Even the Neo Cons Are Taking Luther Campbell Seriously

The folks over at conservative glossy The Weekly Standard think Luther Campbell's run is serious enough to warrant a 7,228-word profile. Writer Matt Labash spent a considerable amount of time shadowing Campbell early in his campaign. Kudos to his editors for allowing him the space to explore the complexities that make Uncle Luke who he is. It's a great read. If you don't feel like slogging through Labash's prose, The Atlantic breaks down the story's main points with bullets.

Our favorite passage comes early in the piece, when Labash tracks Campbell down at church:

I'm meeting Campbell at a youth summit at a church in West Perrine,

the kind of church where Jesus and John the Baptist are depicted as

black men on the stained-glass windows, in the kind of neighborhood

where the gas-station cashier scans the barcode of your soda through a

bulletproof window. But I have difficulty locating the candidate when I

arrive. Church ladies fussing over buffet trays are stumped when I ask

if they've seen him.

In the men's room, I ask a few 15-year-olds if they've seen Campbell,

thinking surely they'd be aware of a star on their premises. "I don't

know no Luther Campbell," says a kid who goes by Baby Razz, also a

rapper. "Only Luther I know is Luther Vandross, and he deeeeaaad." The march of time is cruel, even, and perhaps especially, for hip-hop legends.

I find Campbell already seated in the sanctuary, and we whisper

introductions. He looks rather anonymous in dark jeans, topsider boots,

and a short-sleeved flannel shirt. When he stands, he's an imposing

6′3″, but for now he's slumped inconspicuously in a back pew, taking in

the youth summit, which is nearly devoid of youth but choked full of the

concerned citizens, local do-goodniks, and community activists who all

favor the P-word. Not the P-word in Uncle Luke's songs but, rather,

"programs." They're not happy with the ones that exist, and they want a

lot of new ones.

They want more financial education. They want summer jobs. They want

year-round jobs. They want, they want, they want. Then they want to hog

the open-mike and talk about how the system is broken. (No fooling​--​at

the rate everyone wants something, Alvarez would've had to hike property

taxes on the other 60 percent of the electorate.)

This is what Luke calls part of his "listening tour," shuttling

around the community and listening to the concerns of the people, which

he often does anyway as a de facto ambassador for those he calls "the

have-nots" and as a weekly columnist for the Miami New Times.

In columns, Campbell often takes up local causes when not playing a

wildly unpredictable national troublemaker. He classifies himself as

being part of the "Hip Hop Party," which seems to entail saying whatever

the hell he wants with no particular political allegiance. So the

former First Amendment champion might, for instance, please liberals by

suggesting the government shut down the Tea Party, whom he considers a

hate group. Then he'll throw a bone to libertarians, decrying the

Transportation Security Administration, the TSA, as "T'n'A" for their

invasive frisking, while suggesting rappers be allowed to carry arms in

the workplace, since they work in some pretty dangerous places. Then he

might side with conservatives against the Ground Zero mosque as an

insult to our dead soldiers. ("Muslims don't need to explain their

religion to Americans. We can go online to find out about Islam.")

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.