Jesse Jackson: Here’s what will make Trump-Clinton III a must-see debate

 

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988.


By Ric Anderson

 

When Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met in St. Louis for their second debate, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was hoping the nominees would address the racial turmoil that broke out a few miles away in Ferguson, Mo.

He came away disappointed, just as he’d done when the first debate ended with scant discussion about student loan debt despite being held at Hofstra University.

So when Clinton and Trump square off Wednesday at UNLV, Jackson says the key to making it meaningful is to focus on topics of local and regional importance.

“It seems to me that the moderators have some responsibility to make certain that the geographical integrity is honored,” Jackson said during a visit Monday with the Las Vegas Sun editorial board. “Here, the issue clearly is about immigration. It’s about workers and wages and should we have walls or should we have pathways to citizenship? It’s about a growing youth population. There are a lot of dynamics here.”

Minus discussion of issues that are a high priority to locals, Jackson said, the debates might as well be held in Washington, D.C., studios.

“The painful argument about things personal — the women and the tapes and so forth — has its place. But that’s not the dominant theme in Las Vegas, or Reno, or North Dakota,” he said. “That’s not the dominant theme of student loan debt or the need to reinvest in our cities. It’s not the dominant theme of reinvestment of our infrastructure or the 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance.

“At some point, we need to have a battle of the minds on the issues that matter.”

Jackson, 75, won five primaries and caucuses as a candidate for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination before falling to Walter Mondale. He’s scheduled to make appearances today in Las Vegas, including at a black leaders’ meeting this morning with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, before attending the debate.

Here’s are excerpts from his visit with the Sun, edited for clarity and brevity.

On Trump’s call for mass deportations

The idea of deporting 15 million people living in America — it’s inconceivable to want to do that or even trying to do that. It would create hostilities unimaginable. We share 2,000 miles of border with Mexico; why would we want to turn a neighbor into an enemy and make young Mexicans resent America rather than appreciate America?

A process for a path to citizenship and immigration reform makes sense. But saying we’re going to build a wall and they’re going to pay for it: It’s not going to happen. It’s just inciting anxiety and fear.

We glorified tearing down the wall in Berlin and glorify when we want to build one next door. It doesn’t make sense.

Who’s our strongest ally against drug flow coming this way except Mexico? And suppose ISIS was in Mexico. My God, what could we do? It’s too security threatening that our best relationship isn’t with our next-door neighbor.

And it’s a profitable relationship. The more they grow, the more people stick at home and buy what we make. Because with the 2,000 miles of border, the parched-earth side comes with the green-grass side. The more their grass grows, the more they’ll want to stay home.

On gun control

No one challenges the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But why would anyone have the right to buy semiautomatic military-style weapons on the streets of our nation? There’s no defense against them. When the police were shot in Dallas, they couldn’t defend themselves and other people from somebody who was walking down the street legally with a gun. The same thing happened in Baton Rouge.

These weapons can bring down airplanes. We’re really courting disaster with these military weapons. Why would we not want to at least vet those who own guns?

On inequality in the justice system

The population (of blacks in Las Vegas) is 10 to 13 percent. The prison population (of blacks) is 70-plus. That is more or less true across the country. Why is that? (Blacks are) the most profiled by police, the most targeted, the most arrested. They’re the least protected by states’ attorneys, the longest-sentenced by judges. I was in Illinois last year; I’d gone to jail on a protest up there. And rather than just pay (fines), we went to court. The courtroom was 95 percent black, and rather than hire a lawyer they’d just pay. It was like an ATM machine. Just profile people, give them a ticket, and either they just pay the money or hire an attorney. That is common practice in many rural areas to use black motorists and passengers as a revenue stream. And it seems to me that whether you’re conservative or a liberal, it’s just so wrong — it’s not right to do that to people. It’s abuse of power.

On the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest police organization in the country, issuing a formal apology to minority populations for “the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color.”

I’m excited, but I just think that an apology must have with it contrition, sincerity and structural change. If you apologize and don’t change the structures that led up to the apology, you’ve missed the point. What does this apology really do for Chicago, or Baltimore, or St. Louis, unless there’s some reordering of the makeup of these police departments? What I hope to see next is a plan to rebuild these inner cities, because you can’t police poverty. You call for a thousand more police, but you have thousands of homes without lights. Hospitals are closing, we closed 50 public schools (in Chicago) and laid off 5,000 teachers, closed drug stores and closed laundromats and cleaners. More police? Guns in, drugs in and jobs out — 2,000 police will not address that.

On urban investment

If there were a commitment to remove lead paint — jobs. To bring in people to cut down the weeds that have grown up — jobs. To demolish the homes that cannot be rebuilt — jobs. To put up new shutters and windows and fix roofs — jobs. There may be more jobs than people in these abandoned cities. But there’s no such emphasis as that.

On Trump’s plan to improve inner cities

Stop and frisk and law and order, that is not an urban policy. There’s nothing reconstructive about more ways to occupy people.

On legalization of recreational marijuana

You would have to (support it), like we finally had to legalize liquor. Certainly the medical use of it has obvious benefits. Now, you should discourage (overuse), because it has certain ramifications. But to make it a revenue stream for prisons … (shakes his head).

On the election

In so many ways, we are the best we’ve ever been: more Americans, more multiracial, more multicultural, more ecumenical … just more of everybody. We are the best we’ve ever been. There’s some unfinished business — on the economy, justice and economic disparities. But in terms of participatory democracy, we’re at our best. We’ve never had so many of Americans vote, or our Blacks or browns, Native Americans, women, 18-year-olds. So our future is to go forward by hope and not backward by fear, and forward by reconciliation and not backward by polarization.

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