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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, November 14, 2003


Too much ado about Dean's remarks, not enough about Sharpton's

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, November 14, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
It's rapidly becoming old news, but this editorial from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was simply too good to pass up:

The Rev. Al Sharpton told columnist Clarence Page, "I'm not saying (Howard) Dean is a bigot. I like Dean. I'm saying that he said something that was deeply insensitive."

So be it. And so what?

Said Dean: "I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats."

He didn't say he'd fly the Stars and Bars over the White House. He said he'd like to appeal to more than the narrow band of conventional liberal Democratic constituencies. He wants people outside that narrow band to know they can trust him on the broad issues, even if he may not agree on every parochial or cultural subject.

That means finding common denominators other than race -- such as poverty, inadequate public education, unemployment and the war in Iraq.

Page says, "When race is the issue in a presidential race, Democrats lose. When class is the issue, Democrats win."

Civil rights attorney Constance Rice, "great-granddaughter of slaves and slave owners," writes in the Los Angeles Times that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. warned of "the grand old bargain this country had always offered to poor whites -- namely, accept your poverty and we will ensure your racial caste superiority over blacks" as something that "must be destroyed before universal opportunity could be realized."

If Dean offers a better bargain to blacks and whites, some insensitivity can be forgiven.

However, there's also one other aspect to the whole fracas that went essentially unnoticed, until a MN Star-Tribune editorial raised it. Won't the Democrats rebuke Sharpton?

Last week, the Democratic candidates forced Howard Dean to furl the Confederate flag. Now perhaps they'll take on the real race-baiter in their midst:

Al Sharpton.
If Sharpton can get away with shielding even his most irresponsible statements behind the cloak of "civil rights," then no Democrat will be able to criticize him -- on anything -- without risking ending up on the wrong side of the party's most freighted issue. By running for president, Peter Beinart perceptively noted in the New Republic, Sharpton is effectively asking the Democratic Party to bless the proposition that civil rights is whatever he says it is.

The other Democratic candidates should be deeply wary of the Sharpton trap. Instead they are walking into it. They treat him as a legitimate presidential aspirant. They never mention, let alone condemn, his odious record. At times they even follow his lead, as they did in the Boston debate, when Sharpton led the attack on Dean.

There should be no room in American politics for a race-baiting charlatan of any color. Honorable Democrats ought to be able to look Sharpton in the eye and say so. Their failure to do so is a moral and political disgrace.

Note how quick Sharpton was to label Jesse Jackson Jr. - Jesse Jackson Jr. ! - an Uncle Tom, just because he endorsed Dean (and that was before the confederate flag flap, mind you). The Dems need to boot Sharpton from this race, as he just squandered all the gravitas he had built over the course of the campaign. Until now he was useful, now it's time to discard him so the focus can go back to Bush, not litmus tests and divisive racial rhetoric.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.