November 30th was not a good day for African American women in power and progressives as it pertains to Congress.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) lost her bid to become Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus by only two votes to Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). Lee is known by colleagues as a very engaged hard working member of Congress. She is widely respected for being the only member of the House to vote against the Iraq War and she continuously keeps the poverty issue on the agenda.
Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) lost her bid to be elected Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus to Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA). Clarke was the Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and is a member of the Small Business Committee and has been focused on telecom related issues. Clarke has also worked against NYPD’s massive stop and frisk policy that targeted Blacks and Hispanics and been focused on the diversity visa issue that impacts Caribbean immigrants disproportionately.
There are no African American women in House leadership though Black women are the Democratic Party’s most reliable voting block over two presidential election cycles. Both Lee and Clarke are members of the Progressive Caucus in the House.
The stunning reality of Republicans controlling the White House, Senate and House for the next two years has ignited lots of discussions regarding the messaging and policy direction of the Democratic Party. Whether the inter-party losses of Reps. Lee and Clarke mean anything greater remains to be seen but it is interesting to see Democrats chose to empower members who have a more transactional style over true progressives in the wake of November 8.