Charlie Rangel just may have turned the scales on the system on Monday, rebranding himself from a corrupt old embezzler and bedrock of the institution to the little guy sticking it to The Man.
Charles Rangel just won his midterm re-election to the House of Representatives representing New York’s 15th district—a seat he’s held since 1971—despite being deeply embroiled in an ethics investigation.
In politics an accusation is as good as a conviction—there mere suggestion of guilt destroys reputations almost instantaneously. This may be because, at least in politics, the accused turns out to have indeed done something wrong with pretty close to 100% consistency.
I don’t understand much about the granular details of Charlie Rangel’s ethics investigation—hell, it doesn’t seem like Charlie Rangel understands much about the granular details of Charlie Rangel’s ethics investigation.
But one thing is clear: after carrying the thing on without conclusion for months and burning through $2 million in legal fees and, out of money, winding up without a lawyer at all, he was served an 80-page document by the House Subcommittee and told he had to defend against it in seven days, lawyer or no lawyer.
Meanwhile, according to PBS, the “committee’s top lawyer, Blake Chisam, said in today’s hearing that he saw ‘no evidence of corruption,’ but referred to Rangel’s finances as ‘sloppy,’ and indicated that he had not followed House rules related to fundraising.”
At today’s Capitol Hearing, Rangel apparently felt he wasn’t being given a fair shake, couldn’t accept the committee’s refusal to give him time to find a lawyer, so he just up walked out. As George Clinton once said, “Fuck that shit.”
2010 has been a great year for folk heroes. (And no I don’t mean Sarah Palin.) There was Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater who rode an inflatable evacuation slide to folk hero fame. There was Dan Choi, the dismissed soldier who took a stand against “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” There was the Barefoot Bandit, the Russian spies who used their apparent spy status to do things like enroll in Columbia and score a quality education. There was Kevin Costner, who was going to save Gulf with his oil-sucking machines regardless of whether the government was going to take him seriously.
With today’s walk-out, I have the odd sense that Charlie Rangel just became the kind of guy we want to root for instead of against. Seeing a little guy on Capitol Hill robbed of a chance to at least defend himself properly, it’s refreshing to see the guy stand up and just plain walk out. Like Steven Slater famous walk-off, it’s the kind of “fuck that shit” move we’d probably all like to pull in some area of our lives.