Jesse Jackson (2)

Jesse Jackson (2) (1986)
Duration: 00:28:49

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Themes: Leadership | Africa and African-Americans | Urban Challenges |

Guests: Jesse Jackson
Host : Ed Gordon
Producer : Ed Gordon, Carole Gibson

Summary: In the second of two consecutive programs from 1986 featuring interviews with Jesse Jackson, host Ed Gordon engages Jackson in a discussion of national politics and the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa.

Gordon begins by asking Jackson, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 whether he would run again in 1988. Jackson refuses to commit himself, but says his decision will depend on his family and the availability of adequate financing for a campaign.

Family concerns are an issue because in the 1984 campaign Jackson received 311 death threats, which resulted in the arrests of 14 people. "That involves your family in a very major way," he says. As far as money is concerned, Jackson states, the 1984 campaign got by on $3 million. But he estimates $10 million to $12 million would be necessary to run an effective campaign for 1988.

"My real commitment," Jackson continues, "is to mobilize the vote of conscience in this nation so as to redirect our course. It's not enough to change from Republican to Democrat. You must change direction and that's not necessarily synonymous."

And despite some notable setbacks, Jackson says blacks are making significant electoral gains. The 1986 election, for example, saw a net gain of three black members of Congress. And only some unfair Democratic Party rules — since changed — shortchanged him on the delegates he needed to be a major influence at the Democratic National Convention in 1984.

Jackson defends himself against suggestions that his is too liberal to get elected and rejects criticism that he is adjusting his positions to curry favor with white voters. Jackson argues that his positions on political and economic justice "are mainstream for those who choose to be just." It was white Americans who were changing as they came to see the injustice of apartheid in South Africa or the reality that illegal drugs were a greater threat than communism. "The positions we've taken have not altered at all," Jackson says. "The nation is having to adjust to reality."

Republicans, Jackson asserts, have stopped writing off black voters and Democrats are being forced to stop taking black voters for granted. "Our future lies in coalition politics based on converging interests," Jackson says.

Jackson raises concerns about race baiting by the administration of President Ronald Reagan. The interview turns toward a discussion of Jackson's recent 17-day trip to Africa. Reconnecting with Africa, he says, is essential for the emotional well being of African Americans.

The interview is wide-ranging and provides valuable insights, not only into Jackson as a personality and as a political figure, but also into the state of American politics in the mid-1980s.