The leading Democrats of New York State paid homage to a defiant Rep. Charles Rangel last night at a lavish birthday celebration. Rev. Sharpton denounced an attempted "crucifixion" of the embattled congressman, while former mayor Dinkins gave the finger to a heckler who called the octogenarian birthday boy a "crook." The lame duck governor and both U. S. Senators, both to face the voters in November, attended on the veteran legislator in a Republican dream of guilt-by-association come true.
So why did the Democrats do it? To an extent, it may have been a matter of necessity. Many of Rangel's constituents are understandably highly sensitive about presuming accused people innocent until they're proven guilty. They might well resent any statewide candidate like the two Senators or Attorney General Cuomo acting as if they assumed Rangel guilty of the charges made against him. Their apathy might cost a statewide Democrat an election in this difficult year. On this understanding, attending the party was less a matter of regard for Rangel than of maintaining the base when few votes can be taken for granted.
On the other hand, partying with Rangel may prove that Democrats do take many votes for granted. At this point in the polarization of the electorate, it may be assumed that Rangel's troubles are unlikely to drive anyone from the Democratic to the Republican side, or that those expressing the most outrage at Rangel are Republicans already. If a person votes Democratic, they may be presumed so fearful of the Republicans, or so hateful toward conservative ideology, that no Democratic enormity could make them switch parties. That would make sense. It would not make sense for someone to suddenly start voting for a party and ideology they find abhorrent simply because of corruption within a more congenial party. What would make sense would be for liberals and progressives and all opponents to the Republican party to dissociate themselves from a Democratic party too often identified with corruptions or allegations of corruption and form a new party dedicated to progressive principles and ethical government. As long as liberals, progressives, etc. are unwilling or simply afraid to do this, the Democratic party will take their votes for granted and abuse their trust with impunity.