The Democrats' Pope?

Move over, Benedict XVI.

Virtually all the Democratic candidates for President made the pilgrimage to see the Rev. Albert Sharpton at his plush New York hotel. It was the annual convention of the National Action Network — the foundation that pays Sharpton’s bills. Each pilgrim came to offer gifts of access, influence, and political respect in return for the Rev. Al’s blessing: Hillary on Friday, Obama on Saturday, and all the other contenders in less prime slots earlier in the week.

Who is this great religious prelate in the expensive suit, by whom the Democrats long to be anointed?

Some call him a politician, but that is too limiting. Sharpton calls himself “Reverend,” but doesn’t seem to have a congregation. His trade isn’t one we easily recognize today, because the Catholic Church stamped it out in 1418. Sharpton is a pardoner — he pardons sin in return for payment. The sin he specializes in expiating is whiteness.

Race as an issue is raised mostly on the left wing of American politics, and lefties don’t talk much about God. But man’s religious instinct doesn’t go away if you suppress it — it just pops up in odd places. Do you remember the doctrine of Original Sin, which says we inherited guilt and the tendency to sin from Adam, because he and Eve disobeyed God?

Well, liberals still believe in original sin — they just think only white people (especially rich ones) have it. Whites inherit the guilt of oppressing dark people, not by owning slaves or burning crosses on lawns, but simply by existing. Don’t believe me? Look at the favorite liberal issues: There’s poverty, which they say is caused by cutting taxes to benefit rich white people; global warming, caused by SUVs driven by rich white people; war, caused by rich white people’s lust for oil, which they need to fill the gas tanks of their SUVs. . . I could go on.

The Democrats come to Sharpton, who represents blackness for them, to have him wash away their whiteness. The one he anoints will appear worthy of the votes of black and white liberals. Note that the half-white Obama needs baptism, too, because Sharpton has suggested he might not have enough “street” to be black.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but I don’t know how else to explain the Democrats’ choice of this man as their pope. For a minister whose job it is to imitate Christ, Sharpton comes off more like Barabbas. In 1989, long before he met Don Imus, Sharpton had a “ho” incident of his own: He led a mob to the New York County courthouse during the “Central Park jogger” rape trial to chant “Whore!” at the victim.

In 1991, young black men in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, rioted after a car in a rabbi’s motorcade lost control and killed a seven-year-old black boy from Guyana. Seizing a passing Australian rabbinical student, rioters chanted "Kill the Jew!" as they stabbed him to death. Sharpton arrived — to lead a hostile march into the Jewish neighborhood. At Gavin’s funeral he suggested  the little boy’s death was not really accidental, and blamed "diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights" for "the blood of innocent babies."

In 1995, Sharpton set up daily pickets at a Harlem store called Freddy’s Fashion Mart, denouncing the Jewish owner as a “white interloper.” One of the picketers shot the place up and burned it down, killing seven, including the black security guard.  Sharpton’s better-known misdeeds, such as his participation in the Tawana Brawley and Duke rape hoaxes, seem almost benign by comparison.

Sharpton’s fund-raising methods might be mistaken for extortion. Like his Chicago rival Jesse Jackson, he watches for opportunities to accuse white politicians, broadcasters, and corporations — who crave respectability — of the low-class sin of  “racism.” Inflammatory press releases by Sharpton’s people and the threat of endless demonstrations in front of their nice offices seem to turn corporate managers to jelly. Closed-door meetings with Sharpton often follow, leading to donations or a paid "advisor" post for Rev. Al.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1400), one of the pilgrims in the story, the Pardoner, is an itinerant con-man who preaches sermons that accuse his hearers of great sins, so they will repent and buy his fake indulgences and relics. He confides to his traveling companions that he takes no vow of poverty, and lives well. It’s just a business to him:

“My intent is nothing but my gain, And nothing for correction of their sin.”

Seeing the Democrats approach Sharpton’s throne, we should remember not to be distracted by issues or incense. For the Rev. Al and for the candidates, it’s all business.