In June 1992, Democratic Party presidential candidate Bill Clinton used the occasion of a speech to the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition to deliver a blistering rebuke to a rapper who had appeared on a panel the group had hosted one day earlier. Clinton tore into Sister Souljah for comments she made encouraging blacks to kill white people. The Washington Post noted that “Clinton’s frank remarks seemed designed to demonstrate his willingness to challenge core Democratic constituent groups and to begin to break his image in the public as a ‘political’ person who would bend to pressure from major forces within his party.”
Clinton had already wrapped up the party’s nomination at the time he dared to speak up at the Rev. Jackson’s racial politics get-together, and Sister Souljah was certainly a safe target for the canny triangulator to fire at after her over-the-top statements. Nevertheless, can you imagine a 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate similarly challenging the narrative of the new race-hustling kingmaker who has emerged since Jackson faded into well-deserved obsolescence?
His Time Has Come
The Rev. Al Sharpton is riding high in a party that has become totally enmeshed in identity politics. Abject fear can be the only explanation for why leading Democrats all scurry to pay homage to one of the most notorious racial agitators of the 1980s and ’90s.
Democrats who find Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s involvement in a blackface incident as a fraternity member in college 35 years ago an unforgivable sin are quick to look past Sharpton’s own notorious past. South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg picked a fight with Vice President Mike Pence for being a practicing Christian who does not approve of homosexuality on religious and moral grounds. But Buttigieg had no problem kissing the ring of Sharpton, who once said that “we [black people] built pyramids before Donald Trump even knew what architecture was. We taught philosophy and astrology [sic] and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it….”
“I thought he was very much authentic,” Sharpton said of Buttigieg after their meeting on April 29. “He seemed firm in who he was and what he represented…. I think he showed today going right in the heart of Harlem that he intends to go for those votes.”
Yes, Al Sharpton, the main rabble-rouser in the infamous Tawana Brawley hoax, is apparently now the arbiter of what is and is not “authentic” in presidential politics. Then again, Dems are hardly put off by false accusations of injustice these days.
Chicago police say B-List actor Jussie Smollett orchestrated a false hate crime incident that smeared Trump supporters as violent bigots. But when news first feverishly broke about the “attack,” prominent Democrats hastened to show their support and demand a harsh justice for the perpetrators.
Prominent 2020 Dem presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Buttigieg were among those who lined up to tweet their outrage. For Dems, it seems to be standard practice to believe any and all accusations of racial or “sexual minority” injustice even before there is time to gather the facts. There has been a notable lack of equally stern condemnation of Smollett by these candidates since his story fell apart. Conditions could not be more perfect for Sharpton’s brand of identity politics hysteria.
Courted by Contenders
Sharpton flexed his power within the party by attracting most of the 2020 candidates to his National Action Network convention in early April. Sanders, Harris, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) were among the candidates promising Sharpton that they would sign a bill giving reparations to blacks for slavery if elected president. It should go without saying that not a single Democrat dared to oppose Sharpton on the issue.
Sharpton has a history of using fear of racial agitation as a weapon to his advantage. David Horowitz’s Discover the Networks website details numerous examples of Sharpton threatening large corporations with consumer boycotts on account of alleged racial grievances and ending up with lucrative sponsorship arrangements with the companies as he called off the dogs.
One has to wonder if a similar understanding exists among Democrat politicians today. Mere accusations of racial “insensitivity,” no matter how unfounded, can be a career death sentence within a party consumed by the politics of division. Al Sharpton has taken Jesse Jackson’s racially charged bully pulpit to new levels of influence. Whoever ends up capturing the Democratic Party’s nomination, one thing can be certain: They will not do so without the racial kingmaker’s blessing.
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