Byron York of National Review Online has a delicious piece about Al Sharpton’s successful attack on Howard Dean at a “Black and Brown” candidate’s forum in Iowa. The Reverend confronted the doctor with the fact that Dean’s Vermont cabinet contained no “black or brown” members. Dean had no good answer he felt he could give. Apparently, it would not have done to point out that only about 3,000 blacks live in the state (figures for “browns,” whatever they are, were not readily available). So, as York tells it, Dean danced, first questioning Sharpton’s information, then ducking the question, then finally admitting the allegation. All to the amused dissatisfaction of the assembled blacks and browns.
The significance of this is not so much that black voters will hurt Dean in key primaries, or fail to support him en masse in November (although these possibilities cannot be ruled out). The significance, I think, is that Dean’s emerging disconnect with blacks will hamper any effort he makes to move to the center (assuming that this is what Dean would like to do). Dean cannot afford the kind of “Sister Souljah moment” through which Bill Clinton assured the nation in 1992 that he was within the mainstream on racial and cultural issues. Dean is going to have to appease extremists like the crooked Reverend Sharpton. Dean has another big problem.
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