Moseley-Braun is doing someone a favor, but it's not Black Democrats.
The former Senator from Illinois is transparently allowing herself
to be used to diminish, somehow, the impact of Rev. Al Sharpton's
candidacy for President. Since she cannot possibly "stop"
Sharpton, the actual purpose and potential effect of her primary
run can only be to dilute the impact of the Black vote, itself.
Moseley-Braun hasn't consciously taken on the role of spoiler, then
she is whimsical in the extreme - far too flighty to be taken seriously.
However, we know that Chicago politicians are not made that way.
chain of events is easy to follow. In late December, Moseley-Braun
was dreaming of retaking the Senate seat that she captured in 1992
and held for one six-year term. According to the December 22 Washington
Post, Braun confirmed that she had had a meeting with Democratic
Senate leader Tom Daschle concerning her ambitions. She also told
reporters that unnamed parties had "encouraged" her to
attempt to take back her old seat from Republican Peter Fitzgerald.
1992 race cost $6.7 million, and a 2004 bid would be several times
is absolutely clear is that Daschle gave Moseley-Braun no encouragement
for her costly and problematical Senate rematch - a race that would
likely hurt the party's chances to regain control of the body. Instead,
somebody offered Moseley-Braun another assignment for the
"good of the party" - one for which no white person is
qualified and few Blacks are foolish enough to accept: stop Sharpton.
this happened rather quickly, and Moseley-Braun still hasn't found
her balance. At first, she claimed that, upon deeper introspection,
she realized that a return to the Senate "would have been going
backward." This is a bad enough joke to get Moseley-Braun permanently
banned from anybody's stage. She left the Senate in 1998 under a
personal and political cloud. Re-election would be like rebirth
- but the Democratic powers-that-spend weren't buying that scenario.
problem is quite delicate, needing a Black woman's touch. No white
candidate can figure out how to lay a glove on Sharpton. On the
surface, this appears to be a kind of racial cowardice. However,
on further examination, the monied, mildly "liberal" candidates
- Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. John Edwards - would
find it very difficult to engage Sharpton on a substantive policy
level. The Black New York social activist has taken clear and crisply
correct progressive positions on a wide range of issues. It takes
more than mush to confront Sharpton, and the "lite" list
of Democratic candidates cannot help but equivocate in every sentence
dreadful and wholly unacceptable Sen. Joe Lieberman looks always
to his Right, like a storm trooper passing by his Leader's stage.
This Republican in-all-but-name appeals to voters like himself,
constantly contorting his social agenda in order to escape the racist
label. (We at
will do our best to make it stick.) Lieberman has no interest in
tussling with Sharpton.
progressive and firmly anti-war white candidates - Ohio Rep. Dennis
Kucinich and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean - should have no
quarrel with Sharpton on the issues. Both would be more than happy
to be the one white progressive standing when the smoke clears.
Democrat has a good reason to fight with Al Sharpton. The best that
the "lites" can do is create racial "space"
between themselves and Sharpton by setting up an "alternative"
Black primary-runner. All she has to do is move her lips and stay
Black. Sharpton's positions on jobs, health care, criminal justice,
war, etc., are established elements of the Black Agenda. There is
no imperative for Moseley-Braun to offer anything different in the
way of policy. She is, purely and simply, the "I'm not Al"
at the Democratic National Committee encouraged Moseley-Braun. Donna
Brazile, chair of the DNC's Voting Rights Institute, has acknowledged
as much. Brazile told the Washington Post's Terry
Neal it was "ridiculous for anyone to suggest the Democratic
Party should have only one black candidate, given African Americans'
loyalty to the party."
no one can deny the right of every African American to aspire to
the highest office in the land. And, if the prospect of "going
backward" to the Senate suddenly offends Carolyn Moseley-Braun,
we must respect her sensibilities. The operative question, however,
is not why an individual desires to become President, but why others
decide to support him or her. Ms. Brazile and other Blacks
in the DNC orbit derive no influence from the Sharpton campaign.
Moseley-Braun's candidacy is as much their creation as it is a racial
buffer for the presidential front-runners whom Brazile and
her colleagues hope to influence when the primaries are over.
prospect of victory is only one serious reason to run for office.
Moving the debate in a desired political direction is equally as
serious and honorable a motivation. Rev. Al Sharpton is a serious
candidate who vigorously argues issues and attempts to mobilize
a core constituency: Black voters. At bottom, Carolyn Moseley-Braun
is not a candidate at all, but a board piece in a game of positioning
played by rich, "lite" white candidates and Blacks connected
to the institutional Democratic Party.
her formal "exploratory" announcement this week, Moseley-Braun
said she's not a "Black" candidate competing with Sharpton,
but the "women's" candidate in an all-male field. If you
believe that, then vote for her.
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