WASHINGTON – Climate change. Impeachment. A return to decency.
All of these serve as Democratic talking points on the campaign trail for the nearly two dozen 2020 White House hopefuls seeking to upend President Donald J. Trump's quest for a second term.
But for a storied civil rights group with ties to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the conversation woefully misses the mark.
"Many people do not know that 42 percent of Americans who have a checking account cannot write a $250 check for an emergency," said Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founded by Dr. King in 1957.
Steele contends few leaders are willing to fight for America's poor – let alone speak on their behalf.
"Nobody advocates for poor people. It's very selfish," Steele told CBN News in a phone interview.
He points to the recent Democratic two-night debate in June to make his case, highlighting how the candidates avoided using terms like "poverty" or "poor people" and instead used phrases such as "income inequality," "Medicare for all," and "free college tuition." Steele's group calls them "code words."
The SCLC is putting the spotlight on poverty ahead of its annual convention in Atlanta next week.
"We tackle the issues facing poor people, and we do this every year," Steele said in a statement. "During our conference, we convey this information in a way that the public truly understands the horrific realities of life for more than 40 million people in America."
Steele blames a failure of leadership for the lack of progress in the Poor People's Campaign, started by Dr. King in 1968. He told CBN News the solution includes hearing from "the 140 million people who work from paycheck to paycheck, who can't afford to get sick and stay away from work."
"When you take care of poor peopele, you're taking care of all of the above," Steele said.
Yet the booming US economy, buoyed by a strong labor market, may also contribute to overshadowing discussions about poverty.
At the convention, the group will unveil plans for a new affordable housing program for impoverished communities across the country.
The SCLC also plans to honor former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with its Realizing the Dream Award for her work advancing civil and human rights.