Clyburn says Obama should make an endorsement before the Democratic convention

Suzanne Smalley
·Reporter

Rep. Jim Clyburn says former President Barack Obama should “probably” make an endorsement in the race for the Democratic nomination before the party’s convention this July in Milwaukee.

“At the proper time, probably should,” Clyburn said on Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast when asked if he would like it if Obama endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. “If we’re talking about bringing this party together, I think he’s probably part of bringing it together, but not today.”

When asked if he would like it if Obama endorsed Biden before the Democratic National Convention, Clyburn said, “I would think so.” He also said he had “absolutely not” discussed a possible Biden nomination with the former president.

Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in the House of Representatives, has already delivered the most important endorsement of the Democratic race so far. His decision to back Biden helped propel the former vice president to major victories in the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries.

The South Carolina congressman also said that while he does not “have a problem” with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the other major candidate in the race, the nomination battle is “close to conclusion.” Now, Clyburn said, it’s time for Democrats to quickly unify ahead of the general election.

He also expressed concern about the possibility of a contested convention, which could happen if neither candidate wins a majority of delegates. Clyburn will be an unpledged delegate at the July convention, but due to a change in party rules after the last election, superdelegates like him won’t be able to vote until a second ballot, potentially increasing the odds of a contested convention.

Clyburn said he has been telling anyone who will listen that Democrats “need to get serious about ... [and] study a little bit the evolution of this. You know why our system is so bad? We need to change this because let’s take right now, the rules say I cannot vote on the first round ... [because] they took away the unpledged delegates.”

The longtime congressman warned that if the party fails to unify, it could be looking at a repeat of 1972, when Democrats nominated progressive stalwart George McGovern ahead of a landslide loss to then-President Richard Nixon.

Rep. James Clyburn. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: AP)
Rep. James Clyburn. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: AP)

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“I remember 1972, I was there in Miami in 1972, and I saw ideology take over the party and they were very pleased with themselves,” Clyburn said. “I mean, they gave us George McGovern.” McGovern came close to losing all 50 states that year, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

“I remember those battles,” Clyburn said. “Jesse Jackson Sr. and I were on different sides of the equation. He was over there with George McGovern, they were talking about all this so-called progressive movement. Well, that gave us Richard Nixon. And I could see this stuff today giving us another four years of Donald Trump.”

Clyburn scoffed at suggestions that Biden is approaching senility. Right-wing Fox News host Tucker Carlson recently called Biden “noticeably more confused” than he was at the beginning of the campaign a year ago.

“We are going to play that game, but we’re going to play it better,” Clyburn said when asked about Carlson’s comments.

“Look at the facts. Here’s the guy who gave a State of the Union, and according to the Washington Post told 31 lies. ... About half of them, the other side’s standing up and cheering. And just think about that 30-second video [ad] with an obvious lie put on the screen, and watch another Republican stand up and cheer, and we are zeroing in on the face of Mitch McConnell. ... Oh, yeah, I got some great ideas as to how we’re going to play that game come the November elections, and I think I know how to play it better than they do.”

When asked how he can tell his teenage daughters that gender equality is possible when the presidential field and the presidency itself are still dominated by men, Clyburn sounded almost mournful. But at the same time, he said, voters need to take into account other factors, and referred to the only two African-American members of the Supreme Court in U.S. history: the liberal Thurgood Marshall and the arch-conservative Clarence Thomas.

“I’ll ask everybody,” he said. “Would you rather have an old Thurgood Marshall sitting on the Supreme Court or a young Clarence Thomas?”

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