Sunday :: Jan 4, 2004

Catchin' Up With Al Sharpton

by pessimist

While most of the Democratic candidates took the holidays off, the Reverend Al Sharpton kept up his torrid pace, making several stops in South Carolina, Georgia, Delaware, and more.

As usual, he has a lot to say - some of which is worth hearing.

There are also some observations about Sharpton and his motivations for running. I hope you find them as illuminating as I did.

Assessing Sharpton
By Salim Muwakkil

The Rev. Al Sharpton already has won his race. The New York-based activist ostensibly is one of the nine Democratic candidates seeking the partys nomination to run against President George W. Bush. But Sharptons real opponent is not even a candidate.

His chief rival was a public perception that had him relegated to the margins of national respectability. Until this campaign, Sharpton was best known as a rabble-rousing race-baiter made infamous by his role in the bogus Tawana Brawley rape case. Sharpton had made considerable progress rehabilitating that mottled reputation in the New York area. And, in fact, that image was always a stunted view: While Sharpton may have had some problems with rhetorical excess, he was known as a dedicated activist and a gifted organizer who pushed a progressive line.

But his national image remained tainted. His presidential campaign seems designed more to erase that taint than to truly challenge Bush. Indeed, there was never much expectation that the 49-year-old leader of the National Action Network would win the Democratic nomination, even among his most fervent supporters. The best-case scenario was for Sharpton to gain a bloc of black support that could be parlayed for bargaining leverage within the Democratic Party. This model emulates the strategy of the Rev. Jesse Jacksons insurgent presidential campaigns of 1984 and 1988. Jackson, then known as the leader of the Chicago-based Operation PUSH, used those campaigns to boost his national stock while nudging the Democratic Party to the left and opening its door to more African-Americans.

Jackson adopted his tactics from the remarkable campaign of the late Harold Washington, who became Chicagos first black mayor in 1983. Washingtons political campaign also was a civil rights crusade and Jackson was impressed by the power of that composite. He used it as a template for his two campaigns and they were uniquely successful.

Sharpton employs the same rhetoric and is modeling his run on the crusade of his predecessor and mentor. He is reaping some of the benefits as well. Jackson was invited to host Saturday Night Live when he burst on the national scene in 1984. Sharpton hosted the show in early December 2003.

There are other similarities as well: both Jackson and Sharpton are clergymen in the African-American tradition of preacher/leader; both are activist outsiders who shunned political protocol to mount their campaigns. Like Jackson, Sharpton never won political office before entering the presidential race, but he at least has run: in 1992 and 1994, he ran for Senate, and in 1997 for mayor of New York City.

The similarities dont stop there. But there also are significant differences between Jacksons two runs in the 80s and Sharptons 21st Century quest. One of the major differences is that Jackson was the lone black candidate; the current crop of candidates includes Carol Moseley Braun, the black former U.S. Senator, as well as Sharpton. Jackson also was the most left-leaning candidate and as such became the standard bearer for a multitude of progressive causes. But in this race, Dennis Kucinich and, to some extent, Howard Dean have outflanked Sharpton on the left. The Congressional Black Caucus has split endorsements among eight of the nine candidates; he got one. Feminist progressives look to Braun (she was endorsed by NOW) and many labor leaders still have faith in Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). This fracturing of Sharptons natural constituency is much greater than during Jacksons two runs.

Sharptons most tangible connection to the Jackson legacy was Frank Watkins, the behind-the scenes impresario who has figured prominently in the success of both Jackson Sr. and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.). Watkins initially served as Sharptons campaign manager but left the campaign in late September for what he said were personal reasons and soon rejoined the staff of Rep. Jackson Jr. In late October, the younger Jackson endorsed Howard Dean.

Sharpton responded with a blistering attack. Howard Deans opposition to affirmative action, his current support for the death penalty and historic support of the NRAs agenda amounts to an anti-black agenda that will not sell in communities of color in this country, Sharpton said. Whats more, he denounced Jacksons endorsement as a virtual sell out. Any so-called African-American leader that would endorse Dean despite his anti-black record is mortgaging the future of our struggle for civil rights and social justice.

The Chicago congressman responded by defending Dean and chastising Sharpton. I dont understand Rev. Sharptons attempt to introduce race into the campaign by using such rhetoric as anti-black with respect to Gov. Dean, Jackson said. I challenge all of the other candidates to urge Rev. Sharpton to resist using such inflammatory rhetoric.

Sharptons outburst reminded many Democrats of his reputation as a political wildcard. He had gone far in altering that image with his remarks made earlier in the campaign that Democrats shouldnt attack each other so that Bush turns out to be the winner.

Still, Sharpton has used this opportunity well. As a candidate, he is well-prepared, wittyand even cogent. He does indeed give voice to issues that probably would remain unspoken. Like Jackson of the 80s, he is riding the presidential campaign for a trip to the national limelight and is hoping to do some political good by doing well for himself.

Salim Muwakkil is a senior editor of In These Times, where he has worked since 1983, and an op-ed columnist for the Chicago Tribune. He is currently a Crime and Communities Media Fellow of the Open Society Institute, examining the impact of ex-inmates and gang leaders in leadership positions in the black community.

Rev. Al is running for respect and a much higher profile
Posted on Sat, Dec. 27, 2003
By Stanley Crouch

Al Sharpton was absolutely correct when he discounted recent endorsements of Howard Dean and Wesley Clark by New York City black politicians. As he has proved in two New York races before - and as he demonstrated at a news conference surrounded by minority public officials on the steps of City Hall on Dec. 16 - Sharpton will take all the local black communities, with or without outsiders' endorsements.

If Jesus were to return as a white man, walk on water, raise the dead and then run for office, he might take Sharpton down. None of the other pols has a mouse's chance at a cats' convention.

But Sharpton wants to go beyond being perceived as a New York rabble-rouser with straightened hair and get us accustomed to seeing him hanging out with the big guys.

That is what his presidential campaign is about. Do not be deceived: Sharpton is actually running against Jesse Jackson, in whose shadow he has long lived because the Rev. Al was never involved in anything as serious as the civil rights movement. His initial claim to fame was a starring role in the despicable Tawana Brawley affair.

Sharpton is surely given to what they used to call in the pool halls "the stuff game," but he maintains our interest because he also is capable of bravery, moral gravity, integrity, intelligence and great wit. The humorous gab is why the press loves him, whether or not it takes him seriously on any issue.

Sharpton almost assuredly wants the respect necessary to broker big deals and bring money into the base of his followers, the National Action Network, or to those who support him locally and nationally. In other words, he wants everything that Jesse Jackson has. If he can master what some call the diversity hustle, he might make it into the boardrooms from which much big dough flows.

Ever wily, Sharpton also may aspire to more than becoming the new president of Black America. He may see that there is another set of possibilities that have been proved by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Education Secretary Rod Paige, which is that black Americans can rise above the narrow political reservations of racial issues.

It is time for America to understand that sooner or later, there probably will be a black president, who will arrive as the result of what ought to be, as far as I'm concerned, the reinvigoration of black political ideas.

No matter the self-serving nature of Sharpton's campaign, it is part of the process of black Americans being recognized as more than an alienated special interest group. Black Americans are, first of all, Americans who go back further in this country's history than the ethnic groups that began arriving after 1865 - groups that too often can be counted on to condescend to black Americans or pity them for not being able to get it together. That is the wrong way to look at it.

Black American interests are national interests, and every improvement in black America improves the nation as a whole. Consequently, black so-called leaders need to argue that those on the ship where the hull has been punctured are not being done some special favor when the hole is closed. The ship is made safer and more seaworthy.

Stanley Crouch is a columnist for the New York Daily News. Contact him at

Al Sharpton Speaks in Columbus This Afternoon

Democratic Presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton plans a two-hour appearance in Columbus this afternoon. The event begins at 12:30 at Spirit Filled Ministries (3898 Mulberry Avenue off Morris Road) when Sharpton will speak briefly on his Presidential platform and meet with supporters. Then at 1:20 p.m. he will deliver what supporters are terming a Justice Speech with regard to the recent shooting of Kenneth Walker. Walker, who was unarmed at the time, was shot and killed by a Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy during a traffic stop on Interstate 185. The stop and shooting were the result of a case of mistaken identity. Law enforcement officers say they thought they were pulling over four drug dealers from Miami. In reality, the SUV involved in the stop was carrying four law-abiding citizens. Both Sharpton events are open to the public.

Al Sharpton Speaks Out on the Kenneth Walker Shooting
Presidential Candidate in Columbus
Civil rights leader and presidential candidate Al Sharpton speaks out on the Kenneth Walker shooting investigation.

"Some would say the shooting and my campaign should be addressed separately, but I say one of the reasons I'm running is because somebody has to raise to a national level the brutality law enforcement and people sworn to uphold the law, up holds the law," says Sharpton who rallied hundreds of people, whether they were supporters of his candidacy for the democratic nomination for presidency or not.

Attendee David Franks says,"that is exactly right, the nation as a whole has to come together and justice has to be applied across the nation. We continue to see across the nation police brutality is running rampant." Sharpton adds, "now we are not anti-police we support the police, we need the police, but if there's a member of the community that is wrong we need to stand with the police against them. If there's a policeman that's wrong, they need to stand with us against that one policeman."

Sharpton is pushing that the name of the sheriff's deputy who shot Walker be identified and many agreed; they say they want answers to this case. "I heard this voice calling out that this community needs to be treated with justice and I think that concerns us all that's not a matter of race," says Bill Edwards another listener at Friday's speech.

But for some, race was on the forefront. "I'm glad there was a good a turn out; I wish there had been more diversity in the audience. I was surprised there were not any elected officials here and Iwas disappointed in that," says one Caucasian listener.

But the disappointment did not seem to diminish peoples spirits. "I'm running for president but I'm not too busy to run down here and March from one side of this city to another side," concludes Sharpton. Sharpton says he will be watching this case closely and if the investigation is not conducted completely he says he will be back. The Muscogee County Sheriff's Department has not commented on Sharpton's visit, they were unavailable for comment Friday.

Sharpton calls on Durham youth to defeat defeatism
BY ERIC OLSON : The Herald-Sun Dec 27, 2003
9:33 pm ET

DURHAM -- The Rev. Al Sharpton joined about 50 Durham residents Saturday afternoon to mourn the shooting death of a Durham man on Colfax Street.

Sharpton, a Democratic candidate for president who was in town for a fund-raiser, called for the youth of Durham to rise above defeatism. "They believe all they have to be is a thug," Sharpton said. "We are acting as if it is all right that we don't seek excellence. Even if you're not responsible for being down, you're responsible for getting back up."

The vigil group joined hands and formed a circle across the street in front of 504 Colfax St., where Timothy Lamont Little, 33, was shot and killed on March 31.

Little's father, Tommy Klegg, echoed Sharpton's message and called for an end to violence, which has claimed 22 lives in Durham this year. "The kids are into drugs and it's unnecessary for it to go down the way it's going down," Klegg said. "It's happening every day and it's happening way too often."

Sharpton continued his visit to the Bull City with a fund-raising stop at Compassion Ministries in southeast Durham, where he called on voters to stand up for their rights. He accused the Bush administration of reversing the civil rights gains of the past decades, beginning with the 2000 vote recount in Florida, continuing with redistricting in Texas and ending with the recall election in California.

Sharpton, who has been a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said Saddam Hussein's capture did nothing but confirm his contention that the war was unjustified. "Why would a man with weapons of mass destruction be hiding in a rat hole with only a pistol in his pocket?" Sharpton asked. "Saddam is a wicked and evil man, but there are other wicked and evil men."

On the domestic front, Sharpton said he would build the economy through jobs created by developing the infrastructure of the country. Repairing roads and bridges, and building a high-speed rail network similar to Europe's would sprout new jobs everywhere, he said.

Big business needs to be re-regulated and health care and education should be guaranteed for all Americans, Sharpton said. "What we do will end up affecting what we have as a country," Sharpton said. "Don't let the wealthy exploit our apathy."

Marcia Owen, the outreach coordinator for the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, which sponsored the vigil for Little, said Sharpton had his finger on the pulse of the streets of American cities. "Of all the candidates, he's the one who is most articulate about urban violence," Owen said. "And that's what the people of Durham care about."

Source Links
REV. Al is running for respect and a much higher profile
AL Sharpton Speaks Out on the Kenneth Walker Shooting
REPUBLICANS could stir up mischief by voting in SC Democratic Primary
AL Sharpton Speaks in Columbus
SHARPTON calls on Durham youth to defeat defeatism

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