Before getting started on the main text of this entry, I have to say YEAH! The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, individual mandate and all. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.......
For the past several election cycles, media in this town (NYC) and across the nation have tried to write the political obituary of Congressman Charles Rangel. Beginning when the first swirl of ethics allegations against the "Lion of Lenox Ave.", some in media saw their chance. The drumbeat of negative press coverage was aimed at convincing his constituents he was unfit for the job and needed to go. In 2010, his constituents knew better, and elected him to a 21st term in Congress.
Fast forward to the latest cycle. No sooner had new congressional district lines been drawn than the drumbeat began anew. This time, however, there was a different narrative. If the ethics problems didn't get him last time out, the changing demographics of his new district, a strong challenger, and the Congressman's well chronicled health problems would. As the cable news channels picked it up, news crawlers began running "Rangel in the fight of his political life" trailers right up until primary day this past Tuesday. All the while, any coverage of Charles Rangel had to mention his censure by the House, his age, and the fact that his district was now majority Latino, as was his strongest challenger.
Yet a funny thing happened on Charlie Rangel's way to political oblivion. He won Tuesday, capturing 45% of the vote in a five way race. Once again, as they have 22 times before, his constituents refused to believe the hype about Rangel, or themselves. One mentions this because any number of times, columnists and those who spew opinion while masquerading as reporters have implied (and some have said straight out) that Rangel's constituents are stupid, backward or worse for supporting him. The people of his district, the thinking goes, should know better. After all, don't they read the papers?
I should say by way of full disclosure that I consider Charles Rangel a mentor and valued friend. I've interviewed him dozens of times, and I know, even if most in the media don't, why Harlem in particular has backed him all these years. It's simple. He's one of them, not because of his race, but because of his close ties to his community. And here's one more thing the media won't tell you.
There was almost no empirical evidence to support the notion that Charles Rangel would lose Tuesday. No polling was done in any of New York City's congressional contests. The perception of Rangel's vulnerability was as much a function of media speculation (and hopes) as anything else. And through it all, the Lion of Lenox Ave. stood tall, smiled, and delivered his 22nd primary victory speech.
Congratulations Mr. Rangel. You proved them wrong again.
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