Al Sharpton Convention Speech
I just finished listening to Al Sharpton’s address to the Democratic convention on the radio and was bewildered that the crowd kept cheering wildly at the most inane, demonstrably stupid things over and again. I don’t yet have a transcript available but, for example, does anyone in that room seriously think that, if George W. Bush is president another four years, blacks will lose their right to vote and be returned to slavery? And, after arguing for several minutes that going to war in Iraq was equivalent to him tricking the people to leave the convention hall and other such nonsense, he then turned around and said he thought we should in fact be bringing democracy to the people of Baghdad but what about the people of D.C.? Huh?
The line about waiting for forty acres and a mule until Herbert Hoover and then riding the donkey was pretty funny. Pretty much everything that followed was, again, bizarre.
Exaggeration and hyperbole are part and parcel of convention speeches. Red meat and all that. But the people in the audience genuinely seemed to believe it.
Update (7-29, 0906): AP – Sharpton Speech Draws Standing Ovations
Al Sharpton won the hearts of delegates to the Democratic National Convention with a rousing and raucous speech Wednesday night, saying his failed quest for the White House was proof that kids can grow up poor and make it in America. “As I ran for president, I hoped that one child would come out of the ghetto like I did, could look at me walk across the stage with governors and senators and know they didn’t have to be a drug dealer, they didn’t have to be a hoodlum, they didn’t have to be a gangster,” he said. “They could stand up from a broken home, on welfare, and they could run for president of the United States.”
Sharpton repeatedly departed from his prepared text – text that had been scrubbed by John Kerry’s staff – and the amended message resonated with the delegates who frequently interrupted his address with cheers and applause. One of many standing ovations went on for a minute after he told delegates that after the nation failed to deliver on Civil War-era promises of “40 acres and mule” to freed slaves, “we didn’t get the mule so we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.” He repeatedly slammed the Republican administration.
“Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn’t gained because of our age,” Sharpton said. “Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of (civil rights activists) Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us. This vote can’t be bargained away. This vote can’t be given away. “In all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale.”
The fact that no one has offered to buy it seems not to matter.
NYT – The Rev. Al Sharpton’s Remarks to the Democratic National Convention [RSS not available]
We are here 228 years after right here in Boston we fought to establish the freedoms of America. The first person to die in the Revolutionary War is buried not far from here, a Black man from Barbados, named Crispus Attucks. Forty years ago, in 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party stood at the Democratic convention in Atlantic City fighting to preserve voting rights for all America and all Democrats, regardless of race or gender. Hamer’s stand inspired Dr. King’s march in Selma, which brought about the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Twenty years ago, Reverend Jesse Jackson stood at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, again, appealing to the preserve those freedoms.
Tonight, we stand with those freedoms at risk and our security as citizens in question. I have come here tonight to say, that the only choice we have to preserve our freedoms at this point in history is to elect John Kerry the president of the United States.
This court has voted five to four on critical issues of women’s rights and civil rights. It is frightening to think that the gains of civil and women rights and those movements in the last century could be reversed if this administration is in the White House in these next four years.
I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in ’54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school.
This idiocy was greeted with wild cheers.
We did it with a go-it-alone foreign policy based on flawed intelligence. We were told that we were going to Iraq because there were weapons of mass destruction. We’ve lost hundreds of soldiers. We’ve spent $200 billion dollars at a time when we had record state deficits. And when it became clear that there were no weapons, they changed the premise for the war and said: No, we went because of other reasons. If I told you tonight, Let’s leave the Fleet Center, we’re in danger, and when you get outside, you ask me, Reverend Al, What is the danger? and I say, It don’t matter. We just needed some fresh air, I have misled you and we were misled.
The promise of America is one immigration policy for all who seek to enter our shores, whether they come from Mexico, Haiti or Canada, there must be one set of rules for everybody. We cannot welcome those to come and then try and act as though any culture will not be respected or treated inferior. We cannot look at the Latino community and preach one language. No one gave them an English test before they sent them to Iraq to fight for America.
We should send troops abroad unable to communicate with one another?
It, to me, is a glaring contradiction that we would fight, and rightfully so, to get the right to vote for the people in the capital of Iraq in Baghdad, but still don’t give the federal right to vote for the people in the capital of the United States, in Washington, D.C.
Rightfully so? I thought we were misled?
Mr. President, as I close, Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African- American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question. You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule. That’s where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres. We didn’t get the mule. So we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.
Again, fairly amusing. And, certainly, FDR offered some things to black Americans of the day that made voting for him logical. But then Sharpton contined:
Mr. President, you said would we have more leverage if both parties got our votes, but we didn’t come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our vote that got our vote. We got the Civil Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the Voting Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the right to organize under Democrats. Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn’t gained because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of good men (inaudible) soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us. This vote can’t be bargained away. This vote can’t be given away. Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale.
What the hell does that mean? Who is asking the vote be bargained or sold? Bush was asking that you actually think about the policy alternatives offered by both parties rather than reflexively voting for a party that has done nothing new for decades.