Clyburn talks elections, presidential race during NAACP event
by Breanna Bradham | March 31, 2016 2:20 am
Last Updated: March 30, 2016 at 8:31 pm
“Nobody should live their lives by baseball rules.”
Congressman James Clyburn told a packed crowed at the Taw Caw Community Center as much on Saturday during the annual Freedom Fund Banquet held by the Clarendon branch of the NAACP.
“I first ran for office back in 1970, and I lost; I ran again in 1978, when I ran for secretary of state, and I lost again,” he said. “I ran again in 1986, and I lost again. A friend of mine said to me, … ‘Three strikes and you’re out.’ I said, ‘My friend, that’s a baseball rule.’”
“What I want to say to you is this: Live by the rule of your mother, father or grandparents as they taught you,” Clyburn said. “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. They didn’t tell you to try one more time or three more times. There is no numerical limit on how many times you try. If I had given up after trying three times, I would have never become the number three guy in the House of Representatives.”
The 75-year-old Sumter native hit at the presidential race hard, expressing disdain with the way Republican candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were talking about one another’s wives in their campaigns to be their party’s nominee.
“I mean, what kind of foolishness is this?” Clyburn said. “And we are trying to tell our children that our elected officials, our candidates for office, are supposed to be shining examples. This is what we are faced with in the news.”
Clyburn said that too many on the opposite side of the aisle think of the U.S. Constitution as a “perfect document” that should never be changed.
“The constitution is never perfect,” he said. “The constitution is there as a living document. The constitution means different things at different times in our country’s history. And don’t let anybody, I don’t care if their name is Trump or Cruz, tell you anything different. These people who say that the constitution is set in stone: If the constitution was set in stone, we’d still be slaves. Let’s get real.”
Clyburn said the Founding Fathers “were not perfect.”
“The constitution said that Dred Scott could be taken back into slavery,” he said. “The constitution said that Plessy had no right to ride in any car he wanted to ride in on the train. When the constitution was written, within hours it was amended. The first 10 amendments were written just hours later. The people who wrote the constitution knew, immediately upon having done it, that something needed to change. So this whole notiong that everything is set in stone, that’s a crazy notion. Times change and people change and we, as a country, change.”
Clyburn said there is a misconception that the country moves on a “linear plane.”
“This country has never moved on a linear plane; this country has always moved like a pendulum on a clock,” he said. “It goes left and it goes right. It tops out and it goes back left again. The way that this country moves, how far it goes in any one direction depends upon the intervention of the people.”
Clyburn said he never thought he’d see the day where he would sit in front of a TV and watch a debate with his family where he would be embarrassed.
“We cannot afford to see this country become the den of decadence,” Clyburn said. “That is where we are headed.”
Clyburn said that politicians on both sides of the aisle must work through their differences, and not be so quick to label the other side “un-American.” Talking about his memoirs, “Blessed Experiences,” he told a story of his father and two brothers.
“He gave me and my two brothers a coarse string to pop,” said Clyburn, noting that no matter how hard the brothers each pulled, none could break the tightly wound string.
“He took it back and rubbed the coarse string in his hands; the more he rubbed, the more friction he created,” Clyburn said. “It wasn’t long before it was in three pieces, which he gave to me and my brothers. With very little effort we popped the strings.”
Clyburn said his father presented a moral that the brothers should never let their little disagreements create so much friction “that they separate you, because if you do, the world will pop you apart and you may never know why.”
Clyburn said that Democrats and Republicans don’t always agree on what to do, when to do it or how to do it, “but we shouldn’t let our little disagreements cause so much friction that it separates us. We have things to do.”
“We must leave this country a better place for our children and grandchildren, and we cannot let anybody get in the way of that,” Clyburn said.
Clarendon NAACP President Julius Adger said Saturday’s banquet was one of the most well-attended in recent years.
“This is our only fundraiser for the year,” Adger said. “Normally on election years, attendance picks up.”
Adger said the group is focused in 2016 on getting people registered to vote and getting them to the polls.
“We do not endorse any candidate,” he said. “I will be dealing with the pastors of local churches, because they see the people every Sunday. When you hear 600,000 people in the state of South Carolina are not registered to vote, that’s a lot of votes. I’m not telling them who to vote for, but if you can get them registered and get them to the polls, then they are going to vote for somebody.”