by Dr. Boyce Watkins
The Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke this week about the victory of President Barack Obama and the role that African Americans played in helping him to secure a second term. Jackson, who hardily endorsed Obama in both terms, has been a strong advocate for the president for years, while being an even greater advocate for those who are suffering the most.
Jackson notes what the rest of us saw on that amazing night: That the minority has become the majority in America, and that coalitions of black, brown, young and single people can change the political landscape.
In a recent article for the Chicago Sun-Times, Rev. Jackson gets right to the heart of the matter: That these voters who supported President Obama are seeking support that will help them to recover from the most recent recession in the same way that big business recovered many years ago.
“The president’s vote directly tracked income levels. He won a large majority of those making less than $50,000 a year and lost a majority of those making more,” said Jackson. “Romney was clearly the candidate of the 1 percent. Obama was the candidate of middle, working-class and poor Americans; those in the middle class and those aspiring to get there.”
Jackson, who is a strong advocate for the working class, says that these voters want action on jobs, and want help in raising the minimum wage. They also want better educational systems and quality public transportation systems that can be built as a way to further stimulate the economy
Rev. Jackson also says that these workers are not seeking cuts to social safety nets.
“An election night poll by Campaign for America’s Future and Democracy Corps found that 62 percent of voters would find cuts in Social Security benefits unacceptable as part of a deficit agreement, and 79 percent would oppose cuts in Medicare benefits,” wrote Jackson.
Finally, Rev. Jackson calls for the president to strengthen American cities and urban communities.
“The president’s real mandate — and his real opportunity — is to lay out a plan for revitalizing our cities. This will help get the economy going and put people to work. It will decrease poverty, despair and the hopelessness that feeds drugs and depression. And as people go to work, they start paying taxes and stop collecting unemployment insurance — and that helps bring deficits down.”
You can read more of Rev. Jackson’s opinion at this link.
Rev. Jackson has been as consistent as a brick when it comes to intelligently advocating for those who are suffering the most in America. In a fashion that shows strong political maturity, the reverend has put aside the family struggles resulting from his son’s challenges to remain focused on the well-being of black and brown people. There is nothing wrong with what he’s asking the president to do, so it’s up to the rest of us to support Obama’s capacity to do it.
Does it involve showing up for the mid-term elections? Yes. Does it involve us demanding that Congress put aside partisan bickering? Yes. Must we demand that the Obama Administration return the favor of unprecedented African American support? Yes. As Professor Marc Lamont Hill recently said on BET, “When you give someone 93% of the vote and don’t ask for anything, you’re not a political movement, you’re a fan club.”
It is only when everyone does their part that we can make our country better. Change is not easy, but showing up to the voting booth was not the end of our collective effort, it was just the beginning. Cheering for the president is one thing, but we must also cheer for each other. It’s time to make our country and our community better.