Rep. Jim Clyburn laments country’s state of political affairs in Columbia speech

Rep. Jim Clyburn expressed frustration with the United State Supreme Court’s recent rulings.

COLUMBIA — South Carolina Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn on Friday lamented the state of the nation’s political affairs during a symposium that aimed to explore the history and racial legacy of the Reconstruction era.

He drew a parallel between today’s Supreme Court nomination fight and previous issues the nation faced with the justices of the high court. Clyburn highlighted how the Civil Rights Act of 1875 was ruled unconstitutional just a few years later by the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court always undercuts Congress on civil rights issues,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn — the state’s first black member of Congress since Reconstruction — was the featured speaker at a luncheon of the “The Reconstruction Era: History and Public Memory Symposium,” held at the Columbia Museum of Art. About 100 people attended.

Clyburn went on to highlight cases that reinforced his view, such as the 2013 landmark ruling that found parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. He denounced North Carolina’s and South Carolina’s decision to create new voting requirements soon after, particularly under the guise of combating voter fraud.

“Both said that there were dead people voting in South Carolina,” Clyburn said. “Seldom does it happen.”

He expressed frustration with the unwillingness of the state’s leaders to expand Medicaid because of political idealism. He also stressed the need to diversify the court, as former President Jimmy Carter did during his term.

Clyburn also bemoaned ways in which Republicans refer to President Barack Obama. For example, he noted former House Speaker Newt Gingrich once referred to Obama as the “food stamp president,” while former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu called one of Obama’s 2012 debate performances “lazy.”

“These words and phrases are not accidental,” Clyburn said. “These are words and phrases that, if left unchecked, would put us right back where we were during post-reconstruction. Anything that has happened before, can happen again.”

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 843-708-5891.