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Jim Clyburn Says It’s Time to ‘Talk Some Sense’ Into the Younger Black Generation

The Biden campaign co-chair believes Black parents should be responsible for convincing Black youth to vote for Biden.

Jim Clyburn
Rep. Jim Clyburn speaks at a campaign rally in Orangeburg, S.C. Meg Kinnard/AP

There’s almost certainly no member of Congress more responsible for President Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 than South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn. And as polls show Biden struggling with Black voters — specifically, younger Black voters — Clyburn has a new message for his generation: It’s time for Black elders to have a chat with the younger branches of the family.

“They should try and talk some sense into their children,” Clyburn told NOTUS in an interview this week, following a series of Biden campaign events in Georgia that he headlined over the weekend.

Clyburn, now the Biden campaign’s 2024 co-chair, believes that younger Black voters have fallen prey to “misinformation and disinformation,” citing the increasing credulity with which voters are taking Donald Trump’s claims that he’s done more for Black people than anyone — with the “possible exception” of Abraham Lincoln.

“If you believe that,” he said of Trump’s comment, “your parents should’ve sent their mule to school and kept you at home.”

Clyburn added that if Black voters go to the ballot box believing Trump’s rhetoric, a second Trump presidency would be imminent. “We may be back into Jim Crow again,” he said.

Clyburn’s stern warning wasn’t a criticism of Black voters of any generation. He said he was guilty of not always sharing the details of the civil rights struggles he’d experienced — “I know what I had to go through, I know what I saw my parents going through” — but he said Trump posed enough of a threat to the Black community that he and other older Black leaders need to start speaking out about “the indignities that my mother and my father had to endure so I could be where I’m at today.”

“If I see and hear from a candidate that they want to bring those indignities back to the process,” Clyburn said, “I’ve got an obligation to sit with these children of mine and say, ‘What the hell are you thinking about?’”

Young Black voters have turned on Biden — to an extent — over a number of his policies. Specifically, the war in Gaza has made younger voters broadly more distrustful of Biden. An uneven economic recovery has also presented a political challenge to the president with Black voters, as well as Democratic failures to enact a new voting rights law or new policing reforms.

Clyburn has long disputed that Black voter support for Biden is precarious and argued that the media is “failing the American people” by “repeating” perceptions that Biden is losing steam with Black voters. It’s gotten to a point where Democrats might fail to overtake this narrative, he added.

“I’m going to do everything I can to try and compete and win,” he said. “We may not be able to. My parents could not.”

There are, of course, plenty of Black voters who won’t take kindly to Clyburn’s warnings. When NOTUS asked Nina Turner — a former Ohio state representative who served as national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign — what she thought of Clyburn’s message, she said he was “really stretching.”

“To try and scare Black voters, particularly young Black voters, into voting for Biden is desperate. He is really desperate,” she said.