Dem presidential candidates take the bait, express solidarity with Al Sharpton; Update: Biden too

This is working out better for Trump than he could have hoped after this morning’s Twitter rant. I already linked this endorsement from Kamala Harris in an earlier post…

…but other contenders are scrambling to signal their wokeness by standing in solidarity with this demagogic huckster:

No word yet from Cory Booker as of 3:30 ET but he’s destined to broadcast his support too lest he slip further behind Harris in the battle for black voters. Joe Biden’s also a safe bet: He sat for an interview with Sharpton for MSNBC just a month ago and remains the runaway frontrunner among black Democrats for now. Might as well pencil in Pete Buttigieg too, as he traveled to Harlem earlier his year to kiss Sharpton’s ring in the hopes of increasing his share of the black vote to something north of zero.

Seth Mandel wrote a piece last month for the Examiner ably summarizing Sharpton’s role within the party. It’s not just that his anti-semitic incitement has been purged from the Democratic Party’s institutional memory, to the extent that anti-semitic invective even remains a liability on the far left. It’s that he’s treated as a singular representative of African-Americans, at least as much among woke white progressives as among blacks themselves:

Cozying up to Sharpton is about more than black voters, too. After Buttigieg’s trip to Sylvia’s, Fredrick C. Harris, director of Columbia University’s Center on African American Politics and Society, told Esquire that it was about sending a holistic message to the party, using Sharpton as a proxy for black voters, and outreach to black voters as a proxy for liberal priorities. That element is crucial to understanding why, as the LA Times put it, “all paths to the White House run through the House of Sharpton.”

“Part of this is sort of signaling to black voters,” Harris said, “but also I think to liberal white voters in the Democratic Party who may like him but are troubled or unclear about what his legacy of race relations have been in South Bend. So by going to Al Sharpton, this is also sending a symbolic signal to them as well.”

A lot of black residents in South Bend seem convinced that Pete Buttigieg hasn’t listened to their concerns, but why would he need to when he can purchase cheap grace by having lunch with Sharpton?

The key point in Mandel’s piece is how thoroughly Sharpton has been legitimized by Democratic Party leaders, arguably even more so than rank-and-file voters, such that there really might be little risk to Democratic presidential candidates in standing with him now. Barack Obama had no difficulty associating with Sharpton as needed, notes Mandel; Sharpton’s approval was useful to O in lending black activist “authenticity” to his presidential candidate early on. De Blasio has become a political crony too. When the farking president and the mayor of the country’s biggest city considers you an ally, you’re probably beyond marginalizing. Plus, Sharpton has been canny in building a presence in mainstream political media, no doubt understanding that Americans infer legitimacy from television appearances. (Trump naturally grasps this too.) How outre can his views really be when he’s bantering with Joe Scarborough every morning?

So I don’t know. Maybe trying to make Sharpton a national face of the Democratic Party isn’t as much of a winner as the White House thinks considering that he’s been a national face of the party since at least 2008. He’s already priced into their stock. Better to stick to Ilhan Omar.

Speaking of Trump’s war of words with leading black Democrats, Mark Meadows finally spoke up this afternoon on behalf of his pal Elijah Cummings. Normally I sympathize with congressional Republicans when they complain that they’re always being pressed unfairly by the media to condemn every noise that escapes from Trump’s mouth, but Meadows is a special case. I had the same memory A.B. Stoddard did this weekend when Trump took to calling Cummings a racist, namely, how Meadows had begged Cummings to vouch for his own racial good faith at a hearing earlier this year after he was attacked by Rashida Tlaib. And Cummings did so, even though it meant siding with a very conservative Republican against a charge leveled by a very progressive Democrat. (Scarborough remembered too, as you’ll see.) Rick Santorum asked Meadows about it this afternoon and he did in fact repay the favor to Cummings. Let’s see if Trump takes issue with him now.

Update: And there it is.

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