How Sharpton Helps Bloomberg

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The story you won’t read – even while the numbers tell the story – is that the Democratic Party coalition is in a state of collapse. When DC 37, Unite Here, NARAL Pro-Choice NY and Revs. Calvin Butts, Floyd Flake and Charles Norris all endorse Mike Bloomberg, something new is going on. When Al Sharpton essentially calls Bloomberg a racist and the mayor’s poll numbers go up in the Black community, something new is going on. The Democratic Party has become an institution that cannot inspire its own people. It cannot create anything alive and new because it is so desperately clinging to the old.

At the start of this mayoral campaign, the Democratic Party bosses had high hopes. Anticipating that Freddy Ferrer would become the nominee (they were right) they thought they could promote a Black-Latino coalition that would drive Ferrer to victory. They were wrong.

The latest polling numbers tell part of the story. The week before the Apollo debate, Mike Bloomberg had the support of 50% of African American voters. Enter Al Sharpton, designated hitter for the Democrats’ Black-Latino coalition. Sharpton spent the week attacking the mayor for “disrespecting� the Black community – dredging up expected rhetoric about the political symbolism of coming to Harlem. I imagine the Democrats thought they had struck gold, meaning they’d found an issue around which their Black-Latino alliance would finally inspire Black and Latino voters, who are mainly Democrats, to get behind Ferrer. They were wrong.

I was outside the Apollo the night of the debate with 50 Black and Latino leaders of the “Bloomberg on Câ€? coalition – which is campaigning in all communities for a Bloomberg vote on the Independence Party line – Column C (that’s what the “Câ€? stands for). Our message was to support the independent-mindedness of voters of color and to urge that they not be taken in by the Democrats’ empty rhetoric. 

A new set of polls after the debate showed Bloomberg with an astonishing 53% of the Black vote – 20 points higher than Ferrer. Congratulations to the Black community! You’re smarter, more sophisticated and more independent than the Democrats ever expected you to be. You can tell the difference between record and rhetoric – between a nonpartisan mayor who’s been good for Black folks and a partisan Democratic clubhouse organization which is so empty and so visionless that it can no longer connect with its own base.

The truth is that the Democratic Party has never produced a viable Black-Latino coalition. Why? Because diverse communities do not come together unless there is a political vision that brings them together. The most progressive attempt to do so inside the Democratic Party was led by Jesse Jackson in the 1980’s, but was stillborn. Bill Clinton pulled the rug out from under the Rainbow Coalition as he remade the Democratic Party for the 21st century.

Anyone familiar with the recent history of New York City politics has witnessed season after season of Black Democratic political machines in Harlem and Brooklyn fighting one another, the Bronx-based Latino machine back-stabbing the Black machines, vice versa and on and on. While they’re busy fighting with each other, they do little to fight for us. This is the political environment that Al Sharpton gave up his independence to endorse. No wonder so many in the Black community feel angry at him and sorry for him at the same time. After the Apollo debate, voters were polled on whether Sharpton’s endorsement of Ferrer mattered to them. 75% of African Americans said it didn’t make a difference.

To be sure, you can put a bunch of Black and Latino Democratic Party elected officials on the steps of City Hall and call that a people’s coalition. The media, which is both gullible and complicit, will trumpet it. But a visionless Democratic Party can neither create, nor sustain a movement to empower ordinary New Yorkers – Black, Latino, or white – because the Democratic Party’s singular goal is its own self-preservation. That goal has become completely inconsistent with the interests of ordinary people. That’s what underlies the poll numbers.

Pundits and journalists of various stripes have, of course, reported these numbers looking for explanations that deny that Blacks and Latinos are actually making new political choices. They explain Bloomberg’s support among Latinos – one poll has it at 42%, only five points less than Ferrer – because Ferrer is Puerto Rican while Latinos include Dominicans and Central Americans. The pundits explain Bloomberg’s Black support as deriving from residual anger over Ferrer’s remarks about the Diallo case. And most glaring of all, to the extent they concede Bloomberg’s support in the Black community is historic, they say it’s unusual for a Republican!

What is it that the “guardians of truth� can’t bring themselves to say? That the Democratic Party is rotting from the inside out. The party was supposed to be the party of all Latinos and all immigrants, but it can’t fulfill that agenda. When Ferrer made his remarks about the Diallo case, the special meaning it had to Black people was not because we are Black, but because as Black people, we are sick and tired of being sold out by Democrats who talk out of both sides of their mouths – a form of triangulation learned from the master Bill Clinton. And Mike Bloomberg, while a registered Republican, is not a real Republican! Don’t go by me! Ask most people in the Republican Party! They’re aggravated because his philosophy is liberal and his style of governance is nonpartisan and independent.

The story you won’t read – even while the numbers tell the story – is that the Democratic Party coalition is in a state of collapse. When DC 37, Unite Here, NARAL Pro-Choice NY and Revs. Calvin Butts, Floyd Flake and Charles Norris all endorse Mike Bloomberg, something new is going on. When Al Sharpton essentially calls Bloomberg a racist and the mayor’s poll numbers go up in the Black community, something new is going on. The Democratic Party has become an institution that cannot inspire its own people. It cannot create anything alive and new because it is so desperately clinging to the old. 

There is a new progressive coalition, a new force coming to the surface in New York. It has come together under the umbrella of Mike Bloomberg, in the nonpartisan environment he helped to shape, specifically at the urging and with the hard work of the Independence Party. That new coalition of Blacks, Latinos, Asians, whites, labor, liberals, moderates and conservatives has a vision. It is a vision of nonpartisan governance. That is where a genuine Black-Latino alliance is growing – up from the bottom and out through the hearts and minds of dedicated community leaders who want what’s best for our people, not what’s best for a party. Join us. Our time has come.
 
Dr. Fulani is a developmental psychologist and a founder of the Independence Party of New York. She leads the Lenora B. Fulani's Harlem Independence club which meets monthly. She can be reached at 212-962-1699.

 

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