week New York's Village
Voice ran an article advising Rev. Al Sharpton how to
run his campaign. We're not going to do that. Sharpton will
show who he is in the course of the race. Even those of us
who think we know him cannot predict what the National Action
Network leader will become as he is tested by the experience.
we will briefly lay out what
believes is the historic mission that a Black candidate
should strive to fulfill in the Democratic primaries. We believe
Al Sharpton is up to the task, if he maintains a clear vision
and personal discipline.
the Black candidate
has not been a national election cycle since passage of the
1965 Voting Rights Act in which a demonstration of concentrated,
effective Black voting strength has been more critical. First
and last, the Black candidate's job in 2004 is to energize
the Black vote. The largest possible number of African Americans
must coalesce behind one candidate in order to prove that
there still remains a formidable Black bloc vote. If you are
the unabashedly Black candidate, that should be you.
corporate media is out to destroy Black candidacies, not necessarily
you as a person, but the very idea of an independent, conscious,
shared Black electoral mission. Corporate media today act
in lockstep with Republicans and corporate Democrats to encourage
and even invent centrifugal forces within the Black
body politic. (See
November 4, "The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Bogus Election "Study"
- Black Majette vote grossly inflated.") Their common
goal is to fracture the Black vote and, thereby, eliminate
from American political debate the essential elements of the
broad Black political agenda. If the Black bloc vote is fractured,
or can be made to appear unfocused, the media will declare
that the African American vote is no longer strategically
important. From that point on in national contests, the Black
electorate will be treated as less than the sum of its purportedly
before have so many freelance and salaried Black vote splitters
been fielded within the community, itself. One of them is
among your opponents, Carolyn Moseley-Braun. Others work on
behalf of candidates and forces within the Democratic National
Committee whose sole interest in Black voters is that they
not interfere with white candidates' abilities to address
white voters. You are the only hope for African Americans
as a group to have a strong voice in the Democratic Presidential
process, and Black voters are your only hope of wielding clout
as a leader of an effective Party bloc.
not allow yourself to trade in a single Black vote for any
number of hoped for white votes. Your mission is to fire up
Black people so that they might speak with a louder, more
coherent voice, not to water down the cultural or political
content of the message. In this sense, your candidacy is largely
an internal Black affair, although certainly not exclusionist
in spirit or intention. The fact of the matter is, you do
not stand to gain many white votes anyway, and the good white
people who will vote for you do not need to be pandered to.
Your message is progressive, in line with the historical Black
social vision. Let white people envision it with you, if they
are willing. But you will do progressive politics no service
by unnecessarily diverting your energies from your Black base.
Progressive politics cannot exist in America without an energetic
Black electorate and movement. That's your critical function,
in this election cycle.
will be encouraged to "broaden" your message early
in the cycle, so that you will have a larger potential pool
to draw from later on, when the field narrows. If you follow
this nonsense, you will never get through the primaries. Your
message is already broad, and you have made no mistakes of
"narrowness." Those who suggest that you go "beyond
your base" almost certainly represent smaller, single-issue
groupings. In the end, they will most likely still not vote
for you. You are not the scavenger candidate - you are the
Black candidate. Your potential base is bigger than anyone
else can offer. More importantly, you are in this race to
demonstrate their power, not your wider appeal.
out the call
Village Voice writer said you "absolutely must get invited
to the big debates in January." Ta-Nehisi Coates is correct.
But you will get there by virtue of your Black voter
support. Let someone dare to bar from the debate a Black candidate
with the polled support of more than half the Black Democratic
public. That is a fight you will surely win, or bring into
utter disrepute those Democrats that collaborate in your rejection.
Trust us, none of your opponents wants to go there.
the January debates part of your campaign appeal. "If
you don't want to see a monochrome debate in January, tell
the pollsters you support me!" This message touches
the "race person" in most African Americans, and
should move even those Blacks who don't particularly like
you. And some non-Blacks, too.
on the Tawana Brawley matter. We've tried to avoid offering
specific advice, so we'll make this short. Those who ask that
you "apologize" in order to "come clean"
are your enemies. They are calling you dirty, and are full
of the stuff that preachers cannot name. You are a minister
who believed a young Black woman over the words of white men
in rural, upstate New York. On Black terms, that's righteous,
honorable, and quite enough.