President Joe Biden. https://t.co/3QKMUvXvwO
— Peter Wolf (@peterawolf) July 31, 2022
The always-readable Molly Ball, in Time, on “Jim Clyburn’s Long Quest for Black Political Power”:
On a sticky-hot night in the South Carolina capital, Representative Jim Clyburn takes the outdoor stage at his late-night afterparty. Clyburn—the 82-year-old House Democratic whip, maker of Presidents, and highest-ranking Black man in Congress—has a message of hope for dark times. “In spite of all its faults, there ain’t a better country to be living in,” he says in his imposing baritone. “And you and I will have to do our jobs out here at the polls to save this country from itself.”
Of the hundreds in attendance this June evening at the EdVenture Children’s Museum, some have come from the fundraising dinner down the street for the South Carolina Democratic Party, where the first Black woman Vice President was the keynote speaker. But many have not. Clyburn throws this free bash so those who can’t afford to attend a fundraiser have a way to participate. Wearing a navy suit and holding a mixed drink, he’s joined on the patio by Congresswoman Shontel Brown of Ohio, who credits Clyburn’s endorsement for her victory in a special election last year, coming from 35 points behind to defeat a Bernie Sanders–backed progressive…
Clyburn is in his element, surrounded by the vast political network he’s nurtured. Brown got her start in a Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) training program Clyburn helped create; her boyfriend is Clyburn’s political adviser Antjuan Seawright. The entire afterparty—which will turn into a raging dance-off before the night ends—is packed with people Clyburn has prodded into politics: local party officials, members of district executive boards, city council members from across the state, county auditors and coroners. “I thought politics was all deceitfulness and lying, and I didn’t want any part of it,” Anthony Thompson Jr., a thin Columbian in a salmon-pink suit, tells me. “He made me see that you have to be part of the system to make change.” After training in one of Clyburn’s mentorship programs, Thompson now serves as second vice chair of the local party and started its first disability caucus.
Clyburn’s influence in Democratic politics is as far-reaching as it is unsung. Today, he’s widely credited with swinging the 2020 presidential primary to Biden, rescuing the flailing campaign with a well-timed endorsement that buoyed him to a 30-point victory in South Carolina—and extracting a promise to name the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. That wasn’t even the first time Clyburn helped make a President: he was instrumental to Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, and before that played a key role in putting South Carolina near the top of the primary calendar in the first place. His friends serve in top posts across the Administration and party. Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison, who Clyburn pushed for the post, and who was just 29 when Clyburn made him the first Black executive director of the House Democratic caucus, says a large percentage of Black Americans in politics today can trace their positions to Clyburn.
A few months ago, when numerous congressional Democrats were clamoring to chair the high-profile select committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, it was Clyburn who urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi to name his best friend, Congressman Bennie Thompson—native of Bolton, Miss., graduate of historically Black Tougaloo College—its chairman. In the whispering campaign that ensued, Clyburn sensed a familiar dynamic. “A lot of people wanted to be chairman,” Clyburn tells me. “And quite frankly, nobody will admit to this, but it’s the same thing I had when I ran for whip. A Black guy from Mississippi, ain’t from an Ivy League School—they won’t say it, but they think it: ‘He can’t chair this.’” Pelosi ignored the whispers, and Thompson has been widely praised for his coolheaded handling of the committee’s hearings, proving what Clyburn knew all along: “Bennie is perfect for this,” Clyburn says. “He’s unflappable, and he ain’t searching for the limelight. He’s just doing his thing.”…