In today's Chicago Sun-Times, columnist Carol Marin writes that "Jackson is off the stage, but not forgotten." The article starts:
For the first time since 1984, after six successive appearances on the podium, the Rev. Jesse Jackson will not address the Democratic National Convention in Denver later this month.
There are people who will applaud that fact. I won't be among them.
In her tribute to Jackson, Marin claims that "the unassailable fact of the matter is that he helped set the stage for the history that has already been made this year as an African American and a woman finished first and second in the race to nomination." Whether he indeed "helped set the stage" is in my mind questionable given Jackson's polarizing influence, but that's just a matter of opinion.
Then, however, Marin also asserts:
By the time the 1984 Democratic convention rolled around, the party finally got the message. Jackson had come in third behind Walter Mondale and Gary Hart. He'd picked up 18 percent of the vote and won contests in five states. He'd proved that whites, not only blacks, would vote for a black man.
This suggests that Jackson garnered substantial white support in his 1984 candidacy. That isn't what happened.
The candidate himself admitted as much. The March 22, 1984 Boston Globe reported:
With the three Democratic presidential candidates looking anxiously toward the crucial New York primary in 12 days, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson yesterday accused white voters of having a "disregard for the intelligence of black people."
Jackson, who has had trouble attracting whites to his self-styled rainbow coalition, told reporters during a campaign visit to Virginia, "It's not my fault that whites over their history have developed a disregard for the intelligence of black people.
Reinforcement of stereotypes in the media also has hindered his candidacy, Jackson said, adding that blacks are depicted as "comic relief, singing, dancing, ballplaying . . . and generally less intelligent and hard-working."
And what of those primary victories Marin points to? According to the May 3, 1984 Washington Post, "Jesse L. Jackson's overwhelming Democratic primary victory here Tuesday was a celebration of black political power in the District of Columbia, but it further underscored Jackson's inability to attract white support to his 'rainbow coalition.'"
Three days later the Post reported on Jackson's Louisiana win:
Jesse L. Jackson won his first state primary of the 1984 Democratic presidential campaign today because of an unusually large turnout of enthusiastic blacks and widespread apathy on the part of whites.
State officials had predicted that turnout would be less than 25 percent. It was about 18 percent, and Secretary of State Jim Brown said it was the lowest statewide voter turnout he could remember.
Later in the month, the Post looked at voting patterns and found:
Jackson seldom has drawn more than 5 or 6 percent of the white vote in the presidential primaries. In the new Post-ABC News poll, taken May 16-22, 5 percent of the registered white Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democrats said they preferred Jackson to Walter F. Mondale or Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.).
Marin's contention that Jackson proved that whites in substantial numbers would vote for a black man - at least that black man - for president isn't supported by history.