure that House Democrats use our Majority to fight for feds.”
The Holman Rule was originally established in 1876 as part of a contentious fight over civil service reform. It enabled the House to use federal appropriations language to cut individual salaries, programs, or office sizes. The provision was discarded in 1983, but House Republicans revived it at the beginning of the previous session of Congress. They attempted to use the Holman Rule at least twice during that session, without success.
Federal employees have been subjected to repeated attacks by President Trump and Congressional Republicans over the past two years. On Friday, the Trump Administration formally froze the pay of the federal workforce for 2019.
The news that the Holman Rule would be discarded came as House Democrats announced immediate votes at the beginning of the 116th Congress to reopen the government with a series of spending bills which have already passed in either the full Senate or the Senate Appropriations Committee with near-unanimous bipartisan support. Today is the twelfth day of the partial government shutdown, during which approximately 420,000 federal employees are working without pay and another estimated 380,000 are furloughed. House Democrats, again led by National Capital Region Members, are preparing legislation to authorize back pay for federal workers affected by the shutdown.
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