The Corner

Jesse Jackson, Jr. — Dad Should Be Proud

Jesse Jackson, Sr. was astonishingly obnoxious a couple of months ago on the subject of the black man who did what he could not: garner serious, multi-racial support for a mainstream political career.  His son, llinois Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., has been on board with fellow Chicagoan Obama from the start. Considering what a corrupt old hack dad is, and considering how tired that particular strain of black church/civil rights rhetoric has become, I almost watched Gossip Girl instead of watching Jr. give his speech for Obama.

And that would have been a pity, because Jackson, Jr. gave a very good speech. He managed to evoke the highest points of civil rights rhetoric, while keeping the emotion in check — my aesthetic preference. He praised America for change and for its goodness and pursuit of freedom — and sounded sincere and not as if he were from some other place. He spoke about how Dr. King would be delighted to see this, the first political convention within sight of a mountain top. Very moving stuff, delivered straight, with no attempt to evoke guilt for the past.  He gave, actually, the speech I was led to expect I would be hearing from Barack himself all this past spring, in the post-racial campaign that did not materialize. 

Substance is not the point tonight. If Barack and “Hard Sell Michelle” can do what Jesse, Jr. did, they will do much better with white voters than we have seen to date. Of course, they have not had Jackson, Jr.’s experience. Jesse Jackson Jr. has seen more closely than most the limitations ”black rage” or “separatism” as a useful path forward. Even if Michelle babysat for him…

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