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Religion and Politics in the United States

Al Sharpton’s 2004 Presidential Campaign: Has the Reverend Lost the Faith?

Le révérend aurait-il perdu la foi ? La candidature d’Al Sharpton aux élections présidentielles américaines de 2004
Anne Urbanowski
p. 119-140

Résumé

Cet article se propose d’étudier la tactique électorale mise en place par Al Sharpton au cours de la campagne pour les élections présidentielles de 2004 aux États-Unis. Cette tactique dite de « déracialisation » l’a conduit à minimiser l’aspect religieux de sa candidature dans un contexte où précisément, les électeurs souhaitaient entendre davantage les candidats expliquer leurs rapports au religieux. Loin de lui faire gagner les voix espérées, ce choix lui a aliéné une partie de l’électorat noir, sans pour autant lui attirer d’autres électeurs.

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Texte intégral

1Whatever the election, the candidacy of a Protestant minister never fails to raise specific and intriguing questions as to the relationships between church and politics, religion and secular office-holding. In the 2004 U.S. presidential election and in a particularly tense atmosphere where Christian beliefs were regularly summoned to foster support for both domestic and foreign policies, these questions became even more acute with the presidential bid of the Reverend Al Sharpton. Although from the start political pundits assumed he had no real chance of winning the Democratic nomination, he was at least expected to raise some of the questions regarding the influence of religion in politics in general and in running for office in particular. Yet as the campaign proceeded, the distinctly religious character of Al Sharpton’s candidacy failed to materialize and neither the candidate himself nor the way he conducted his campaign seemed at first to tap into the potential resources that American believers could represent as a voting force nationwide. Assessed from a general perspective, therefore, Al Sharpton’s campaign relied little on the candidate’s specific background, and the Reverend himself referred to his faith even less frequently than the other candidates. Such an attitude may then appear at odds with a political context fraught with references to America’s god-ordained mission, conducting abroad, and at home, a righteous battle in accordance with her providential design.

2This article will analyze Al Sharpton’s campaign and how he modified his electoral strategy as it drew to a close; we will argue that the deliberate political tactics of downplaying the candidate’s religious specificities represented a new expression of the political strategy of deracialization in order to build an electoral base cutting across race, ethnic, class and denominational lines. This strategy led him to dismiss religion and faith altogether, mainly for fear that, as a black Reverend, this aspect of his personality would associate him too closely with the black community and restrict his appeal among white voters. In resorting to such a strategy Al Sharpton failed to realize where his political assets truly lay and in so doing alienated both those who could have constituted his core constituency, that is African-Americans, and the more and more numerous voters for whom faith played a prominent role in picking a candidate.

The importance of religion in the 2004 presidential campaign

  • 1  Andrew Manis, “A Certain Presidency”, Religion in the News,Winter 2005, vol. 7, n° 3, <http://www.trincoll.edu>.
  • 2  For the concept of civil religion see Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America”, Daedalus, vol (...)
  • 3  Jim Vandehei, “A Spiritual Struggle for Democrats”, The Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2003, A.01.

3In 2005, Andrew Manis, analyzing the frequency and meaning of President Bush’s references to his faith and his repeated quotations from the Scriptures, assessed that religion was “the October surprise of the 2004 election”.1 In fact, throughout the campaign polls had regularly revealed that in a nation where politics have always been part of a “civil religion”, religion and religious beliefs were among the prominent issues voters wanted the various contenders to address.2 For example in June 2003 a study conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 41% of the respondents considered there had been “too little reference to religious faith and prayer by politicians” while only half as many thought there had been “too much”. When asked whether President Bush mentioned faith too often, nearly two-thirds of the respondents thought that, on the contrary, he was “striking the right balance”.3

  • 4 Mark O’Keefe, “Can Democrats Overcome the Bush Advantage on Religion?” The Pew Forum on Religion an (...)
  • 5   Idem.
  • 6  David D. Kirkpatrick, “Black Pastors Backing Bush Are Rarities, but Not Alone”, The New York Times(...)
  • 7  Jim Dwyer & Jodi Wilgoren, “Gore and Kerry Unite in Search for Black Votes”, The New York Times, O (...)

4Far from being bothered by the President’s constant references to his spiritual healing from alcoholism through born-again evangelicalism, his quoting of Jesus as his “favorite philosopher” and his speeches peppered with Old and New Testament references, many American voters seemed all the more eager to know more about the other candidates’ spiritual convictions. By 2003 this had become, along with party affiliation, one of the prominent factors voters chose to consider when selecting a particular candidate. Indeed, studies revealed that 70 % of American Democrats and 80% of Republicans expressed strong religious feelings and polls conducted by Gallup at the end of the year showed that religion was “very” or “extremely” important to the voting decisions of one American out of three.4 By early 2004, it was quite apparent that among religious voters President Bush enjoyed a definite advantage over all his potential Democratic rivals.5 More surprisingly the incumbent President’s religiosity was even making him more popular within the African-American community, and more particularly among African-American clergy. More and more black ministers affirmed that they were drawn to the President by his deep personal faith and above all by his firm positions on both gay marriage and abortion.6 As he understood that some Republican stances might have a significant appeal among the more conservative segments of the black community, Bush campaigned more extensively in black churches over the course of 2004. David Bositis, from the Joint Center for Political and Economic studies, gauged that part of Bush’s growing popularity among Blacks had to do with his “overtly Southern religious personality”, a reminder of two other southern presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who drew their popularity among African-Americans from their frequent references to their faith.7

  • 8  JohnGreen & Mark Silk, “The New Religion Gap”, Religion and the News, (special supplement: Religio (...)
  • 9 M. O’Keefe, “Can Democrats Overcome the Bush Advantage on Religion?”, op. cit..
  • 10  J. Vandehei, “A Spiritual Struggle for Democrats,” op. cit.; J. Dwyer & J. Wilgoren, “Gore and Ker (...)

5Soon, then, the different candidates for the Democratic nomination understood the need to talk more about their faith in order to bridge what many analysts perceived as a growing religious gap.8 For instance, in December 2003, Howard Dean decided to open a campaign rally with a minister’s prayer and, on the same day, he pointed out that “spiritual values [were] really important” and that he thought that was what this election was really about.9 Even Catholic candidate John Kerry, who had initially declared that President Bush sometimes mixed too much of his religion into his administration’s policies, could be seen reciting “Amazing Grace” in black churches throughout the South in September 2004, urging for example the congregants in Fort Lauderdale to “vote [their] climbing of a mountain”.10

6In the 2004 presidential campaign a significant proportion of the American electorate was therefore expecting the various Democratic contenders to elaborate on their religious beliefs, yet the majority of the candidates, to begin with, paid hardly more than lip service to the cause. Voters, therefore, might have expected the only truly religious figure in the race to take advantage of his distinctive background and to appeal to their Christian beliefs.

Al Sharpton’s early career

  • 11  Michael Klein, The Man Behind the Sound Bite. The Real Story of the Reverend Al Sharpton, New York (...)
  • 12 At a local level first, Al Sharpton organized his high school-friends to protest against the segreg (...)

7Born in Brooklyn, New York, the Reverend Al Sharpton is said to have started preaching at the Washington Temple Church of God in Christ at the uncommonly young age of four, and was subsequently ordained a Pentecostal minister when he was 9 years old.11 From then on his reputation as the “wonder boy preacher” grew and around twelve he became quite close to another prominent black religious figure and politician, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. The now Reverend Sharpton started preaching on a regular basis, first in the black churches of New York City and then throughout the entire state. At fourteen, Al Sharpton met Jesse Jackson and, as a result, was appointed New York City youth director of Operation Breadbasket, a division of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), whose aim was to get local companies to hire African-Americans. From then on began what could be regarded as his second career, his second calling: Al Sharpton then became more and more committed to politics and activism, both locally and nationally.12

  • 13 M. Klein, The Man Behind the Sound Bite, op. cit., 67-78.
  • 14 Ibid., 78.

8During his high school-years, Sharpton’s religious calling still played an important role in his life. While still preaching across the region, he was a regular orator at Reverend William Augustus Jones’s Bethany Baptist church in New York which, at that time, accommodated Operation Breadbasket; the church thus allowed him to persuade new members to add their strength to their various operations on the New York City streets. Sharpton the preacher and Sharpton the activist seemed to become, at that time, the two inseparable facets of the same persona.13 In the course of these formative years the Reverend learned how to picket, mobilize and garner support for various causes from within the black church. For Al Sharpton, the church, from very early on, has not only been the formal context in which he developed his knowledge and skills as a preacher and minister. The black church has also been the very locus where he learned his activist skills, in which he met the very people, especially Reverend Jones and Jesse Jackson, who have guided him towards what Michael Klein calls in his biography “an active/activist theology”.14 From the late 1960s onwards he therefore became increasingly committed to political activism, repeatedly denouncing racial violence and police brutality. Subsequently Sharpton’s activism turned increasingly political as he engaged in direct confrontations with New York Governor Mario Cuomo over black representation in New York’s various civil service jobs.

  • 15  James Barron, “Black Official Faults Tactics of Sharpton”, The New York Times, March 2, 1988; Robe (...)
  • 16 Al Sharpton, Al on America, New York: Kensington Publishing Co., 2002, 229-240.

9In the 1980s, Al Sharpton’s national popularity grew as he became the major voice denouncing racial oppression and police brutality in the state of New York. Throughout the entire decade the preacher gave way to the civil rights activist (or the rabble rouser for some), as he led many demonstrations and marches against racial violence. Most prominent and controversial of these cases was the Tawana Brawley “incident” in which a 13-year-old black girl accused several police officers and an assistant district attorney of having abducted, abused and raped her and of having left her covered with dog excrement in a garbage bin. The case, which was later denounced as a hoax, both by the national media and a special prosecutor’s report,15 had the dual effect of bringing national fame to Al Sharpton while irrevocably impairing his credibility as a civil rights activist and political leader (despite his claim to the contrary).16

  • 17  He ran in 1992 and again in 1994 against powerful incumbent senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, reapi (...)
  • 18 Al Sharpton & Anthony Walton, Go and Tell the Pharaoh. The Autobiography of the Reverend Al Sharpto (...)

10In spite of the ups and downs of the Reverend’s career as a civil rights “agitator”, his desire to engage in a political career remained strong and in the 1990s he ran twice for the United States Senate in the New York primaries.17 In 1997 he ran for New York mayor, gaining 32% of the vote in the New York Democratic primary. As the 1990s drew to a close, the self-styled preacher turned minister turned activist had become a full-time, year-round politician. Yet Al Sharpton still claimed he had not forgotten his spiritual mission as he continued to preach regularly in New York and elsewhere in the country.18

The 2004 Presidential Campaign

11In 2003, on the verge of turning 50, the wonder boy preacher made a decisive and giant step: he decided to run for President of the United States. The bid, which for his critics was nothing more than the ludicrous expression of an oversized ego, was after all the logical and natural outcome of Sharpton’s long-lasting objectives. In his view, his long experience as a black organizer and his strong connections to the black church both legitimated his claim to be one of the most prominent leaders of the black community. In short he felt he was the new Jesse Jackson.

  • 19 A. Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit.,225, 231, 243, 246, 247, 262.
  • 20 A. Sharpton & A. Walton, Go and Tell the Pharaoh, op. cit.,3.

12From the start Al Sharpton took care to frame his campaign for the Democratic nomination from within the great and memorable tradition of the civil rights era, as he was undoubtedly aware of the legitimacy that such an association might bestow upon his bid. This strategy also allowed him to become identified with the prominent religious leaders of the era, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Jesse Jackson. Significantly, the first chapter of his book Al on America (very appropriately entitled “the movement”) was devoted to his activities as a civil rights activist in New York in the 1980s, and he drew several comparisons between his own actions and Dr King’s as well as with the whole movement.19 The reader therefore could not but associate the two figures: two black ministers who, guided by their “spiritual concerns”, committed their lives to the fight for justice.20

13In this perspective, when Reverend Al Sharpton entered the race for the Democratic nomination he appeared as a civil rights activist and black leader, and was therefore expected to follow the example of his predecessors and make abundant references to his religious commitment. In this way, the other candidates would appear to be, if not lacking in religious commitment, at least reluctant to discuss their spirituality publicly.

14The campaign and the platform: what happened to the wonder boy preacher?

  • 21  “Go down Moses, Down to Egyptland, Go and Tell Pharaoh, Let my people go”. 
  • 22  Emphasis added.
  • 23 A. Sharpton & A. Walton, Go and Tell the Pharaoh, op. cit.,3-4.

15In 1996, following his two failed Senate bids and just before running for the New York mayoralty, Al Sharpton’s autobiography was published. From the title to the back cover, the book was clearly designed as the narrative of the life of a religious man guided by his spiritual commitment and the urge to abide by his creator’s commandments. The title, Go and tell Pharaoh, is taken from one of the most famous spirituals, Go Down Moses, whose first lines constitute the epigraph of the book.21 The subtitle reminds the reader that this is the “autobiography of the Reverend Al Sharpton”.22 On the back cover, a photograph of Sharpton preaching at a relatively young age is a reminder of the Reverend’s early debut. The quote below the picture points out the religious calling and spiritual concerns of the author: “Everything I’ve tried to do has been a Christian walk, an effort to live the gospel, to live the sermons I preached when I was young, to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the afflicted.”23 The biography then is that of a preacher, a Reverend, who is careful to inform his readers, from the outset, that his activities have always been driven “by spiritual concerns”, that everything he has done has been motivated by being a Christian.

  • 24 33 references to his preaching and, more generally, 41 direct (i.e. quotes) and indirect references (...)

16The book, therefore, is an account of the Reverend’s journey from his early preaching years, to his incipient national political career all through the tumultuous 1980s. What is particular and noticeable, however, is that the reader is never allowed to forget that Al Sharpton’s early life and training took place within the black church, that his first efforts at civil rights mobilization occurred within the black church, and that his first encounters with the world of politics occurred through the mediation of religious leaders. The emphasis is therefore consistently put either on Sharpton’s own background as a preacher, his own religiosity (as evidenced through quotes from Scripture and more general references to God) or on the black church (for instance his connections and work with other preachers). And this aspect is perfectly illustrated through the seventy references that can be found to either preaching or the Bible in the 270 pages of the book.24

17When Sharpton entered the race for the Democratic nomination in April 2003, he appeared therefore as the only religious leader among the various Democratic contenders. At a time when the Republican administration seemed to handle every single issue, whether in domestic or foreign policy, through the prism of religious conservatism, many potential voters could have expected Al Sharpton’s campaign to have addressed this issue and explained how his own Christian background and spiritual concerns would lead him to better understand specific social problems and find adequate solutions. Doing so, he might have significantly enlarged his political base, reaching out to some of the most religious voters whose number and political weight had been consistently growing over the years.

18However when one turns to the Reverend’s platform, based on his book, Al on America, published in October 2002, and the various speeches and interviews he gave throughout the period, the religious references are blatantly missing. Al on America opens with a brief introduction explaining why Al Sharpton believes he is legitimate in running for President. Then the first section is devoted to foreign policy, the second to domestic issues and the final part deals with his personal journey through activism and politics. While his autobiography constantly emphasized his religious training, his beliefs as a “Christian activist”, mentioning God and the Scriptures repeatedly, Al on America hardly broaches the subject. Out of a total of 272 pages, only twelve references (as opposed to 70 in his autobiography) to either God or his personal faith can be found, and these include seven biblical allusions or quotations.

  • 25 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit.,89.
  • 26 Ibid., 87.
  • 27  “I believe in an America that is neither Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, where no public official ei (...)

19Chapter seven clearly epitomizes the secular nature of the book. It is devoted to “Church and State” and the reader could have expected, if not a lengthy and detailed analysis of the relationships between church and state in the United States, at least a clearelucidationof what would be the candidate’s likely stand, as a black minister, should he be elected.  Unfortunately, these hopes are soon dashed for the chapter is only two-and-a-half-pages long. One paragraph describes the Reverend’s position on school prayer: not surprisingly we learn that he is against a ban and thinks a moment of silence should be allowed each morning for the children either “to say a silent prayer, to meditate, or do nothing”.25 A single statement is devoted to the expected analysis of the complex relationships between church and state: “My personal view will not […] keep me from being an effective national or world leader. I believe in our current system, and keeping church and state separate is certainly something I support and will live out.”26 Apart from echoing John F. Kennedy’s remarks on the potential chasm between his Catholicism and the interest of America, the statement does not delve into the complexities of the relationships between church and state in the U.S., between politicians and their religious beliefs and how the latter may specifically affect the decision-making process.27

  • 28  For example they tend to favour welfare spending and redistributive policies more than Whites. For (...)
  • 29  Religious orthodoxy is measured for example by the belief in biblical inerrancy.  Two national stu (...)
  • 30  In February 2004 a coalition of black clergy organizations issued a joint statement against gay ma (...)
  • 31  Dr. Samuel of Atlanta’s Victory Church stated that he lost approximately one fifth of his mostly b (...)

20In this chapter, however, the Reverend reveals his support for both abortion and gay rights, one of the aspects of the candidate’s platform which undermined his appeal to black voters. According to many recent polls, the vast majority of African-Americans are opposed to both gay marriage and abortion. Indeed, one of the specificities of the black community is that it tends to be liberal on political and economic issues and conservative on social issues. This general trend in African-Americans’ positions and attitudes has been identified as a direct effect of their still prominent religiosity.28 The questions of homosexuality and gay rights have been particularly prominent within the black community and the black church in recent years, and most particularly during the 2004 presidential campaign. Black parishioners have, for the most part, expressed their rejection of homosexuality and their opposition to same-sex marriage, and, contrary to white congregants, studies have shown that this opposition remains high regardless of religious orthodoxy.29  For instance prominent bishops from both the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Church of God in Christ, two historically black denominations, joined a multiethnic coalition that oversaw the drafting of the text for the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage before it was submitted to Congress.30 And a black minister from Atlanta who decided to oppose the administration’s efforts to ban same sex marriage admitted that a significant proportion of his parishioners left his church altogether as a result of such positions.31

  • 32 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 88. MoveOn.org On the Issues interview June 17, 2003.
  • 33 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 89. In 2003 he made his positions even clearer in a speech del (...)

21None of this, however, seemed to have any direct influence on Al Sharpton’s platform. Indeed the Reverend was openly in favor of gay rights including the right to adopt.32 Similarly he was in favor of abortion: although he acknowledged that “[his] religion [said] that abortion [was] wrong” and that “only God should decide whether to take a life” he remained firm in his position: “I will not stand in the way of a women’s right to choose. If women do not have the right to choose, then it’s a civil rights violation”.33 Apart from on these two specific issues one can hardly find in either his platform or the rest of the campaign, in speeches and interviews, other precise references to religion in general or to his personal convictions and how they might influence his political actions.

  • 34  For Bush’s numerous references to God see, for example, David Corn, “Bush: It’s About Me and My Cr (...)
  • 35  PBS Online NewsHour, op. cit., MoveOn.org On the Issues interview, op. cit.. A. Sharpton, Al on Am (...)

22Unlike President Bush who in his speeches repeatedly linked his faith to his political actions, Al Sharpton rarely called on God in his public utterances and interviews during the first part of the 2004 campaign. He very rarely explained how his religious beliefs might guide his actions or how his personal faith might influence his positions on particular issues.34 On the contrary, the candidate seemed much more determined to emphasize his stand regarding the administration’s foreign and domestic policy.35

  • 36 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 7.
  • 37  CNN.com Specials, 2004, op. cit..
  • 38  Michael Slackman, “Jackson’s Neutrality Hindering Sharpton’s Campaign”, The New York Times, Octobe (...)

23From the Reverend’s own rhetoric, then, it appears that at the beginning of his campaign Al Sharpton chose not appeal exclusively to the black community. Instead, he tried to reach out to poor Americans in general, to the underprivileged, the uneducated, the outcasts, as well as to the large American lower-middle class, in sum to all those who felt neglected and ignored by the Bush administration. What he was definitely trying to build was a broad-based coalition cutting across racial and class lines. In the opening pages of Al on America, he introduced himself as the “people’s candidate”, the one who would “put the issues concerning most Americans onto the front burner”.36 In January 2003, he told CNN reporter Bob Novak: “I’m not running an African-American campaign. […] We’re running a broad-based campaign that includes African-Americans and Latinos, and gays and lesbians, and laborers and others”.37 His prominent aim was to grant basic constitutional rights to all Americans: the right to vote, to get access to health care, to quality education. “But the only way we can win this election is if we bring in the majority of Americans that are not even voting at all. I know those Americans. I’ve worked with them all my life; the disaffected, the seniors, the young people, the hip hop generation”.  He even refused to label himself “a black leader”, arguing that it was nothing more that the mainstream media’s stereotypical vision of black politicians.38

24The fact that Al Sharpton consistently declined to claim his bond to the black community, a bond which had been constructed over the years in relation with the black church, led him to systematically de-emphasize the distinctive religious character of his candidacy. Since he did not want to be identified as a black leader, he did not want to be regarded as a black religious leader either. This turned out to be all the more damaging to him, given the specificity of the American political context at that time and the growing proportion of voters who were demanding that, on the contrary, the different presidential contenders refer more to their faith and to religion in general.

  • 39  Joseph McCormick & Charles E. Jones, “The Conceptualization of Deracialization: Thinking Through t (...)
  • 40 Ibid.
  • 41 Ibid., 72.
  • 42 He made no appeal to “race issues” choosing instead to call for a conservative fiscal policy while (...)
  • 43  Paula McClain & Steven C. Taubert, “An African-American Presidential Candidate: The Failed Preside (...)

25The most potent explanation to the Reverend’s attitude is that, at the beginning of the campaign, he was applying what political scientist Charles V. Hamilton defined as a “deracialization strategy”.39  For an African-American politician such a strategy may be defined as emphasizing “those issues that would appeal to broad segments of the electorate across racial lines, such as, for example, national health insurance and an income-maintenance program”.40 While Hamilton initially devised the concept of deracialization to characterize a political party in 1977, as the American political context changed, it came to be applied to politicians themselves and to their electoral strategy. In the pursuit of “crossover politics”, the aim, for black politicians, has been to gain ground, to appeal to a larger segment of the American electorate than their core constituency, the black community. For Joseph McCormick, therefore, it entailed deemphasizing “those issues that may be viewed in explicitly racial terms […] while emphasizing those issues that appear to transcend the racial question”.41 For many political analysts Douglas Wilder seemed to epitomize that notion of across-over black politician. In 1989 he was the first African-American to be elected governor of an American state, having been able to build a broad-based bi-racial constituency in Virginia by positioning himself as a centrist.42 Without specifically referring to his race and appealing to black voters, and at the same time focusing on issues that would attract both black and white voters, Wilder was successful in reaching out to a majority of Virginians, black and white alike.43

  • 44  4president.org, Al Sharpton, “Keep the Dream alive: Don’t Waste Your Vote,“  <http://.4president.o (...)
  • 45 Ibid.When asked about gay marriage he declared that that it was a question of “human right”, that g (...)

26Al Sharpton resorted to the very same strategy when, for example, he declared that his core base was America, nothing less. He was not running to represent black people only, but “to make sure that ALL the voices in our Democracy [we]re heard loud and clear”.44 In addition he claimed he was not fighting for a black /white equality of rights but he insisted that he was running to make the right to vote a human right, education a human right, health care a human right (all phrases written in capital letters in the platform).45

  • 46 Atiya KaiStokes, “Candidate Race, White Crossover Voting, and Issue Strategy in State Legislative E (...)
  • 47  MoveOn.org On the Issues interview, op cit..
  • 48 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 109, emphasis added.
  • 49 Ibid., 106-107.
  • 50  Ibid., 176.
  • 51  “The Democrats won’t take a strong stand on Affirmative Action,” A. Sharpton, Al on America, op. c (...)
  • 52  PBS Online Newshour, op. cit..
  • 53  MoveOn.org On the Issues interview, op cit.. Progressivism has been identified as a significant as (...)

27 Another element of the deracialization electoral strategy is to focus on economic issues which, according to various polls and research, enhance the “seriousness” of the candidate, and, along with social welfare issues, increase the possibility of crossover voting.46 Al Sharpton was therefore careful to stress the fact that all Americans should be able to benefit from the prosperity of their country, especially the middle class; should he be elected he promised to repeal “Bush tax cuts, since they mostly benefit the rich”.47 A large scale-reform of the tax structure was for that reason urgently needed so that it would be “fair to everyone”.48  Similarly he strongly criticized the government which only “serve[d] the rich and ha[d] become an agent of the wealthy” while abusing “the common worker”.49 Whether in his platform, in his book or in the interviews Al Sharpton gave at the beginning of the campaign, one can hardly find references to race-specific issues. For instance, in Al on America, Affirmative Action is only mentioned once.50 There is no detailed analysis on how this complex set of policies, rules and regulations works, or does not work, which is all the more surprising since the book was published during the debate about the Affirmative Action admissions procedures of the University of Michigan. In Al on America, Affirmative Action is mentioned only as part of a critique of the Democratic Party.51 This is another aspect of Sharpton’s deracialized electoral strategy. Rather than associating himself closely with the larger Democratic Party, which has attracted the votes of approximately 90% of African-Americans in presidential elections ever since the 1930’s, the Reverend questioned and criticized this seemingly natural alliance. For him the Democratic Party had moved too far to the right: it had become “pro-big business, pro-death penalty, pro-deregulation of big business, pro-NAFTA, pro-GATT”, to sum up, they were “elephants in donkey’s clothes”.52 In keeping with this left-wing, progressive appeal, he also emphasized that his campaign was for “those of us that feel that segments of the party have turned on labor and turned on minorities and turned on women”.53 He was to become the candidate of the poor, of the downtrodden, of all those American voters who felt neglected by both parties. He was running, not only to defend the rights of African-Americans, but to vindicate those of all the other Americans, of all the voters who felt ignored by the other candidates.

  • 54  E. L. McDaniel, “The Black Church in the 2004 Election”, op. cit.. Christopher Lisotta, “Homophobi (...)

28By selecting broad economic and political issues and framing most social issues in terms of human rights and a struggle for the poor, Al Sharpton obviously chose to deemphasize race-specific issues. At the beginning of the campaign he even tried to deliberately distance himself from the black community as he contradicted some of its traditional positions. By defending both gay marriage and abortion he directly confronted the beliefs and religious values of many African-Americans, thus alienating many black voters.54 And this may have constituted Al Sharpton’s greatest political mistake. By deliberately refusing, at the beginning of the campaign, to be considered as a black leader and by enhancing positions which stood in stark contrast to the beliefs of many black voters, he also refrained from putting forward his own religious background mainly because that particular aspect of his candidacy could have, in the eyes of most white voters, associated him even more tightly with the black community. In other words, in applying the deracialization strategy the Reverend dismissed religion altogether because that was precisely what could have made him a black leader.  

29Al Sharpton’s political mistake was twofold therefore. His bid failed to reach out to the numerous voters, black and white, who were eager to hear more about religious commitment and faith from the various candidates. Secondly, his positions on a certain number of issues opened a rift between the candidate and the black community and more specifically the black church. In order to gain some of the national standing (and national electoral base) he was lacking, he refused to tap the very resources that could have brought him some of that national prominence.

  • 55  C. Eric Lincoln & Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African-American Experience, Durham: (...)
  • 56  38% of African-Americans compared to 35% of Whites and 16% of Latinos hear political messages at t (...)
  • 57  E. L. McDaniel, “The Black Church in the 2004 Election”, op. cit., 19-20.
  • 58 Paul Fahri & Vanessa Williams, “Politics and Pulpits Combine to Sway Swing-State Votes”, The Washin (...)

30Historically the black church has played a significant role in providing the black community with some of the social and educational structures which were not available in the larger society, including the mobilization and organizational skills they would need should they engage in any political process.55 Nowadays African-Americans are more likely to hear political messages at their place of worship than Whites and Latinos and are more exposed than Whites to church-based political activism.56 Although some researchers have argued that in 2004 and 2005 it was not frequent for pastors to tell their congregations whom to vote for,57 it has not been uncommon for black preachers to indicate their political preferences, sometimes using veiled language, sometimes through a direct play on words. For example, in October 2004, Bishop Ernest C. Morris told his Philadelphia black congregation: “I cannot tell you who to vote for, but I can tell you that my mama always told me, ‘Stay out of the bushes’”.58

  • 59 P. McClain & S. C. Taubert., “An African-American Presidential Candidate: The Failed Presidential C (...)

31Determined as he was to appeal to as many American voters as possible and to focus on a left-wing economic agenda, the Reverend Sharpton deliberately refrained from grounding his appeal expressly on his Christian beliefs, from seeking support from the black church, and thus deprived his campaign of the necessary basic strength it would have needed to create an early and effective mobilization among African-Americans. Rather like Douglas Wilder who, in his 1992 presidential bid did not appeal to the Jackson constituency, thinking it was naturally his,59 Al Sharpton also seemed to have assumed from the start that black congregants were his natural followers and that he did not need to explicitly tread such a path in order to mobilize his flock.

  • 60 Ibid., 301-302.
  • 61  MichaelSlackman, “Sharpton’s Primary Showing May Cut his Role Back Home”, The New York Times, Febr (...)

32The parallel with Douglas Wilder is all the more relevant since in 1992 and 2004 a significant shift occurred as both candidates saw their support falter and both tried to compensate by gradually abandoning their deracialized political strategy. In the case of Douglas Wilder, as he realized he could not, at a national level, build the bi-racial coalition that had led to his success in Virginia, he increasingly turned to more racially- oriented themes, denouncing the racism of the administration  and the odious use of racial stereotypes by the incumbent President.60 A similar shift in Al Sharpton’s campaign was undeniably triggered by his poor performance in the various Democratic primaries. Al Sharpton’s campaign, indeed, did not go as expected and by early February 2004, it became evident that his initial aim of obtaining political leverage through a significant number of delegates by Super Tuesday had to be redirected. His subsequent endeavor to reap the black vote in the South Carolina primary, also turned out to be a complete failure. The Reverend went to South Carolina convinced he could win delegates and, at the same time, grasp the opportunity to demonstrate his strong support among black voters, but the results proved him wrong on both counts. In a state with a large black population (28.5%) and where at least half of the registered Democratic voters are black, Al Sharpton failed to win a single delegate, getting just under 10% of the vote; what’s more he received only 17% of the black vote statewide, as opposed to 32% for John Kerry and 36% for John Edwards.61

  • 62  For example, Clarence Page, “What a Friend Bush has in the Rev. Al Sharpton”, The Chicago Tribune, (...)
  • 63  Al Sharpton finished fourth in the Michigan’s Democratic caucuses and came second in two black dis (...)
  • 64 Jonathan P. Hicks, “Sharpton Returns With a Few Good Jabs, but Very Few Delegates”, The New York Ti (...)
  • 65  Michael Slackman, “Sharpton Makes His Stand To Win Voice at the Convention”, The New York Times, F (...)
  • 66  While campaigning in South Carolina he again explained how free trade-agreements did not guarantee (...)
  • 67  Kristen Scharnberg, “Sharpton Resounds in the ‘Amen’ Corner”, The Chicago Tribune, February 2, 200 (...)
  • 68 Michael Slackman, “Al Sharpton, Hurrying To and Fro on the Day Before Voting in 7 States Across the (...)
  • 69  JoAnn Wypijewki “Black and Bruised”, The New York Times, Feb., 1, 2004.

33Although he claimed South Carolina was not a fatal blow (as some observers reported62) his campaign took a decisive turn after that. From that primary onwards the Reverend decided to increasingly stress issues that were directly connected to the needs and concerns of the black community. He was the only candidate to campaign extensively in Detroit’s black neighborhoods, speaking for instance, in the city’s largest black Baptist church.63 He then turned to the New York primary with the same strategy, campaigning in Harlem, Central Brooklyn and southeast Queens, again speaking in churches, before he visited Buffalo’s black east side. Each time his statements made it clear he was determined to attract a large share of the vote of both Blacks and Latinos.64 No longer rejecting the label of black leader Al Sharpton began to rely more and more extensively on the legacy of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Jesse Jackson.65 The themes he chose to focus on also gradually shifted to more racially-oriented issues.66 In February 2004 he stressed the fact that he was strongly in favor of Affirmative Action.67 In the same way, he went on using the argument of leverage politics, but now he specified that the more delegates he got, the more capable he would be to force the Democratic party to consider issues important to Blacks.68 The most important aspect of this new strategy was that the Reverend reorganized his whole campaign and relied more onblack churches, in the South and in the North, as if he realized he needed to turn to his core constituency of black voters.69

Conclusion

  • 70  J. McCormick & C. E. Jones, “The Conceptualization of Deracialization: Thinking Through the Dilemm (...)

34The political style, the mobilization tactics, and the issues stressed by the candidate all support the viewthat Al Sharpton deliberately chose to adopt the political strategy of deracialization.70This, contrary to what he had done prior to the 2004 presidential campaign, led him to de-emphasize his own faith and spiritual convictions. While the incumbent President, and later the other contenders, had realized it was necessary for them to appeal to the ever-growing segment of religious voters, Al Sharpton failed to stress this decisive component in his own candidacy. In other words, the deracialization strategy led him to make two successive political errors. By not appealing first and foremost to his own constituency of black voters, he deprived himself of some of the core support he so badly needed in the early stages of the race, and thus prevented himself from opening the way for a larger appeal within and beyond the black community. The second error was that, in applying the deracialization strategy he abandoned any kind of religious discourse, the very spiritual references and hints that could have helped him reach out to some white voters. The results of these deliberate choices were blatantly revealed at the polls throughout the country. As the campaign proceeded, Al Sharpton failed to gain any kind of support, whether black or white.

  • 71  This is one of the aims of the deracialization strategy. Katherine Tate, “African-American Female (...)

35The initial deracialized strategy may well be explained by a deliberate attempt to defuse the potentially polarizing effect of the race factor in a national campaign,71 especially as Al Sharpton appeared as a controversial figure because of his past history as a civil rights activist/agitator. His choice not to emphasize his vocation as a black preacher was undoubtedly a similar tactic. In trying to play down his connections with the black church he was trying to have his past as a “Christian activist” recede into the background. The deleterious impact of this move was that he was toning down the very components of both his personality and background which might have allowed him to appeal to more voters, those eager to hear all candidates’ views on faith.

  • 72  Many other factors had, from the very start, contributed to his poor showings in the polls and pol (...)

36As the campaign unfolded, and successes at the polls were few, Al Sharpton decided he could be more effective if he turned to his calling again, going back to black churches to garner support within and from the black community. The itinerant black preacher was back, urging congregants to hear God’s guidance in casting their ballot. The expression of personal faith now became central to the Reverend’s new electoral strategy, but this shift in electoral tactics came too late in a campaign whose stakes seemed in any case much too high for Al Sharpton to make any significant difference72.

37In the 2004 Democratic Party primaries, religion was somehow lost along the way. As Democratic candidates refrained from invoking their religious beliefs during most of the campaign, religion became the exclusive theme of the incumbent President, thereby alienating some voters, including African-Americans, from the Democratic Party. By choosing to apply the deracialization strategy, the Reverend Al Sharpton made the same mistake. He may not have lost his faith, but by deliberately seeking to downplay it for most of the campaign, he abandoned an aspect of his candidacy which could have been his strongest asset. This, of course, does not mean he had any real chance of winning the Democratic nomination. However, the circumstances seemed highly favorable for a black minister to reach out to the growing proportion of Americans who consider spiritual values as a measure of political morality, and as a promise of ability and trustworthiness.

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Bibliographie

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Notes

1  Andrew Manis, “A Certain Presidency”, Religion in the News,Winter 2005, vol. 7, n° 3, <http://www.trincoll.edu>.

2  For the concept of civil religion see Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America”, Daedalus, vol. 134, n° 4, fall 2005 [1967], 40-56.

3  Jim Vandehei, “A Spiritual Struggle for Democrats”, The Washington Post, Nov. 27, 2003, A.01.

4 Mark O’Keefe, “Can Democrats Overcome the Bush Advantage on Religion?” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Jan. 7, 2004, <http://pewforum.org/news>.

5   Idem.

6  David D. Kirkpatrick, “Black Pastors Backing Bush Are Rarities, but Not Alone”, The New York Times, Oct. 5, 2004.

7  Jim Dwyer & Jodi Wilgoren, “Gore and Kerry Unite in Search for Black Votes”, The New York Times, Oct. 25, 2004, A17. Frederick C. Harris, “African-American Protestants”, Religion in the News, vol. 6, n° 3, Spring 2003, <http://www.trincoll.edu>. Bush’s attempt to reach out to the black community turned out to be effective since he garnered 11% of the black vote in 2004 (as opposed to 8% in 2000), one of the largest proportions ever for a Republican president.

8  JohnGreen & Mark Silk, “The New Religion Gap”, Religion and the News, (special supplement: Religion and the 2004 Election) Fall 2003, <http://www.trincoll.edu>.

9 M. O’Keefe, “Can Democrats Overcome the Bush Advantage on Religion?”, op. cit..

10  J. Vandehei, “A Spiritual Struggle for Democrats,” op. cit.; J. Dwyer & J. Wilgoren, “Gore and Kerry Unite in Search for Black Votes”? op. cit.; Kristen Scharnberg, “Sharpton Resounds in the ‘Amen’ Corner”, The Chicago Tribune, February 2, 2004.

11  Michael Klein, The Man Behind the Sound Bite. The Real Story of the Reverend Al Sharpton, New York: Castillo International, 1991, 24-27.

12 At a local level first, Al Sharpton organized his high school-friends to protest against the segregationist policies of the New York City Board of Education, then he directed the picketing of the various companies the Operation Breadbasket was boycotting. He also became more and more involved in national politics, becoming a campaign worker for the reelection of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm in 1968.

13 M. Klein, The Man Behind the Sound Bite, op. cit., 67-78.

14 Ibid., 78.

15  James Barron, “Black Official Faults Tactics of Sharpton”, The New York Times, March 2, 1988; Robert McFadden, “Seeking Asylum: Another Twist in the Perplexing Brawley Case”, The New York Times, June 12, 1988; “The Other Brawley Case”, The New York Times Editorial Desk June 20, 1988.

16 Al Sharpton, Al on America, New York: Kensington Publishing Co., 2002, 229-240.

17  He ran in 1992 and again in 1994 against powerful incumbent senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, reaping 26% of the vote. CNN.com Specials, “Preacher Ends Another Electoral Bid”, March 15 2004; PBS Online Newshour, “Meet the Candidates: Al Sharpton”, March 4, 2003.

18 Al Sharpton & Anthony Walton, Go and Tell the Pharaoh. The Autobiography of the Reverend Al Sharpton, New York: Doubleday, 1996,212, 75-76.

19 A. Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit.,225, 231, 243, 246, 247, 262.

20 A. Sharpton & A. Walton, Go and Tell the Pharaoh, op. cit.,3.

21  “Go down Moses, Down to Egyptland, Go and Tell Pharaoh, Let my people go”. 

22  Emphasis added.

23 A. Sharpton & A. Walton, Go and Tell the Pharaoh, op. cit.,3-4.

24 33 references to his preaching and, more generally, 41 direct (i.e. quotes) and indirect references (mentioning, for example, reading the Bible, a prayer, or God).

25 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit.,89.

26 Ibid., 87.

27  “I believe in an America that is neither Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will, directly or indirectly, upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated an act against all.” J. F. Kennedy quoted in WilliamMartin, With God on Our Side. The Rise of the Religious Right in America, New York: Broadway Books, 1996, 53-54.

28  For example they tend to favour welfare spending and redistributive policies more than Whites. For a recent study on the impact of such positions on voting behaviour, see Zoltan L. Hajnal, “Black Class Exceptionalism. Insights from Direct Democracy on the Race versus Class Debate”, Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 71, n° 4, Winter 2007, 560-587. For the impact of the religiosity of African-Americans on their belief system, see Richard L Allen, Michael C. Dawson & Ronald E. Brown, “A Schema-Based Approach to Modelling an African-American Racial Belief System”,  American Political Science Review, vol. 83, n° 2, 1989, 421-441; Robert C. Smith & Richard Seltzer, Race, Class, and Culture. A Study in Afro-American Mass Opinion, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992; Frederick C.Harris, Something Within. Religion and African-American Political Activism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. For recent examples of the conservatism of African-Americans in these matters, see NeelaBanerjee, “Black Churches’ Attitudes Toward Gay Parishioners Spur Debate at Conference”, The New York Times, January 21, 2006; Eric L. McDaniel, “The Black Church in the 2004 Election”, The University of Texas at Austin, 2005; Lynette Clemetson, “Both Sides Court Black Churches in Battle Over Gay Marriage”, The New York Times, March 1, 2004.

29  Religious orthodoxy is measured for example by the belief in biblical inerrancy.  Two national studies conducted in 2004 and 2005 among black church members showed that approximately two-thirds of the respondents declared they held “cool feelings” toward homosexuals and that over 80% of them opposed both gay marriage and civil unions. E. L. McDaniel, “The Black Church in the 2004 Election”, op. cit., 20-21. A 2008 report commissioned by the National Black Justice Coalition, (an organization favoring gay marriage) confirmed that nearly three- quarters of African-Americans say that homosexual relations are always wrong.

30  In February 2004 a coalition of black clergy organizations issued a joint statement against gay marriage and strongly criticized pastors who supported such unions.

31  Dr. Samuel of Atlanta’s Victory Church stated that he lost approximately one fifth of his mostly black congregation after he started preaching on the acceptance of gay men and lesbians. N.Banerjee, “Black Churches’ Attitudes Toward Gay Parishioners Spur Debate at Conference”, op. cit..

32 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 88. MoveOn.org On the Issues interview June 17, 2003.

33 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 89. In 2003 he made his positions even clearer in a speech delivered during a Pro-Choice America Dinner at the NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League):“This [abortion] is about human rights, this is about human dignity, this is about women having the say-so over their own body and how they will decide to proceed with their life, and if America is to be America, we must protect women’s right to choose for themselves”. Speech delivered at the NARAL Pro-choice America Dinner, Jan. 21, 2003. <http:www.gwu.edu>.

34  For Bush’s numerous references to God see, for example, David Corn, “Bush: It’s About Me and My Crusade”, The Nation, Sept. 3, 2004, Ron Suskind, “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush”, The New York Times, Oct. 17, 2004.

35  PBS Online NewsHour, op. cit., MoveOn.org On the Issues interview, op. cit.. A. Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit.,109, 103-104, 106-116.For example he was opposed to the war in Iraq and favored the repeal of what he termed “Bush’s tax cuts”.

36 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 7.

37  CNN.com Specials, 2004, op. cit..

38  Michael Slackman, “Jackson’s Neutrality Hindering Sharpton’s Campaign”, The New York Times, October 29, 2003. Interestingly enough, in 1984 and although Jackson was definitely running as a black candidate, emphasizing his race, he also complained he was pigeonholed in the media as “the” black candidate. Jeremy D. Mayer, Running on Race. Racial Politics in Presidential Campaigns, 1960-2000, New York: Random House, 2002, 187.

39  Joseph McCormick & Charles E. Jones, “The Conceptualization of Deracialization: Thinking Through the Dilemma,” in Georgia A. Pearson (ed.), Dilemmas of Black Politics. Issues of Leadership and Strategy, New York: HarperCollins, 1993, 70.

40 Ibid.

41 Ibid., 72.

42 He made no appeal to “race issues” choosing instead to call for a conservative fiscal policy while affirming a more liberal position regarding abortion.

43  Paula McClain & Steven C. Taubert, “An African-American Presidential Candidate: The Failed Presidential Campaign of Governor L. Douglas Wilder”, in Hanes Walton, Jr. (ed.), African-American Power and Politics. The Political Context Variable, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997, 294-303.

44  4president.org, Al Sharpton, “Keep the Dream alive: Don’t Waste Your Vote,“  <http://.4president.org>, accessed March 8, 2006. Capital letters in the original.

45 Ibid.When asked about gay marriage he declared that that it was a question of “human right”, that gays and lesbians should have the “same constitutional right of any other human being”.

46 Atiya KaiStokes, “Candidate Race, White Crossover Voting, and Issue Strategy in State Legislative Elections”, paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, Jan 08, 2004.

47  MoveOn.org On the Issues interview, op cit..

48 A.Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 109, emphasis added.

49 Ibid., 106-107.

50  Ibid., 176.

51  “The Democrats won’t take a strong stand on Affirmative Action,” A. Sharpton, Al on America, op. cit., 176.

52  PBS Online Newshour, op. cit..

53  MoveOn.org On the Issues interview, op cit.. Progressivism has been identified as a significant aspect of the deracialization strategy and of the “cross-over” politician. P. McClain & S. C. Taubert, “An African-American Presidential Candidate: The Failed Presidential Campaign of Governor L. Douglas Wilder”, op. cit., 296.

54  E. L. McDaniel, “The Black Church in the 2004 Election”, op. cit.. Christopher Lisotta, “Homophobia of All Hues”, The Nation, May 17, 2004. R. L. Allen, M. C. Dawson & Ronald E. Brown, “A Schema-Based Approach to Modelling an African-American Racial Belief System”, American Political Science Review, vol. 83, n° 2, 1989, 432-433.

55  C. Eric Lincoln & Lawrence H. Mamiya, The Black Church in the African-American Experience, Durham: Duke University Press, 2001, [1990].

56  38% of African-Americans compared to 35% of Whites and 16% of Latinos hear political messages at their place of worship. A 1991 survey conducted in the Chicago area found that 65% of black church members were encouraged to vote by their minister as opposed to 30% of Whites and 36% of Latinos. 15% of Blacks reported that their ministers spoke frequently of politics (and 30% said they “sometimes” spoke of politics) compared to only 7% of Whites and 10% of Latinos.  F. C. Harris, Something Within. Religion and African-American Political Activism, op. cit., 97, 115-116.

57  E. L. McDaniel, “The Black Church in the 2004 Election”, op. cit., 19-20.

58 Paul Fahri & Vanessa Williams, “Politics and Pulpits Combine to Sway Swing-State Votes”, The Washington Post, Oct., 25, 2004, A.07. In a 1992 sermon, Reverend Charles Adams of Detroit’s Memorial Baptist Church criticized the record of the Bush administration, questioned the incumbent President’s faith and made it clear he supported Democratic nominee Bill Clinton without even mentioning his name. F. C. Harris, Something Within. Religion and African-American Political Activism, op. cit., 101.

59 P. McClain & S. C. Taubert., “An African-American Presidential Candidate: The Failed Presidential Campaign of Governor L. Douglas Wilder”, op. cit., 301.

60 Ibid., 301-302.

61  MichaelSlackman, “Sharpton’s Primary Showing May Cut his Role Back Home”, The New York Times, February 5, 2004. On the same day Sharpton won only 30% of the black vote in Delaware and 20 % in Mississippi. On February 11 Kerry got 61% of the black vote in Virginia and 46% in Tennessee while Sharpton obtained only 9% of the black vote in both states. Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Joint Center News, “Joint Center Analyst Says John Kerry Draws Strong African-American Support,” Feb. 12, 2004.

62  For example, Clarence Page, “What a Friend Bush has in the Rev. Al Sharpton”, The Chicago Tribune, February 11, 2004. 29.

63  Al Sharpton finished fourth in the Michigan’s Democratic caucuses and came second in two black districts in Detroit.

64 Jonathan P. Hicks, “Sharpton Returns With a Few Good Jabs, but Very Few Delegates”, The New York Times, February 29, 2004.

65  Michael Slackman, “Sharpton Makes His Stand To Win Voice at the Convention”, The New York Times, February 1, 2004.

66  While campaigning in South Carolina he again explained how free trade-agreements did not guarantee human rights for foreign workers. Ibid.

67  Kristen Scharnberg, “Sharpton Resounds in the ‘Amen’ Corner”, The Chicago Tribune, February 2, 2004.

68 Michael Slackman, “Al Sharpton, Hurrying To and Fro on the Day Before Voting in 7 States Across the Country”, The New York Times, Feb. 3, 2004.

69  JoAnn Wypijewki “Black and Bruised”, The New York Times, Feb., 1, 2004.

70  J. McCormick & C. E. Jones, “The Conceptualization of Deracialization: Thinking Through the Dilemma”, op. cit., 76-77.

71  This is one of the aims of the deracialization strategy. Katherine Tate, “African-American Female Senatorial Candidates: Twin Assets or double Liabilities”, in Hanes Walton Jr. (ed.), African-American Power and Politics, op. cit., 276.

72  Many other factors had, from the very start, contributed to his poor showings in the polls and polling stations. Most prominent among them was his past and his reputation as an agitator lacking genuine political substance. His image and reputation as an outspoken, controversial New York activist was not only detrimental to his potential electoral success within the Democratic Party, but also within the African-American community. For many Blacks he was also seen as not having made the transition from protest and rhetoric to action. Other factors, such as his lack of experience as an office holder, his failure to aptly discuss national security and foreign policy which were the dominant themes of the campaign, as well as the context of an “everyone but Bush” year  undoubtedly accounted for his limited appeal.

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La Revue LISA/LISA e-journal, Vol. Vol. IX – n°1, 2011 

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Anne Urbanowski, « Al Sharpton’s 2004 Presidential Campaign: Has the Reverend Lost the Faith? », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. IX - n°1 | 2011, mis en ligne le 28 mars 2011, consulté le 23 septembre 2014. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/4153 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.4153

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Anne Urbanowski

Anne Urbanowski is Associate Professor at the University Paul Valéry in Montpellier. Her research has focused on African-American history, the Black middle class, as well as on the concept of race.

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