Slappin' The Donkey With Al Sharpton
The "Symphony of Soul" was swinging alongside the indifferent Pennsylvania Avenue traffic. Soon, presidential candidate Al Sharpton would show. Many blocks and a world away from the avenue's most famous residence, the one he aspires to, Sharpton was cutting the ribbon of his new Washington presidential campaign headquarters. Sharpton meant for his new office to resonate symbolically. The Washington office, his first to open outside New York City, is a sparse space on the second floor of a drab building shared by a dentist.
While other Democratic candidates have backed out of the District of Columbia's primary Jan. 13, Sharpton has made it the centerpiece of a highly unconventional campaign. It's a campaign whose success or failure can't really be measured in delegate votes. Although he faces long odds in his presidential bid, Sharpton often earns the loudest cheers and laughs from Democratic audiences, especially with his oft-repeated vow to "slap the donkey":
"I'm going to slap the donkey until it kicks George Bush out of the White House."
He does bring the ability to attract voters, though he never has won elected office. He ran in the New York Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 1992 and again in 1994, when he received 178,231 votes. In 1997, he ran for New York City mayor and attracted 131,848 votes. The 49-year-old minister and political provocateur has lit up some Democratic venues. He has gotten off some of the best one-liners, rhetorically dominated some early debates and, to some extent, shaped the overall race by his presence. He's picking up support from scattered pockets around the country. "They have not been able to take the Latino and African-American vote for granted," Sharpton said of his fellow Democrats in an interview. "The issues (I've raised) would not have been raised otherwise."
He brings a liberal if often highly general platform. His campaign Internet site demands constitutional amendments to guarantee the "human right to a public education of equal high quality" and the "human right to health care of equal high quality," though he's offered no details on his education or health programs. He wants to repeal the Bush administration's tax cuts. He endorses gay marriage, calls the U.S. invasion of Iraq unjustified and calls for turning the District of Columbia into the nation's 51st state.
His is a low-rent campaign, literally. The $24,070 in available cash his campaign reported having on hand Oct. 15 trailed all other candidates, and Sharpton reported $177,562 in campaign debts. "I bring more to the table than the rest of the other candidates, so I don't need as much money," Sharpton said. Herein lies the problem for Sharpton's presidential campaign. His two top aides, including his campaign manager, left in the last month. His poll numbers are abysmal. The most recent surveys show him with anywhere between an asterisk and 2 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire.
The Sharpton Bully Pulpit
Instead, Sharpton is paying particular attention to South Carolina, where 40 percent of the Democratic voters are African-American. On Sunday morning [11/30/03], presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton addressed more than 1,000 people through a time-honored medium in the black community — the pulpit. Sharpton preached 45 minutes at West Columbia’s Brookland Baptist Church’s 11 a.m. service. His appearance was a surprise for many in the predominantly black congregation.
Sharpton took Bible verses from the book of Exodus — the story of God leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt — and applied them to what he called the “disturbing” present condition of black America. “Many of us seem to have lost our way,” he said. “We used to stand and fight, and we knew there’d be casualties. ... Now, it’s almost as if they don’t have to defeat us any more — there is a collective surrender.”
Sharpton called for strong black leadership and role models. “We as a people tend not to give credit to our leaders while they are still among us,” he said. “We love dead leaders. ... As soon as we die, they start naming buildings after us.”
He also criticized elements of popular black culture that he said celebrated being “down.” “We’ve gone from Aretha singing ‘Respect’ to men making CDs calling our women ’hos,’” he said. “Well, we’ve been down worse than this, but we weren’t cussing out our grandmothers or shooting up our neighbors. Black culture is not about how low we can go, but how high we can reach.”
Sharpton’s sermon became overtly political only briefly, when he discussed the $87 billion price tag on the war in Iraq. “Bush wants to give education and health care to Iraq, when we don’t have health care and education for the people of South Carolina,” he said, adding that he supported the president’s Thanksgiving trip to Iraq. “I’m glad he went. I just wish he’d brought the troops home with him,” he said.
Sharpton also addressed the concerns of those who, while they support him, doubt that he can win the Democratic nomination. “There are nine running, and eight of them are going to lose,” he said. “You vote for who stands up for what you believe in, and you vote because our forefathers fought to give us the privilege to vote. Jesse Jackson didn’t win, but look what happened,” he said, citing the inspiration and action Jackson’s candidacy brought about in the black community. “We gained more with Jesse losing than we did with other folk winning.”
Sharpton closed by describing his best definition of a saint: a sinner who fell down but got back up again. “Even if you’re not responsible for being down, you’re responsible for staying down.” he said. “”If you wait for the one who knocked you down to help you up — well, if they were going to help you up, they wouldn’t have knocked you down in the first place.”
After the service, Sharpton took time to speak with churchgoers and sign their Bibles.
The "Wonder Boy" began preaching before most kids learn to read
Alfred Sharpton Jr., born in 1954 in Brooklyn, N.Y., was known to his friends as Young Reverend Al. His father, a prosperous landlord, later moved the family to another borough -- Queens -- and the middle-class section of Hollis.
At age 4, while most his age were watching cartoons or waiting for kindergarten, he donned his mother's wig, lined up his sister's baby dolls and delivered his first sermon. Al Sharpton, the fiery civil rights activist waging a long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, has rarely stopped preaching since.
Ordained a Pentecostal minister at age 9, Sharpton was a childhood preaching sensation who toured the nation with legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. That same year, he met his first hero: Adam Clayton Powell, the late New York City congressman and pastor of the famed Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
There were more heroes in the mercurial Sharpton's future: He would help manage the career of Godfather of Soul James Brown, delve into the world of boxing with promoter Don King and become a protege -- and eventual rival -- of Jesse Jackson.
Sharpton calls all four men -- Powell, Brown, King and Jackson -- surrogate fathers, replacing the man who deserted his family when Sharpton was a boy.
Dubbed "The Wonder Boy Preacher" by Bishop F.D. Washington of the Washington Temple Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sharpton proved a quick understudy, combining the best -- and some would say the worst -- traits of his idols. He was loquacious, flamboyant, passionate and controversial.
But Sharpton's world was shattered when Al Sr. deserted the family after impregnating and later marrying his stepdaughter, Sharpton's half sister. The scandal and defection plunged the family -- Sharpton, his mother and sister Cheryl -- into poverty.
The family moved back to Brooklyn, ending up at the Albany Gardens Housing projects, a destitute, crime-ridden neighborhood that instilled Sharpton with a fighting spirit. In the projects, people too readily accepted their conditions, he wrote in his autobiography, Go and Tell Pharaoh. Activism also kept him focused. While other kids got into drugs and crime, Sharpton was preaching.
"You could tell he was going to be an activist," said New York Yankees coach Willie Randolph, a friend of Sharpton's at Tilden High School in Brooklyn. "He was always preaching. He was dedicated to whatever cause he was behind."
Sharpton had a tendency for showmanship, learning the art of self-promotion from James Brown himself. Even at a young age, he knew how to attract a crowd. "People always rallied around him," Randolph said.
Theresa Reid, a church member and mother of three, said she plans to vote for Sharpton. “I’ve always liked him; he just touches my soul,” she said. “I started paying attention to him back in the Jesse Jackson days — when you’d see Jesse, you’d see Sharpton as well.”
Sharpton said that the pulpit, historically a point of communication in the black community, can be a good grass-roots rallying place as long as it isn’t abused. “I wouldn’t speak for a whole hour on politics in church, or use (the pulpit) only to attack Bush,” he said. “You can’t just use it to promote a social, economic or political agenda without the religious side. Many of our leaders used the pulpit as an organizational tool, because for a long time it was the only institution that African-Americans controlled,” Sharpton said. “But first and foremost, it’s a spiritual place.”
Didn't You Used To Be Al Sharpton?
Not in the least, Sharpton has been furiously recasting himself. Once known for his velvet jumpsuits, gold medallions and James Brown-style pompadour, Sharpton has moderated his tone in recent years. Once shunned by elected officials -- he was dubbed "Al Charlatan" by former Mayor Ed Koch -- Sharpton is now courted by them. Koch, who once had Sharpton jailed at a City Hall protest, describes the activist's transformation as 'Herculean.' "I see him more thoughtful, less belligerent -- and he's never lost his sense of humor," says Koch. "He's come a long way."
But not far enough, some critics say. "He has changed his way of doing business," says talk show host Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, the city's original citizen cops, and a longtime Sharpton adversary. "But in the end, he still is that consummate street hustler, who will use and then abuse you."
Sharpton brings, undeniably, a resume that's contrary to customary political logic. He has been arrested, by his own account, "15 or 16 times" on charges ranging from trespassing to tax fraud. He was slapped with a $65,000 penalty for slandering a white prosecutor he falsely accused of raping African-American teenager Tawana Brawley, a New York state teen whose claims of kidnapping and abuse were found to be a hoax by state investigators. He's been accused of financial irregularities, blamed for inciting racial unrest, lampooned as a buffoon and huckster.
This is an opinion shared by Alan Caruba, who says in his recent commentary SHARPTON for President? :
The problem for me is that the mainstream media have all developed amnesia, rarely mentioning that this candidate gained fame by inserting himself into a number of racially charged incidents in various New York City neighborhoods. He first gained national headlines by supporting a hoax perpetrated by a young, black teenager named Tawana Brawley. In a 1987 case, she claimed to have been kidnapped and raped by several white men. Sharpton, at one point, accused a local prosecutor, Steven Pagones, of being one of the rapists. In 1998, Pagones won a $345,000 judgment against Sharpton for having defamed him.
Earlier, in a 1991 riot, Sharpton led protests in Crown Heights, a Jewish neighborhood, for four nights in a row and a young rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, was set upon by a mob and killed. In 1995, Sharpton led a two-month protest outside of Freddy’s Fashion Mart in Harlem. Owned by Freddy Harari, a Jew, his rent had been raised by a black church, the United House of Prayer, and Freddy had to raise the rent on his subtenant, a black-owned music store. Sharpton denounced Freddy, not the black landlords, and the result was that one of the protesters burst into his store, shot four employees dead, and then set fire to the store. In all, seven employees died.
In March of 1983, Sharpton had been caught on a FBI surveillance video discussing a cocaine purchase with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Latin American businessman. Sharpton talked about making a buy, possibly as an agent for Daniel Pagano, a member of the Genovese crime family and a longtime friend of Sharpton. He subsequently became an informant for the FBI and Pagano was indicted on racketeering charges.
And this man is running for President of the United States of America! What I don’t understand is why no one seems outraged by this?
Probably for the same reasons that people aren't outraged that we have been falsely and wrongfully led to war by a man who is a chickenhawk military deserter.
Howard Beach and Bensonhurst
The words still conjure images of the city's ugliest racial episodes, with white gangs attacking and killing black youths in the predominantly white neighborhoods. The two 1980s incidents helped Sharpton make his name.
After Howard Beach, Sharpton helped force the appointment of a special prosecutor. In 1991, three years later, as he prepared to lead a demonstration through Bensonhurst, Sharpton was stabbed in the chest by a white man and was nearly killed. He became a focal point in the 1991 Crown Heights riots, which turned the Brooklyn neighborhood into a national symbol of black-Jewish strife. He advised five black and Hispanic youths charged in the infamous Central Park jogger case, and served as an adviser to Brawley.
The Brawley case highlighted Sharpton's personal finances -- a topic that has drawn the interest of adversaries, prosecutors and regulators. His income had to be garnished to cover part of the defamation debt, and supporters helped pay the rest. Other financial questions have followed Sharpton. A jury acquitted him in 1990 of charges he stole from a civil rights organization he started as a teenager. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to not filing a state income tax return in 1986. In July, a report Sharpton filed with the Federal Election Commission showed the Internal Revenue Service has begun an audit of his finances. "We don't know what the result will be," a typically bold Sharpton said of the tax audit. "They could owe me."
It's a background, and a reputation, of which he is acutely conscious. "The media had painted me as a loudmouth, a walking sound bite, a con man, a charlatan and, worst of all, an impostor with no real constituency and no true issues, a self-created media manipulator," Sharpton wrote in his 1996 autobiography. "What hurt me most in all this, and feels most patronizing, was that my vilifiers and critics never tried to look at me as a man and as a person."
Yet allegations that would submarine the career of other politicians have only emboldened Sharpton. "He's been on the firing line for a long time now," says the Rev. William Augustus Jones, who tapped the teenage Sharpton in 1969 to help direct an organization that boycotted businesses that failed to hire blacks.
Sharpton forgave his attacker and has since said the assassination attempt motivated him to temper his rhetoric. The change of attitude has been seen in Sharpton's attempt to broaden his appeal. Once known mostly for his controversial causes, his exuberant hair and his rap sheet, Sharpton has projected a more mainstream image in the course of a campaign. Based on the returns when he runs for office, he's had some positive response. When campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in New York in 1994, Sharpton came in third out of four in the Democratic primary with 25 percent of the vote. In 1997, he took 32 percent of the vote in a Democratic mayoral primary.
In the late 1990s, Sharpton emerged on the national stage as a crusader against police brutality. He led mass demonstrations against the New York Police Department following the torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997 and the fatal 1999 shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo.
He endorsed a Hispanic candidate in the 2002 mayoral campaign in New York and was jailed along with several Hispanic politicians for protesting Naval exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Roberto Ramirez, former chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, spent 40 days in the same cell with Sharpton for trespassing on the Navy firing range. In prison, Ramirez said, he "did not see the caricature of the political or public persona of Sharpton," but a "man that most Americans don't get to see. ... I saw the man who struggled with a background that indicated he wasn't supposed to succeed."
He's getting, in particular, the kind of attention formerly lavished on his one-time mentor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. "He's trying to displace Jackson as the undisputed leader of African-Americans in the United States," said Fred Siegel, a historian at New York City's Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. "He will measure the success of his campaign by whether he displaces Jackson."
If there's one incident that will come to personify Al Sharpton's bid for president, it may be last month's public spat with his mentor's son — Jesse Jackson Jr. When Democratic front-runner Howard Dean garnered the support of Jesse Jackson Jr., Sharpton let loose his wrath. First he called Dean's agenda "anti-black," and later he implied that Jackson Jr. was an Uncle Tom. The vitriol highlighted Sharpton's frustration at his inability to seize the legacy Jesse Jackson Sr. established with his twin presidential runs in the '80s. Sharpton's campaign didn't respond to three phone calls and two e-mail requests for comment.
Since the reverend began talking up a long-shot bid for the presidency, he has been fond of making links between his campaign and Jackson Sr.'s. In February, Sharpton told the Village Voice he'd "watched Jesse take this party to where it should go. This is a battle in 2004 of the children of the Rainbow versus the DLC" — the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.
Before his spat with Dean and Jackson Jr., Sharpton had fashioned himself as a new voice of party unity, using the debates to admonish his fellow candidates for internecine warfare. The best speaker of the bunch, he articulates the Democratic Party's message with spirit and verve. Someone out there is watching; Sharpton may be polling at less than 1 percent in the New Hampshire primary, but in South Carolina, two recent surveys showed him running second or tied for third. A Sharpton victory in South Carolina is not yet out of the question. He even spent Thanksgiving there, serving up turkeys for the homeless.
But pundits say a variety of factors have come together to prevent Sharpton from landing with the impact Jackson enjoyed in the 1980s. For starters, merely by being the first black person to launch a viable presidential campaign, Jackson was awarded the sort of cachet that Sharpton can never get.
What's more, money has transformed presidential politics. A source familiar with both campaigns noted that when Jackson Sr. ran, young people who were otherwise shut out of politics would work long hours and sleep on the floor for him. Today "politics has become a cottage industry," said the source, "where everyone is a consultant." The fact that Sharpton, at last count, had raised only $283,529 hasn't helped, in an age where presidential campaigns seek out young African American talent — and pay for it handsomely.
With money has come political sophistication among black voters. Shirley Chisholm's campaign in 1972 put forward the notion that a black person could run. But Jackson, with his civil rights credentials and sweeping oratory, made African Americans believe in the idea of a black president. Skepticism from the white Democratic establishment gave Jackson much of his initial fuel.
"White folks were indignant that he was running," says Eric Easter, who worked on both of Jackson's campaigns and is now a senior adviser for Howard Dean. "And then black folks got indignant that they were indignant. . . . There was this very strong visceral reaction to his presence in the race, over whether this was the right time and right place for an African American to be, and that galvanized his base."
Easter says a broad-spectrum appeal to progressives, from labor to environmentalists, is also harder than when Jackson ran. "Twenty years ago, people were returning checks from Arab Americans who donated to their campaign. Jackson set up an Arab American desk for his campaign," he says. "This time around you have the Green Party; they have a growing sophistication. You have Kucinich as a progressive candidate. Women have a candidate in Carol Moseley Braun. Even Dean is considered a sort of progressive candidate."
Tugging at the Rainbow's mantle, Dean has gotten the support of labor leaders and drawn major black supporters like Elijah Cummings, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
"Those coalitions who Sharpton thought he would tap into are those who are workers or who listen to the Grateful Dead, and they are interested in a Dean candidate," says Mike Paul, former PR man for Jesse Jackson. "Dean was very smart to use the Internet. Ironically, the person who needed the Internet the most was Sharpton. He has less money, less staff, and less sophistication among the people working for him." Moreover, key black strategists like Donna Brazile and Alexis Herman, who started as young outsiders working on the Jackson campaign, have become firmly entrenched in party leadership. All the Democratic campaigns have blacks in high-profile positions, and black presidential candidates are almost a given.
Then there are problems that appear specific to Al Sharpton himself. Sharpton and Jackson Sr. can both be sharp-tongued, but Sharpton has a penchant for saying things that haunt him among his base. In a 2000 opinion poll by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, 83 percent of African Americans viewed Jackson favorably, while 9 percent viewed him unfavorably. Sharpton's numbers were considerably worse: Thirty-seven percent viewed him favorably, 29 percent unfavorably.
"When Jackson ran, there were people who accused him of being a polarizer — it's not like everyone was saying he was a uniter," says David Bositis, senior analyst for the center. "Sharpton brought a reputation that many people viewed questionably. By and large, his reputation has, if anything, improved in the primaries. However, it's not improved in such a way that people will vote for him." Now Sharpton has to run as one of two African Americans in the primary — Carol Moseley Braun being the other.
Sharpton's hope was that he would unite a broad coalition of the disaffected, ranging from the young blacks, Latinos, and whites of the hip-hop generation to gays and lesbians of all ages.
And while Sharpton talked of using the hip-hop generation as a source of untapped votes, it's actually Dean who's gotten the mileage out of the Jay-Z set. That's because the majority of hip-hop's audience is not black. "Anybody that's truly in the business of hip-hop understands that there is a decent percentage of blacks and Latinos who are buying rap albums," says Paul. "But the majority of records are being bought by people who live in suburbs."
Yet even some of his critics maintain there is still a body of unrepresented voters for whom Sharpton's big-tent progressive message could resonate. Frank Watkins was the premier architect of Jackson's campaigns, and has also done stints with Jackson Jr. He was Sharpton's campaign manager until the end of September, when he left for "personal reasons." But though Watkins is mildly critical of Sharpton's organizational setup, and even though he's now back working for Jackson Jr., Watkins believes in the potential of a Sharpton campaign.
"He's still has an excellent opportunity to show well in South Carolina," says Watkins, noting that close to half the state's Democratic primary voters are expected to be black. "He spent a lot of time there, and while I was there, people were responsive. I think there's an opportunity there. Time will tell whether he's able to take advantage of that or not."
The result has not been all bad. Sharpton has had some success — he scored a major interview in the November 5 issue of Rolling Stone and is slated to appear on Saturday Night Live this week. In the best-case scenario, Sharpton would perform strongly in a few primaries and thus force the Democratic Party to deal with its cantankerous left wing.
Despite having just over $24,000 on hand and owing more than $177,000, Sharpton is touring the country in style, according to the most recently available campaign financial data," New York Post's online edition reported yesterday.
A single July jaunt to the luxury Four Seasons in Los Angeles cost $7,343.27 — more than 5 percent of the total $121,314.60 campaign cash Sharpton raised in the third quarter.
Sharpton told The Post he is on a $200-a-day stipend from his campaign for hotel expenditures," but that many of the "stops coincided with various events sponsored by organizations that will reimburse him later."
A campaign source told The Post Sharpton is fond of saying he 'grew up living with cockroaches, and he doesn't want to live with them anymore.'
Sharpton is expected to request public matching funds in which taxpayers match up to $250 per individual contribution to the campaign.
Al Sharpton will see $100,000. Lyndon LaRouche, $840,000 - and we aren't hearing much from him - yet! Maybe this is one reason why the Saturday Night thing!
Al Sharpton is set to host NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” this week. His positions now emphasize hard work and family and responsibility. You know the Democratic Party is in deep trouble when Al Sharpton is the candidate of the angry white males.
NEW YORK On Saturday, the presidential hopeful the Reverend Al Sharpton will act as host of "Saturday Night Live" - the 10th politician to take the show's stage. Though hardly a front-runner, he will fulfill what has become a perverse ritual for office-seekers: demonstrating a sense of humor by any means necessary. For someone like Sharpton - who spent years known as the the big-haired activist tainted by the Tawana Brawley fake-rape case in New York state - the appearance seems like an odd choice.
Why wreck years of slow gravitas-building with one flippant night? Sharpton will be participating in an odd tradition - one that has existed since at least 1968, when Richard Nixon, then a presidential candidate, appeared on "Laugh-In" to shout "Sock it to me!" Such appearances have intensified in importance as satirical shows like "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" have gained influence, and Letterman and Leno have become required whistlestops.
But "Saturday Night Live" is an especially tricky gig: instead of just chit-chat, there are a monologue and skits - opportunities to make yourself look like a clown instead of a wit, a doofus instead of a potential world leader.
With Sharpton involved in pre-show preparation, we went to the former hosts - some Sharpton allies, some former foes - to ask for a bit of old-timers' advice. Without exception, they were certain the reverend would be a natural.
"Be yourself!" advised Ed Koch, who was a host in 1983. "I'd like to see that huge medallion that you used to wear, but on your new sleek clothing. Bring back the old Al Sharpton!" Should Sharpton make any political points on the show? "Not really," Koch said. "But you can get across that you're really a warm, lovable teddy bear."
Civil rights leader Julian Bond agreed: "It's good to make fun of yourself."
George McGovern, who was host in 1984 just after dropping out of the presidential race, said, "Expect to do some ad-libbing."
Giuliani had little advice for Sharpton beyond "enjoy it," although he was happy to reminisce about the show, which he called "one of my most pleasant experiences." The main risk, he said, was that the host could come off as defensive or unfunny.
Another offered a bit more detail. "He cannot take it seriously," suggested muckraker Ralph Nader, who appeared on the show back in 1977 and returned four more times as a guest. "Don't try too hard. The second thing is, don't talk too slowly, it doesn't work. The slightest pause … And the third is, it's very good to engage in self-deprecation." Still, he mused: "I don't know exactly how they're going to fit him in; I mean, he's not flexible. He's not a singer or an athlete. I think he should be a funny interrogator."
Whether or not Sharpton gets laughs, he can be certain of one thing: His monologue will be as much a part of his legacy as any stump speech. After all, as Prime Minister Harold Wilson once pointed out, a week is a long time in politics. But reruns last forever.
Meanwhile, back at the Washington Office, ...
Even as the 120-member marching band from historically black Bowie State University played, a certain listlessness undermined the Washington campaign office opening in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Anacostia. A handful of reporters all but outnumbered Sharpton supporters, local Democratic players were absent and even the bused-in college musicians appeared immune to the political moment.
"To be honest with you," "Symphony of Soul" drum major Charles Harris said, "this is just a performance for us."
And maybe it is all just a performance for Al Sharpton as well.
Sharpton reshaping image for campaign
Sharpton surprises congregation
Sharpton speaks to West Columbia congregation
LONG shot Sharpton has 'come a long way'
SHARPTON for President?
Sharpton in the Rainbow's Shadow
Al Sharpton's campaign sparing no expense — even though it's nearly broke.
Candidates taking public matching funds get first payments Jan. 2
The Lighter Side
Perverse ritual for politicians
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