Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Stop the Noise: There’s Too Much at Stake This Election

May 31, 2016

As we wind down the last primaries, there are all kinds of suggestions and demands as to what Democratic Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders should do to unite the Party. There are calls for Sanders to withdraw, some saying he should not be on the ticket, and there are calls for Clinton to do more to energize the base. I hear the noise - there are some things I agree with and some that I do not. What we ought to do however is look at the larger goal and gauge our strategy on that as opposed to drawing lines of division amongst ourselves. At the end of the day, 10 years from now it will not matter who got more face time on cable news or who got more headlines in newspapers if we regress rather than progress. There is far too much at stake from Supreme Court nominees to protection of the Affordable Care Act, Affirmative Action, voting rights, women's rights, LGBT rights, criminal justice reform and more. This Presidential election is at a pivotal moment when we cannot allow divide and conquer to push us back further and lose many of our gains. If we don't wake up now, we will look back at this time period and realize that this is when we were effectively silenced.

It's easy to forget exactly where we were as a nation when President Obama was first elected into office in 2008. And it is just as easy to overlook the substantive changes he ushered in despite facing the toughest opposition in Congress and elsewhere that one could imagine. In addition to reviving our economy from the brink of catastrophe, President Obama was successful in bringing about historic health care reform, saving the auto industry, bringing many of our troops home, changing our image on the world stage, getting a historic nuclear deal signed with Iran, reviving relations with Cuba, enacting Wall Street reform, directing his Justice Department to investigate corrupt police departments, deliver a criminal justice bill (that is on the brink of passing) and much much more. What our first African American President also did was serve as a symbol that everything - even the highest office in the land - is attainable regardless of the obstacles placed before you.

It is that sense of hope and aspiration that we must hold on to as we begin to wind down his Presidency. We cannot become complacent or disillusioned into thinking that we can stop participating in the process. And we must never become so comfortable as to believe that our work is done - far from it. Our collective goal must be to continue the legacy of President Obama, to elect someone that will choose the next couple of Supreme Court Justices who best represent our interests. Whether it's preserving voting rights, keeping the Affordable Care Act in place so that millions of Americans continue to receive health insurance, protecting Affirmative Action (the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin) and more, the Supreme Court will make critical decisions that will directly impact all of us. Whoever the next President is will make key choices regarding who to nominate to the Court, so we must not take this election lightly.

It is perfectly normal to have disagreements within one's house. But when those small divisions tear from the greater objective, then we have lost focus from what truly faces us long-term. It doesn't matter how many people Sanders draws to a rally if they do not lead to these longer goals and victories. And it doesn't matter how many votes Clinton wins if the Party doesn't bring in everyone and stay focused on the main target. We sometimes confuse the preliminary for the main bout; the main event must be that we continue moving this nation in the direction that President Obama and others did when they steered the ship towards even more advancement.

When I was a young kid watching and listening to those leading the great civil rights movement, I remember many would sing a song with the lyrics: "hold on, hold on; keep your eye on the prize."

We must keep holding on today.

The prize is not noise, but rather using noise to change the melody of the mood of American social policy.