The Tawana Brawley affair was a stain on relations amongst various ethnic groups in New York City- and clearly Sharpton was in the wrong on that.
But last night, Sharpton showed that despite his excesses of over 15 years ago, there are crucial reasons why civil rights matter today:
Mr. President, as I close, Mr. President, I heard you say Friday that you had questions for voters, particularly African- American voters. And you asked the question: Did the Democratic Party take us for granted? Well, I have raised questions. But let me answer your question..
You said the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It is true that Mr. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after which there was a commitment to give 40 acres and a mule.
That's where the argument, to this day, of reparations starts. We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres.
We didn't get the mule. So we decided we'd ride this donkey as far as it would take us.
Mr. President, you said would we have more leverage if both parties got our votes, but we didn't come this far playing political games. It was those that earned our vote that got our vote. We got the Civil Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the Voting Rights Act under a Democrat. We got the right to organize under Democrats.
Mr. President, the reason we are fighting so hard, the reason we took Florida so seriously, is our right to vote wasn't gained because of our age. Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs, soaked in the blood of good men (inaudible) soaked in the blood of four little girls in Birmingham. This vote is sacred to us.
This vote can't be bargained away.
This vote can't be given away.
Mr. President, in all due respect, Mr. President, read my lips: Our vote is not for sale
Indeed, this is what really matters in this election, and has so since December of 2000.
Had 9/11 not happened, December 2000 would have been the defining event for all Americans. But yes, 9/11 changed everything: it made the importance of our democratic system all that much stronger.
To those who would "change the constitution" for security, I say: We have seen such gambits in history before, and such measures only weaken America.
The office of citizen, as somebody said, is the highest office of this land- and to subvert our right to change our government through the vote is morally akin to treason.
The Bush regime's actions since 1/2001 have given none of us any confidence that they have respect for the rights of citizens.
And for that, America demands regime change.