Charlie Rangel Wins Again
House Representative Charles Rangel dodges troubles like former President George Bush doges shoes. The New York congressman defeated five challengers in last Tuesday’s primary election to win a historic opportunity at a twenty first term in office. Mr. Rangel was reselected despite the fact that the eighty year old incumbent is facing House ethics charges.
The former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means committee is charged with a variety of transgressions. He’s accused of using House stationery and staff to solicit money for an education center named after him. He is accused of soliciting donors with interests before the Ways and Means Committee and giving the impression the money could influence the outcome. He failed to disclose more than a half million dollars in assets and income in a series of financial reports to the Congress. He is accused of using a rent subsidized Harlem apartment as a campaign office. And he failed to report rental income from a unit in a Dominican Republic resort to the IRS.
If he was the average joe, Mr. Rangel would have been facing some serious troubles. Attention from the IRS alone is enough to make mortal men sweat. But with Mr. Rangel, it’s just something that needs to be worked out. The former civil rights figurehead has admitted to some ethical lapses and denied other allegations. He has tried to negotiate a settlement with the House in an effort to put this in his rearview mirror by the time general elections are held. But some political opponents, smelling blood, want to keep Mr. Rangel’s troubles alive. A defeat of Mr. Rangel is a defeat of the liberal establishment at a time when liberals are already reeling for not being able to solve all the country’s problems in a scant twenty months. But the primary election results proved that Mr. Rangel is about as vulnerable to a political upset as a snow ball is vulnerable to melting at the North Pole in deep winter.
When a New York resident was asked why she voted for Mr. Rangel the explanation was that he knew his way around Washington and that the nation can’t afford to waste any more time on getting out of the economic rut we find ourselves in. It was her opinion that Mr. Rangel has done nothing other politicians have not done. The woman went on to say that she hoped Mr. Rangel would do more to reach out to younger politicians in order to prepare them to replace him. But as long as Mr. Rangel keeps returning to office at the hands of this voter, what incentive would he have to prepare someone else?
Going back to a grassroots, community oriented campaign style with high public visibility throughout his district, Mr. Rangel’s run for another term placed him miles ahead of the competition. Mr. Rangel garnered Powell fifty one percent of the vote while his closest competitor collected just twenty three percent. If those numbers are any indication, Mr. Rangel is likely to enjoy victory in the general elections in November. What better way for voters to send the politically ancient Mr. Rangel a message about his various lapses in ethics than to send him back to Washington blessed with another term?
Mr. Rangel has already been in Washington for forty years. If he wins in November, he can have another two years to his record. He has done well for himself. Anytime anybody forgets that he or she has rental property on a Caribbean Island, chances are that person isn’t hurting financially. I’m pretty sure that you can count on one hand the number of people in Harlem who misplaced or forgot about more than six hundred thousand dollars in assets. Is anybody else under the impression that Mr. Rangel may have lost touch with his Harlem, New York constituents?
The neighborhood remains a predominantly African-American area, with census data revealing about three fourths of the population to have been black. Harlem suffers from unemployment rates that run twice as high as the New York average. It also suffers from high mortality rates as well. As a neighborhood with a long history of marginalization and economic deprivation, Harlem has long been associated with high rates of crime. And while all of this is happening to the community, Mr. Rangel is living seriously large. And with his forty year record as Harlem’s representative, he’s definitely in charge.
It might be true that Mr. Rangel knows his way around Washington. He has enough friends in the right places to keep his political opponents scratching their heads, trying to wonder how to unseat this guy. Corruption charges don’t do it. His personal financial enrichment while Harlem stays in an economic rut doesn’t do it. Depending on the people to vote for something other than the status quo doesn’t seem to do it either. Is it any wonder that from a political perspective nothing appears to change?