Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

On February 3, 2005 I sat on the set of the Tavis Smiley Show. I’ll never forget that day. An article about our organization, the High Impact Leadership Coalition, had been on the front page of the Los Angeles Times just two days before. Black leaders were leaving the Democratic Party’s “plantation” to identify with the Republican Party’s moral agenda. The idea was that the values voters of 2004 were not just old white guys from the South; they were an array of people from the most unlikely neighborhoods and backgrounds.

Excited about the Bush victory in 2004, I saw it as the beginning of a new partnership of the religious right and the black community. Reflecting these views, I penned these words in an article that appeared in the New York Sun Times on election day, November 2004:

“Both parties have largely ignored the black vote until the last six weeks of the campaign. Many black voters feel like the other woman in an affair. They are jostled from place to place and forced to wait in the shadows. Promise after promise is made but very few promises are kept. While both Republican and Democratic parties are married to others, they still tiptoe to her door at midnight.

Loved only for what she can give, the black voter has got to ask, ‘At what price will I sell my love?’

The new black church is helping the black community rise above the devalued lover syndrome by recommending that she end her longstanding, tawdry affair with the Democratic Party. An uncompromising generation of black Christians is emerging. These people are bold enough to dream that they can help create a just and moral America.”

Let’s take a look at the actual transcript of the Tavis Smiley show on Feb 3, 2005:

Tavis: …let me just ask what you think the president's outreach to black America vis-à-vis black churches accomplished in this last election?

Jackson: Well, I think it got him elected…

Tavis: …he jumped from like 9% to 11%, but you argue that got him elected?

Jackson: Well, think about it. Only 60,000 votes made the difference in Ohio. …If he lost Ohio, he lost the race, so, really, they doubled the vote in Ohio, and that made the difference. Now, also Florida, there was a doubling of the black vote, but in those swing states, there was a major difference there, and black Christians voted just like the normative mainstream Christian community, but we didn't get anything in return. We only got the privilege of saying, hey, some of the things we were afraid of may not be acted out. But that's not a positive movement. That's just protecting territory, and we need to advance, I believe, the cause of Christians, but more specifically, black America needs to be taken seriously.”

Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.