Some politicians have the same public image throughout their careers. Others at least try to give themselves a makeover (e.g., the “new Nixon” of 1968). In a Wednesday post, Esquire’s Charles Pierce claimed that for the past decade, we’ve had what amounts to a new Al Sharpton, and that “the transformation began when Sharpton ran for president in 2004.”
Pierce noted Sharpton’s Tawana Brawley/Crown Heights “not-entirely-concerned-with-the-truth-of-things period,” but argued that in ’04, Sharpton the candidate “reintroduced himself to the country as a serious man with serious concerns,” and that “more or less, that's been the path on which [he] has remained ever since.” These days, Pierce remarked, “bringing up the sins of [Sharpton’s] past now seems as strange an avocation as summoning up Malcolm X's early career as a burglar.”
From Pierce’s post (bolding added):
Sharpton's profile has risen, both as a television host, as an (IMHO) unflinching apologist for the administration, and, especially, as a central figure in the reaction of the Ferguson community to the killing of Michael Brown and, ultimately, as Brown's primary eulogist. The eulogy that Sharpton delivered has gotten him roasted from both directions; he has taken heat from the left because of the parts of the speech in which he condemned what he perceives as destructive cultural factors in the African American community. He has taken heat from the right because he is Al Sharpton and his name is one of the conjuring spells that makes The Base indiscriminately crazy… [B]ringing up the sins of his past now seems as strange an avocation as summoning up Malcolm X's early career as a burglar.
I think the transformation began when Sharpton ran for president in 2004. Because white people are white people, most of them expected a bomb-thrower in sweats. Instead, Sharpton carefully, and shrewdly, reintroduced himself to the country as a serious man with serious concerns, including the stubborn persistence of race and poverty in American life, most of which were not being addressed at all by any of the other candidates except, alas, John Edwards…Sharpton advocated, among other things, constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to vote, equal rights for women, quality health care for all Americans, and quality public education, all of which look pretty good in retrospect ten years later...More or less, that's been the path on which Sharpton has remained ever since. He is…someone that most people agree has a valuable contribution to make to whatever "national conversation" is left for us to have in this country on the subject of race.
…[Maureen] Dowd…rip[ped] the president for not going to Ferguson, and she rip[ped] the president for "deputizing" Sharpton as the nation's de facto civil-rights spokesman…
…Dowd doesn't get to decide who qualifies as a legitimate civil rights leader any more than the white people of New York got to decide who was a legitimate civil rights leader 30 years ago…I still don't think MSNBC should have given Sharpton a show on the electric teevee, not because of who he is, but because he's just not very good as a host... But it is obvious to me that, right now, today, the country's politics need Al Sharpton one helluva lot more than they need Maureen Dowd.
[Image: Conservative Treehouse]