Slighting Jesse Jackson

April 22, 1991

The Democratic Leadership Council holds its first convention next month in Cleveland. Jesse Jackson and George McGovern will not be there -- at least not as speakers. DLC Executive Director Al From said they were not invited to speak because, "We are trying to change the party, and Jackson and McGovern represent. . . old-style politics. . . the ideological approach to government we are trying to change." A Jackson aide characterized it as a "heavy slight." Mr. Jackson wrote several DLC leaders asking if Mr. From "was speaking on your behalf, too?" We certainly hope he was, but we certainly hope they won't say that he was.

Why we hope he was speaking for Democratic Party and DLC leaders: The party needs to change direction. It has to get away from the disastrous politics of the left advocated by Messrs. McGovern and Jackson. The former symbolizes a weak and passive America on the world scene. The latter symbolizes preferential treatment, based on racial, sexual and ethnic identification, to overcome past wrongs. Both these ideologies have been consistently and soundly rejected by American voters in every recent presidential election and are sure to be again in 1992. Americans want the country to be strong, and they want to look ahead to new opportunities, not back to old grievances .

Why we hope DLC leaders won't admit that Al From was speaking for them: The Democrats need every vote they can get to be competitive. They cannot lose key elements in their political coalition. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the DLC president, was correct to disavow the remark and to urge Mr. Jackson to come to Cleveland.

Blacks are an especially important part of the Democratic coalition. A Democrat cannot be elected president in 1992 without massive black support. Blacks vote as a bloc -- 86 percent Democratic in 1988. They provided the Democratic ticket with 20 percent of its total vote.

Of course, it is also important for black Democrats to realize that a slight to Jesse Jackson is not a slight to them. Three of the 12 speakers at the DLC convention will be blacks -- Rep. William Gray, who is the House whip, Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown. Each has been elected to his office. To have invited Jesse Jackson to speak to the convention rather than any one of them would have been seen as just the sort of spineless knuckling under to loud, intimidating special-interest complainers that has led so many Americans to give up on the Democrats in presidential election years.

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