Rev. Al Sharpton: The Race Hustler as Kingmaker

Imagine if David Duke were now a Republican Party kingmaker, and Mitt Romney and other presumptive candidates had to go to his organization’s events, seek his endorsement, and stand by his side -- just as he was presiding over rallies seeking mainstream support for George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s shooter. Yes, everyone knew Duke was once a Ku Klux Klan leader and had only slightly cleaned up his racist act, but now he came on as a non-partisan fighter for justice on behalf of aggrieved white males, and when he spoke, wore pinstripe suits, especially when presiding over his own TV talk show.

If that scenario existed, every news anchor and reporter, and every single Democrat and liberal, would blast the Republicans non-stop. They would castigate any Republican candidate who dared appear at David Duke’s side. They would use Duke’s past -- rightfully so -- as an example of very bad judgment on the part of any Republican who gave him even a moment’s attention.

Well, I think you know where this is leading. At the present moment, leading Democrats flock to gain the approval of the racist demagogue and race-hustler Al Sharpton, who, just four years ago, found that the Obama campaign put him at more than arm’s length in order to make it appear that candidate Obama was mainstream and wasn’t part of the divisive racial politics of the past as practiced by Sharpton and company.

It seems 2012 is quite a different matter. Dana Milbank explained Sharpton’s new power in Sunday’s Washington Post:

Everybody wants to be on Sharpton’s good side these days. No fewer than five Cabinet officers and a senior White House official went to this year’s convention [of Sharpton’s National Action Network] to kiss his ring. President Obama spoke at last year’s conference and has sought Sharpton’s advice on policy. Sharpton has a show on MSNBC five nights a week, and he doles out airtime to a procession of politicians and journalists (including me).

How things change in a short four years. From pariah to the equivalent of what the pope is for Catholics. Speaking at the convention of the reverend’s National Action Network (sponsored, as Sharpton pointedly stressed, by Fox News, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, all Rupert Murdoch enterprises), Attorney General Eric Holder praised Sharpton for his “tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless, to stand up for the powerless.”

All but forgotten is Sharpton’s past. He honed his technique of rabble-rousing 25 years ago, when he led the fight on behalf of Tawana Brawley, a black teen who falsely said she had been kidnapped and raped by a gang of white men. Sharpton succeeded in ruining the career of District Attorney Steven Pagones, whom he not only accused of racism but of being one of the perpetrators of the abduction and rape. Later, in 1995, he inflamed black residents of Harlem when a Jewish merchant sought to expand his store. Sharpton called the owner a “ white interloper,” and one inflamed Harlem resident burned down the property, killing eight employees.