Race Relations Essay Research Paper Mondale

Race Relations Essay, Research Paper

Mondale’s sly question drew a roar of approval from an audience of black

ministers, small-town mayors and businessmen. Officially, they were meeting

to discuss issues such as education, jobs, black voting rights and voter

registration. But the gathering turned into a pep rally for a black presidential

candidate, with Jackson, 41, at the top of the ticket. His speeches were

interrupted by chants of “Run, Jesse, run.” Delegates sported buttons with

Jackson’s face and the I AM SOMEBODY tag line he coined and made

famous. “If not now, when?” demanded Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary,

Ind., in a luncheon address. “If not Jesse Jackson, who?”

Publicly, both black and white Democratic leaders applaud the idea of a

black presidential candidate and most acknowledge that Jackson is the most

popular draw. “A Jackson candidacy would be fabulous,” says California

Congressman Tony Coelho, chairman of the Democratic congressional

campaign committee. “It’s a big plus.” Privately, however, many Democrats,

including black politicians, are ambivalent at best. “I can’t see any benefit to

be derived from a black candidacy,” says Georgia State Senator Julian

Bond. “If I could, I’d be persuaded.”

Though not even Jackson expects a black bid in 1984 to lead to the Oval

Office, it makes a certain amount of tactical sense. Blacks have been

trooping to voting booths in growing numbers, making them a potent factor

in the choice of the next President. The new clout was manifest in the recent

wins of Harold Washington in the Chicago mayoral race and W. Wilson

Goode in the Philadelphia Democratic mayoral primary. These heady

successes have spurred blacks, who vote Democratic 9 to 1 and routinely

represent from 20% to 25% of the Democratic bloc in national elections, to

demand more say. “Blacks have voted for whites ever since we struggled

and got the right to vote,” Jackson told PUSH delegates. “If we can take the

Democratic dagger out of our backs in ‘83, we can stop Republican arrows

in ‘84.”

The claims is more than hollow rhetoric. If a black candidacy in the

primaries motivates a large number of the South’s more than 2 million

unregistered blacks to get on the rolls, it could affect a close election. The

Joint Center for Political Studies, a black think tank, estimates that the

number of unregistered voting-age blacks in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana,

North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Mississippi is

greater than Reagan’s total margin of victory in 1980.

The idea of a black candidacy surfaced formally last winter, when the “black

leadership family,” a loosely knit coalition of black politicians, civil rights

leaders and academics toyed with the notion of forcing the Democratic

Party to allot funds for black voter registration. Soon thereafter, Jackson, a

member of the group, started his own registration drive, calling it the

Southern Crusade. Speaking in his characteristic evangelist’s cadence as he

moved around the country, Jackson would thunder to rapt audiences:

“There’s a freedom train a comin’. But you’ve got to be registered to ride.”

Jackson’s candidacy began to gather momentum. A July New York Times

– CBS News poll placed him an impressive third in the lineup for the

Democratic nomination, behind Mondale and Ohio Senator John Glenn.

As his popularity has grown, Jackson has taken pains to court Democratic

leaders, reassuring them that his power will be used for benign purposes. He

has assured Democratic National Committee Chairman Charles Manatt that

he will not inadvertently aid Reagan by mounting an independent general

election bid. “He is very careful, very cautious, very moderate in tone,” says

an aide to Presidential Candidate Gary Hart. “He’s trying to counter the

notion that he’s crazy.” Many black party pros, however, worry that a black

candidacy could backfire, siphoning off votes from a liberal such as

Mondale and leaving Glenn, a moderate, as the party nominee. “Blacks

shouldn’t just settle on any Democraft,” comments Mickey Leland, a black

Texas Congressman. “They should back someone who cares about their


Officially, Mondale aides say the effect of a Jackson push at this point is

“unknowable,” although polls show Jackson shaving 4% or 5% from

Mondale’s share of the vote. Privately, Mondale strategists have met with

Jackson and his aides to outline problems of finance and organization. They

have stressed that Democratic Party rules such as the “threshold”

requirement which says that a candidate must win at least 20% of the vote in

a primary or caucus to gain any delegates, will make it tough for Jackson to

win more than 150 to 200 of the Democratic Covention’s nearly 4,000

delegates. That fact seems unlikely to influence Jackson or his supporters.

“If he could win a few primaries and lock up a couple of hundred delegates,”

says George E. Johnson, President of Chicago-based Johnson Products

Co., Inc., “we [blacks] could go into the convention with some power.”

But many black elected officials and civil rights leaders consider Jackson a

media performer who is short on follow through. In June the black

leadership family endorsed the concept of a black candidacy but did not

name Jackson. Because of Jackson’s grass-roots popularity, however, few

prominent black leaders oppose him openly, though many do privately. “I

just don’t trust him. He’s like a loose cannon,” confessed one black Southern

official. “He’s never finished anything he’s started.”

Jackson appears unbowed by the criticism. “I think jealousy is a factor

sometimes,” he said. Indeed, the epigram-spouting Jackson is so accessible

and eager to supply a colorful comment that many collective black

successes are wrongfully attributed only to him. Jackson is widely credited

with the surge of black voter registration and turnout in Chicago, for

example, although the drive was far from a one-man or even a

one-organization effort. His current registration crusade has received wide

attention, although it is only part of a larger campaign that includes the Urban

League, the N.A.A.C.P. and other civil rights organizations. “I am a catalyst

for change,” says Jackson. “People invite me to interpret an issue and draw

a crowd.”

A ’60s civil rights activist and disciple of the late Rev. Martin Luther King

Jr., Jackson founded Operation PUSH, a black self-help group based in

Chicago, in 1971. He has never held elected political office. “He has certain

qualities that would make him a good candidate,” says James Compton,

president of the Chicago Urban League, “but my own preference would be

for a professional politician.” Jackson also has a reputation as a sloppy

money manager. Last month an unflattering interim federal audit of

PUSH-EXCEL, a motivational program for high school students, surfaced

in Chicago, raising questions about the program’s use of $ 1.7 million in

federal funds.

Nonetheless, Jackson is sounding more and more like a serious candidate.

His keynote address to PUSH delegates paid only token attention to civil

rights concerns and contained lengthy sections on economic and foreign

policy. In traditional campaign-rally style, his wife Jacqueline, usually absent

from his appearances, was in the audience at Atlanta. “I’m reluctant to run,”

Jackson says. “But I’m convinced somebody ought to go.” Critical to the

decision, which he says he will make in September: the congealing of his

“rainbow coalition” of blacks, Hispanics, women, peace activists and

environmentalists. But with an exploratory committee, headed by Mayor

Hatcher, established and a “draft” committee of black ministers set to deliver

a million-signature petition to Jackson by late August, his hat is already

sailing toward the ring. Says New York Congressman Charles Rangel: “He’s

a Baptist minister, and Baptist ministers get callings.


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