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The Poisoned Chalice of Political Endorsements

An electoral boon or a disaster waiting to happen?

In the calm before the storm of Tuesday’s all-important primaries, Democratic candidates are scrambling to pick up every possible endorsement in the hopes of giving them an edge in the race to win the nomination. From shameless sycophancy to promises of position, contenders flaunt themselves and their credentials in the hopes of picking up a warm word of encouragement that may just catapult them to victory.

But is this really a worthy use of their time, or are these endorsements a dangerous gift that could backfire?

Bernie’s Dilemma

According to most major polling, Joe Biden has the edge with black voters. As an important demographic, support from this group could spell the difference between success and failure. As such, we’re seeing a procession of high-profile politicos and celebrities paraded for the viewing public.

The latest big endorsement for the Sanders campaign comes from Rev. Jesse Jackson, a man once heralded as the torchbearer of the civil rights movement. With a long history in the Democratic Party, Jackson could have swung for either candidate, but with Bernie Sanders, there is a far more personal connection.

During Jackson’s 1988 run for the presidential nomination, Bernie stumped with an energy not seen since, despite reservations about the Democratic Party. He said at the time:

“I am the only non-Democrat, non-Republican, independent progressive mayor in the United States of America. OK, it is awkward, I freely admit, it is awkward for me to walk into a Democratic Party caucus, believe me, it is awkward. I am not a Democrat. Period.”

Is it still awkward for the Vermont socialist now looking to lead the party he so emphatically disavowed? However, despite a seeming mutual admiration, it is perhaps more ideology that binds these two politicians together. Both men were, and apparently still are, supporters of Fidel Castro and the Cuban regime. Describing the dictator, Jackson gushed that he was “the most honest, courageous politician I have ever met.”

In June 1984, giving a speech at the University of Havana, Jackson is reported to have raised his fists in the air and bellowed, “Viva Fidel! … Viva Che Guevara! … Long live our cry of freedom!” Che Guevara lest we forget is widely regarded as the first man to ever set up labor camps for homosexuals. He personally executed “dissidents,” and decried the idea of a free press, saying:

“We must eliminate all newspapers; we cannot make a revolution with free press. Newspapers are instruments of the oligarchy.”

Recent statements from Bernie Sanders also praised the Cuban dictatorship.

There is no doubt that Jesse Jackson is still an important man with massive influence. Senator Sanders is walking a tightrope between garnering support from those who still see Jackson as a civil rights hero, and those – many in the Democratic Party – who see this love of communism as the most dangerous of paths to tread.

Biden’s Vanguard

Is former VP Joe Biden also in danger of making strange bedfellows in his hunt for the nomination? While his endorsements have so far been of a more staid variety, many come with baggage that will be fodder for the Trump campaign.

Swinging to the Biden bandwagon, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), released a video on Twitter stating that Biden “has served our country with dignity and we need him now more than ever. I will do everything in my power to help elect him the next president of the United States.” A sharp turn from just a short time ago when she lambasted him on the debate stage for his connections to politicians who made their careers out of segregation.

Although former Obama White House economic adviser Robert Wolf described this as “one of the most coveted endorsements in the country,” Harris comes with a lot of baggage.

During a radio interview, Harris gleefully admitted to getting high in college while listening to music from Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg. Polls suggest a majority of Americans support the legalization of cannabis, so why would this be considered a damaging issue? Well, Harris graduated from Howard University in 1986 and law school in 1989, but the music she described getting high to was not released until the early 90s.

A simple lie perhaps, but she is responsible for putting in jail over 1,000 individuals for marijuana violations. If she was indeed getting high to the music she claims, that suggests that she may have been using drugs at the same time as prosecuting drug users.

The last remaining female in the primary race, Tulsi Gabbard, scathingly attacked Harris’ record as a prosecutor:

“There are too many examples to cite, but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.

She blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so … She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California, and she fought to keep the cash bail system in place. That impacts poor people in the worst kind of way.”

Besides Harris, Biden has also brought Beto O’Rourke back into the spotlight, announcing that the early dropout would be his point-man on gun control. With these kinds of friends who needs enemies?

A Blessing and a Curse

Both Biden and Sanders are no doubt grateful for the endorsements they have received, especially those of former candidates. Yet these politicos and heroes of the left are more than just useful advocates; they’re tainted goods. The very aspects of their history or character that prevented them from staying in this race are the same things the Trump campaign will capitalize upon to damage the eventual nominee.

Relying on other people to present one in a positive light always comes with dangers. This “rainbow coalition” that each of the contenders seems to be building is just that, an illusory trick of the light, which, despite popular myth, has no pot of gold waiting at the end.

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Read more from Mark Angelides.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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