I've always thought Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was a brilliant politician. Not only because of being the son of the most prominent civil rights leader of this generation, Rev Jesse Jackson Sr., but also because of his ability to connect the dots on the issues that his district members and people across the country grapple with daily. Congressman Jackson has been a fighter for the oppressed and the disadvantaged. Obviously his background informed what he did in Congress. But also his understanding of those issues and pushing them to the forefront makes him a shrewd politician.
Yet it makes you wonder about how careful Congressman Jackson was when it came to campaign finance. In his resignation letter last week which stunned many because it came so soon, Jackson, said he was resigning largely due to his health. At the same time he acknowledged the widening federal investigation he is under and even admits responsibilities for whatever might come out of that investigation. It therefore appears that Jackson knows all too well that the wheels of justice are quickly turning in the federal probe and is prepared to face whatever consequences come out of that.
Losing someone like Jackson in Congress is a big blow to the Democratic caucus given the voice of conscience he's always been in
the halls of power. But it raises serious questions about political power and its abuse by those who ought to know better. Congressman Jackson grew up in one of the most preeminent American families, and a family that has long made the battle for civil rights a pilgrimage. His is one that understands political power and its abuse. He knows what it takes to avoid political abuse because he came from a background that speaks to leveraging political power for the greater good and yet not be tainted or trapped in it. Not many people growing up can brag about the background of Congressman Jackson.
Why then would such a promising political career come to an end so soon? In 2008, when I was covering the historic Democratic National Convention in Denver where President Obama was nominated, one of the most impressive speakers was Congressman Jackson. After he finished speaking he brought delegates to their knees because of his brilliance and understanding the relationship between the struggle that his father led, and connecting that struggle to the moment that produced then Sen. Barack Obama who would go on to become president.
His delivery at the convention was electrifying and caught everyone's attention. Then in Denver, Jackson, proved the world was his oyster and that he was just beginning to show the immeasurable potential he has on the national stage as a child of the movement. It is sad to now see the man who captivated thousands in Denver now ends up captivated by a federal probe with untold consequences.
By Bankole Thompson
Some Republican leaders in Oakland County and around the country are still expressing shock at what happened on Election Day. Apparently some of them have been living in another planet or their shock is a blatant revelation of how out of touch some of these leaders have been.
Even Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan expressed shock at the turn out of the urban vote: blacks and other voters who came out in droves to support President Obama. The GOP leadership which has hardly made any effort to reach out to minority groups now wants to pretend they didn’t know what was taking place in the demographic roadmap of the country.
But here is the issue: in 2012 the GOP must lay to rest the tradition of an all-white-male ticket whether in national or local politics. The GOP ticket (whether they like it or not) has to reflect the growing commmunities that their ticket seeks to serve. You can’t purport to represent Oakland County (Michigan) which is increasingly becoming diverse almost every year with diverse groups and run an all white male ticket as the Michigan Republican Party did this year.
An all-white-male ticket does not speak to a multicultural America and it certainly doesn’t represent the changing demographics reflected boldly in the last 2010 Census report.
The GOP leadership on the national level can no longer be deaf to this new reality if they want the party to continue to exist. One of the party’s biggest mistakes was to run an all-white-male ticket (Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan) in a nation where women and people of color are gradually becoming the pillars of a new emerging democracy. By running an all white male ticket in the last presidential election the GOP was sending the message that there’s no room for women or people of color on their top tickets.
America is changing rapidly. The GOP now must seize on this new change with a new attitude toward the politics of minorities and women or face gradual demise. To have the audacity to run an all white male ticket and then complain about losing to minority and women voters is lunacy.
This is no rocket science for the GOP to solve. Open up the party to people of all stripes and backgrounds if it truly seeks to be a democratic institution.
But it will take guts for some in the GOP to rest on those who still hold old and mundane views about where the GOP should be. It will take the courage of moderate Republicans like Paul Welday to continue to push their party to this new reality and make the party adapt to these changes.
It will require the courage of rising Oakland County moderate GOP voices like Lena Koretzky to tell their party that women should no longer be sitting at the back the bus but rather should be front and center of decision making. In this current dispensation, you can’t relegate women to a certain level in the party when the Democratic Party had their female boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz head of the Democratic National Committee running the show on the other side of the isle. That’s the difference it makes when a party stands for inclusion.
Change is the only thing that is permanent and the GOP can choose to be in the change column or seek to be stagnant and not grow. We are witnessing the battle for the soul of the Republican Party.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” And the real facts are that there is rising multicultural majority that the GOP cannot afford to ignore including women, young people, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Arab Americans, Native Americans and other groups all of whose interested should be a top priority for a party that is seeking to represent the UNITED STATES.
If the GOP like Lincoln is a firm believer in the people that when given the truth they will make conscious decisions then there shouldn’t be any issue for the GOP leadership in Oakland County and the nation to open its doors to the people.
Bankole Thompson author of “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” is a distinguished journalist and presidential author. Since 2008 he has been a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening program on New York’s WLIB-1190AM. You can tune in every Sunday to hear his take on the Obama administration from 9-10:30pm and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. You can listen to him every Thursday morning on WDET-101.9FM (Detroit NPR Affiliate). Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle. No part of this blog must be republished without the appropriate designation or expressed permisison of the author http://www.bankolethompson.com
Republican leaders, funders, thinkers, conservative activists and media pundits are still trying to recover from the shock of the 2012 presidential election that secured a second term mandate for America’s first black President Barack Obama. They are all shocked at what happened on Election Night that their candidate Mitt Romney only won one swing state North Carolina and lost the remaining battleground states including Michigan, Ohio, Florida and the rest to President Obama.
But the Republican Party should have seen this coming. All the leaders of the conservative movement and their media thinkers needed to do was to read the 2010 Census report that showed how America is quickly becoming a multiracial nation and the fact that the demographics are changing to a real melting pot. Because the Republican Party did not pay attention to the new racial majority in the Census report that showed how Hispanics are fastly growing they are now made to face the reality of America changing before their very own eyes.
What Tuesday’s election showed was that African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women, young voters and other racial groups came out in massive numbers like never before to secure a second term for President Obama in a powerful way. This is the new racial majority that reflects the current political landscape and will determine how elections go in this country for a long time.
The Republican Party now must accept this reality or it will be confined to the party of the 1960s. You can only use the Southern strategy so long but at some point like Tuesday’s election determined, that strategy can no longer work. Appealing to people’s racial fears and playing the race card by trying to invoke the sordid past of the South and clamping on minority rights to vote will not be accepted by the new racial coalition.
The party of Abraham Lincoln now must adjust to the changing demograpics of America and embrace diversity in a more realistic and meaningful way. Small minded politics and appealing to the worst of people like we saw during Obama’s first term with right-wing placards reading “We want our country back,” belong to the America of 1950 not 2012.
Democracy dictates that a party that claims to represent all of the people ought to cater to the wellbeing of the people it purports to represent not just a segment of the population. African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, women, young people and other racial groups also have an interest in the political stake of this country and how decisions are made on their behalf. The Republican Party cannot ignore the issues these groups care about and cannot be seen as anti-diversity. If the party continues to do so ignoring the interest of this multicultural coalition it will mean more trouble for the party election after election.
Even Fox News conservative pundit Dick Morris who blindly and wrongfully predicted a Romney win failing to see the new America is taking a second look at this new political reality and challenging his party to step up.
“What this is saying is this is the new America. This isn’t your father’s America,” Morris said on Fox News. “The percentage of single women, minorities and voters under 30 is so large at this point that unless the Republican Party fundamentally changes its appeal to those voters, it can never win an election. And what the Republican Party needs to do is to stop running in the face of those demographics, and start appealing to them and start revising some of its priorities and its positions in order to reach that vote because that vote is here to stay.”
Yes, the new racial majority is here to stay. America’s political decisions should in the truest sense reflect the rapidly growing diversity of this nation because that is the future. And if there is real meaning in the Declaration of Independence, “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” then the Republican Party must demonstrate that mean in how it operates from now on.
And if the Republican Party wants to have a future it can no longer relegate African Americans, Hispanics, women and other groups to the back of the 2012 bus. This is the year 2012. The Republican Party must desist from the ugly politics we saw in this just ended campaign where Republican male candidates went the extreme of defining what rape is for women.
The Republican Christian and white evangelical leadership like the Rev Franklin Graham and others must wake up and stop playing selective Christianity when it comes to minorities as they attempted to do with President Obama questioning his faith. You can’t have a different religious standard when it comes to minority groups and another standard for the once dominant culture. This is religious hypocrisy and it was put to shame Tuesday night.
The day after election, I was on the phone with an influential religious leader in the country who is an Obama supporting reflecting on Tuesday night’s victory.
“The white evangelical Christians have not changed in 100 years,” is how this leader of one of the largest denominations described the condescending behavior of Rev Franklin Graham and others who led the charge to question Obama’s faith and tried to de-legitimize him.
America is not at a crossroads because we know where America is headed. The Republican Party is at a crossroads because it now must choose which way to go.
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