Jesse Jackson’s term as a the unofficial leader of the black civil rights movement ended abruptly with the release of excerpts from the Fox News’ tape of Jesse Jackson’s off-camera statements. Americans of all races have lost confidence in him. His own son, Jesse Jackson Jr, led the way in renouncing him as the reigning monarch of black political leadership.
As many folks have suspected for years, Jesse Jackson revealed to everyone that he has an opportunistic side. His motives seem to be mixed and confusing. It’s safe to say that he, like many others, jumped on the Obama bandwagon because it suited his purposes. The contradiction of Jackson’s public praise of Obama and his private views highlights the truth of the expression, “Politics makes for strange bedfellows.” It also shows that the far Left is less unified than many Democrats would hope. Progressives, as they would prefer to be called, see themselves as compassionate guardians of the “holy grail” of American freedom. Jackson, often seen by Hollywood celebrities as the second coming of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, showed himself to be filled with jealousy and pettiness that would reprehensible for any clergyman - but is especially disturbing when seen in the life of someone of his stature.
Yet in the name of watching out for the best interests of his people, Jesse Jackson elevated himself to the role of “leading, black-policy advocate.” For a black man to use such graphic metaphors was amazing to me. After all, castration was the ultimate method of torture and intimidation used before and immediately after the Civil Rights era to enforce white supremacy over blacks.
Rev. Jackson attacked Senator Obama for two ideological reasons. The behind-the-scenes conflict between these two men is based upon generational differences and a divergence in how they see the economic and social needs of blacks today. The first ideological concept revolves around the role of the socially active, black church in America. Concerning the role of the church - it seems that Obama is not liberal enough for Rev. Jackson. This assessment is especially ironic given Senator Obama’s liberal voting record. He is the most liberal senator in the nation.
Most extreme liberals believe that it’s the government’s job to take care of the poor and to pay for it by increased taxes. The senator’s recent recommendations about continuing the George Bush’s Faith Based Initiative program shows a major departure from many liberal views -many progressives will not acknowledge the fact that it will take the church, business, and individuals working together with the government to heal our major social problems - especially poverty.
Secondly, Jesse Jackson disagreed with how Obama publicly spoke out about parental and family responsibility on Father’s Day. Like many black liberals, he wants to continue the rhetoric of blame and guilt projection, instead of seeking practical solutions. Obama is not a civil rights leader. He is simply a savvy politician who has mastered the art of saying in his own words the famous Bill Clinton mantra – “I feel your pain.”
Jesse Jackson’s fall was a tremendous gift to Senator Obama’s campaign. It answers a question that many Hispanics and other ethnic groups have asked themselves behind closed doors. Will black advocacy and civil rights be a major priority of an Obama presidency? Will he be the president of all the people – a leader that happens to be black? Many have already concluded that he would just be a black politician held hostage to an agenda of the major voting block that got him into office. It’s a new day in race relations and the political world. Things have changed. Barak Obama understands that he and his party must bring a little substance if he is going to get the continued support of blacks. I am sure the Obama campaign is shouting, “The King is dead!” Unfortunately, we cannot yet say, “Long Live the King!” because he has not yet been crowned.
The leaders of both major political parties in this country tended to ignore the black voters until the last six weeks of a campaign season. Consequently, many black voters have historically felt like the other woman in an illicit affair. We’re jostled from place to place and forced to wait in the shadows. Many promises were made but few were kept. While both Republican and Democratic Parties have been married to others with more money and influence, they still came on tiptoe to our door at midnight. Loved only for what we can give, black voters today are beginning to ask, “At what price have I been selling my love?”
Fortunately, there’s a new voice that is helping to call the black electorate back from that adulterous affair. The new black church is speaking out as never before, assisting the black community to rise above the exploitation of the past by reconsidering her longstanding and tawdry affair with the Democratic Party. The affair is over. The black church has denied and dethroned Jackson decades ago. The dishonor of this week’s comments has now brought to light what we have already known. So let’s seize our moment and challenge this year’s candidates to our moral agenda.
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.