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John Conyers vs. Barack Obama

So President Barack Obama now thinks that Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) is "demeaning" him by calling him out on issues such as health care and job creation, particularly as they impact the black community?


After the 2008 elections, I wondered how progressive black pols from majority black districts would deal with the President when time came for them to stand up for the interests of their constituents, and I think Conyers is doing a pretty good job of remaining true to what he considers to be the biggest concerns of poor and working-class Detroiters. And in truth, he's not being demeaning at all -- just brutally frank.

No, I wasn't crazy about Conyers' apparent move away from supporting single-payer health care, but he's definitely won me back over by going at Obama with both guns blazing as he has urged the President to pay closer attention to the struggles in cities like Detroit.

Now, on the flip side, I also get where Obama is coming from. He may be (part) black, but he's the President of the entire US, not just of black America. I voted for the man, and I no more expect him to harp on only "black" concerns anymore than I'd have expected Bill Clinton to just focus only on issues relevant to Irish-Americans.

Conyers, however, is in DC to represent Detroit and Detroiters--and all the issues they care about, "black" or otherwise.

But the truth is, these "black" issues -- from massive unemployment to the need for an economic bailout of "Main Street" — are, in fact, American issues. And as Americans, black folks have as much right to make demands of the President as anyone else.

What's also just as true is that the Democrats rode a huge black turnout back into the White House and to the majority of the seats in Congress. Given this, I expect black people's issues to be addressed not because Obama is black, but because blacks have been the most loyal part of his base. I don't expect -- or want -- him to pander to black voters. But I don't expect him to ignore us or give us short shrift either.

Feels good to know that, whatever else Barack Obama may say about Conyers, the Congressman from Detroit at least has the President's attention.

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