Sorry, Charlie, It's Time for a Change

Perhaps he's being held to a higher standard than white politicians accused of wrongdoing, but Rep. Charles Rangel has enjoyed unwavering voter support over 21 terms in Congress. In return we have a right to ask that he be above reproach.

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Rangel's district no longer encompasses just Harlem; it also includes large swaths of Manhattan's predominantly white and affluent neighborhoods. One reason he won re-election was that none of his opponents -- including a son of Adam Clayton Powell Jr., with a spotty career as a local pol -- were particularly attractive to voters. Like too many black leaders, Rangel has nurtured no successor. Chances are that an unknown would capture the seat -- even someone who is not African American.

But keeping a badly damaged politician in office out of racial solidarity is not what our predecessors fought and sometimes died for. It is not unreasonable to demand that our politicians -- and all of our leaders -- be above reproach. And we can only regain the moral high ground that we held during the civil rights movement by holding ourselves -- and our leaders -- to the highest standards. We should thank Rangel for his many years of service and ask him to make way for the next generation.

Joel Dreyfuss is the managing editor of The Root.

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