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Democratic Party Ignoring Blacks, and Others, Says Sharpton by Armstrong Williams


The Democratic Party is broken, its national leadership frayed, and its position on key policies confused. So says lifelong Democrat and prominent Civil Right Activist, Reverend Al Sharpton, who I had an opportunity to chat with during a recent fundraiser for his 2004 presidential run. During the course of our conversation, Sharpton touched on several hot political issues. But what was most striking, were the disparaging remarks Sharpton had for his own brethren in the Democratic Party.

Notably, Sharpton accused the democratic National Leadership of ignoring the needs of the black voting populace. "We [the black voting populace] gave 90% of our vote to the Democratic Party, but what did we get in return?" wondered Sharpton. "This insipid relationship of wanting to deal with us by night but not wanting to be seen with us by day is over. Don't court us, if you're not going to marry us."

Ideally, Sharpton would like to see the Democratic Party take much firmer stands on issues of voting rights, racial profiling, social security, education and Medicare reform. As he put it, "This election is about real life. It is about whether grand mom can buy her medicine or pay her rent. It is about whether public schools can educate children. It is about whether children grow up running from cops and robbers in certain neighborhoods."

Sadly, Sharpton remains skeptical that the Democratic Party will offer any bold reforms. He says they are constrained by the leadership's gradual movement toward the soft center. In an attempt to appeal to everyone, he says they have come to "stand for nothing."
"When I was 18," recalls Sharpton, "you could define what a democrat meant. In three weeks, I'll be 48 and I can no longer tell my daughters what it means to be a democrat.

"What does it mean to be a Democrat today?" is Sharpton's plaintive cry.

For his part, Sharpton has sugary dreams about restoring the Democratic Party to "its original tenets." Presumably, that means expanding government, pursuing regulation and throwing ever more money at social welfare problems. Sharpton seems to think that all three are plainly good ideas and seems poised to make his case during a bid for the 2004 democratic nomination.

Sharpton ran for US Senate in New York in 1994 and for Mayor of New York City in 1997. Both times he had difficulty generating mainstream support and the knock on him remains that he hasn't shown himself capable of branching out beyond his-sometimes divisive-civil rights coalition.

When asked whether he can move beyond the race issue, he responds tersely. "That's like saying Gore only dealt with the environment. Every candidate comes to the table with a base issue. But you go beyond your issue. What is Daschle's issue. What is Kerry's issue? They are undefined. Ralph Nader got three million votes. He ran as a consumer advocate. No one said that wasn't legit. I come from the table with core beliefs like everyone else."

Whether Sharpton can indeed move the divisive rhetoric of his past and emerge as a puffy haired peacekeeper remains very much in question.

What is clear, however, is that the Democratic Party is undergoing an identity crisis that has become so pervasive that it is alienating even some of its most loyal leaders.

Armstrong Williams can be contacted via e-mail at: arightside@aol.com


Armstrong Williams

Monday, September 23, 2002

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