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Vernon Jordan

The race and religion bargain in politics

The race and religion bargain in politics

In “The Story of O.J.,” rapper Jay-Z famously examines wealth, fame and race through the character of disgraced former football star O.J. Simpson. The song is a thoughtful and instructive interrogation of a social dynamic familiar to most outsiders in America. This dynamic, which involves the exploitation of an outsider’s coveted particularities in exchange for access or power, has become a key cornerstone of American politics.

Here’s how it works: A political candidate — traditionally white, Christian and male — enters into a relationship with a member of the minority class (be they black or Latino or female) and the minority grants the candidate access to his or her community...