When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. was visibly moved as tears rolled down his face. Fast forward to 2011, and “some layer of the excitement of that night is gone,” he says. The civil rights leader’s change of heart is due in large part to the current plight of African-Americans, who, with an unemployment rate of 15.9 percent, are one of the hardest hit groups of the recession, he told the German publication Spiegel.
“We Blacks were the first people embracing Obama, long before the people at expensive fundraisers were supporting him. We gave him his first love; 96 percent of Blacks voted for him in 2008,” Jackson said. “Yet today we are the No. 1 in unemployment, with 16 percent of American Blacks out of work. We are No. 1 in foreclosure, No. 1 in short life expectancy, in loan default.... So there is a lot of pain here in our community, and this pain must be addressed.”
Jackson suggested that Obama should have a labor leader advising him to give the poor and unemployed a voice in Washington. He said that former President Bill Clinton had more freedom to address African-American issues because he is white.
“Obama, to the contrary, has to endure insults like no previous president,” he said.
“Look at the coded language the Right is using against President Barack Obama. Openly calling him a liar in Congress, saying he is 'not a Christian, he was not born here, he is not one of us.' That makes addressing such issues trickier for the first African-American in the White House.”
But Jackson also believes that the president has underestimated the GOP’s tenacious ideology and how far Republicans are willing to go to see him fail.
“He underestimates how ideological the other side is, and how determined they are to destroy him, even when their actions harm the nation's economy and millions of people,” Jackson said. “I think reconciliation is Obama's goal—but the fight with the Republicans is like a fight with pit bulls, they never let go. Even worse, now the Republicans feel they can keep pushing and he will keep giving. They have not seen a stiff resistance on his part.”
(Photo: Joe Burbank/MCT/Landov)
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