Interview with Richard Hatcher
I think I first met Jesse Jackson at the founding meeting of Operation Breadbasket in a very cold theater in Chicago. It had to be 10 degrees outside.
He had called this meeting to organize Breadbasket and I guess the thing that sticks out in my mind was this very tall, compelling figure. We were in a circle, all holding hands -- really to stay warm because there was no heat in the theater. We sang a song and then he began to speak. And it was just mesmerizing.
He has this very pronounced Southern drawl and yet the kinds of things he was saying sounded very profound. That was the first time I met him. I didn't know him and he wanted to get this organization going and he asked me if I would help.
That would have been around 1968, 1969, something like that.
At that time -- a young man. A certain innocence.
I thought he was perhaps the most intense person that I had ever met. With other people, there's usually a lot of small talk. Especially when men are talking to me. They talk about football games and baseball games and this and that. I never heard Jesse Jackson talk about football games. I never heard him talk about any or a little chit chat that people usually engage in.
Every single time that I can recall over a period of 20-30 years talking with him, he was always, to use his phrase, 'on the case.' He was always talking about issues and about plans and strategies and what shall we do.
And I was particularly struck during many of the national campaigns -- where there would [be] meeting after meeting, meetings that would go on all night long when most people would have to take a break and let's just talk about something else for a while. Never Jesse Jackson. Jesse Jackson always remained focused on the issues, the strategy, what's the plan, what is it we're trying to do. And, in that way, he was a very singular person.
Q: Can you talk a little more about the early days...
I never thought Jesse Jackson as a country boy. He had these very superficial characteristics. As I said, this drawl, this sort of 'ah shucks' kind of attitude. But you could always tell that there was something very incisive there. There was a very brilliant person. A person that was very committed and one that would persevere no matter what.
So, I never saw him in that way. The thing that struck me in the early days particularly, I would go to his house because I got to know his family, Jackie and the kids very well. And, I would go to the house and I can't remember a single time that I went there that there wasn't some meeting going on over in this corner and someone else was upstairs meeting. And there was always someone in the house. That's where I first met Oprah Winfrey. She was there meeting with him.
But the thing that really struck me with Hyde Park and some grand old houses there-- and he was living in one of them--but, especially in the early days, you would go in and there would almost be nowhere to sit because there were no chairs, there was no furniture. It was just kind of empty except for some things that obviously Jackie really treasured -- some antiques and things like that. But you really had trouble finding a chair to sit on to talk with him because there was no furniture.
And, I know, in those days, people like George Johnson, John Johnson of Ebony Magazine, they were literally taking care of Jesse. They were sustaining him as he was building this organization and developing first Breadbasket, and then Operation PUSH. But, there was a tremendous contrast. Here was this very dynamic, active person who was involved with all kinds of people, some of them very wealthy and so forth. But when you went to his house, it was empty. There was very little there.
Another very unique characteristic of Jesse Jackson was perhaps more so than any other single person that I've ever known, he was able to establish contact with virtually anybody in the country. When Andy Young was in the process of being dismissed as United Nations ambassador, we were in North Carolina. There was a radio story about this and Jesse's first thought was we had to get to Andy and tell him not to resign because the news story said that he was about to resign. And, so, everybody said, ok fine, how are we going to do that. He said, well I think the best thing to do is call the President. What do you mean, call the President. But he called the President. And, he didn't get through to him, we almost got through to him. They said that the President was in the living quarters. He was over in the living quarters part of the White House and they were going to try to reach him and then call back which staggered me. I couldn't imagine a President returning a call.
But then, just as that conversation was going on on the phone, there was another news flash that essentially said that Andrew Young had resigned. But Jesse could reach anyone. And he was, he had the nerve, the audacity to try to reach anyone.
Also, the hottest entertainer of the moment was just a telephone call away from Jesse Jackson. And could get them to do things that no one else could get them to do. He could get them to give money, to support causes that they probably, in many instances, didn't even understand.
He had, and has, a way of making people feel that they've known him forever. He is not one that I think, you think of as stand-offish or snobbish or anything like that. He's that down to earth, country preacher flavor really works. And it works very well for him. And, as a consequence, I think there are probably, in terms of African-Americans, there are probably two people who can do certain things -- Jesse Jackson can in fact relate to, as I said, to anyone in the country no matter what their station or what their position is.
Minister Farrakhan can draw huge crowds of people...no matter how controversial he may be, he has the ability to draw people. Well, Jesse has that also. For all those years that Operation PUSH was going, people would come almost religiously almost every Saturday -- black, whites, lots of college students would come and fill that auditorium every Saturday morning because they knew there would be an opportunity to hear him speak.
Mayor Daley was a consummate politician. And he was a person that I think was very calculating in terms of what he did and how he did it. That is, thinking in terms of what will be the political result of this. What will be the impact on the people that I care about and, those I don't care about.
In that regard, Jesse Jackson and Mayor Daley, Sr. were very much alike. Because Jesse Jackson, I think, carefully calculates in his own mind, even though outwardly that may not appear to be the case, what the impact of almost everything he says, everything he does is going to be. I think he is a person like Mayor Daley who cares very deeply for the people that he cares for. And he really cares for them. And in fact, once you are a friend, then I've seen him support people that probably didn't deserve to be supported. I'm not talking about politicians, I mean just individuals who maybe had done things that perhaps they should not have done, but nevertheless he has a kind of loyalty that will not allow him to abandon people when they get into trouble.
Q: Is there a belief there that he can make people better....?
Well, I don't know about him believing that he can make people better. I think what he does though is gives people a lot of hope. He makes people, I think, believe in themselves a lot lower than perhaps they ordinarily would. Jesse Jackson can instill and inspire confidence in people that they can do things that perhaps maybe other people wouldn't. And that's really one of his real assets.
His move from SCLC to Breadbasket and then, Operation PUSH.
I was in Operation Breadbasket and Operation Breadbasket was a part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And, it was sort of a foray into the north by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and that was particularly something that Dr. King wanted to do, wanted to expand the organization from the south into the north. And the idea was that Jesse would come to Chicago and set up Operation Breadbasket and begin to address many of the economic issues because the movement was shifting away from the strictly legal questions of civil rights and equal rights to the issue of economic, you know, improvement -- attempting to improve economic welfare. Millions of people of color in this country.
So Operation Breadbasket was to be the forerunner of this effort to expand into the economic arena. But Dr. King was assassinated and the new leadership took over the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And, in some ways, as you know, there was a kind of power struggle after Dr. King's death and the question of who would inherit his mantle was a very significant one.
And, there had already been some feeling that somehow, in much the same way as Malcolm X was criticized within the Nation of Islam for a feeling that some how he was getting too much attention and he was to articulate and people were starting to look at him more than they were at the Elijah Muhammad as the leader of the Nation -- and the feeling that some how this was wrong. There was, I think, something very similar in the way of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference -- many of the people who had marched with Dr. King.
And, they saw Jesse, especially in this new setting in Chicago where he was pretty much the person and able to say pretty much what he wanted to say. So there was this feeling that he wasn't getting permission from the headquarters before he would do things or before he would say certain things. So, there was, the handwriting was pretty much on the wall that the new leadership would not tolerate his doing all these things.
And, I think he saw that and realized that he was going to have to make some sort of change and he did. And that's when he moved away and organized Operation PUSH. And that was really the first time, I think, that he began to function and operate without strings, without someone looking over his shoulders and saying, well you can't do this and you can't do that. But he began to make his own decisions and own judgments about what he was doing.
And, in one sense, it was unfortunate because... Andy Young, Joe Lowery, Ralph, these were all people who had worked with Dr. King and had risen under his guidance and his leadership. And so it was unfortunate that after his death, they had their differences.
The one story that, of course, continues to circulate even today about Joe Lowery and others being very unhappy about Rev. Jackson saying after Dr. King died with his head cradled in his arms on that motel balcony. And, of course, that is hotly disputed by a number of people. I've never heard Jesse say that. But, there are many people who say that he, that is how he more or less held himself up right after Dr. King was assassinated.
So many of those individuals who had been active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, not only did not support him, but they were highly critical of his undertaking to run for public office. So, clearly, there was not future for him in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Q: The trip to Syria in '83 to free the downed U.S. pilot, Robert Goodman...can you talk about that?
Well, that was really exciting and obviously boosted his chances. There had been so many diplomatic efforts on the part of the government and on the part of others to bring this person back and when Jesse Jackson was able to go to Syria and was able to persuade the authorities that they should allow him to bring him home.
I think that was one of the first times that people in very high places took Jesse Jackson seriously and recognized or realized what he potentially was capable of doing.
I think that up to that point that they had not viewed him --they viewed him as basically a preacher, as a person who could engage, who was charismatic and who could engage in rhetoric. But they did not see him as a person who could be a serious player in international affairs and foreign relations. He had done other things that I thought were very interesting -- but that was the first time that there was almost, there had to be some national recognition.
And what was interesting was that when they brought him back to the White House, President Reagan was there and there was sort of a press conference in the Rose Garden, it was very clear -- anyone watching that would know that it was, that President Reagan's every intent was that Jesse Jackson was to be seen but not heard at that press conference. That he would make remarks, the officer would make remarks and that would be it. And Jesse Jackson would not speak. But Jesse Jackson literally took the microphone away from the President and spoke. And in many ways, I think that characterizes his relationship with people in the government, in high places in the government.
In many ways, they see the value of what a Jesse Jackson can do, what he is capable of. But, they do not want to publicly acknowledge it. I remember during the '84 campaign, many of Fritz Mondale's staff people, were constantly telling him that you can't appear to have caved in to Jesse Jackson. And the same thing happened with Michael Dukakis in the '88 presidential campaign.
There was this feeling we need him, we need his ability to excite people and to get people involved in the campaign, but we don't want to acknowledge that publicly because people will feel that some how he is overshadowing, he's overshadowing. In fact, Fritz Mondale's people told him, you know, if you don't really keep in rein, he'll just take you. He'll take off with with all of the attention and everything else.
So, that has been part of his dilemma. That has been part of his dilemma in working with, I think, a number of presidents and national administrations.
Q: The idea that he has to take the microphone for himself has gotten him in trouble...
Very much so. I guess the question there then becomes, if he had simply stood there and accepted what was really a very unjust act on the part of the President, because after all it wasn't a Ronald Reagan that had gone over and brought this young man -- it was Jesse Jackson. And so to hold that kind of a forum and not not acknowledge, you know, what he had done, to give him an opportunity to say something, that would have been very unjust.
And so the one, that also says something about the kind of person that Jesse Jackson is. He is a strong-willed person. He is a person that did not have a problem in taking the microphone away from the President of the United States. I mean in many ways, that's why I have such great respect for him and for his ability. I don't agree with everything that Jesse Jackson says. There are lots of things that, you know, I would probably take a different position. I'm sure he doesn't agree with most of what I say.
But, it's not a question, it's not a matter, in my own view, of having to agree with every point. On most issues, I feel comfortable if Jesse Jackson is in the room and I'm not in the room. On most issues, I know that he is going to come down on the right side on those issues. And he's demonstrated that over and over again.
It was really Jesse Jackson who brought women [into] the national political picture. He was the one that really put so much pressure on Mondale once he had the nomination that Mondale wound up having to select a woman as his vice presidential candidate.
The women's movement today, I doubt if they acknowledge the role that Jesse Jackson played I think in sort of opening things up and creating an opportunity for that. But it's real. It's very true. I've been in those conventions and those meetings where his was almost a lone voice fighting for the involvement and participation of women.
So, he is a strong person. He is a very capable person and he is a very persistent person. He's one that is going to persevere. I see him in many ways, some people have referred to him as as an icon. I don't think that's fair. But he is a national treasure. He is a national resource that is, in my view, terribly underutilized.
Q: January 1984, he was on a roll... And then, the incident where the 'Hymietown' comments were reported...
Well, that was a very painful time. It really was a very painful time. The young man from The Washington Post, I think, breached a confidence. I think that conversation was off the record.
But it had a devastating effect on the campaign. The campaign was moving. We didn't have very much money but we didn't need much money because Jesse Jackson as I said was able to get media attention. And, he was on the 6 o'clock evening news when other candidates were having to buy time.
And he was talking about the kinds of issues that I think the country needed, needed to hear. I went to meetings with him in states where there may have been six black families in the whole state. And there were would be these large crowds that would turn out. And, they would would be absolutely enthusiastic on hearing -- that didn't mean they were going to vote for him. But they heard his message.
So things were going well and when that happened, it was as if someone had simply taken a wet blanket and simply thrown it over the campaign from the west coast to the east coast. Many of the people who were very, very strong supporters and active in the campaign backed away and people who had given financially to the campaign backed away.
And there was this internal dispute. That is, at one point there was literally a demand -- apologize, apologize publicly for what, you know, what you have done. There were some of us who weren't sure if that was the right thing to do. That first of all, this was a very private conversation. And it was a conversation that was never intended, you know, for any kind of public discussion.
I to this day don't know whether he actually said that or not. But, the point is that [he] didn't see anything wrong with apologizing as such, but I was absolutely convinced that the minute he made a public apology that that would simply open the flood gates and that people would really -- in other words, that his apologizing would not be enough. It would not satisfy those people who were demanding that he apologize.
There were some of us who were saying call a press conference. Do something and apologize. There were some of us who were saying, wait a minute. What is this going to do. What will be the effect. You know that you are not anti-Semitic. You know that that you are the furtherest from that. So what is this, what effect is this going to have? Is this going to settle anything if you do that?
And so he was kind of hearing it from both sides in that regard. But anyway, he called a press conference. And he publicly apologized for the statement.
Just as I had feared, instead of ending the controversy, that just simply opened it up. And from that point on, I mean there were demands -- I remember one about him coming up to a synagogue in New York and that he hadn't said enough, he hadn't been contrite enough, he needed to be more humble and so forth. And it just got crazy. It just got absolutely crazy. And so it didn't settle anything. It didn't end anything. It just expanded it.
Yes. It had a very definite and negative effect and impact on the campaign. And then, of course, ultimately, at the convention itself. He apologized again in that speech. But it never worked. Because in 1988, Ed Koch made the now infamous statement that any Jew that supported Jesse Jackson had to be crazy.
And, so it stayed with him and it just carried over and went on and on. And I might say, that Jesse Jackson is about as anti-Semitic as the most orthodox Jewish rabbi.
I think -- especially in 1984 --a lot of the heat that Jesse Jackson got in that regard came about as a consequence of his association or perceived association with Minister Louis Farrakhan.
There was this feeling that Minister Farrakhan, you know, was anti-Semitic and if Jesse Jackson had anything at all to do with him or have any connection with him, he must be anti-Semitic. My view is that neither one is. But, that was not the view of the news media or the -- and so that, a lot of that as I recall, that was a period when they took one speech that Minister Farakhan made and played different parts of that speech at different times around the country so that it appeared that he was running around the country making all these terrible statements and whatever. And that was all, I think, a very well contrived plan.
His candidacy, the '84 convention.....
There is a tendency I think to treat African-Americans in all sorts of positions, to treat them as you would one who was standing in your living room on a white carpet and you stab him with a knife and then you get very upset because he's bleeding on your white carpet.
In the case of Jesse Jackson, I think there was this tendency to treat his candidacy as one who was limited to a single constituent group but was not a broad-based campaign at attracting support from all voters. That was the way it was treated in large part by the media. But that was not the reality of the campaign itself. The reality of the campaign itself was that it was a broad-based campaign.
The kinds of issues Jesse Jackson was talking about in that campaign cut across racial lines, cut across economic lines. So it was not a question of him limiting himself. It was the perception that was presented was a limited perception. And the convention did provide a platform for him to, at least, be able to be able to express that. Express the broadness of his view.
There were a lot of things going on at that convention. For example, there was a lot of resistance on the part of the Democratic Party to -- the whole idea, for example, of broad participation of minorities. Historically minorities have not participated in Democratic conventions to any significant degree. Well, Jesse Jackson changed all of that. He changed, the level --even the economic participation...the contracts at the convention. All of that changed because Jesse was a candidate and he was involved in those discussions.
In addition to that, there was this question, what would Jesse do after -- assuming he did not get the nomination -- what would he do. Would he go off as an independent candidate, critical of the Democratic nominee who clearly at that point, everyone assumed was going to be Fritz Mondale. Would he support Mondale? What would he do? And, that provided, I think, an opportunity for Jesse Jackson to begin to negotiate some very limited sessions from the party, from the Mondale organization on behalf of minorities in this country.
In many ways, people -- of course, Mondale lost the election -- and many people suggested that it was because that quote, unquote he 'caved into Jesse Jackson.' It was absolutely ridiculous. In fact, if everyone had worked for Mondale as hard as Jesse Jackson worked for Mondale, Mondale would have become President.
Q: The Democratic Party -- did it seem to be going to extra lengths to keep Jackson at arms length?
I think you have to remember the Reagan revolution was in full bloom. And, the country was moving to the right and the Democratic Party itself was experiencing a kind of identity crisis. It didn't know who it was and it didn't know how it had come to be the majority party in the country. And that was because, of course, these disparate groups -- minorities, labor, women -- had come together to make it a majority party in the country.
And so what began to happen was that it began to jettison some of its staunchest and strongest supporters and, of course, Blacks were right in the middle of that. And the idea that, it was as if the Party wanted Jesse Jackson to, in effect, be seen and not heard. They wanted him to support the Democratic nominee and to actively work for that nominee among minority groups. But not to be viewed as an overall player, someone that might have influence if Mondale was successful.
The only blacks that were welcomed in that regard seemed to be those who were, I would describe them as being very moderate, very moderate in their views and moderate in terms of their commitments. And, so Jesse Jackson didn't fall into that category. So there was an effort to sort of keep Jesse at arms length. And I recall some of the meetings with Mondale staff people where they would say to us, well, you know, Jesse's really hurting the Vice President because he's insisting on making strong statements. If he could just hold off on that until after election. After election, we can address things like that. But, Fritz can't afford to come out and take those positions now because he'd lose the south, and he'd lose whatever.
And, so there was great concern in the Mondale camp about Jesse. And they almost saw him as a loose cannon that was out there saying things and going to lengths that the candidate was not prepared to go to.
Q: It's now 1988...can you talk about that race...
Well, of course, some people like Chuck Robb and Bill Clinton, who were active in the Democratic Leadership Council had this plan to produce a moderate Democratic nominee. And key to that plan was creating Super Tuesday. This large number of primaries that would be held on the same day, most of them Southern primaries. And, the campaign itself, I think, was moving along well.
Jesse had not done well in places like New Hampshire. But he had come in third or second which was kind of amazing when people didn't expect him to do anything. And, the campaign was moving along by the time that Super Tuesday came around. And the feeling was that the more conservative, the more moderate Democratic candidates, would do well on Super Tuesday and that would pretty much wipe out another chance of another George McGovern or another liberal, liberal Democratic nominee.
But, one thing it had failed to do -- they were still looking at the old South. They were not looking at the South that existed in 1988. And, the South had changed tremendously. The year before, 1987, Jesse had led an Action Jackson tour of a number of Southern states. And, I went on some of them, went to some of those states in an effort to get to people to register, get a lot of people to register. And thousands and thousands of people had responded to that and registered to vote and many of them were African-Americans.
And, so, the South that existed on Super Tuesday in 1988, voting wise was a very different South. And there were large numbers of minorities who were registered and eager to vote. It was Jesse Jackson's charisma, you know, that got them excited about the idea of voting.
And so, when Super Tuesday came, Jesse Jackson won more states on Super Tuesday than any other candidate and those where he didn't win, he came in second in most of them. In other words, if there was a winner on Super Tuesday, it was of all people, Jesse Jackson. And that really, the Democratic, I think the Democratic people, the leadership in the Democratic Party was absolutely shocked by that result and began to scramble to figure out what do we do about this.
After Super Tuesday...analyzing the rest of what happened.
Well, the campaign then turned north. Illinois was the next primary. And it was a very tragic thing that happened in Illinois because by that time, Paul Simon had dropped out of the race. And I say it's tragic because he, to me, is one of the most decent persons I have ever known. And I think he's been a great senator.
But he was suggested to so much pressure, particularly from Chicago Democratic politicians, from some people, some of the downstate politicians and they pressured him to stay in that race. Had he gotten out of that race, had he not been in the election, the primary election in Illinois, there is no question that Jesse Jackson would have won Illinois. And if he had won Illinois, here's a big industrial state after doing so well on Super Tuesday, it would have been in my view, very difficult to stop him.
But, unfortunately, Senator Simon could not or did not withdraw. In fact, he created, I think, a new status in American politics. That was, he had withdrawn but he wasn't out of the race. He was still in the race. And, so as a consequence, Jesse came in second in Illinois and, you know, that hurt us. That slowed the momentum that had developed from that Super Tuesday victory.
Let me tell you. There were two times during the course of that campaign that I think most of us that were working in the campaign really felt that Jesse Jackson would be nominated. And the first time was right after Super Tuesday. It was right after seeing the results of Super Tuesday. That was the first time.
As I said, we went to Illinois and that got derailed, unfortunately. It should not have. And he came in second. But second wasn't bad in a big state like Illinois. And, then we went up to Michigan and Michigan was incredible. Because he won Michigan. And, that, I think, for the so-called knowledgeable politicians in the country, I think that came as a real shocker. And, I think, for the first time, not only those of us in the campaign, because that was the second time for us. But for the first time, many people around the country, much of the Democratic Party leadership, said this guy could win. It could happen. The unthinkable could actually happen.
And, I think, that momentum would have continued except, if we could have gone directly from Michigan to New York, I think that momentum would have just continued and would have built.
But, we had to stop off in Wisconsin on the way. The Wisconsin primary came before New York. And Wisconsin was a disaster for us...not Jesse...those of us that were working in campaign did not handle Wisconsin in a way that would have made it a very positive state for us.
Some very young people were sent up to Wisconsin to do the advance work. Somehow by a week before the primary election in Wisconsin, they had managed to offend just about every group in the state. One way or the other, they had managed to do it. It's a difficult thing to do in such a short period of time, but they managed to do that. And so, as a result, we really got hurt in Wisconsin when we expected to do well. Wisconsin was a progressive state. It was a state that had a big city like Milwaukee. There was a large minority population. We really expected to do well there. And we didn't do very well. And so it was sort of, we were crippled. I mean, we hobbled into New York.
Well internally, there were some real, there were people who had been in the campaign literally from day one. People like myself and others were involved from day one. It was at the point, really after Super Tuesday, that things really started looking like, gee, maybe this guy can pull it off. Maybe he can really pull it off.
But, other people, sometimes from other campaigns began to gravitate to the Jackson campaign.
After the Super Tuesday, there were internal differences within the campaign because there were people who had been in the campaign from the very beginning, from the very outset. And at that point, when it began to look as if Reverend Jackson really had a shot at it, that other people began to gravitate to the campaign. Some coming from other campaigns that had pretty much folded by that time. And some, simply coming in from other places that hadn't been involved in any campaign up to that point.
And, so there were some changes and there was some friction that was created by that. And while that does not entirely explain Wisconsin, Wisconsin, at least in my view, was the failure in Wisconsin, was more a consequence of inept staffing, staff work, than almost anything else. It wasn't Reverend Jackson. Wisconsin, I think, was a state that was made to order for him, for the kind of progressive issues that he stood for and spoke for. It was a state that he could have done very, very well in but did not.
So that by the time the campaign reached New York, there was some tremendous problems. There were some tremendous problems and we had been looking very good in the state of New York and I'm not sure, I don't think we were leading, but we were right up there in the polls. We were contending for the state.
So we started, I remember, we started, I think, in Rochester, New York and began to work our way east. The Jackson caravan. And the crowds were large. They were really enthusiastic. They were I'd say 98% white and very enthusiastic. And the campaign was moving. We went on to Buffalo and then on across the northern part of the state and then turned south and headed for New York City. You could almost see it on a daily basis, every day that passed, the closer we got to New York City, the smaller the crowds, the fewer whites in the crowd, the less enthusiasm for the campaign.
And, of course, during all of this time, Ed Koch was on television every day blasting Jesse Jackson. It was during this period that he made this infamous statement that any Jew that votes for Jesse Jackson has to be crazy. And it was obvious that that was having an effect. Even before we reached New York City.
We finally got to New York City and while [in] New York City, we won New York City -- David Dinkins really helped a lot and did a tremendous job and as a consequence of the effort of he and a number of other people, Charlie Rangel helped us out a lot in New York City -- we actually won the city. But we didn't win the state. And we thought we would win the state. We really thought.
First of all, after New York, I think Ed Koch did two things. He hurt us very much in upstate New York. And even though he was not able to prevent Rev. Jackson from winning New York City, he did hurt us so that we did not win the state.
But the the other thing that he did, which I think was just as significant, was that by tying himself, latching on to Gore, he destroyed Gore's campaign. His statements were so extreme that people simply dismissed Gore. You know, anyone that could be associated with someone that extreme they weren't going to support him. And we needed Gore. Because what Gore provided for us was an alternative to Dukakis. He created a three person race which we needed very badly. And so Gore dropped out after New York. And the result was that we went into Pennsylvania -- it was a head-off battle. It was Dukakis versus Jackson. That was it.
So it was not a matter of Jesse Jackson wanting to limit himself, it became essentially a kind of winner-take-all situation where if Dukakis campaign could win a majority, you know, of the Congressional districts, they got the whole state, they got everything. And there were a number of states after Pennsylvania that had a, an electoral system that allowed the winner to take all. The person that got the majority of the votes, got all of the delegates going to the convention.
In Philadelphia, there was a conflict because there were members of the staff, mostly white, who wanted him to go to places like, out to suburban communities, to speak, you know, to essentially all white groups and crowds. And there were others, particularly some of the people, a city councilman there who subsequently I think became a member of Congress names Blackwell who wanted him to go to low income housing projects, predominantly black low income housing projects.
The time situation was really very tight. That is, in terms of what he would be able to do. And so it was a pull and tug situation in terms of where he would be able to do it. And again, some of the very young, very young, 18, 19, 20, 21 year-old people who, at that point, had sort of come into the campaign and had managed to move themselves into positions like handling the schedule, working on the schedule and things like that, they opted for the suburban venues. That's where they wanted him to go. They felt that would help him more.
And, so, I remember one instance the choice was do I go to this low income housing project or do I go out to the suburban community. Rev. Jackson really tried to do both. Well, maybe we can work it out so I can just do both. And, somehow I guess, either spent more time at the suburban affair so that it was almost too late by the time he got to the other place most of the people had left or something, from the housing project. And I remember there was just a tremendous argument, this alderman, this city councilman from Philadelphia, came up to the suite and, I think, Rev. Jackson and I were in one of the bedrooms talking and we heard this tremendous noise out, and someone cursing. And it was obvious that Jesse Jackson was sort of caught, you know, in between these forces.
And after that, the word kind of got out-- well, he doesn't want to go to white communities, he just wants to go to Black communities. And that absolutely was not the case. His great problem was he was trying to do both. He was trying to satisfy both of these, you know, factions within the staff and that was pretty much impossible to do. It was pretty much impossible to do.
But, that is not, in my view, what hurt. It was pretty much downhill from that point on because of the make-up of the primaries from that point on. Most of them, as I said, were what approached winner take all -- it was supposed to be illegal, but they were literally winner take all where there were only two candidates in the race. From that point on, it was only he and Dukakis.
So by the time that June rolls around, it was very clear that he would not have enough delegates. He would not have enough delegates to win the nomination or successful challenge for the nomination.
The problem is that every candidate has a hardcore base of support. And, the candidate cannot afford to ignore that base. It cannot afford to insult that base. It cannot afford to treat that base in a way that causes people to be very unhappy as this particular alderman or councilman was that day.
At the same time, you can't win with that base. It's not possible to win with that base. And so, if a campaign is going to be successful, it has to be broad enough so that it attracts people outside that base also. And that they see that candidate as being a candidate that could represent them and that can speak for them on the issues that they're concerned with.
So it's always a kind of dilemma because different groups in our country, as much as we would like to think of our country as being a kind of homogenous mix of people and everyone's an American and everybody -- different groups have different needs. They have different interests. And, so, a candidate, in order to be successful, has to be able to bridge those differences, has to be able to address the concerns and the issues and the needs of all those groups in order to be successful because no single group has enough votes to elect that person in most instances.
So that, Jesse Jackson, had to -- wanted to, walk that line. That's why he talked about this great rainbow coalition, of people of all different races and colors. And sometimes, that became especially hard in New York and in Pennsylvania.
I think it would be. I think the country is different, comprised of different people, composed of different people, different races, different groups, different interests, different concerns. And so, the beauty and the genius of what used to be the Democratic Party was the fact that you could take disparate groups and disparate interests and on a national level, you would do something like what Mayor Daley is reputed to have done in Chicago -- and that was that you make sure that there was representation from each of these groups. And you make sure that their interests and their concerns was represented in the mix so that when the time came to call upon them for votes, people would have some reason to vote for you, some reason to support you.
The way Democrats used to be elected, was to do that very thing. To pull together these different groups. My feeling is that in the early 80s, as I said, the Democratic Party began to experience this identity crisis and began to try to become a second Republican Party and that was an impossibility.
If people are given a choice between an imitation and the real thing, they'll always vote for the real thing. And so, in the process of doing so, they began to label, for example, these very important constituent groups -- Blacks, Hispanics, working people -- they began to label them, of all things, a special interest groups. They call them special interest groups and said they were responsible for the fact that the Democratic Party lost so badly in 1980 -- lost so badly to Ronald Reagan and that the only way to solve the Democratic Party's problem was to eliminate these quote unquote 'special interest groups.'
I'd never heard that term applied to minorities. I'd always heard that term applied to large corporations, large financial interests. But here they were, they applied it to the, and they literally kicked them out. They, the chairman of the Party outlawed, in effect, outlawed minority caucuses within the Democratic Party, said there couldn't be any more caucuses because that was creating division in the Party. They really walked away, moved away from their base.
Q: What about the move to Washington D.C. and leaving Chicago?
But one of the things that I strongly disagreed with Jesse Jackson on -- but his decision to move to Washington DC I think was a serious, serious mistake. I think he made that decision based upon at least the possibility that Washington DC would get home rule and he would have an opportunity to run for the Senate. And, I'm sure that he would have been successful. That hasn't happened.
But I think by leaving Chicago, where he was really the only act in town, he was the definitive persona in that city. And going to Washington DC, where there's lots of people there who command attention -- the President, the leadership in the Congress and other persons, almost every national organization is there -- in my view, that diminished his ability to really impact issues in the country, to really be that person that people looked to for leadership and looked to for direction. And while I'm sure that his home in Washington is like the home in Chicago, that is, I'm sure there are people coming and going and active, there was something about the setting in Chicago, I think, that encouraged people to come. Let's go over to Jesse's house. Let's go see what's going on at Jesse's house.
And it gave him, I think, a kind of contact and influence that went beyond just the people who came to his house. I'm not sure the same thing happens in Washington. I think Washington is a very different environment and from that standpoint -- I mean I'll probably turn out to be wrong about this and he'll be right as he is most of the time -- but I just thought that was a serious mistake to leave his base in Chicago and move to Washington.
I don't think Jesse Jackson's ever been intimidated by anyone, certainly not by Mayor Daley. As a matter of fact, Mayor Daley obviously provided an excellent counterpoint for Jesse Jackson. He was a good foil so to speak for Jesse Jackson. Jesse certainly was not intimidated at all by Mayor Daley and, you know, I thought, again, Mayor Daley, as powerful as he was, Jesse Jackson had more power in Chicago than Mayor Daley. Of a certain type. I know Mayor Daley obviously politically was very powerful. But there is something about Jesse Jackson that he sees himself as the equal of anyone. I think there's no one that he feels submissive to which is rather remarkable when you consider how he grew up. He talks about his mother and how she had to really struggle and work. His father leaving and never seeing his father.
It's remarkable that he has the kind of confidence and the kind of strength and courage that he has that would allow a Southern boy literally to come to the big city like Chicago and almost immediately take on one of the most powerful political figures in the country.
He really credits his mother a lot. And, I suspect he's right about that. That his mother, you know, gave him a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in himself. But I also happen to believe that there are special people that come along and sometimes, you know, they are reluctant and sometimes have to be pulled into the fray, sometimes they just walk right in.
Dr. King was sort of a reluctant hero. He was a person that had to be persuaded that it was the right thing for him to take the leadership of the Montgomery movement. But once in, he obviously had whatever that gift is that great leaders and great people had. He had it.
Well Jesse has it. There is no clone that I'm aware of for Jesse Jackson living today. He is a special person. And one of the things with the African-American community, historically is that we have not been able to protect our leaders and to support our leaders and to allow them to realize their full potential.
And to some degree, Jesse is a victim of that today. That is, the inability of the Black community to really protect its leader, leaders and to support its leaders. So as a consequence, he gets shot at and people really go after him. But he has such a special quality. His mind is such a sharp and brilliant mind that it's going to be very hard, I think, for anyone to completely push him down or push him aside or push him away. And that's just a special gift. He has a special gift.