Monday, July 31, 2017

Jesse Jackson's 2 Presidential runs

The two Presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson of 1984 and 1988 represent many truths about American politics and the fallibility of the two party system. They taught us about how black people can achieve massive political successes despite obstacles. Also, it presented the truth about how power the political elites are in trying to promote corporate interests at the expense of the working class and the rest of the American people. Jesse Jackson’s actions during his two runs at the Presidency was very important in Black American history. His Presidency came about after the massive political growth of the black community. The many great gains of the civil rights movement (as documented by many scholars) heavily came unto the middle class and the rich of the black community. Along with this growth, more black people came into the Democratic Party as mayors, councilmen, councilwomen, Senators, House representatives, journalists, and other political activists. This came about the state suppression of the black revolutionary movements of the 1960's like the BPP (who legitimately advanced the proclamation of not only black militancy against capitalist exploitation & racism, but being anti-imperialist, and pro-social justice), etc. The 1973 oil crisis and the 1974-1975 recessions changed the country. After the recession of the 1970’s, inflation grew, corporations influenced governmental policies to promote more tax breaks for large corporations, social program cuts, attacks on affirmative action, attacks on civil rights, and unemployment grew by the early 1980’s. From 1980 to 1984, 11.5 million workers lost their jobs due to relocations and plant shutdowns. The real standard of living for average industrial workers plus their families in America dropped by one-fifth from 1968 to 1981. Even the so-called “recovery” year of 1985 still showed high unemployment for black Americans, black youth. In essence, the 1980’s saw the destruction of our communities with the crack cocaine epidemic and the continuation of the War on Drugs (which increased the military industrial complex). Even Carter’s Presidency saw the massive deregulation of businesses nationwide, the growth of PACs, and many cuts to services.

After Reagan was President, America experienced another early recession that harmed the poor especially. By 1983, Harold Washington was mayor of Chicago and he was the first black mayor. By that time, many people called for Jesse Jackson to run for President. The problem was that the Democratic Party shifted to the right during the 1980’s. Historically, massive changes occurred via strong, grassroots social movements like the 1930’s labor movement which helped to enact New Deal reforms (and the 1950’s and 1960’s civil rights movement that caused Great Society policies to exist. These policies decreased the poverty rate in half from 1960 to 1970). Jesse Jackson was in a new world from his early civil rights days of the 1960’s (he worked with Dr. King in many movements). I will give Jackson credit for being involved in protests and movements from the Selma movement, the Chicago housing movement, and many protests in our generation. Yet, it is also true that compared to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson was more conservative along with Andrew Young being more conservative than the late Dr. King. Jesse had some reservations about the Poor Peoples Campaign initially, but he later supported it. Jesse Jackson focused more on private sector policies, but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. respected democratic socialism and a radical redistribution of wealth. Dr. King was one strong critic of capitalism. Jesse Jackson supported the Chicago-based Operation Breadbasket and had no criticisms of black capitalism. The black population in the working class and the poor abhorred Reaganism and they were desperate for change. After months of chants from his supporters of "Run, Jesse, run!" Jackson threw his hat in the ring. Under these conditions (of the brutal policies of Reaganonomics), Jesse Jackson decided to run for President in 1984. He was the second African American to do so in the Democratic Party. The first African American to do so in the Democratic Party was Sister Shirley Chisholm.

His first campaign was the most progressive out of the two. He faced more opposition. Even many black politicians opposed his first campaign, because they felt that he had no chance to defeat Ronald Reagan. Many establishment Democratic members decided to ally with moderate Democrat Walter Mondale (who has been cordial to civil rights leaders). During his 1984 Presidential campaign, Jesse Jackson explicitly opposed apartheid and desired jobs for people. His campaign was very historic and he campaigned in support of the Rainbow coalition. This coalition was a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition desiring equal rights for African Americans, women, LGBT Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Arabic Americans, disabled people, and the poor. He traveled the nation. He advocated for a Palestinian state. He wanted to reform the Democratic Party from within since he felt that that was the best political way to make change. The problem was that the Democratic Party establishment shifted so much to the right that some of them wanted to out Reagan Reagan instead of advancing truly progressive change. Jesse Jackson was stuck in a catch 22. He knew what the deal was. He continued onward despite the disrespect that he experienced from the Democratic Party elites (filled with superdelegates). Gifted with a great oratory ability, Jesse Jackson inspired many Americans. His 1984 campaign had diverse supporters from nationalists, socialists, moderates, liberals, progressives, etc. African American clergy heavily supported Jesse Jackson. The National Baptist Convention (with 6.5 million black people) allied with his campaign back in 1984 too. His platform was similar to the old school New Deal proposals along with other progressive plans from reduction from military expenditures, billions of dollars to social programs, opposition to U.S. military intervention in Central America, reparations to the descendants of black slaves, opposition to apartheid in South Africa, pro-ERA, and other proposals. Jesse Jackson made a remark about Jewish people and NYC that he apologized for. Also, Louis Farrakhan (he is a black nationalist with many conservative views on social and economic issues. We know that Malcolm X explicitly condemned capitalism by his own words, promoted gender equality, and desired an end to imperialism) was an early supporter of Jesse Jackson and Jesse Jackson had to deal with that issue. He said it in a private conversation and he admitted his error like a man and moved forward. His 1984 Democratic National Convention was very powerful and electrified the crowd. He surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson garnered 3,282,431 primary votes, or 18.2 percent of the total, in 1984, and won five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Virginia, and one of two separate contests in Mississippi.

As he had gained 21% of the popular vote but only 8% of delegates, he afterwards complained that he had been restricted politically by party rules. Mondale would choose the first woman Vice Presidential Democratic candidate who was named Geraldine Ferraro of New York. Mondale supported the ERA and a nuclear freeze. He lost the election to Reagan with Reagan having a landslide. Back in those days, it was taboo for a certain segment of Americans to accept a black man being President of the United States. Jesse Jackson has the gift of massive registration and organization that brought tons of people into the Democratic Party. The Rainbow Coalition tried to shift the Democratic Party to the left, but they were unsuccessful during the 1980’s. The neoliberals and the rightward trend continued. The DLC or the Democratic Leadership Council or the DLC was created in 1985 in order to cause the Democratic Party to distance themselves from extremely progressive black people, people of color, women, the poor, etc. in order to curry favor with Wall Street interests and corporate CEOs. The DLC had no shame in their disgraceful actions. Bill Clinton, then an Arkansas governor, was a key figure in the DLC movement.

Afterwards, Jesse Jackson promoted voter registration campaigns that caused the Democrats to gain most of the Congress by 1986. Jackson was always a competitor, so he worked to strengthen the Rainbow Coalition and he decided to run for President again in 1988. The second campaign was different. Jesse Jackson was more involved in trying to appeal to wide spectrum of people. The 1988 Democratic Primary was more up for grabs, so Jesse Jackson had more success in his 1988 campaign than in his 1984 campaign. A massive black American turnout caused Jesse Jackson to be second place in March 8, 1988. He finished 16 out of 21 primaries. He was the frontrunner in the delegate count. Later, he won the Michigan party caucuses with 55 percent of the vote. He appealed to many white working class people in the Midwest, especially farmers with his economic populist message. Jesse Jackson ended the race with 7 million votes or 30 percent of the total. He called for economic justice in the midst of declining union power. By the second term of Reagan, the economy grew out of the recession, but most of the recovery was to the upper class and the rich. This grew economic inequality. Jesse Jackson’s historic primary victories caused many people to be shocked from the media to Democratic Party elites. One Time magazine cover mentioned, the headline of “JESSE!?” Charles Rangel was one leader in his campaign. A more moderation of policies existed in the 1988 campaign than his 1984 run. Many black nationalists and leftists were not in his 1988 campaign. By the late 1980’s, the military budget of the Reagan administration reached about $1 trillion. On some views, he moderated his message.

Jesse Jackson gained more support. His percent of support in Arizona (a state with only 3 percent African American back then), he grew his support from 14 percent in 1984 to 35 percent in 1988. He won Alaska and Vermont. Ronald Brown soon was named leader of the Democratic Party’s National Committee. Jesse Jackson lost, because the political elites of the Democratic Party decided to choose Michael Dukakis. Dukakis chose Lloyd Bentsen as his vice Presidential running mate. Bentsen was a conservative Democrat. Jesse Jackson spoke of common ground in pro-worker themes in his 1988 Democratic National Convention. He downplayed his anti-racism views during the 1988 campaign even saying that the question of racism has been “solved.” We know that is definitely not true. Dukakis didn’t campaign much in the African American community. The Bush campaign used the racist Willie Horton ad in claiming that Dukakis was “soft on crime.” He lost the election to Bush in 1988. Jesse Jackson would continue to both advise Democratic Presidents and participate in social justice rallies and protests. The great achievements and mistakes of Jesse Jackson must be shown. Donna Brazile was a national Rainbow coordinator of the first Jackson campaign and she continued to live her life. His legacy is a legacy of a combination of things. Also, his runs for President would be a prelude to the historic 2008 Presidential run by Barack Obama. The end of the Rainbow movement represented the truth that the Democratic elites are heavily resistant to progressive, revolutionary movements unless they are co-opted to fulfill their agendas. That is why with the exception of a resolution to implement sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies, none of the major positions of the Jesse Jackson campaign made it into the Democratic Party’s platform in either 1984 or 1988.  The journey of Jesse Jackson shows the limitations of the capitalist Republican and Democratic Parties. Political independence along with progressive insights is a sacrosanct value to embrace. Jesse Jackson’s historical political campaigns should always be analyzed and remembered in our continued struggle for black liberation and social justice.

By Timothy

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