'You drown when you stop kicking'
Jesse Jackson and Donald Trump both awakened on inauguration morning with troubled minds.
You would expect Trump to have been happy. In a few hours, he would be sworn in as America’s 45th president. But as the hours ticked away, his mood remained grim.
Some people knew what was bothering him – Hillary Clinton had beaten Trump in the popular vote – but they could not believe that Trump was seriously bothered by it.
They were wrong.
As he stood atop the dramatic stone steps on the west side of the U.S. Capitol, cameras transmitted his expression around the world. There was no smile on his face. He looked troubled, sullen and ill-tempered.
The headlines of the nation’s media were extraordinarily candid about what was troubling Trump: He believed there had been massive voter fraud by people who had sneaked in to the United States illegally and voted for Clinton.
Their headlines were brutal:
“Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers,” said The New York Times.
“Trump believes millions voted illegally ... but provides no proof,” said CNN.
“Trump’s False Claim,” headlined “NBC Nightly News.”
Nor did many members of Trump’s party back up his claims. Quite the opposite. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said: “To continue to suggest that the 2016 election was conducted in a fashion that millions of people voted illegally undermines faith in our democracy.”
He continued: “It’s not coming from a candidate for the office. It’s coming from the man who holds the office. So I am begging the president, ‘Share with us the information you have about this, or please stop saying it.’”
Jesse Jackson was also troubled. The result was not what he had been expecting. “I was surprised at the count and had a down feeling,” Jackson told me. “But in a struggle, you drown when you stop kicking.”
Jackson continued, “The victory can be legal but without moral legitimacy.” To Jackson, the problem with the vote was not that undocumented people voted but that the votes of minorities here legally, especially black people, were suppressed.
“The presidential campaign had been very unusually violent,” Jackson said. “It was a divisive campaign full of race targeting. People in Mexico were going to be stopped by a wall; Muslims were going to be kept from coming in; there was a whole campaign saying Barack (Obama) had not been born here.
“And this was the atmosphere we had to campaign in. The Republicans tipped their lances in the air and cried ‘voter fraud, voter fraud.’ But every legitimate study found there has been not vote fraud but vote suppression.
“Precincts were moved so people didn’t know where to vote. Sunday voting was ended in some places, as was early voting and campus voting.”
“The black vote was being driven down and the white vote driven up. The Electoral College was based on people being counted but not allowed to vote.”
Jackson is historically correct. The Electoral College was created not to preserve the power of small states or to protect the presidency from a populace too uneducated to choose a president.
The creation of the Electoral College by James Madison, a slave owner and shrewd politician, was all about preserving the power of slavery.
In a one-person, one-vote system, the North would outnumber the South in voting because though the slaves would count as part of the South’s population (three-fifths of each slave to be counted as one person), no slaves would be allowed to vote. This nullified that voting power of the 500,000 or so slaves in the South.
After slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws were passed by state legislatures to keep blacks from voting. “The same Confederates who had fought to deny blacks the vote immediately went into voter suppression,” Jackson said.
“Today the ultimate scheme is voter suppression. That is the signal being given to Southern governors.”
Jackson, not a close friend of Clinton’s, believes she ran the right campaign but had no chance of winning. “Only by the archaic system of the Electoral College was she denied the presidency,” he said. “It is a system based on slavery. It is legal, but it is morally illegitimate.”
Jackson did not go to the inauguration, but he did go to the enormous Women’s March on Washington the next day. “It reminded me so much of the ’63 march,” Jackson said. That’s quite a compliment, considering the 1963 March on Washington featured Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“We were down, but there was a sense we were going up,” Jackson said of this year’s march. “There was a sense of joy.
“People found common ground. Trump can either look at those crowds with contempt and fear or he can look with hope.”
In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt met with A. Philip Randolph (a labor and civil rights leader), and Randolph gave FDR 10 demands to end segregation.
Roosevelt read them and said: “I agree with everything you said. Now go out and make me do it.”
The story may be partially myth, but Randolph achieved much of his agenda. Today, Jackson wants Trump to look at the vote of 2016 and see the evil of voter suppression and what could be achieved by ending it.
“The Women’s March was an opportunity,” Jackson said, “not a threat.”