Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) addresses a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 10, 2008 in Washington, DC. Jackson had been mentioned as a potential replacement for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (C), who has the power to fill the vacant Senate seat, was arrested at his Chicago home yesterday and charged with corruption after prosecutors said he was trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder.
But at what cost, ask some? Quietly, other African Americans in Jackson’s district are questioning the wisdom of voting for someone so deeply embroiled in the unknown. They say they sympathize with Jackson’s plight and question the validity of the allegations against him, but they are concerned that he isn’t able to lead anyone anywhere at this point. “We are a loyal people, that’s for sure,” says 51-year Moses Davis, a native of Chicago. “Almost to a fault. We know the history of mistreatment in this country when it comes to African Americans, and that sometimes overshadows us really looking to see the truth in what’s going on. ”
Honestly, I think the answer has more to do with partisanship than race. Jackson was a Democrat running in a Democratic district. What were the voters going to do, elect a Republican who would go to Washington and vote to overturn Obamacare? It just happens to overlap with the fact that 95 percent of Chicago’s African-Americans are Democrats. Indicted state Rep. Derrick Smith benefited from the same party loyalty when he won re-election against an independent candidate who was supported by the Democratic establishment, but wasn’t running on the Democratic line.
As a tenant of a senior apartment told a reporter, “I just vote Democrat all the way across. Whoever’s there, I give them a chance.”
For a lot of voters, that’s as deep as their decision-making process gets. And to prove this is not a Democratic thing, or an African-American thing, consider Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn. DesJarlais, a doctor-turned-politician, is a pro-life congressman who a) urged a patient with whom he was carrying on an affair to get an abortion, and b) whose ex-wife had two abortions during their relationship. Voters in DesJarlais’s conservative district re-elected him anyway, figuring an adulterous, abortion-loving Republican was better than any Democrat.
“There are some that voted thinking next time there’ll be somebody else in the primary — we don’t want Pelosi to be speaker, so one more time we’ll vote for Scott," State Senate President Ron Ramsey said. “He’ll have a primary opponent. I mean, he knows that.”
And Jesse Jackson Jr.’s constituents know they’ll get a chance to elect another Democrat -- probably before the next primary.
This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $9.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.