Remembering Jesse Jackson and Arthur Eve Campaigns
My mind raced back to the Reverend Jesse Jackson campaign in 1983 and 1984. In September 1983 Rev. Jackson asked Assemblyman Al Vann and me to organize Black leaders to help him decide whether he should run for the presidency. The meeting was held at our church, the House of the Lord in Brooklyn, New York. The church was packed. It seemed that everyone who called himself a leader was present when Jesse spoke, he said, “I don’t ‘want the run Jesse run’ to ‘see Jesse run’ I need three things: money, machinery, and the masses. If you will help me with those things, I’m ready to go.”
One of our campaign stops was New Hampshire. In addition to campaigning in the state, Jesse also wanted to confess that he had made the statement that we were going to “Jew-town” meaning New York. For a long time, he had denied that he had made the statement. But now in New Hampshire, he wanted to acknowledge and do it in a synagogue in Concord. After a long day's campaigning, we met at the synagogue in the evening where Jesse made the confession statement. We thought that it was all over and we were ready to move ahead. But it did not stop the severe criticism. Another reason we wanted to campaign in New Hampshire, an almost completely white state, is because of Super Tuesday when a number of Black states held their primaries, and we thought that if we did well there it would impress Black folks in the Southern states. After New Hampshire, the next morning we flew to Atlanta, Georgia. Jesse, knowing my Savannah roots asked me to campaign in Savannah. I remember getting up early on the day of the election. Long lines of people were coming, it seemed, from every direction - walking, in cars, wagons pulled by horses. We lost the election, but we won the hearts of the people. The campaign was phenomenally successful; many people became involved in political education and ran for office. It was strikingly similar to the Black Lives Matter Movement today.
Our daughters, Leah and Sharon, were Jackson’s Campaign Coordinators while students at Dartmouth College. Upon graduation, Leah became an intern for Congressman Ed Towns of Brooklyn, New York. Years later she became the Chief of Staff for Mr. Terry McAullife, Chairman of the Democratic Party. And still, later she made history by being the CEO of the National Democratic Convention in 2008 and 2016.
It was Saturday, November 7, 2020, a few minutes after 11:20 a.m., it came on CNN with the usual flashing “Breaking News” in large red and white letters, then Wolf Blitzer anchorman for CNN made the announcement, “CNN is projecting former Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. will be the next President of the United States.”
My mind went back to Election day Tuesday, November 3, 2020. After the polls closed, I stayed up agonizing through the night as Trump took an early lead. He continued increasing the lead until he won Florida. This was a disturbing development. We thought that Biden would win the Sunshine state. However, I knew and had written and taught that Mr. Trump would get out of the gate with a bang or a quick start because he had urged his people to vote in person and disregard the virus. But, eventually, Mr. Biden’s supporters who have been told to use the mail or drop-off points would catch up and pass Mr. Trump. I also wrote that there would be a rejection and sustained resistance to the election results by Mr. Trump and his lawyers. I had even written of his options after defeat.
See my articles: If Trump loses the election
Trump getting out of the gate
However, I didn’t expect that Mr. Trump would win Florida. After all, there is a Black and Latino majority, so it means that some serious organizing, especially education, needs to take place among the Black and Latino coalition. Likewise in Texas, the Biden organizers thought they had a chance to win Texas, but again the Latino vote went for Mr. Trump.
At the point of Mr. Trump's biggest lead when it appeared that he was going to win overwhelmingly. Mr. Biden held a brief press conference. He assured his supporters that things were going the way he knew would go. Not to worry and they were going to win the race. It reminded me of another campaign in which I was involved when a similar thing happened. It was 1977 when Assemblyman Arthur Eve was running to become the first Black Mayor of Buffalo, NY. I organized bus loads on two occasions for the campaign for Arthur. In fact, I spent the weekend living in his home. On the night of the election as we watched the election returns, Eve’s opponent had built a substantial lead, and that Arthur was going down in defeat. Hastily, we left the campaign headquarters and headed to the ballroom where all of the supporters were awaiting the returns. Once we had arrived, Art assured the people that they were going to win. He told them that the districts where our supporters lived had not been counted and were always counted last. Sure enough, Mr. Eve was right. When the night was over, Black voters had overtaken the opponent and went on to victory. This too was a striking similarity to the Biden campaign with a major exception. Assemblyman Arthur Eve won the Democratic primary but lost the general election. For the first time in anyone's memory, a Democrat did not win the general election. Racism in Buffalo reared its ugly head and denied Mr. Eve victory and a place in history as the first Black Mayor in Buffalo. It was a painful defeat. I am not sure if Art ever got over it. Of course, the difference between the two races was Mr. Biden won it all.
To be continued...