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When sequels go bad: Reverend Al's campaign

By Kimberley Jane Wilson
web posted March 22, 2004

With few exceptions, sequels are never as good as the original version. That's true in movies, books and as Al Sharpton showed us, in politics. When he ran for president none of the political commentators across the country called him a serious contender. Many people thought that what Sharpton was really trying to do was to be the second coming of Jesse Jackson and that this was his bid to the most powerful civil rights figure in America.

It didn't work out that way and now the Sharpton campaign is officially finished and is saddled with a $600,000 debt. When Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1988, he won nine states and had over 1200 delegates. The "Rev.," as his staffers affectionately call him won no states at all and garnered a measly 26 delegates. In 1988, there was no way the Democrats could ignore Jesse Jackson and there was no way they could refuse him an opportunity to speak at their convention. Jackson's speech is still considered to be one of the greatest ever given at a political convention. Al Sharpton will be lucky if he gets a free ticket to the convention and a paid hotel room so he can watch the event from the stands.

Al SharptonHe had his amusing moments but the Sharpton campaign never managed to ignite the public's imagination. If you went anywhere in the black community in the last few months it seemed as if no one was talking about Sharpton White House run other than to make a caustic joke. He was expected to do well in the South, the often quirky Washington DC primary and of course in his own backyard, New York but he failed in all three places.

He cast out his nets and black voters threw them right back at him. Maybe it was because many to people who lived through the 1980s and 90s the name Reverend Al Sharpton still brings up memories of the whole Crown Heights ugliness, the Tawana Brawley hoax and the eight innocent people who died in the Freddy's Fashion Mart fire in Harlem. Others still can't get the image of those horrible jogging suits he used to wear or his old Samson-meets-James Brown pompadour hair style out of their minds. At best they saw him as that guy who's a big deal in New York City but that was all.

Al Sharpton said his campaign was about "identity," and that he wanted " to slap the donkey" (the Democrats) and that he wasn't running for "king of the ghetto" and on his web site it states that he was running to keep the "dream alive" but never got around to offering more details. His stated political platform was extremely vague and it seemed that the whole thing was nothing more than an ego trip.

In an interview with The New York Daily News he indicated that he's satisfied with how things worked out with the presidential bid because he' s more nationally known now and is planning to host a syndicated radio and TV talk show. Well that's just great for Al and in a way -- but not the way he would probably appreciate, it's great for the black community as well.

Times have changed as have the needs of Black America. The pitiful showing of Al Sharpton in the presidential race should put all our so-called and mostly self appointed black leaders on notice: Ladies and gentlemen we demand more of you than a few dramatic speeches in church pulpit and we aren't voting for you just because you are black.

Although some of us still need to work on breaking our mental shackles, physical slavery is dead and so is Jim Crow. Black people don't need an imitation Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or even a poor man's version of Jesse Jackson to negotiate with whites on our behalf. The "Rev." might not agree but that's something we can all celebrate.

(c) 2004 Kimberley Jane Wilson

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