Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reinforcement from the North: Jackson tries to focus party

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2006 at 3:40 PM

The message is still the same.

But as he gets older, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's poetry may be getting better, more resonant with metaphor, more equal to the task of an ongoing American tragedy.

"There has been an awesome, stale, foul air," the reverend told the crowd of Mark Taylor supporters in the Loft on West Peachtree Tuesday night, his description of the country under Republican leadership.

Jackson took the stage after Taylor to boost the Democrats, who although hard charging around the country, seem stalled in Georgia. Jackson said the Dems have to focus on the issues that matter and not get bogged down in distractions.

What matters?

For one, people need better-paying jobs.

"Sixty percent of all Georgia males make less than $20,000 per year," Jackson said. "There are one-and-a-half million people with no health insurance. If they get sick, they can't get treatment." Beyond the glamour of much of Atlanta, the gateway to the South, the people in Brunswick earn an average annual salary of $7,000, Jackson said.

It's a speech he's been giving for years, since before "Keep Hope Alive" in the 1980s. The stark American images come to the reverend as words in an old dirge, with no less pathos than before.

The poor. They work every day. They catch the early bus. They raise other people's children. They flip your bed when you're sick. And when they get sick, well, they simply can't afford to get sick.

Jackson made it real simple. Jobs and health care. Health care and jobs. The Republicans, Jackson said, have made an industry out of first-class jails and second-class schools. The Democrats have to speak out and act on jobs and health care or nothing.

In town with his Rainbow Coalition, Jackson also said Democrats have to come up with better ways to counteract voter fraud. "If they can't win," he said of the GOP, "they steal. In Georgia, the Republicans have been contemptuous of a court order against voter ID. It's going to be a dogfight, but we have to win some of these dogfights."

-- Max Pizarro

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