The Rod Blagojevich trial doesn’t seem to have ended Jesse Jackson Jr.’s delusions that he has a future outside the city's 2nd Congressional District.
Both Jackson and his wife, 7th Ward Ald. Sandi Jackson, say they may consider runs for mayor. Four years ago, Rep. Jackson was considered a serious challenger to Mayor Daley. But he, along with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, gave up those ambitions after the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006.
The fact is, Jackson never had a chance to be mayor. For over 20 years, black politicians have dreamed of repeating the feat of Harold Washington. But you can't win office any longer the same way Washington did, with only 37% of the popular vote. The new non-partisan run-off system prevents that. A Great Black Hope who makes it to the general election will have to defeat a Great White Hope. And not a Republican, either.
Like Washington, Jackson is a South Side congressman. That’s his problem. His base is entirely in the African-American community. That’s not enough to win a citywide election.
This, of course, was the genius of Barack Obama. In 2000, he lost a primary election to Rep. Bobby Rush. Rush thrived among African-American voters, but when he stepped out of his community to run for mayor, Daley clobbered him. Obama, meanwhile, ensured his state senate district included downtown precincts. He went from being a South Side senator to a Lakefront senator.
Ald. Toni Preckwinkle accomplished the same feat by building a multi-racial coalition to win the Democratic nomination for County Board president. It helped that Obama and Preckwinkle both represented the racially mixed neighborhood of Hyde Park.
Maybe Jesse Jackson Jr. feels like he needs a new challenge. But if he's to run for mayor, he needs to broaden his appeal. And quick.