How has the Rev. Al Sharpton remained a central political player for more than 20 years, with close ties to the president of the United States and the mayor of New York City? It baffles many who follow politics casually, especially those who are primarily familiar with his missteps, from Tawana Brawley to Freddy’s Fashion Mart to his tax problems, but not familiar with much of what he does.
His communication skills are a central element, but it’s more than his speaking talents. Key to his longevity is his creation and filling of an institutional role. Sharpton gave his own effective description Thursday during a press conference discussing the Eric Garner case, Sharpton’s call for federally “centralizing” investigations of civilians killed by police and a planned march in Washington, D.C.