A lot of assumptions are being made with regard to Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
The Democratic representative from Chicago is, after 13 years in the House, earning the sort of attention accorded congressional leaders and presidential contenders. Unfortunately, it comes in the context of the scandal that has exploded around Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Blagojevich stands accused of “hanging a ‘for sale’ sign” on the Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Jackson was as close as there was to a frontrunner in the competition for a gubernatorial appointment to the seat. He had been endorsed by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Defender and other newspapers, as well as Progressive Democrats of America and individual activists who had come to know him as a champion in the struggle for peace and economic and social justice.
Jackson says that, when he met with Blagojevich on the eve of the governor’s arrest, they spoke about those endorsements and the congressman’s record — as well as his viability as a Democratic contender in the 2010 race to retain the seat. He denies that there was anything inappropriate about the discussion, and no evidence has surfaced to suggest that there was. But the fact of that meeting — and speculation about the prospect that an as-yet-unnamed “emissary” had promised fund-raising assistance to Blagojevich if he made the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson a senator — has made Congressman Jackson almost as big a player in the scandal discussion as the governor.
A lot of writers are making assumptions about Jackson.
As someone who has known the man for many years and written about him in a number of political and policy-making settings, I won’t do that.
Rather, I’ll offer some facts, and some hopes.
First, the facts:
Since his election to the House in a 1995 special election, Jackson has compiled one of the most consistently progressive and reform-oriented records in the chamber. He has clashed not just with the Bush administration and its economic-royalist allies but with Democrats who have chosen to compromise with those interests. As such, he has cost himself politically. Jackson’s stands on principle have made it harder for him to raise money and to attain the powerful positions that are apportioned to those who go along to get along
Jackson voted against authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq. But he went a lot further than that. He signed on for the lawsuit, filed by constitutional lawyer John Bonifaz, that argued Bush could not take the country to war without a full declaration from Congress.