Rev. Sharpton whips up young voters
Rev. Al Sharpton believes the country may be in danger of "heading back to a pre-1950s America."
On Friday, Sharpton warned a Democratic rally audience about the long-term effects of a potential victory by President George W. Bush on Nov. 2.
Sharpton, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, told the packed auditorium in the David Lawrence building that "whoever wins will affect the rest of this century, for they will be appointing one, if not two, justices to the Supreme Court. These are lifetime appointments."
Sharpton, a 50-year-old Pentecostal minister and civil-rights activist from Brooklyn, N.Y., ran in the presidential primaries earlier this year.
The campaign itself was more important to him than the results of the various elections and caucuses, he said, because he had a message to get out. At the time, he said, "I want to go to the [Democratic National] Convention and stop the party's drift to the right."
"We can't act like elephants in donkey jackets," he said, arguing that the Democratic Party acts too much like the GOP.
Sharpton was ordained a minister at age 10, and at 19, he went on the road with soul singer James Brown, later becoming his tour manager. In addition to his civil rights activism, Sharpton turned to mainstream politics in 1992 with a campaign for the U.S. Senate.
As part of the get-out-the-vote effort that each party is employing in the last week before the election, Sharpton has been touring the country on behalf of the Kerry/Edwards ticket. He has visited 12 states in the past two weeks, and he is set to speak in 15 cities in the important swing states this week.
"It will be the young voters who decide who wins and loses this election," Sharpton said on Friday, adding, "You are the swingers."
This generation, he told the audience, has rendered polling "obsolete." By law, pollsters have to call people on their home phones. The three million newly registered voters are not being counted and included in the polls, Sharpton said, because "your cell [phone] is your home."
Sharpton also spoke about the impact of a Bush victory on the Supreme Court.
"Think about how Bush can appoint a 40- to 50-year-old right-winger to the court," he said, "for it will be your children and grandchildren who will pay the price."
Referring to the reconstruction era after the Civil War, Sharpton argued that it was not the rise of the Klu Klux Klan that reversed Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and later brought in the Jim Crow era of segregation.
"It was not the men in white sheets; it was the men in black robes," Sharpton said, adding, "the greatest danger for the women, blacks, Latinos [and] gays in this country is the Supreme Court being stacked against them. We do not get a vote on the Supreme Court, but we do get a vote for the president who appoints [the justices]."
One of the pledges Sharpton made in his campaign for the presidency was to "secure the right to vote." The best way to avoid a repeat of 2000, in which recounts in Florida indicated that many black people were denied their voting rights, said Sharpton on Friday, is for John Kerry to win by such a margin that there is no doubt about who won.
It is "absurd" to Sharpton that the Democrats are having to "defend why [they] want the power." He also finds it "absurd" that the Bush campaign is "running around talking about Kerry's record."
"You cannot compare a non-presidential record with that of an incumbent," he said.
Priya Patel and Allison Johnston, both freshmen at Pitt, enjoyed Sharpton's speech.
"He focused on the right issue," Patel said. "He was very charismatic and motivational."
Matt Lancaster, a Democratic field organizer for the Kerry campaign in Allegheny County, said, "We're going to win big here; it just depends how big. We need Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to win by a large margin to offset all the space in between that will go to Bush."
"You can define your time in history on Nov. 2," Sharpton said Friday, adding, "You will remember back, in years to come, when the right wing had kidnapped the flag and the Bible, when America was going backward. We will be able to say we turned this country upside-down, and put it back in the right direction."