Jesse Jackson Returns Favor, Endorses Bernie Sanders For President

2020 democratic primary
Jesse Jackson Returns Favor, Endorses Bernie Sanders For President

Once upon a time, in 1988, civil rights icon Jesse Jackson ran for president. Well, in 1984 and in 1988 — but in 1988, when Jackson ran for president, he won the state of Vermont, the whitest state in the union, after getting the very enthusiastic endorsement of the independent mayor of Burlington, Bernie Sanders. For that year, Sanders gave up his status as an independent in order to be able to caucus for Jackson with the Democrats, because Jackson was running on such an awesome and progressive platform (which, fun fact, included single payer health care both times he ran!).

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Jackson's platform was pretty amazing, but despite that and despite the fact that everyone I knew who could vote at that time was voting for him (to be fair, this demographic consisted entirely of my own parents), he lost the nomination in 1988 to Michael Dukakis, who was running on a platform meant to appeal more to so-called Reagan Democrats than to the Left. Dukakis ... did not win that election.

Now, 32 years later, Jackson is now endorsing Sanders for president, because of the progressive platform he is running on.

Of course, this isn't just a one hand washing the other kind of situation. Jackson says he arrived at his decision after the Sanders campaign reached out to him for his support and agreed to commit to several positions of importance to him in order to earn it. He also noted that the Biden campaign did not reach out to him or ask for his support, but that is perhaps not hugely surprising given some other events of the 1988 Democratic primary.

Excerpt from Jackson's endorsement, via Common Dreams:

1. Voting rights! We have a states rights and local control voting system with few national standards that's allowing states to engage in voter suppression. Senator Sanders and Congressman Ro Khanna will introduce a right to vote constitutional amendment in Congress next week. The ultimate irony is that after Heller we have a fundamental right to a gun but not a fundamental right to vote in the U.S. Constitution.

2. Senator Sanders will support reforming and renewing an effective U.S. Civil Rights Commission as called for in HR 4.

3. Senator Sanders supports a wealth tax and at least $50 billion targeted to funding HBCUs

4. Senator Sanders agreed to support aggressive funding for Silicon Valley to create venture capital and hiring programs with HBCUs in order to diversify the lawyers and money managers they do business with. Senator Sanders will task Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley, to push for making the tech economy more inclusive of the black community with concrete deliverables.

5. Senator Sanders supports a single payer healthcare plan that I advocated in 1984 and 1988 with his Medicare for All plan that will provide every American with universal and comprehensive healthcare, with extra funds targeting rural and minority hospitals and community health centers.

6. Senator Sanders is committed to a U.S. mediating role in a two-state solution; a mutually negotiated Middle East peace plan that includes Israeli security and Palestinian justice.

7. Senator Sanders supports more trade and fair trade between African Americans, Africa, and the Caribbean nations.

8. Senator Sanders has agreed to support a dramatic expansion of Pell Grants, a free public college education and supports forgiving existing student's loans, where black women have the largest student loan debt.

9. Senator Sanders supports massive new investments in public education generally, including vocational education, but also funding that directly targets the special needs in black, brown and poor communities, and ensuring that every teacher is paid at least $60,000.

10. Senator Sanders supports an end to endless wars; supports reviving the State Department's role by massively increasing negotiations and diplomatic efforts to bring about peace and justice among the nations of the world; and spending the money saved on rebuilding the nation's infrastructure and launching a job intensive Green New Deal.

11. Senator Sanders will work to create a market for black farmers, given how they faced historic discrimination and were locked out of the agricultural market.

12. Senator Sanders has committed to putting an African American woman on the Supreme Court.

13. Senator Sanders acknowledges Rev. Jackson's challenge to put an African American woman on the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket and will give it the highest consideration. Senator Sanders has also agreed to make sure that black women are in his cabinet and are at the highest levels throughout his administration should he be elected president.

These are all really great things! Like Sanders, Jackson has pretty much stuck to his guns in terms of what he wants over the years. Many of these things are things that were mentioned in his 1988 platform — specifically voting rights, single payer, a public works program to provide jobs for all people (which is basically what the Green New Deal is), free public college, support for a Palestinian state, taxing the wealthy to support social welfare programs, and cutting the military budget.

The country has caught up to Jackson on a few things in the last 32 years — for instance, while efforts in the War on Drugs were never redirected to money laundering bankers as Jackson had hoped, most people now agree that the War on Drugs was bad. Also, declaring apartheid-era South Africa a rogue nation is probably something the majority of people who are not Tucker Carlson would agree with, in retrospect. So that's something! As far as the rest of it goes, well, it would be nice if we didn't have to wait another 32 years.

ADDENDUM: Here are some really lovely words from Jackson, delivered by AOC at the Sanders Rally in Michigan:

[Common Dreams]

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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