Would Jesse Jackson Have Been a Better Black President than Obama?

Raynard Jackson takes a critical look at why Obama’s rise was historic, but not transformational for the Black community

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When Jackie Robinson became the first Black to play major league baseball, it was not only historic, but it opened the door to a flood of other Black players. Similarly, when Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus and help spark the Civil Rights Movement, it was again not only historic, but led to Blacks gaining rights that were already delineated in the U.S. Constitution.

While less successful, Jesse Jackson’s two failed presidential campaigns (1984 and 1988) were still historic and also paved the way for a new generation of Black political operatives. As a result of Jackson’s failed presidential bids, the political arena was introduced to people like Ron Walters, Ron Brown, Donna Brazile, Alexis Herman, and Leah Daughtry. In essence, Jackson provided the necessary training for his staffers to be spread throughout major Democratic institutions (the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic House Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, etc.). As a matter of fact, part of the deal Jackson negotiated for endorsing the Democratic nominee in 1988 (Michael Dukakis) was for Ron Brown to become Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Brown was the first Black to become chairman of a major party.

Former President Bill Clinton even admitted that without Ron Brown, he would have never become president. Many of Jackson’s former campaign aides worked throughout Clinton’s presidential campaign and eventually were rewarded with jobs in his administration. Now, many of these former Jackson and Clinton staffers are some of the most sought after political operatives in the country.

Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States in 2008 was historic–period, with no need for an “and…” The difference here is that Obama had few Blacks on his campaign staff and even fewer in his administration. To my dismay, there is no pipeline of future Black political operatives as a result of Obama’s election, as was the case in Jackson’s failed bids. In fact, Obama had to be embarrassed by a series of recent photos of an all-White campaign staff before he asked the Congressional Black Caucus to recommend African Americans for consideration for hiring on his campaign.

The Politico recently reported on an email it claims to have obtained through one of its sources saying that Stefanie Brown, director of the campaign’s African American Vote program, sent the “urgent” message on March 21 that said, “The Obama for America campaign is in the process of really staffing up in states around the country, and I need your help to find qualified, African American candidates for some of these positions.”

“Qualified African Americans?” Did Ms. Brown really need to specify the word, “qualified.”  Was she really expecting a load of “unqualified” referrals? I find her terminology quite insulting, but I digress…

The Politico further reported, “The diversity push–and specifically the effort to hire African-Americans–isn’t just on the campaign side: In Washington, four officials from the White House personnel office and lobbying shop met [recently] with chiefs of staff for members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss building a better pipeline for Black staffers to move from the Capitol to the White House. An administration official emphasized that the White House reached out to the CBC, not the other way around, and said the meeting was coincidental to the campaign’s efforts.”

So, a few months before the election, Obama gets an epiphany about the need to have more Blacks in the White House. Are you kidding me? Whatever your feelings about Jesse Jackson, it is undeniable that his presence is still being felt from his failed presidential races. Without Jackson, Donna Brazile would have never been chosen to be campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000.  She was the first Black and first female to manage a presidential campaign.

Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Jesse Jackson were all historic figures, but they were also transformative. Obama’s election was historic, no question; but not transformative. One could reasonably argue that Blacks would have fared much better in a Hillary Clinton administration.  She, in many ways, has more personal relationships within the Black community than Obama does to this very day.

Let’s assume that Obama only serves one term; what will his legacy be relative to the Black community beyond the historic nature of his presidency? He is the head of the Democratic Party, but there is absolutely no evidence of his presidency in any of the major Democratic institutions.

We, as Blacks and Americans, celebrated the historical nature of Obama’s election; but the first rule of politics is to “reward your friends and punish your enemies.” When did Blacks become Obama’s enemy?

The views expressed are those of Raynard Jackson, president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine, Freedom’s Journal Magazineand U.S. Africa Magazine.


  • Ms. Genevieve

    The title of this article is “Would Jesse Jackson Have Been a Better Black President than Obama?” yet it does not speak at all to Reverend Jackson’s potential abilities to lead this country out of a recession, stabilize the housing and job markets, end our wars, and otherwise Actually Lead this Country as President of the United States. This article actually speaks more as to which Man has created more political opportunities for African Americans. A very different discussion and very hard marks to tally. However, there is no doubt that President Obama has had a huge impact on reigniting the Political Passions of not only Minority Youth but All Youth. As a result of Obama’s office, we have a now have a fully engaged young multicultural population truly interested in the political process, having discussions on Facebook and Twitter, wanting to have a say in how their country is run, and wanting to make a difference. That passion even ignited youth uprisings across the seas, creating whole new generations of every color demanding change. That is Transformative on So many Levels. Seeds have been planted in very fertile grounds and that in itself creates Future opportunities in the Global political arena for current and future generations of African Americans.

    The doors are opening now, but who is there and qualified to walk through them?

    Which leads to the point regarding “Qualified African Americans”. Honestly, I see no harm in making this distinction because when any company is trying to ramp up minority hiring, they are not looking to Just hire minorities (African American doesn’t equal automatic hire), they want someone who is going to actually Do the job for which they are hiring in the first place. Don’t send the resume if s/he does not have the requisite educational and professional experience and/or can’t pass a high security background check. Nothing wrong with that. Yes, create the pipeline; no don’t fill it with muck just for the sake of getting something pushed through.

    I otherwise I enjoyed this article, because it reminds me that sometimes in life you have to be the Way Paver so that others can come behind you and go a little bit further for the next in line. Jesse is The Great Negotiator. He is our Global Reverend. He is our Peacemaker. He is one of our last links to the first steps of the first marches that led us here today. He has touched and saved lives across all races across the Globe, and he leaves a Proud Legacy behind…and possibly even more so by Not being chained to the political restraints of the Oval Office.


    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Amen, Genevieve!

    • Raynard Jackson

      Thanks for your well thought out response, however, I TOTALLY disagree with you on the issue of “Qualified!” Have you ever noticed that no one EVER uses that terminology when it comes to sports and Blacks??? It’s because, it is a GIVEN that coaches want to win because their jobs depend on it and if you made the team, it’s just a given that the coach thinks you can contribute to him keeping his job and winning games.

      Genevieve, notice that whenever a coach is asking for referral of potential players, they NEVER say, can you send me a couple of “qualified” recruits??? It’s ALWAYS can you recommend to me any recruits?

      When white people use that word, Blacks get offended, but when a Black uses it, we try 2 justify it!!!!!!

      And finally, Genevieve, I am still chanlleging you and how Obama is transformational when he is doing everything in his power to IGNORE Blacks, but is bending over backwards (or should I say, Blackwards) to do things 4 gays and latinos—as a matter of fact, i think he has been MORE transformational to those groups than Blacks!!!!!

  • Tina Moreno

    It should be noted that the author of this article is a Republican.

    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Though I agree that the title is a little misleading (the article measures the impact of their presidential campaign efforts, not their effectiveness as presidents, which of course, Rev. Jackson never became), the author being a Republican in no way undermines the persuasiveness of his argument. Whether due to intention or oversight, the Obama team is playing catch-up, at best, when it comes to including African Americans. In 2012, this should not be a crisis initiative in an election year, but part of business as usual for President Obama and the Democratic Party, especially given the legacy of Jackson’s presidential runs. For what it’s worth, I am not a Republican.

    • Raynard Jackson

      Tina, what does my party affiliation have to do with what i said? Either what I said is true r it’s NOT…Truth is not contingent on being accepted to be true. You can claim all you want that you don’t believe in the laws of gravity, but if you jump off your roof, you gonna fall whether you believe in gravity or not. For example it is a fact that George W. Bush had MORE Blacks in his administration than Obama and Clinton combined. So, me being a Republican doesn’t change the facts of that statement…Hope you understand!!! 🙂

  • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

    As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out. Let’s see what happens when (if) President Obama gets a second term. Great, thought-provoking post!

    • Raynard Jackson

      Thx Alfred…How r u??? it’s been a LONG time……Let’s not wait on a second term….see my response to Genevieve above…. 🙂

  • Larry L. Edwards

    The answer is NO; his morality is not in order and protesting along with commercial shake-downs are his career legacy. He would have been much worse. However, Minister Farrakhan is a different story. He would make a superior president and he is the only true legitimate that Black America has.
    No other person comes close to his leadership qualities and his character is impeccable.
    I have been looking for flaws within this man for more than 40 years in order to not believe we could have a perfect leader; I never found such flaw. Now I find myself each and every Sunday morning listening to http://www.noi.org/webcasts receiving inspiration. Therefore Minister Farrakhan is the man and ought to be the Prime Minister of the United States of America.
    The real losers are the White people of the USA.

    • Whiteguytrying to understand blacks

      “The real losers are the White people of the USA.”

      No racism here, move along folks…

  • Kevin S. Turner

    This is a very intriguing topic. There are several directions one can take. First of all, I think Jesse Jackson really deserves more credit than what he gets today. If you remember during each of his campaigns, he more than held his own in the political debates displaying his comprehension of domestic and global economic conditions and the factors affecting them. He also had a great grasp on foreign policy. Let’s not forget how he personally went to Syria and brought back downed pilot Robert Goodman. What other candidate at that time could have pulled this off? Jesse was cunningly diplomatic when he wanted to be, but he also got right to the point when it was necessary.

    I believe we are in more of a global society than we were back in 84 and 88. The racial aspect as far as Blacks in high government positions though still an issue was more acute back then. Today, we (African Americans) are no longer THE minority group. The Hispanic population is growing, though not necessarily a major major political force, I believe it is emerging and the smart politician will recognize this and get on that bandwagon, be it republican or democrat.

    It’s funny the reference to Jackie Robinson was made. Many back in Jackie’s day will say though he was not the best Black baseball player the Negroes Leagues had to offer, he had the best temperment needed to be successful given those times. Can the same be said for President Obama? Would Jesse Jackson have been a better president in 84 or 88 than Obama is today? Maybe, but would he have had the temperment necessary to succeed? Back then Jesse would have definitely been seen as the BLACK President rather than the POTUS. The same can also be said for President Obama, but not nearly to the degree that Jackson would have been.

    I also think technology plays a role as well. The Obama campaign of 2008 was the best orchestrated political campaign I had ever seen, making great use of the technology available. We are more racially tolerant as a nation than we were back then which allowed Obama to become Senator of Illinios, which also made his fund raising efforts easier than they were for Jesse Jackson which was a real grassroots campaign. Though President Obama reached the common people, he had better fund raising resources.

    With that being said I also believe that every possible roadblock is being put before President Obama, from his inauguration up to now to try and make sure he is a one term president. This is being done at the expense of EVERYONE in the country. We can only imagine what think tanks are taking place in republican back rooms.

    I say all this to say that it is a different political dynamic than when Jesse ran. I know we have great resources in our community to fill many of these high profile seats. But we have to keep making noise and keep the pressure on not as much President Obama as much as the President’s campaign and staff. Though we claim him as our own, he is still everybody’s president. I love this topic, it needs to be a live talking forum!

    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Kevin; You’ve made some excellent points! This topic would be great for a college-level political science class!

  • silkysoul

    The predicament President Obama has always faced is forging a political career in a racially-polarized, but socially in-denial (in the mainstream), country. The citizens of the USA speak of “life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”, but the factor of economics is so often left out of this noble equation. Economics is at the heart of every turbulent ethnic crisis in America, which boils down to jobs in this case. I believe, politically, President Obama staffed his campaign and current White House to appeal in part to the general population that elected him. Now, he turns around, and encounters a crossroads where he is “accused” of slighting qualified African-Americans who could contribute to his staff, which, according to the author, would’ve never happened with Rev. Jackson. With all respect to Rev. Jackson’s effort, he lost. Many gained from his campaigns and negotiations, but Jackson didn’t achieve the party nomination, no less the office of the President. President Obama, I feel, just took one for the team in order to get into office, and accomplish all that he has done. Now, as he ramps up for his second campaign, he’s reaching out to diversify his staff at a time where he won’t be accused of “favoritism”. The “race / ethnic tightrope” is a fine one to walk as an ethnic politician.

    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Very well said, and well considered. I am really enjoying the comments on this discussion. It’s a great point that Rev. Jackson could afford to make diversity a priority, in part because it would have been contrary to his public image not to, and in part because it was nearly impossible for him to win the nomination, so his goals were a lot different than were President Obama’s when he was a candidate. Would Rev. Jackson have been so bold on the diversity front if he really had a shot at his party’s nomination? Would he have passed on the opportunity to be president if it mean not hiring people like Ron Brown and Donna Brazile in key campaign roles? Hmmm….

  • Lynne

    Another asanine commentary from the “I didnt get a hookup” crowd.

  • Brother Jesse

    This is a great article that should be an unemotional discussion/forum/townhall held in the Black community across America as we head into the election. I have enjoyed the comments as well. This is thought-provoking content.

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  • Whiteguytrying to understand blacks

    Jesse Jackson is a “race-baiting poverty pimp” surely educated blacks (i tend to think there is a few on here)can see how a Alan West or JC Watts type should be upheld as a good role model, even a president.

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  • Jfls45



    1.) Selma March Got Me Born – NOT EXACTLY, your parents felt safe enough to

    have you in 1961 – Selma had no effect on your birth, as Selma was in 1965.

    (Google ‘Obama Selma ‘ for his full March 4, 2007 speech and articles about its various untruths.) ! !

    2.) Father Was A Goat Herder – NOT EXACTLY, he was a privileged, well-educated youth, who went to work with the Kenyan Government.

    3.) Father Was A Proud Freedom Fighter – NOT EXACTLY, he was part of one of

    the most corrupt and violent governments Kenya has ever had.

    4.) My Family Has Strong Ties To African Freedom – NOT EXACTLY; 

    your cousin Raila Odinga created mass violence in attempting to overturn a legitimate election in 2007 

    in Kenya . It was the first widespread violence there in decades. 

    The current government is pro-American but Odinga wants to overthrow it and establish Muslim Sharia law. 

    Your half-brother, Abongo Obama, is Odinga’s follower. 

    You interrupted your New Hampshire campaigning to speak to Odinga on the phone. 

    Check out the following link for verification of that….and for more.

    Obama’s cousin Odinga ran for president in Kenya and tried to get Sharia 

    law in place there. When Odinga lost the elections, his followers burned
    Christians’ homes and then burned men, women and children alive in a
    Christian church where they took shelter… Obama SUPPORTED his cousin
    before the election process here started. Google Obama and Odinga and
    see what you get. No one wants to know the truth.

    5.) My Grandmother Has Always Been A Christian – NOT EXACTLY, she does her

    daily Salat prayers at 5 AM according to her own interviews. Not to mention,

    Christianity wouldn’t allow her to have been one of 14 wives to 1 man.

    6.) My Name is African Swahili – NOT EXACTLY, 

    your name is Arabic and ‘Baraka’ (from which Barack came) means ‘blessed’ in that language. 

    Hussein is also Arabic and so is Obama.

    Barack Hussein Obama is not half black. 

    Obama is the first Arab-American President, not the first black President. Barack Hussein Obama is 50% Caucasian from his mother’s side and 43.75% Arabic and 6.25% African Negro from his father’s side. Although Barack Hussein Obama’s father was from  Kenya, his father’s family was mainly Arabs.. 

    Barack Hussein Obama’s father was
    only 12.5% African Negro and 87.5% Arab (his father’s birth certificate
    states he’s Arab, not African Negro). From….and for more….go to…..



    7.) I Never Practiced Islam – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you practiced it daily at school, where you were registered as a Muslim and kept that faith for 31 years,

    until your wife made you change so you could run for office.

    4-3-08 Article ‘Obama was ‘quite religious in Islam”



    8.) My School In Indonesia Was Christian – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you were registered as Muslim there and got in trouble in Koranic Studies for making faces (check your own book).

    February 28, 2008. Kristoff from the ” New York Times ” a year ago: 

    ” Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. 

    In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), 

    Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as ‘one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.’ 

    This is just one example of what Pamela is talking about when she says ‘Obama’s narrative is being altered, 

    enhanced and manipulated to whitewash troubling facts.’ ”

    9.) I Was Fluent In Indonesian – NOT EXACTLY, 

    not one teacher says you could speak the language.

    10.) Because I Lived In Indonesia , I Have More Foreign Experience – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you were there from the ages of 6 to 10, and couldn’t speak the language. 

    What did you learn except how to study the Koran and watch cartoons?

    11.) I Am Stronger On Foreign Affairs – NOT EXACTLY, except for Africa

    (surprise) and the Middle East (bigger surprise); you have never been

    anywhere else on the planet and thus have NO experience with our closest


    12.) I Blame My Early Drug Use On Ethnic Confusion – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you were quite content in high school to be Barry Obama, no mention of Kenya and no mention of struggle to identify – your classmates said you were just fine

    13.) An Ebony Article Moved Me To Run For Office – NOT EXACTLY, 

    Ebony has yet to find the article you mention in your book. It doesn’t, and never did, exist.

    14.) A Life Magazine Article Changed My Outlook On Life – NOT EXACTLY, 

    Life has yet to find the article you mention in your book. It doesn’t, and never did, exist.

    15.) I Won’t Run On A National Ticket In ’08 – NOT EXACTLY, 

    here you are, despite saying, live on TV, which you would not have enough experience by then, and you are all about having experience first.

    16.) Voting ‘Present’ is Common In Illinois Senate – NOT EXACTLY, 

    they are common for YOU, but not many others have 130 NO VOTES.

    17.) Oops, I Miss-voted – NOT EXACTLY, 

    only when caught by church groups and Democrats, did you beg to change your misvote.

    18.) I Was A Professor Of Law – NOT EXACTLY; 

    you were a senior lecturer ON LEAVE.

    19.) I Was A Constitutional Lawyer – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you were a senior lecturer ON LEAVE.

    20.) Without Me, There Would Be No Ethics Bill – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you didn’t write it, introduce it, change it or create it.

    21.) The Ethics Bill Was Hard To Pass – NOT EXACTLY, 

    it took just 14 days from start to finish.

    22.) I Wrote A Tough Nuclear Bill – NOT EXACTLY, 

    your bill was rejected by your own party for its pandering and lack of all regulation - 

    mainly because of your Nuclear donor, Exelon, from which David Axelrod came.

    23.) I Have Released My State Records – NOT EXACTLY, 

    as of March, 2008, state bills you sponsored or voted for have yet to be released, exposing all the special interests pork hidden within.

    24.) I Took On The Asbestos Altgeld Gardens Mess – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you were part of a large group of people who remedied Altgeld Gardens .. 

    You failed to mention anyone else but yourself, in your books.

    25.) My Economics Bill Will Help America – NOT EXACTLY, 

    your 111 economic policies were just combined into a proposal which lost 99-0, 

    and even YOU voted against your own bill.

    26.) I Have Been A Bold Leader In Illinois  – NOT EXACTLY, 

    even your own supporters claim to have not seen BOLD action on your part.

    27.) I Passed 26 Of My Own Bills In One Year – NOT EXACTLY, 

    they were not YOUR bills, but rather handed to you, 

    after their creation by a fellow Senator, to assist you in a future bid for higher office.

    28.) No One on my campaign contacted Canada about NAFTA – NOT EXACTLY, 

    the Canadian Government issued the names and a memo of the conversation your campaign had with them.

    29.) I Am Tough On Terrorism – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you missed the Iran Resolution vote on terrorism and your good friend Ali Abunimah supports the destruction of Israel .

    30.) I Want All Votes To Count – NOT EXACTLY; you said let the delegates decide.

    31.) I Want Americans To Decide – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you prefer caucuses that limit the vote, confuse the voters, force a public vote, 

    and only operate during small windows of time.

    32.) I passed 900 Bills in the State Senate – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you passed 26, most of which you didn’t write yourself.

    33.) I Believe In Fairness, Not Tactics – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you used tactics to eliminate Alice Palmer from running against you.

    34.) I Don’t Take PAC Money – NOT EXACTLY, you take loads of it.

    35.) I don’t Have Lobbyists - NOT EXACTLY, 

    you have over 47 lobbyists, and counting.

    36.) My Campaign Had Nothing To Do With The 1984 Ad – NOT EXACTLY, 

    your own campaign worker made the ad on his Apple in one afternoon.

    37.) I Have Always Been Against Iraq  – NOT EXACTLY, 

    you weren’t in office to vote against it AND you have voted to fund it every single time.

    38.) I Have Always Supported Universal Health Care – NOT EXACTLY, 

    your plan leaves us all to pay for the 15,000,000 who don’t have to buy it.

    39.) My uncle liberated Auschwitz concentration camp – NOT EXACTLY, 

    your mother had no brothers and the Russian army did the liberating.

    So, who EXACTLY is this Obama guy and what is he trying to sell us?! 


    Please let your loved ones and friends know about this fraud. 


    God Bless America

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