Charlie Rangel’s Back Pages: ‘If I Can Be a Congressman, Anybody Can Be a Congressman.’


As we wait to learn the fate of Charlie Rangel, that old Harlem lion who may be hit with a telephone-sized House ethics complaint any minute now unless he cuts a deal to cop a plea, it’s a good time for a short trot down memory lane. Here are a few takes from the Voice‘s (very spotty) digital archive as compiled by the masters of the Google universe:

June 25, 1970, “Too Complicated to Lose Simply,” by Marlene Nadle (reporting on Adam Clayton Powell’s effort to beat Rangel on a third party ticket after losing the Democratic primary to the challenger by just 150 votes):

There is also the emotional issue working in Powell’s favor–the white money that many in Harlem believe is backing Rangel and the stigma of being the candidate of the new machine. Lindsay’s endorsement on 126th Street was seen less as a recommendation than as an announcement that Rangel would be the downtown politicians’ boy uptown.

Feb. 11, 1971, “Corruption Makes the World Go Round,” by Clark Whelton (on the now-elected Rangel echoing Powell’s famous denunciation of police corruption in Harlem):

Rep. Charles B. Rangel — Powell’s successor in the 18th Congressional District — stood in his new office on 125th Street and stated that members of the New York Police Department “involved themselves in the narcotic trafficking the same way they have involved themselves in the policy game.” Rangel claimed that certain New York policemen had requested his help in obtaining assignments to the Harlem narcotics squads because “they’re not making enough money where they’re now assigned.”

August 11, 1974, “A Few Quiet Drinks for Liberty” by Ron Rosenbaum (on the Nixon impeachment vote):

Most refreshing instance of candor: New York Congressman Charles Rangel who says, “I would be less than honest to say to you today that it is with a heavy heart that I cast my vote for the impeachment of Richard M. Nixon.”

Sept. 18, 1978, “The Quick, the Dead, and the Harlem Prep,”by Nat Hentoff.

Congressman Charles Rangel, who had the look that morning of a man who had dreamed of glory and awakened right smack in it, told the graduates that however rough their scholastic road had been, “You didn’t wait until you were 23, as I did, to go back to high school.” And, to further buoy their dreams, he added, “I want to tell you that if Charlie Rangel can make it to the United States Congress, anybody can make it to the United States Congress.”