Jesse Jackson Disses ‘Moderate’ Joe Biden, Endorses Bernie Sanders
On Sunday, March 8, 2020, the Rev. Jesse Jackson gave a full-throated endorsement of Democratic Party presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). This defining imprimatur comes just before both Tuesday’s pivotal primary in Michigan and the Illinois primary on March 17. Both states feature significant numbers of African American voters, who may be crucial, if not definitive, in determining both the Democratic Party’s nominee and the direction of the party itself for the foreseeable future.
Michigan is now considered a “swing” state simply and only because of that state’s and the national Republican Party’s unrelenting past and current voter suppression regimes. The obvious and clear case in point is that four years ago, in 2016, as many as 70,000 black people in Detroit City alone were in-your-face cheated out of their voting power by Republican Party shenanigans. Yes, because of, and only because of voter suppression, Donald Trump won the state of Michigan by some 10,000 votes.
Illinois, however, is a solidly “Blue” state, because and only because, its political winds are driven by its northern megalopolis Chicago. Thus, Illinois will undoubtedly serve up its twenty Electoral College votes to whomever the Democratic Party ultimately selects as its standard bearer in the November general election.
Jackson’s support for Sanders, a Vermont independent and self-described “Democratic Socialist,” stands in stark contrast to Democratic front runner and former Vice President Joe Biden’s endorsement by Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) — on the eve of last week’s Super Tuesday electoral extravaganza. And Jackson’s endorsement runs counter to Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-CA), herself a former presidential candidate, blessing of Biden just this week. Both Clyburn and Harris are symbolic and indeed representative of this nation-state’s black political “establishment” who, of late, have been falling in line lockstep behind Biden and the twin perceptions of his “moderate” policies and assumed “electability” (read: ability to attract white voters willing to reject Trump). Over at Black Agenda Report, Executive Editor Glen Ford would describe these two as bona fide members of the “black misleadership class.”
Jesse Jackson, of course, is the long-time, world-renowned, Chicago-based human and civil rights icon. He is also a two-time presidential candidate himself, who, interestingly enough, enjoyed Bernie Sanders’ endorsement and support for both of his own ill-fated runs for the presidency.
Jackson’s reciprocating endorsement of Sanders comes only one day after Sanders, the septuagenarian firebrand, appeared in Chicago before an adoring crowd of thousands.
Jackson also appeared at a Sanders rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan later the same day.
As stated, Michigan is up first and is a crucial and real “battleground state” this time around. Even after Biden’s putative blowout on Super Tuesday, Sanders still now only trails (slightly) Vice President Biden in the all-important and determinative delegate count.
Rev. Jackson explained his support for Sanders and his rejection of Biden this way:
With the exception of Native Americans, African Americans are the people who are most behind socially and economically in the United States, and our needs are not moderate, Jackson said in a statement issued by the Sanders campaign.
A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path. The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up, and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That’s why I choose to endorse him today.
Again, Jackson’s resume in presidential politics runs deep.
His electrifying, if unsuccessful, presidential bids in 1984 and 1988 brought to the forefront issues and policies virtually identical to Sanders’ current platform: free community college for all; a single-payer health care system; a leveling of the economic playing field for poor and heretofore “marginalized” people.
And Jackson’s message not only resonated with voters, but actually changed the Democratic Party nominating process. Some analysts argue that “Super Tuesday” itself was invented in response to (and to stop or slow down, at least) Jackson’s ’84 effort. The idea here was that holding an essentially “national” primary would eliminate “fringe” candidates (read: those without the big bucks necessary to campaign in multiple states).
Still, and nevertheless, in the 1988 Democratic primaries, Jackson earned 6.9 million votes and won 11 primary contests. Alas, Jackson was too far ahead of his time. Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor, ultimately won the nomination and proceeded to get trounced in a landslide or tsunami (pick your own metaphor) to George H.W. Bush in the general election.
It’s rarely mentioned (or remembered) that Joe Biden was an “also-ran” in 1988's Democratic primary elections.
It is also worth noting that Jackson also has said, rather pointedly, that Biden’s campaign did not seek his endorsement in the current race.
Jackson’s and Harris’ respective endorsements may make the difference in tomorrow’s election in Michigan specifically due to the black vote there.
In the case of Harris endorsement of Biden, she may have “healed a rift,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Biden’s wife Jill said Friday that the possible selection of Harris as her husband’s running mate is certainly on the table. This comes despite the senator’s remarks about Biden’s history of placating congressional racists over school integration. Recall that during a debate last summer, Harris accused Biden of defending two segregationist senators by compromising away the rights of black children to a quality education. She poignantly noted that she herself had actually been one of those children. Biden himself called Harris’ statements “hurtful” and denied that he ever defended “racists.”
It appears that Harris had a close “bond” with the Bidens’ deceased son, Beau Biden, when he was a Delaware attorney general and she, Harris, was California’s attorney general. Jill Biden told a fundraising crowd in suburban Illinois that,
…our son, Beau, spoke so highly of her and you know, and how great she was. And not that she isn’t, I’m not saying that. But it was just like a punch to the gut; it was a little unexpected.
Jackson’s endorsement of Sanders, as stated, will counter both Clyburn’s and Harris’ endorsement of Biden — and perhaps even Barack Obama’s expected endorsement of him as well.