WASHINGTON -- Standing in the concrete courtyard of a depressed public housing project in a violence-ridden neighborhood he described as "the urban crisis personified," the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson announced yesterday that he will not make a third run for the presidency next year.
Instead, Mr. Jackson said, he will seek to create "a new independent democratic majority" among "the excluded and ignored," including "those caught in the middle, not on welfare, those who work every day and yet are still unable to get by."
Mr. Jackson said he would seek to "overhaul" a political process that "now serves a narrow elite." He described the current Democratic and Republican parties this way:
"Too often the parties become alter egos and not alternatives. They appear too close to one another and too far from the new majority. There has been too much of an unholy alliance between [them] -- leaving the electorate with two names but one party, one set of assumptions and no options."
But Mr. Jackson sought to make clear that he was not bolting the Democrats. "Is the new democratic majority a third party?" he asked, then replied to his own question: "No."
Mr. Jackson asserted that he was a "strong Democrat" who has "lifted more ceilings, renewed more faith and sustained more hope than any Democrat alive today." He captured 3.3 million votes in the 1984 Democratic presidential primaries and more than double that many in 1988.
Having turned 50 last month, he may well be a candidate for the presidency again in 1996. "The fire has not gone out," he told reporters. "We have come in for a pit stop to get new tires and overhaul our motor. We're going to come back out faster and stronger than ever before."
Mr. Jackson said he chose the housing project, Potomac Gardens, as the site for his announcement in order to "get the nation's attention" and to "show some human concern where there is now gross indifference." The project is less than a dozen blocks from the U.S. Capitol.
"Here is where government rhetoric and living reality have collided, and the wreckage is a body of people," he said.
Mr. Jackson spoke to an audience of about 250 aides, supporters, members of the media and politicians, including Baltimore's Representative Kweisi Mfume, D-7th, vice chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who opened the program by saying: "We are here today because this is where America is. . . . We have been called to a special place by a special man."