And despite the affection that his constituents shower him with, nowhere is there more of an itching for Mr. Rangel to step aside than in his native Harlem. There, a generation of one-time young political upstarts have grown old waiting around for Mr. Rangel’s retirement.
“He will be 83 years old. It’s time for Mr. Rangel to step aside and make room for new leadership,” said Vince Morgan, a community banker and former Rangel aide who challenged him in 2010 and has vowed to do so again. “He is the devil that we know.”
Mr. Rangel knows that he is toxic, and he still sees the ethics investigation last year as a way to weaken his contributions to the Democratic Party.
“At one point I was invaluable to our victories. At another point I was a heavy load as we had to explain what the ethics committee had done. No one needs dead weight,” he said. “If they have to explain you more than why they should be re-elected, that’s a problem. So it was two-fer. One, Rangel wouldn’t be able to come in there and help, and two, the candidates would have to explain why they took my money.”
As Mr. Rangel cruised around Harlem on Saturday, he again and again brought up news reports over the past month that revealed wrongdoing on the part of the ethics committee. The chief counsel in the case against Mr. Rangel has now said that if it had all come to light earlier, the case would have been dismissed.
Rather than hope the episode will be forgotten, Mr. Rangel tells anybody who will listen that “there is not a scintilla of evidence that there was any wrongdoing.” If he could somehow be exonerated, it would mean that era of tabloid coverage and returned campaign contributions would finally be over, and Mr. Rangel would rightly resume his place as one of the chieftains of the Democratic Party.
The Cadillac pulled up in front of the Bethune Gardens Senior Center on Amsterdam Avenue. Inside, a dozen or so residents were bent over macaroni cheese and collard greens, but before Mr. Rangel got out to reminisce with them, he sat and stared out of the front window of the car.
“Life goes on and on. You’ve got to roll with the punches. Who said the truth shall make ye free? Somebody?”
He got out of the car.
“Okay! Bethune! Old folks! Let’s go!”
Follow David Freedlander via RSS.