Baptist Minister turned Illinois second district congressman Jesse Jackson made two attempts to become the Democratic Party nominee in 1984 and 1988. In the 1988 bid for the White House, Jackson was defeated by Senator Michael Dukakis for the Democratic nomination but not after showing strong in initial state nominating conventions. Jackson then capitalized his racial (black) circumstance and challenged political personalities and organizational corporations (Steele A19). Despite Jackson’s strong impact to the country and American people during that time, his candidacy was expectedly marred with controversies.
In fact, if he pursued his bid around that period, Jackson would have been prevented from being a political leader or worst, ended up not winning at all. The reason behind this is what Walton wrote as the Critical Election Theory wherein Jackson’s efforts to be the first Black U. S. President were questioned. Based from the presupposition of the said theory, his position that it was time for blacks to have their ways into the Democratic Party nomination and eventually the White House was evaluated in a manner that it would hurt Jackson more apparently due to his egotistical endeavors (Walton 49).
However, the political arena has changed for the past two decades. As Barker wrote, the concern and uncertainty brought by the emergence of the black power and an increased awareness on the need for change created another level of enthusiasm for people to support now the black bids in the likes of Jackson and now with Barack Obama (Barker 3). Had Jackson made the bid this year or if he was the Democratic Party candidate against Sen. John McCain, he could have won the presidency just like Obama.
The situation that catapulted Obama to the White House could have also been smartly utilized by Jackson to kick out the incumbent Republican President George Bush. If Jesse Jackson was the Democratic Party nominee for the 2008 elections, he could have handily beaten McCain just as well. Like Obama, Jackson possesses the charms and eloquence which convinced Americans to go for change – change in their perception of politics, change in their views on racial discrimination, change to accept a new brand of leadership and change for a better and different United States of America.
Obama was simply lucky that a confluence of events conspired to generate a feeling of anger and disgust in the hearts and minds of the American people on the mess created by President Bush who was perceived as insensitive and stubborn. Add to it McCain’s image of being conservative just like Bush. And both gentlemen were devastated by hurricane “Change” of Obama that in the process swept the Chicago first term congressman to the world’s most powerful post.
Jesse Jackson should, in fact, be credited for paving the way for “non-whites” to be accepted by the Americans on the national scale. Yes, a lot of Black Americans, Asian Americans and European Americans, among others, won elective positions in several states but only few managed to be recognized as serious contenders for the United States presidency. With Obama’s victory, it won’t be difficult anymore for “colored” Americans to vie or the White House.
America has truly matured into becoming the world’s melting pot of diverse cultures. Gone are the days that the whites dominate just practically all facets of American life. So when Jesse Jackson introduced himself as a Black presidential contender, it was just a matter of time before America installs a colored man or woman as their president. And just like Jackson, Barack Obama, despite his being a neophyte in politics, came at the right time when America was absolutely ready for change.
Courtney from Study Moose
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