By Jeffery McNary for
Edited By Lloyd Hart
Sunday Febuary th. 2004

(Washington, DC) We should all be somewhat troubled by repeated referals by both politicos and the corporate media to the caucus' in Iowa and the primary in New Hampshire as the "first" opportunity for the electorate to express its presidential preference. It's simply not true. It's denial. It's a scam.

On Tuesday January 13, the residents of the District of Columbia can be said to have drawn a Knight of Rods from a political tarot deck. With it's first time, "first-in-the-nation" Democrat presidential primary election, the District was energized and restless. A change from the current situation appeared imminent, and from the large voter turn out, it's inhabitants were no longer prepared to settle for the mundane.

The District of Columbia, created by Congress, composed of land from Maryland and Virginia, has no representation in the national legislature. Residents have no representation in the U.S. Senate, and one non-voting Delegate in the U.S. House. The pulse of politics in D.C. for the average residents runs cold.The testosterone of American politics, for the most part, is reserved for the transients of Capitol Hill and the Executive Mansion. Residents pay federal taxes and serve in the military disportionately. An increasing number meet in soup kitchens and "dumpster-dive" and "dose". Election eve found the usual numbers sleeping on grates in Northwest. When the polls closed and the temperature dropped the usual number were home, on the streets of the republic's Capitol. But something had changed.

Acording to Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the primary, which was not sanctioned by the Democrat National Committee and served a cause of some irritation to it's leadership, was geared toward "educating voters" nation wide to the plight of District residents. Only four of the announced Democratic candidates, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), fromer U.S. Senator and former Ambassador Carol Mosely-Braun, and Reverened Al Sharpton were on the January 13th ballot. Oddly enough, Senator Joseph Liebrman (D.Conn.) himself a candidate, did not participate. Lieberman is co-cponsor of the "No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2003", a Bill providing full congressional voting representation for Washington, DC residents. To add to this oddness, a significant number of potential DC voters were unaware of the ballot and who was on it. Many of those who chose to participate, including members of the mayor's staff, were unable to vote for the candidates of their choice who had withdrawn and were busy with the Iowa fetish fair.

It was Al Sharpton's house that remained actively open in the District, spreading the "good-news" the old fashion way with a solid field organization and get-out-the-vote effort. DC's Democratic Party laid out $100,00 for voter education. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), having endorsed Dean, stapled signs throughout the District. Structually it resembled a Diane Arbus photo, had the Sharpton campaign not saved it from being pitiable. Karen Pasch, a co-ordinator for Dean in Ward 1, Adams-Morgan said, "We'll probably have a low turnout. Personally I believe the DNC had an influence in this. They took this away from us." D.C. Vote, a not-for-profit agency also did a less than stellar job. The DNC appeared irritated that the vote went forward, and with five of the candidates withdrawing on the same day, rumors abound that Terry McAuliffe, DNC Chair had "ratcheded" them to do so. But why?

It could be that both Iowa and New Hampshier receive a windfall profit by hosting these happenings. It could be that McAuliffe and the DNC did intend to "frontload" the season. Then it could be an issue of race. Dean never once mentioned the DC primary in Iowa or New Hampshier. His turn out appeared to come almost without tugging. Eight of the eleven city councilors had endorsed him.

When the polls closed Sharpton and Kucinich campaign workers gathered in watering holes less than a city block apart. As the results began to roll in, some of the younger Kucinich workers appeared dejected. The "business", as veterans refer to it, can be unforgiving. A few doors down, an animated Sharpton could barely contain himself. "For our being able to come up with the numbers we've come up with, if all the other five had been in, we'd be way ahead of Dean. I had no idea that we'd be able to close the gap this much," he said. "I think it is clear that the people want someone that will stand for something, not fall for anything. We got over a third of the vote in the nation's capitol. That's something we can go home very proud of."

Synthesizing the District's vote is no easy task. There is a clear class division in the DC's community of color, and fortress Georgetown exist as if an arrogant village unto itself. The same day of the primary, a group of activists launched a re-call movement against the erriudati, Ivy League educated African-American Mayor, Anthony Williams, a Boston transplant. He lacks hard core support in the Black community.

Given the amazing effort of Sharpton's grass-roots organization, William's and the so-called "top tier candidates , as well as the DNC may do well to move toward the Reverened as the primary season thickens. It's happened before, but with the urgency of 2004, it would be foolish to ease on down the road without checking in with him, wizard or no.

Rev. Sharpton is neither Ali or Jordon, in spite of their shared grace and beauty. Yet his supporters differences between those of Dean's and Mosely -Brauns stood in sharp relief. Ideologically his campaign shared and shares a kinship with the Kucinich folk. Although he garnered 34% to Dean's 38% at the end of the day, statistically he was the victor. Early polls had him at 6%, and had the full field stood in the race, as he was quick to point out, "This is a tremendous victory for this campaign...this shows that this nation will have to deal with statehood as a legitimate issue".