A Progressive Theo-Political Blog Bringing You The Best and Worst of Baptist Life.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hillary or Barack? John Lewis' Struggle To Decide

My former boss and Civil Rights hero, Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, has announced that he will be casting his Superdelegate vote for Senator Barack Obama. Or did he?

Here's the article in The New York Times from Friday, February 15.
MILWAUKEE — Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate he could “never, ever do anything to reverse the action” of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.

But on Saturday, Congressman Lewis was keeping quiet. From the AJC:

Rep. John Lewis refused to say Saturday if he plans to vote for Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's national convention in August.

But while Lewis would not address the issue, it was a dominant theme all around him. Lewis (D-Ga.) was in Atlanta for a City Hall news conference about the proposed Ralph David Abernathy Center for Civil Rights History and Wax Museum. Lewis, himself an icon of the civil rights movement, said he was there only to remember his friend, the late Rev. Abernathy.

"I'm not going to make any political statements today," Lewis said in response to questions. The congressman caused an uproar in Democratic presidential politics on Thursday when he apparently told a New York Times reporter that he would cast his ballot at the convention for Obama, rather than Hillary Clinton, whom he previously had endorsed.

On Friday, Lewis' office told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Times story was "inaccurate" but refused to give any other details and has not responded to requests for clarification. Jeff Zeleny, the Times reporter who wrote the original story, told the AJC on Friday that Lewis was clear in his support for Obama.

Lewis is one of 13 so-called superdelegates from Georgia, party leaders and elected officials who can cast a delegate's ballot at the national convention for any candidate, regardless of the outcome of the vote in his or her state or district. Georgia, and the voters in Lewis' 5th District, overwhelmingly backed Obama in the Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary.

The Congressman's 5th district is an urban one, centered on Atlanta and encompasses College Park, East Point, Druid Hills and parts of Decatur (Dekalb County). With an African-American majority, the 5th district ranks 6th in the nation for percentage of gay and lesbian couples in the adult population at 10.8%. The Congressman's 5th district voted OVERWHELMINGLY for Barack Obama in the Georgia Primary on February 5.

This paragraph from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sums up The Congressman's struggle:

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) is one of Lewis' oldest friends in Congress. Clyburn is the House majority whip. Lewis is his chief deputy. The two first met in 1960 during the civil rights movement in Atlanta. "I had a long talk with John yesterday," Clyburn said Friday in a telephone interview from his district office in Columbia. While Clyburn would not divulge what Lewis said, he shared that "John is wrestling with this." For many African-American leaders like Clyburn and Lewis, Obama's rise is in many ways what the civil rights movement was about: working for the day an African-American had a legitimate chance to be president. For Lewis, the situation is complicated by his close relationship and support for Clinton. "It's got to be tough," said Clyburn, who did not endorse before the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary and would not say for whom he would cast his own superdelegate ballot in Denver in August. "Most of us have grown up looking forward. You look forward to being part of making history. I guess a lot of us have been dealt a tough hand to have to try and make that choice."

I hope Congressman Lewis casts his vote for Barack Obama. But not because Obama is black. And not because of pressure from his constituents to ratify their decision. I believe Congressman Lewis should cast his vote for Obama because Lewis' ethic of nonviolence is more compatible with the positions taken by the Senator from Illinois.

We need a President committed to peacemaking.

Labels: , ,


Blogger Bart Barber said...


It is interesting, don't you think, that among the most significant aspects of the "peace" that Rep. John Lewis receives from the hand of others is that won by the incredibly effective peacemaking efforts of George Tecumseh Sherman.

12:48 PM

Blogger Bart Barber said...

William...that is....George is the guy I was talking to on the phone when I typed my comment!

12:49 PM

Blogger Bart Barber said...


Well, you aren't online right now, so I abandon hope of a back-and-forth. I give all my thoughts right now.

Sherman believed that there was a difference between making peace and practicing peace. In Sherman's opinion, sometimes the practice of war amounted to the making of peace.

From Sherman to the citizens of Atlanta on the eve of an infamous conflagration: "I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect an early success."

Do you believe that history has proven Sherman wrong?

1:00 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

I don't necessarily think Sherman was wrong. War has indeed brought periods of peace. But if the vehicle for peace is war, how authentic is that peace? I prefer a peace that unfolds from loving and compassionate hearts, a peace that doesn't see self-preservation as the highest good and a peace that recognizes as John Lewis said that "there is a spark of divinity in us all, so we must make an effort to respect the dignity and worth of every human being even our adversaries."

Sherman's peace-by-any-means-necessary attitude could perhaps be considered a predecessor to the modern-day neoconservative "peace-through-democracy" and "democracy-through war" mindset that has plagued our current Administration.

5:06 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

My understanding was that Lewis said the NYT story was inaccurate - is that still correct?

And, oh, wow, a debate over Sherman.

1:41 PM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Big Daddy,

Our terrorist adversaries seem to be men of few words, little diplomacy, and even less felt need to bond with us. It's true they don't think highly of women, so Obama might fare better than Rodham-Clinton. But I wonder how Barack--assuming he's not another god, despite the recent comments of some followers--plans to change their jihadist minds and convince them to turn from bombing to bonding with us infidels? He really hasn't said yet, so I have to surmise.

Maybe offering our Islamic brethren some shared leadership would help. But then, all our homosexuals might have to be sacrificed, and our heterosexual women made to cover their heads. I'm not sure Michelle would bow to that demand, or be proud for the second time in her adult life of her country. Perhaps a Republican-controlled Congress could work those issues out so as not to thwart the President's peace plan.

And, speaking of 'fidels, I'm sure the new Castro is anxious to make amends too. Maybe a planes-for-plantains deal could be struck to decrease our "democracy-through-war" plague of excessive-aggressive inventory. Black-banana looking fruit would strike a much more conciliatory look, after all.

Giving Citgo a gasoline monopoly could bring Hugo around to showing his true self, also. That spark of divinity Lewis refers to is obviously in Chavez--he did recognize the devil in Bush, after all! Oh, but Barack has similar pointy ears, so I don't know.

Finally, a President Obama could always point out to our adversaries that he will continue doing his part to ensure that our population growth stays contained by making the right to an abortion the most-, if not last, protected liberty we loving, compassionate-hearted, peaceful Americans enjoy.

Now, go enjoy your rally for what might be your last opportunity to vote in a presidential election.

6:51 PM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

I have to say, BDW, that I have understood most of the African-American endorsements of Clinton--secured early and with the Clinton machine from the '90s. But Lewis' endorsement has never made much sense. Obama is clearly so much closer to his values than Clinton is.

5:22 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker