Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Charlie Rangel Must Go

It breaks my heart to have to type that, but Rangel has become a stultifying influence on the Democrats:

Rangel, who has represented Harlem since 1971 and is a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, is battling a crowd of younger politicians in a redrawn district that is now heavily Latino. Most political watchers still expect him to be re-elected.

Rangel's opponents in the Democratic primary include state Senator Adriano Espaillat, who has strong Latino support; Clyde Williams, who worked in the Clinton White House and got a boost when he won endorsements from the New York Times and the New York Daily News; Harlem community activist Craig Schley; and businesswoman Joyce Johnson.

Once one of the most powerful members of Congress, Rangel now walks slowly through the halls of the Capitol with a cane.

He has survived difficult times before. The U.S. House of Representatives censured him in 2010 for ethics violations, including failing to pay income taxes, and he stepped down as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means committee.

Now, I love me some Charlie Rangel. He's feisty but has a mind like a steel trap and can articulate a liberal position like few politicians before or after him. He's been one of the most important ideological figures in both New York City politics and on the national scene.

Unfortunately, it eventually went to his head. His ethical corruptions created a toxic environment not only for his authority and respectability, but it reflected in general on the Democrats. After all, if one of your oldest and longest serving statesmen has multiple apartments that he's charging to his campaign (and God knows what was going on in them) then your party is pretty much painted as corrupt and shady.

This is about the best opportunity to get rid of him. Indeed, it's such a ripe opportunity to primary him out and keep his seat that there are no less than four opponents vying for the Democratic nod. This pretty much guarantees Rangel's re-nomination despite demographic and jerrymandering changes that altered his district from predominantly black to overwhelmingly Latino. It's a five way race, which means it will come down to commitment from the candidate's base, something Rangel has in spades.