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House Majority Whip James Clyburn on election outcome: Biden did ‘very well’ with African American voters in South Carolina

House Majority Whip and U.S. Representative of South Carolina James Clyburn joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman, Akiko Fujita and Jessica Smith to discuss the importance of a peaceful transition of power and weigh in on how Biden can lead our country successfully.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: I want to bring in Congressman James Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina. Of course, he's also the House Majority Whip. Certainly somebody who was very instrumental in Joe Biden's win announced over the weekend. And we've also got Jessica Smith joining in on the conversation. Congressman, it's great to have you on today.

Let me just first get your thoughts on this Election results. Because, you know, your endorsement of Joe Biden is certainly very instrumental in South Carolina at a time when there were really concerns that Joe Biden would not be able to survive the primaries. What were you thinking as you saw the President-elect take the stage over the weekend, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris?

JAMES CLYBURN: Well, I was very pleased with the outcome. It turned out that the decisions we made maybe 20 years ago to make sure a state like South Carolina got into the act early on and helping to determine who the nominee would be. We have been having a lot of candidates doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire. And they get into the General Election and not do so well.

And so we thought, and made the case to the Democratic-- DNC, Democratic National Committee Rules Committee-- that we needed to have a state like South Carolina. Where the Democratic electorate could have a say so in the primary. If you look at the results of the General Election, everybody is saying just wait until the votes come in from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to see what's going to happen in Pennsylvania.

And you go state by state. Michigan, same thing. So we have to rely upon these voters in the General Election. So you need to get a candidate that can do well with these voters in the primary. And so that's what happened here.

Joe Biden did very well with African-American voters here in South Carolina. And he did very well with suburban voters here in South Carolina. Suburban white voters. So they got a chance to see that, they responded. He got the nomination, and he delivered. But for that, we would not be sitting here with him as President-elect.

AKIKO FUJITA: Having said that, you do have a big chunk of the voters who don't believe that this was an Election that was won fair and square. Despite no evidence that shows any kind of fraud in the Election. How do you think That Hinders the Democrats ability to pass through any key legislation that Joe Biden campaigns on?

JAMES CLYBURN: Well, I know people are saying that. They don't really believe that. You know, I don't think anybody believes much of what Trump says. And a lot of these people are just mimicking what Trump says. This guy lies, lies, lies, all day every day. And he called on others to tell lies as well.

And those people who respond repeated those lies. Those people don't believe what they saying. This Election, according to George W. Bush, was fair and square. Who do you believe?

JESSICA SMITH: Hi Congressman, Jessica Smith here. How do you expect a Biden administration and the Democratic Party in the House to work with the most progressive wing of the party that is going to try to push a President-elect Biden to the left? And push the party to the left in the coming years?

JAMES CLYBURN: Well, it all depends on whether or not we want to stay in the majority. I think that President-elect Biden ran his campaign perfectly well. He didn't allow anybody to push him too far right or too far left. And I think that he'll govern the same way.

He's been Vice President for eight years. He's been in the Senate for what, 40 years? He knows Washington. And he knows he elected pretty well. So I think he'll govern as he says he will govern. On behalf of those who voted for him, as well as those who did not vote for him. 75 million voted for him, 70 million did not. So I think he'll balance his administration in a way that will keep this country moving forward.

JESSICA SMITH: And looking specifically at the House, the Democratic party did lose seats in this Election. So what do you do going forward to make sure that doesn't happen in 2022? When now we are seeing moderates and progressives blame each other for this outcome?

JAMES CLYBURN: Well, I don't like to play the blame game. All I like to do is take a look at the electorate, look at the results, and see what happened. Now, I can tell you this. Jaime Harrison, running for the Senate here in South Carolina, was running well. The numbers were very favorable toward his candidacy until about two or three weeks out.

You know, I've been around this business a long time. And I think I know a little bit about politics. And I said to some of my friends and some of his that things began to plateau about two weeks out. And it happened as a result of the ads, the TV ads, that were run against him. The so-called Defund the Police. Having him depicted as a socialist.

I'm going to tell you something. I've been Black a long time. I don't know of any Black people that I've been with in politics who are comfortable with socialism. They don't like the term. They are very much a part of the mainstream. And they become a part of the mainstream here in this capitalistic society. So I know.

And we look at the results down there in Florida. We lost two seats down there. And it was about socialism. So that's the real thing. So people can say what they wish to say about it, but the fact of the matter is, that's a real problem.

And that's what happened to us back in the '60s, when John Lewis and I were in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. We were doing great work. All of a sudden we woke up one day, "burn baby, burn" was the big slogan back in 1965. It destroyed our efforts.

And I saw the same thing happening to Black Lives Matter when it comes to Defund the Police. Nobody wants to defund the police. I don't know of a single African-American that wants to defund the police. And they tell me, that's not what they mean when they say it. Well, soundbites kill you. If that's not what you mean, don't say it.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, Congressman you mentioned the Senate. I wonder how important that becomes too when we look at Georgia and what could happen there. You mentioned the South Carolina race there. Lindsey Graham obviously won that despite Jaime Harrison raising more than $107 million. I'd be curious to get your take on what these runoffs in Georgia might look like. And how much money is expected to pour into that, which could give either party control of the Senate.

JAMES CLYBURN: Well, money is very important. It's the mother's milk of politics. But then you've got to connect with voters as well. And we can win in Georgia if we connect with voters. And the question is, how do you make those connections? You can make those connections by having to fend off sloganeering.

Georgia is the mecca of the so-called nonviolent movement. Martin Luther King Junior, John Lewis, they were all right there in Georgia. And that's what killed us. Sloganeering killed us back then, I hope we don't allow sloganeering to kill us today. If you're going to win those seats in Georgia, we're going to have to connect with voters. And you will not connect with Southern voters with Defund the Police hanging over your head.

JESSICA SMITH: Congressman, really quickly, just wanted to get your thoughts on the chances of getting a stimulus deal during this Congress. Or are people going to have to wait until President-elect Biden takes office in January?

JAMES CLYBURN: I don't think we have to. It's all up to the Senate. We've passed these bills in the House. We've passed the so-called HEROES Act twice. One at $3.2 trillion another one at $2.3 trillion. And we'll pass another one. We don't need to pass another.

And Senate can take that up now. If it doesn't like everything that's in it, then send us something that you like, and see can we negotiate and find common ground around two pieces of legislation. It wouldn't come from the House, it wouldn't come from the Senate.

That's how you pass legislation. This whole notion that it's got to be my way or the highway, that's not the way you get things done. You know, I've got a brain too.

AKIKO FUJITA: House Majority Whip Representative James Clyburn, joining us from South Carolina. Really appreciate your time today.

JAMES CLYBURN: Thank you very much for having me.