Rangel, Waters, and the perils of Democrats 'draining the swamp'
Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters, both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are poised to have House trials on ethics charges right before midterm elections. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to 'drain the swamp' of Washington corruption.
As if the Democrats didn't have enough headwind going into the November elections, now two of the most prominent and longest-serving black Democrats in the country – Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York and Rep. Maxine Waters of California – are now reportedly both set to fight ethics charges at open House trials before Election Day.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Congressman Rangel faces 13 ethics charges, including allegations of improper fundraising and tax evasion, which were released this week.
Congresswoman Waters, a House ethics subcommittee is reportedly about to allege, broke ethics rules by lobbying Treasury officials for a $25 million bailout of OneUnited Bank in Boston, in which her husband, former NFL player Sidney Williams, has a financial stake.
Both House members have reportedly turned down plea offers for relatively light reprimands in order to fight the charges. Both ordeals promise to be showcase trials in the critical days before an election that Republicans are painting as a referendum on the agenda of the Democrat-controlled Congress and White House.
If they come to fruition, the trial-like ethics hearings could also drive a dispiriting wedge between Democrats, including the Obama White House, and
African-American supporters who, so far, have been the only voting bloc not to waver in their support for the first black president.
But the risk of black voters staying away from the polls, some analysts say, pales in comparison to Democrats appearing to whitewash a key tenet of the party's success in 2006 and 2008, what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called "draining the swamp" of the kind of Washington backroom dealings that she said hounded Republicans in the George W. Bush era.
"Of course, the spectacle of a public trial will not be good for Democrats who are already battling some extremely challenging macro dynamics in this election cycle," writes Democratic political consultant Christopher Lehane in The New York Times. "However, had the Democrats tried to quash the issue to keep it out of the fall election season over the objection of Republicans, that would have resulted in even greater political damage," because it could be perceived as a coverup.
The race factor
Political commentators say that the hearings are likely to be divisive and could fuel more debate about race. In the past, Waters, for one, has in the past pointed to alleged cabals by whites to target black politicians for prosecution.