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James Q. Wilson Archive In COMMENTARY
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March 13, 2012, 02:36 PM
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The editors of Commentary Magazine, who I frequently don`t agree with, have made all of the late James Q. Wilson`s articles available online for free. It`s in reverse chronological order. There`s an article about Adam Clayton Powell, the Al Sharpton of his day, from 1966:

"It is as much the humor, bordering on cynicism, with which he defends his inconsistencies as it is the inconsistencies themselves that outrage white liberals while captivating Negro voters. Powell is not simply a successful Negro demagogue; he is one who flaunts his methods and his achievements before the white world (often at press conferences at Sardi’s or “21”) and defies them to do anything about it. It is at such moments that his constituents love him the most. If he were simply a demagogue who used their votes to obtain power and money for himself, they might soon become disenchanted. But as a symbol of mocking defiance of the white bourgeoisie, he is apparently worth every penny of what it costs to keep him.

In this, of course, Powell follows a well-charted tradition in American politics. James Michael Curley flaunted Irish vices as well as virtues and outraged Yankees in Boston; the more the latter fumed, the higher the former rose. (Powell has never been re-elected, as was Curley, while serving a jail sentence, but no one has the slightest doubt that he could do it if the necessity should arise.)"