News & Politics

Al Sharpton Enjoying His Role as Democratic Kingmaker

Al Sharpton seen at 2016 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Saturday, July 2, 2016, in New Orleans. (Photo by [Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Democrats running for president in 2020 swarmed New York City this week to speak at a convention hosted by Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Sharpton denies his kingmaker role, telling reporters, “Don’t let them say you came here to kiss the ring, ‘cause I don’t wear a ring.”

That may be true. In fact, Sharpton is more like a mob boss, demanding fealty and tribute from his capo underlings. More to the point, the Democratic candidates speaking before the NAN activists tried to out-radical each other. Several offered mea culpas for past racial indiscretions. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg apologized for using the phrase “all lives matter,” claiming he didn’t understand the “context” in which the phrase was used.


“At that time, I was talking about a lot of issues around racial reconciliation in our community. What I did not understand at that time, was that phrase, just early into mid-2015, was coming to be viewed as a sort of counter slogan to Black Lives Matter,” Buttigieg said. “And so, this statement, that seems very anodyne and something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us.”

He added: “That is the contribution of Black Lives Matter and it’s a reason why, since learning about how that phrase was being used to push back on that activism, I’ve stopped using it in that context.”

“All lives matter” has been redefined by activists as some kind of racist code. The idea that you can use the phrase as it’s meant has been abandoned because “pushback” against Black Lives Matter is not allowed. Why would you want to push back against an organization that incited violence against police, rioted in the streets, and wildly exaggerates police brutality, claiming that the cops actually target black men for death?

But when you’re playing identity politics, you play by their rules.

But Sharpton remains the focus — a remarkable turn of events. The good reverend has gone from racial agitator on the fringes of American politics to mainstream Democrat. Barack Obama kept him at arm’s length and now, his endorsement is considered vital for Democrats wanting to be president.

Sharpton has brilliantly maneuvered himself into a primary leadership position in the black community, as evidenced by the dozen or so candidates who will speak to his people this week. The man accused of inciting a riot a few decades ago now pushes an agenda that includes reparations for slavery. As an indication of Sharpton’s pull in the party, Beto O’Rourke had indicated his opposition to a bill to study the issue of reparations. Once Sharpton got to him, O’Rourke did a 180 and now says he supports the bill.

In fact, the crowd at the NAN convention appear to want to make support for reparations a litmus test for Democratic candidates.

Former Dem candidate for governor in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, who is said to be mulling a presidential run, spoke for the vast majority of Democrats when she said,  “I believe in identity politics, and I believe identity politics are the only politics that win.”

That’s music to Al Sharpton’s ears.