WASHINGTON WATCH: What Should African-Americans Expect And Ask For In Pres. Obama’s Second Term? (VIDEO)

For the last four years we have heard – “Look, the President has a lot on his plate. African-Americans really shouldn’t press him on things. Let’s wait for a second term. Then he can address things that are specific to black folks.”

This past Tuesday President Obama was reelected so what should be the agenda and what issues that are going to be addressed? And will African-Americans have an external voice, a strong voice saying, “Look, this is what we desire. We delivered on the election. This is what we want from this president and this Congress”?

Roland Martin talks with Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Gary Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum.

MR. MARTIN:  The President won a big victory on Tuesday.  The question before him and the country now is what to do with the political capital earned by trouncing his Republican challenger.  With the GOP still in charge of the House of Representatives, should he be careful and play it small, or should he charge ahead and go big?

And joining me today to talk about what we want from our president in the next four years [are] Ben Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP; Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Gary Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum.

Folks, welcome to “Washington Watch.”



MR. MARTIN:  All right.

For the last four years, I constantly heard – and we all heard – “Look, the President has a lot on his plate.  We really shouldn’t press him on things.  Let’s wait for a second term.  Then he can address things that are specific to black folks.”

Okay.  He’s been reelected, and so what do you see as the agenda, the issues that are going to be addressed?  And will African-Americans be – have an external voice, a strong voice saying, “Look, this is what we desire.  We delivered on the election.  This is what we want from this president and this Congress”?

MR. JEALOUS:  We – so we signed up 432,000 new voters.  120,000 of those were just in Florida, where he won by only 60,000 votes.  We turned out 1.2 million unlikely folks, and we talked to them, and we just said simply, “What’s important to you?”  And the number one thing for two thirds of them is jobs.  We have seen this president push a strategy to ‘lift all boats,’ and you know what?  It made sense four years ago, when we were all in the same boat, even if some of us had been there for 40 years.  But now that we’re starting to see those other boats lift up, you’ve got to come back to the boats that’ve been stuck for 40 years and get us up, too.

So, we need to see targeted action on jobs.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, what does “targeted action” look like?  What does that mean?

MS. CAMPBELL:  Well, one –

MR. JEALOUS:  Well –

MS. CAMPBELL:  — of the things that I – I want to point out and – and add to what Ben is saying [is] really, when you look at where he won, in urban votes, the cities.  An urban policy, an urban agenda will lift those boats.

MR. MARTIN:  And what does that mean?  What – what specifically are we –


MR. MARTIN:  — talking about?

MS. CAMPBELL:  — if you look at disparities – you don’t have to look at race.  Look at the disparities.  Who’s more unemployed?  Who is – who needs more healthcare?  Those kind[s] of things.  If you look at the numbers – you know, I’ve pi- — spent a lot of years of my life on the other side of this, working in city government in Atlanta, Georgia, under the late Maynard Jackson.  You look w- — two thirds of our – our people live in –

MR. MARTIN:  No, no.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — urban America.  So –

MR. MARTIN:  No, no, no.  I understand that.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — [crosstalk]- —

MR. GARY FLOWERS:  I[’ve] got a – [crosstalk] –

MR. JEALOUS:  We have to deal with job discrimination.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.

MR. JEALOUS:  We have to deal with job discrimination.  We need matched pair testing to actually make the case to a generation.  You know, you and I will say, for instance, well, it’s easier for a white construction worker to find – to get a loan from a bank than a black professional with the same credit score.  That was done 25 years ago.  There’s been no significant investment in matched pair testing since then.

But we need to follow that up with aggressive enforcement.  Right now, if you look at a state like Minnesota or Mississippi, if – if you’re black, and you have a college degree, you are as likely to be unemployed, relative to your white counterpart, as a black person who hasn’t gone to high school.  You know, i- — you – you know, employment discrimination, no matter your – no – no matter how high your education, matters.  And for our community, fighting employment discrimination is as important a job creation, because if you create a job and you won’t let me have it, it really doesn’t matter.

MR. MARTIN:  Gary.

MR. FLOWERS:  At the Black Leadership Forum, we’re looking at one, specific piece of legislation.  That is House Resolution 4277, sponsored by Congressman John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.  It would say that those who were greedy on Wall Street, who destabilized the American economy and, to some degree, destabilized the global economy, should be taxed for every stock and bond trade at 0.025 percent.  That would create a fund, Roland, of $150 billion, where we could draw down and hire people.

At the same time, we want the President to look macro.  There should be something equivalent to the WPA or the CCC from the Roosevelt Administration, where public works are part of the infrastructure rebuilding of America to hire people immediately.  And he can do both.  He can play the macro and the micro game, but H.R. 4277, I think, should be supported.

MR. MARTIN:  53 percent of black wealth wiped out due to the h- — due to the home foreclosure crisis – in excess of $200 billion.  What about a national moratorium on home foreclosures?  I know your organizations have been calling for that, but it hasn’t happened.  Are you going to renew that call now that the President’s been reelected?


MR. JEALOUS:  Ye- — yes, we certainly will, but we will also push Tim Geithner very hard and push the President very hard t- —

MR. MARTIN:  Or, whoever’s going to be Treasury Secretary –

MR. JEALOUS:  — yeah, right.  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — if he’s not there.

MR. JEALOUS:  Well – well, and quite frankly, that – that could be the best thing.

But to be very clear, Tim Geithner has thrown out there 20 percent borrower’s own funds for buying new homes.  That would lock out more than nine out of ten black homebuyers.  It would lock out about seven out of ten white homebuyers.  It would lock us where we are right now.  Even if you go back to – to 10 percent borrower’s own funds, you’re talking about locking out about 85 percent of black homeowners.

We have got to get to a place where we actually focus on what matters.  What matters is do you make your payments on time.  What matters is can you afford this payment.  What matters is a bank actually working like a bank and not doing what they did back before.  But locking black homeowners and most white homeowners out of the market can’t be a – an option and, frankly, it’s one that this president has flirted with.

MR. FLOWERS:  And beyond the middle class, Section 8 vouchers need to be restored.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to have their – the restoration of their authority to grant money.  The VASH vouchers for veterans coming home.  If these programs are not sustained or increased, you will see an increased amount of African-Americans in homelessness, and that does not help –

MR. JEALOUS:  Well –

MR. FLOWERS:  — the economy.

MS. CAMPBELL:  [Crosstalk.]

MR. JEALOUS:  — well, a- — and – and, quite frankly, we have to defend the – the folks who are on Section 8.

MR. FLOWERS:  Absolutely.

MR. JEALOUS:  Right now, we have –


MR. JEALOUS:  — a – we have a housing dis- — discrimination lawsuit that’s active in –


MR. JEALOUS:  — California, because you have these communities that’ve been ravaged by the foreclosure crisis who’re saying, “We don’t want those people here.”


MR. JEALOUS:  And who are harassing them, pushing them into jai- — I mean the only thing worse, if – if you will, than ending up in a homeless shelter is ending up in jail because the sheriff’s targeted you ’cause they didn’t want “those pe-” – you know, “those people” – i.e., you – in that neighborhood.

MR. MARTIN:  What about this here?  Are your organizations going to get behind Congressman Jim Clyburn and the Clyburn Amendment – and that is calling for 10 percent of federal dollars to go to communities where 20 percent or more of the population – they’ve been living below the poverty line for 30 years?  He – he – on this show, he said he’s presented it to the President.  They – they asked the CBO to score it.  But more importantly – and – and they did.  They – they presented it to various –

MR. JEALOUS:  We pushed that for –

MS. CAMPBELL:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — [crosstalk] –

MR. JEALOUS:  — two years.


MR. MARTIN:  — as well.  But the other thing that’s more important:  two thirds of the 474 counties that apply to this are Republican counties.  So, this is one of those areas that – that can impact African-Americans who’re in poverty, whites, Hispanics.  This is the kind of program that is targeted, that – again – takes dollars and goes to the people who are most in need.

MR. FLOWERS:  It will help –

MS. CAMPBELL:  So, that –

MR. FLOWERS:  — to de-racialize poverty.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — but one of the things also – for women – getting back to who are – [crosstalk] –

MR. MARTIN:  One second – [crosstalk].

MS. CAMPBELL:  — [crosstalk] – housing[?].

MR. MARTIN:  I want to know where all three stand –

MS. CAMPBELL:  [Crosstalk]- —

MR. MARTIN:  — on the Clyburn –


MS. CAMPBELL:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  — Amendment and –


MS. CAMPBELL:  The National Coalition –


MS. CAMPBELL:  — will support –


MR. FLOWERS:  Because it – it harkens back to the –

MR. JEALOUS:  Right.

MR. FLOWERS:  — day of Adam –

MR. JEALOUS:  And we’ve –

MR. FLOWERS:  — Clayton Powell –

MR. JEALOUS:  — been pushing it for – for two years.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. FLOWERS:  — and the Powell Amendment.  So, it’s in that spirit of we can help the least of these.  At the same time, most Americans who are poor in this country are white, so it captures a – a double win.

MR. JEALOUS:  We – y- —

MS. CAMPBELL:  The other thing I want to –

MR. MARTIN:  Melanie?

MS. CAMPBELL:  — also add, too – although what we’re talking about, which is policy agenda [sic] – is we’re still dealing with the same Congress.  We haven’t – we have a few more in the Senate, but on the House side.  Part of what we also have to do – what happened four years ago was that we were excited.  The President was elected, but we didn’t push on a collective strategy on pushing an agenda.  Those – a lot of those same folks who pushed against the President from day one are still there.

So, whatever we talk about from a policy perspective, we have to be just as organized as the – what the manufactured – in my opinion – we talked about – [unintelligible] – before.

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.

MS. CAMPBELL:  I believe that the Tea Party was manufactured ’cause it tapped into racism that was already there and – and fear for white men that was already there.

OFF CAMERA:  And – [crosstalk] –

MS. CAMPBELL:  So, whatever we’re going to do in this next – in the lame duck and whatever we’re going to do – we can talk about individual policies all day long.  We’re still dealing with that Congress –

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MS. CAMPBELL:  — and we have to be as organized about that.  But –

MR. FLOWERS:  The Black Leadership Forum will have its members to submit policy suggestions, and we’ll submit those to the President collectively, because Melanie’s right.  We have to move in a – in a unified front.

MR. MARTIN:  But – but I think, going beyond, though, in terms of organizations moving in a unifri- — unified front, the only way these policy initiatives are going to get – frankly, get put into place is if the people who came out and voted on November –

MS. CAMPBELL:   Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  — 6th and early voting – one of the things that I’ve been saying [is] that was the end of one process.  Now this is the beginning of another.  So, therefore –

MR. JEALOUS:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  — we have to mobilize and organize those folks to say, “You can’t sit on the sidelines.  You’re going to have to be in this game” –


MR. MARTIN:  — so when –


MR. MARTIN:  — these measures come up, calling, writing, walking the halls of Congress, pushing and prodding to get it done.

MR. FLOWERS:  Roland –


MR. FLOWERS:  — excellent point.

My column this week is on the – ends on the point that we cannot bask in the Kool-Aid of political victories absente the prodding of politicians toward progressive public policy.  And so I sent that out to my family immediately, and I got one – one of my cousins responded, “Okay.  We’re still celebrating the victory.”

And I said, “Okay.  Two days is enough.”


MR. FLOWERS:  We have a Congress that Paul Ryan is still appropriations chair.

MR. MARTIN:  Um-hum.


MR. FLOWERS:  We have sequestration coming by – 60 days from now.  There’s a lot of work and damage that can be done by this existing Congress that we have to be vili- — viligent [sic – phonetic] against.


MR. JEALOUS:  Look.  One of the things we have to change right away is we actually have to change the Senate rules.  When Johnson was president, there [were] less than five bills that were actually filibustered.  When Obama in his first term, there were 381.  When Johnson was president, it was like when Mr. Smith went to Washington.  If you wanted to filibuster, you put on your Depends — [chuckles] –

MR. MARTIN:  It had to be real.

MR. JEALOUS:  — right – and you’d go down there and filibuster.  Now you just raise your hand and threaten.  They say, “Oh, well, we don’t have enough votes to stop a filibuster,” and they stop it.

So, what we’re saying is, look.  You know, change these rules.  Go back to a simple majority in the Senate can stop this filibuster.  That will give the Dems, frankly, real power in the Senate.  It’ll make the Senate much more the equal power of the House.  We’ve got to be – be focused on things like that so that we can actually have an opportunity to make this federal government work.

You know, if we’re honest about the last four years, we’ve ki- — kind of s- — you really stopped – we shifted to the states when the Tea Party took over –

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

MR. JEALOUS:  — Congress.  We[’ve] got to go back and – and run the Senate and make sure that the Congress responds to us.

MR. MARTIN:  What – what we’re going to continue to do on this show, again, is drive the issue home of policy – how we’re moving that – because, again, a lot of people said, “[There are] certain things we can’t ask for.  Let’s wait.”  Here’s the deal.  [The] President’s been reelected.  He has four more years.  That’s it.  You[’d] better get what you need now.  And as I always say, when you’ve got the kind of turnout that was delivered, it’s called a “return on investment.”  That’s what politics is all about.

Ben, Melanie, we appreciate it.  Gary, thanks a bunch.

MR. JEALOUS:  Always –

MR. FLOWERS:  Thank you.

MS. CAMPBELL:  Thank you.

MR. JEALOUS:  — a pleasure.

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