The Rev. Charles Winburn is a dangerous man. Sometimes intriguing, always unintentionally funny but dangerous nonetheless.
Winburn is identically dangerous as many of his right-sided, church-and-state mixing cronies who politicize God and get Republican backing and a cross-stitching of votes to do it.
Back when he was unpolished and off-the-cuff, Winburn wanted us to think he existed in that nether world of brittle ranting so far afield that he easily could be dismissed as "Crazy Charlie Windbag," a near misanthrope who runs for city council and now mayor because he wields some agenda for a narrow and seemingly fringe populace.
Now, in an attempt to attract wishy-washy Democrats — especially loyalist blacks who vote on race — Winburn says he's laying aside his Christian hard line of yore.
"I'm not out to offend anybody," he said in last week's CityBeat story about his campaign ("Winburn's Revival," issue of July 27-Aug. 3).
Don't be fooled. His modern offensiveness is subversive because he's gone off and acquired political experience and savvy.
There are more Winburnites among us than we know, enough to put Winburn ahead of the rest of the pack of likely Republican candidates, according to a GOP poll. Some aren't bold enough to post yard signs or attend his College Hill church, The Encampment, but you will know them by the postmodern mark of the beast: their vote.
They're the silent, bitch-ass supporters who let politicians like Winburn feed their muted rage over alleged special rights being doled out, and they're determined to keep God in politics and reason out of office.
Winburn is dangerous because he operates (and succeeds, by whatever definition) under the assumption that the diametrically opposed among us, while snickering up our sleeves, will also wrongly underestimate his voter appeal.
Voters love bombastic, take-no-prisoners, crusading politicians. (Check your president for Winburn's American Idle.) That is, voters such as Winburn's Fear Factor Feeders believe that anyone un-Republican, un-Godly and un-policed should be overlooked and disenfranchised, "unseated," as he once wrote.
I'm not buying his claims that he's softened his zealousness. Neither am I advocating that Christian politicians cannot or should not mix their faith-based ethos with their politics.
Truthfully, we need more empathetic and thoughtful leaders.
It's the overwrought religiosity of medieval New Jack religious right-wingers like Winburn that burns me. He reminds me of that stock patriarchal black preacher a la The Color Purple: mean, myopic and misogynistic.
Winburn stands for agendas.
Any black man buddying up to Fraternal Order of Police heavyweight Keith Fangman — especially as a political partnership — obviously has no recall of Fangman's inflammatory and divisive post-riot sound bytes, has no intentions of holding the police accountable and is himself as suspect as his bedfellows. He should be viewed warily.
Around his edges, Winburn is convinced that law and order is the order of the day. If elected mayor, he plans to hire an additional 200 cops over four years and build a new riverfront jail. That way, black convicts can sneak cell-eye views at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, catch a Bengals or Reds game or, when they get cut loose, run the opposite direction as the slaves did.
And while you're rolling your eyes in disbelief, stranger things have happened in Cincinnati. And they'll continue to as long as the comfortably apathetic disbelieve that a man like Winburn could win the mayor's race or, at the least, split and screw up the vote for a more level-headed and progressive candidate, whomever that is.
That CityBeat did not bestow Winburn a cover story like we did wannabe mayors Mark Mallory, David Pepper and Alicia Reece (her profile is forthcoming) says that we're underestimating and marginalizing Winburn, too. It says we don't want to give him credence, afraid readers might think we take him seriously.
Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.