While attending the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 41st Annual Legislative Conference last week I couldn’t help but notice that Rep. Allen West missed an opportunity to engage us in a discussion on the conservative agenda.
Thousands from all across the country gathered in the nation’s capital last weekend to discuss varying issues within the Black community and the only workshop led by the retired Lt. Colonel was a discussion on the past and future of African-Americans in the military. As West is the only conservative member of the CBC, I expected him to give me more.
In recent months Rep. West has threatened to resign from the CBC over comments his colleagues have made about the Tea Party, and for what he says is his Democratic colleague’s failure to really address the needs of African-Americans. He has since abandoned his threats saying:
“Cowards run from challenges, while warriors run to the sound of battle. I will not be resigning from the Congressional Black Caucus. Constitutional Conservatism is now and will in the future be a part of the Congressional Black Caucus.”
More coverage of the CBC Convention here.
Just last month he compared himself to American heroine Harriet Tubman, with a mission to lead Black voters from the Democratic plantation and even compared some of his colleagues to “overseers.” For all of his unnecessary rhetoric, he has failed to provide any concrete argument on why most of us should abandon our support for Democrats and join him on the other side.
Despite the inflammatory nature of his commentary, I understand the argument he is trying to make. Before the entire country was hit with an economic crisis, Black communities across this country have been plagued with social and economic ills and our communities still give overwhelming support to the same political party with varying results.
With thousands of community leaders, elected officials, non-profit leaders, and Black voters in attendance, the ALC conference this past weekend would have been an ideal opportunity for Rep. West to lead a discussion on conservatism in the Black community. I would argue it would have been the most attended session. I certainly would have attended, if only to hear the answer to the question, what is the conservative agenda to address the needs of black communities?
So far the legislation he has proposed and supported do not give any indication that conservatives have a comprehensive agenda that would address issues such as soaring unemployment, the increasing number of children living in poverty, substandard public education, disparities in health care and the plague of gun violence in communities across the country.
I am willing to listen to Rep. West sales pitch but so far he has only offered colorful sound bites made for television. While he missed one opportunity this weekend, I certainly hope he accepts the challenge to engage in a public dialogue on what he describes as “constitutional conservatism” and how the conservative movement seeks to address our issues and earn our votes.
L. Joy Williams is a political strategist and founder of LJW Community Strategies, a boutique government and public affairs firm based in New York. Ms. Williams is a frequent commentator on politics, race and pop culture and is co-host of the widely popular podcast Blacking It Up! which airs live Mon-Thurs 1:30pm est.