Last month the Rev. Al Sharpton said he is committed to running for president in 2004 “if it is feasible,” according to a story on CNN.com
Well Sharpton’s quantum leap from activist to president is not feasible. In fact it’s almost ridiculous.
“I don’t think he realistically has a chance to win,” said Dr. Conrad Weiler, Associate Professor of political science at Temple University. “But that’s probably not the purpose. A lot of people run for president to get publicity for their cause and at this point, certainly that’s what it is.”
Sharpton’s cause is racial injustice, which he attacks with the tenacity of a pit bull. Recently, Sharpton led protests against racial profiling and the police slaying of Ghanaian immigrant Amadou Diallo. He filed a civil rights lawsuit for the alleged disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. And just last month Sharpton was released from jail after serving 87 days for protesting the Navy’s bombing exercises in Puerto Rico. These front line assaults have helped Sharpton repackage himself as America’s new civil rights leader, but he is not capable of leading the nation.
If you need to organize a protest march or want tips on how to survive a 30-day fast, then Sharpton is your man. But, in his 20-some years of public service Sharpton has never held public office — despite his many attempts. The controversial civil rights activist ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1992 and 1994 and for mayor of New York City in 1997. Sharpton’s political failures prove he needs more than a cause to get elected.
Sharpton’s biggest obstacle is his public failures. His inflammatory speeches and Don King-flamboyance have labeled him everything from a loud mouth to a demagogue. The question of whether Sharpton is protesting or promoting racial incidents has placed lingering doubts on his character.
In 1987, Sharpton accused a white prosecutor and police officers of raping a black teenage girl. After a seven-month investigation a grand jury decided the girl lied about the assault and Sharpton was ordered to pay $65,000 for defamation.
Diallo’s father dumped Sharpton as his political adviser in 1999 partly because he thought his son’s death had become “too politicized” and had “lost its main focus” of getting justice for his son, according to a New York Daily News story dated June 18, 1999.
Because Sharpton injects race into every controversy, it is difficult to distinguish racial injustice from Sharpton’s racial rhetoric. As a Pentecostal minister Sharpton’s faith calls him to be anti-abortion, yet Sharpton supports abortion rights. According to rockforlife.org, a pro-life organization, “[Sharpton] is of the opinion that the pro-life movement is racist and ignores the plight of the African American woman.” If Sharpton can’t separate race from religion, he surely won’t make the distinction in politics.
Sharpton’s hunger strikes, rallies, marches, and related police arrests are reminiscent of 1960s activism. Combined with his “No Justice! No Peace!” philosophy, these tactics endear Sharpton to those grasping for a civil rights leader, but isolate him from everyone else.
According to the New York Daily News, Sharpton said his presidential campaign would “make sure that the unheard and unnoticed are both heard and paid attention to.” With his militant, angry-black-man strategy, Sharpton will have better success at advancing their cause as the Rev. Activist, not as Mr. President.