Charles Rangel Replaced Adam Clayton Powell Jr.
Somewhere beyond that mysterious void which separates we mere mortals from eternity, Adam Clayton Powell is laughing his head off. It was forty years ago in June when the legendary Harlem congressman and bon vivant, whose political career was tainted by absenteeism and hints of corruption, was defeated in the Democratic primaries by a little-known upstart named Charles Rangel. The forty-year-old newcomer to the political spotlight campaigned on the issue that the good folks of Harlem could ill-afford a representative with the questionable ethics of Congressman Powell. What goes around, comes around.
In a parallel universe the Democratic party would be in an enviable position at this moment in time. They are about to come face-to-face in the campaign of 2010 with a party that has been hijacked by a cabal of batshit reactionaries. But as I’ve noted too many times to count in recent years, the “party of FDR” has developed a positive genius for taking a bottle of finely aged, twelve-year-old scotch and turning it into donkey piss. Every time I forget why I left the Dems in 1998, they always cheerfully remind me – and I appreciate that; I really do.
As Harry Truman might have said, the American people are in a “helluva fix”. What with having to choose between one political party that has turned itself into an organized criminal enterprise (Guess which one I’m referring to) and another that is the picture of befuddlement and incompetence (as comically personified by their majority leader Harry Reid), it is no small miracle that our government is able to function at all. All of this on top of a president who came into office promising a new era of progressive enlightenment, but who (thus far – I haven’t given up hope) has revealed himself to be a boring moderate.
A recent survey has shown that Americans are consuming more alcohol than at any time in the last thirty years. I can relate. 2010 is not a good year to give up drinking, I’ll tell you that. Choosing between the Republicans and the Democrats is like being given the choice of getting on a plane with a pilot who is brain-dead, or one who is sound asleep; not much of a choice – but a choice nonetheless. It is still possible to jolt one of those pilots back to consciousness.
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few….we can’t have both.” -Justice Louis D. Brandeis
I won’t blame you in the least if you think what I am about to say is beyond idiotic, but I still have faith in the Democratic party. That faith is disintegrating by the month but it’s there – or what’s left of it. They remain – on paper at least – the party of all the people, not just the moneyed plutocracy. Maybe Ralph Nader is right. Maybe it’s all a scam. Maybe one day they will be revealed, for all time, as nothing more than the tweedle-dee half of tweedle-dum. But until that day arrives I refuse to consign them to history’s morgue. A party that will still find room for people like Russ Feingold, Claire McCasskill, Sherrod Brown, Jim Clyburn and Al Franken is a party with hope – however faltering.
Here is a good example of that mass amnesia for which we Americans are justifiably famous: A recent poll cited this morning on MSNBC shows that forty-eight percent of the electorate plan on voting for the party of Glenn Beck this Election Day – as opposed to forty-three percent who say they are voting Democratic. Personally I don’t think that that is going to happen. The right wing’s grip on their own, carefully constructed reality has loosened quite noticeably in the last couple of months. In the end, the so-called “Tea Party” will prove to be nothing more than an embarrassment – and a reminder of the GOP’s innate extremism. Although it has been proven time and again that stupid sells in this silly country, happily for us all it does not have a very long shelf life.
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The last thing the Democrats need in the autumn is a trial in the House of Representatives that might distract the voters from their message – whatever the hell that message might be. Charlie Rangel might very well be remembered as the man who brought that party down in 2012. At the very least the poor old bugger will be blamed for bringing it down.
He has many accomplishments for which he can be proud. He ought to allow the New York Democratic party to nominate someone to run for his seat this year. In 1970 one of the arguments he made against Adam Clayton Powell was that he had been there for too long – twenty-five years. Rangel has been a congressman for forty years. It’s time he step aside with dignity.
Let’s all say a silent and gentle prayer for the tormented soul of Lenny Bruce, the greatest American humorist of the twentieth century, who died on August 3, 1966, forty-four years ago today.Click here for reuse options!
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