Monday, February 24, 2003

Jesse Jackson, please come back!
There is an emerging consensus among moderate Democrats that Al Sharpton's candidacy could spell ruin for the Party's prospects in 2004 and beyond. In today's WSJ, Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic, spells out the dangers of the man in the velour track suit (here subscription required, unfortunately). According to Beinart "The serious candidates hope that by embracing Mr. Sharpton -- Messrs. Lieberman, Kerry and Dean have each joked about being his running mate -- they can avoid being called racist. But the consequences for the eventual nominee, and for the party itself, could be enormous. If Mr. Sharpton wins a block of delegates, and the eventual nominee has to publicly negotiate for his support in the days leading up to the convention, that nominee will discredit himself in the eyes of the millions of Americans who see Mr. Sharpton, rightly, as a charlatan. A Sharpton prime-time convention speech would be the Democratic equivalent of Pat Buchanan's speech to the GOP faithful in Houston in 1992. And his emergence as the most powerful black leader in the Democratic Party would be politically and morally corrosive to the party for years to come."
Beinart has another piece here; and there is one more here by Michelle Cottle. The gist of the arguments made is that Sharpton is a loose cannon beholden only to his own megolamania. As NYC Dems can attest, Sharpton is a tireless self promoter who puts his own narrow interest above the Party. This bit hits the nail on the head "According to Al Sharpton, the behavior of Al Sharpton is synonymous with the cause of civil rights, and therefore any criticism of Al Sharpton is, by definition, an attack on racial justice."
In other words, Al Sharpton is the master par excellence of playing the race card. The danger for the Democratic Party is that any criticism of the "Reverend" will be portrayed as racism. This is especially galling given Sharpton's complete lack of gravitas and knowledge of public policy. Unfortunately, the other candidates will make the calculation that it is easier to treat the velour sweat suited one with kid gloves rather than to challenge his positions. How unfortunate for the Party and for America.


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