Stop What You're Doing And Watch Jim Clyburn's Endorsement Of His Good Friend Joe Biden
It's no secret that Saturday's South Carolina primary is must win for Joe Biden. The polls have consistently shown him ahead of Bernie Sanders in the Palmetto State, but polls are slippery devils (don't tell Nate Silver). Sanders has also narrowed Biden's lead in the past few weeks. Anything can happen Saturday -- including the possibility we might actually know who won the damn thing on the same day people voted.
Biden's greatest strength in South Carolina is his deep well of support from black voters, who make up almost 60 percent of the Democratic electorate. It was expected that the loyal wingman for the first black president would receive enthusiastic endorsements from prominent black Democrats, but his endorsement today from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was not just about Barack Obama. It was a moving testament to Joe Biden, the man.
CLYBURN: I want the public to know that I'm voting for Joe Biden. South Carolinians should be voting for Joe Biden. Here's why: There's billboards around this county. On those billboards is my pledge. A lot of people ask me, "Why do you do billboards?'" Because my late wife said to me, "I don't care how many TV ads you run, I don't care how many radio ads you run, when you run for office, I want to see billboards." That's why I do billboards. One of my colleagues came and said, "This is the first time I've seen a political billboard with no picture on it. Why isn't your picture on the billboard?'" Because it ain't about me. It's about the message on that billboard. And the message is simply this: Making the greatness of this country accessible. And affordable. For all. We don't need to make this country great again; this country is great. That's not what our challenge is. Our challenge is making the greatness of this country accessible and affordable for all. If it's health care, is it accessible, is it affordable? Education: Is it accessible, is it affordable? Housing. Energy. Making it accessible and affordable. And nobody with whom I've ever worked in public life is any more committed to that motto, that pledge that I have to my constituents than Joe Biden.
Clyburn repeatedly stressed how much black voters "know" Biden, and that's important when attempting to win the black vote, especially in the South. You can't show up a few weeks after announcing your presidential bid with some PowerPoint slides and expect our support. You can't just visit a few black churches and "humbly" ask to defend our interests. You need to have done the work in our community before it was politically convenient. You need to bring the receipts.
Barack Obama brought receipts in 2008. He didn't win over black voters exclusively with stirring speeches. He'd worked hard as a grassroots organizer in Chicago's South Side long before considering a presidential run. Biden was a compelling contrast to Obama. He was someone with a history of standing with the community. His relationships with black Democrats in Congress was more than just transactional.
You can tell from the way Clyburn talks about his "good friend." Clyburn's wife, Emily, passed away a few months ago, and it almost makes your heart break to hear him share her feelings about Biden.
CLYBURN: We often talked about the leadership of this country, and there's nobody Emily loved as a leader in this country more than she loved Joe Biden. And we talked about Joe all the time.
It was not a given that Clyburn was going to endorse Biden before the primary. However, Clyburn described how he'd attended a friend's funeral and an older black woman in attendance "beckoned" him over to her.
CLYBURN: I went over to her. She said, "Lean down. I need to ask you a question." And I leaned down. She said, "You don't have to say it out loud, but you just whisper it into my ear: Who are you going to vote for next Saturday? I've been waiting to hear from you. I need to hear from you. This community wants to hear from you." I decided then and there that I would not stay silent."
Clyburn broke his silence today, and you could tell how seriously he took this old woman's faith in him and his leadership. He wasn't going to just flip a coin. Clyburn believes Biden best lives up to the pledge he's made his constituents. We can't predict with certainty who'll win on Saturday, but it's probably a safe bet that this old woman is going to show up on Saturday for Joe Biden.
Watch the entire speech below:
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).