Farewell Jesse Jr., We Hardly Knew Ye: A Lesson on the Limits of our Black Political Class

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

Former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., was the closest thing to black royalty we hope to see. Junior was handed a congressional seat at the age of 30 on the strength of his father's career. His rise and fall should be lessons on the limits of depending on the princesses and princes of our black political class. It's time for new leaders, new pathways to, and new models of leadership.

Farewell Jesse Jr., We Hardly Knew Ye: A Lesson on the Limits of our Black Political Class

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

It was late afternoon on a special election day in Chicago, 1995. I was working for a congressional candidate, former State Senator Alice Palmer. The outcome was not in doubt, we were going to lose. But a professional does what a professional has to do, so I'd rounded up a couple brothers to work the thousands of homeward bound commuters passing through the 95th St. el station for our candidate those last three or four hours before the polls closed.

As it happened, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., the father of our main opponent was working the same crowd for his son, Jesse Jackson Jr. the next congressman from that district. When the crowd slacked off a little between trains, we talked. It was impossible not to feel good for Rev. Jackson, who was about to see his son have a chance to expand and build upon the work he'd pursued for decades. Junior, I remember telling his dad, was about to have a chance to do a lot of good, maybe even some great things, and I congratulated him before leaving.

Jesse Jr. wasn't the first or the worst African American princeling to be handed a congressional seat by his family at or before the age of 30. He probably did a lot less damage in his 17 years than Memphis TN's Harold Ford, whose folks gave one to him at 27. To be entirely fair, Junior also did a lot less harm to the long-term interests of African America than many of his other colleagues in the Black Caucus, worthless souls like Alabama's Artur Davis, New York's Greg Meeks, or Georgia's David Scott.

With longtime Jackson strategist Frank Watkins, Junior co-authored a valuable and insightful book, Toward a More Perfect Union, in which he proposed constitutional amendments for the rights to vote, to a decent job at a living wage, a clean environment, and more. The other two books which he co-authored with his father were forgettable at best.

If Junior had shown imaginative leadership in Congress, he might have been mayor of Chicago by now. But imagination and leadership seem to have eluded the young prince. Junior mostly kept his head down in Congress, voted with the crowd on Iraq and other mattters, and by 2003 he was shilling for a south side casino and a new airport in his district supposedly as “job creation” measures.

The very specific acts that led to his downfall and disgrace are almost inexplicable. Blonde bimbo stripper girlfriend, $40,000 gold Rolex watches, buying Michael Jackson's hat and living off one's campaign fund are all such obvious no-no's it's hard not to view them as cries for help from a man who might have been over his head almost from the beginning. Who knew the life of a black prince came with so much pressure, so many expectations and demands he just could not meet? Personally I hope Junior eventually gets it together and finds a way to make a real contribution.

For the rest of us, the lesson of Junior's rise and fall is that it's time to put aside the princes and princesses of our black political class, and come up with new leaders, new pathways to, and new models of leadership. That's going to mean casting aside the two party system, in the Democratic half of which our black political class have made their careers.

A young man in Junior's former south side Chicago congressional district, LeAlan Jones has apparently survived a challenge to his status on the ballot as a Green Party candidate. If Jones can get it together for the special election in April, and the November 2014 general election, maybe we'll see a glimpse of what that new leadership could look like.

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. A longtime Chicagoan, he now lives in exile near Marietta GA, where he is a state committee member of the Georgia Green party and a partner in a tech firm. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.



An invisible puff of smoke.

Sad.  Sad. Sad.  I walked with Mr Jackson, Sr. from Marietta, Ga to Atlanta one time in the 80's, I think it was? I have never been more impressed with an individual but I'm not sure he ever did much, really?  When Jesse, Jr. entered the picture, I thought that maybe with his father's experience and contacts that he would make a difference.  Then, nothing.

Same old black mis-leadership class!

Same model, different color.

“As far back as the 1960s, the biochemist W. Farnsworth Loomis had suggested that skin color is determined by the body's need for vitamin D. The vitamin helps the body absorb calcium and deposit it in bones, an essential function, particularly in fast-growing embryos. (The need for vitamin D during pregnancy may explain why women around the globe tend to have lighter skin than men.) Unlike folate, vitamin D depends on ultraviolet light for its production in the body. Loomis believed that people who live in the north, where daylight is weakest, evolved fair skin to help absorb more ultraviolet light and that people in the tropics evolved dark skin to block the light, keeping the body from overdosing on vitamin D, which can be toxic at high concentrations.”

Don’t expect too much from African or black American “leadership”.  Whites are no more than albino Africans.  There’s no reason why Presidents, Prime Ministers, or Kings of Kenya, Mali, Libya, or Ethiopia should be any better than Bush, Putkin, Sarkozy, or Berlusconi.


"Keep Hope Alive!!!"..............Not.

Jesse Sr. was once upon a time a giant because he appeared to stand and act on principle.  Not so much the case these past couple of decades.  Actually a huge disappointment at best and a standard bearer for the status quo at worst.

The Black Misleadership Class (as is the nature of politics in general) is all about "self-service."  The days of statesmenship and being civic-minded have give themselves over to the cesspool, banality, and nit-wittedness that we call "politics."

Look at the babel of fools in Congress and along Penn. Ave., look at the media that supports it.  Can you imagine Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, or Kennedy on SNL or Leno "campaining?"

The blame just doesn't rest with the Jesse Jrs. of this world, it rests squarely with US.  "We the People" have bought into the oakey-doak of name dropping and recognition-- something we inheritied from our white counterparts-- because we view it as a mechanism for moving on up a la George and Winnie Jefferson.

When I first came to the "D" I got tired of mofos talking about who they know and what their positions..... like I gave a good g**d***mn.  I'm looking at these so-called movers and shakers and the condition of the City and thinking what a bunch of clowns and dysfunctional twits they are.

Funny how we went from "Keep Hope Alive" to "Hope and Change" and both turned out to be pure B.S.   But with the melding of the infotainment/social media world with the world of politics and celebrity, don't expect this trend to abate. In fact, expect it to acclerate.

I can see it,  a few decades from now:  "Honey Boo Boo" for Governor, after all, I bet you Coach Nick Saban could become governor of Alabama anytime he wants.  Didn't "Joe the Plumber" run for Congress?

Objectively speaking, I think Jr. does suffer from some form of mental illness.  He did dumbsh**t that truly damaged him personally versus using his office for bribes and kickbacks.

Tragic yes, but arguably forseeable.  Absolute power will corrupt anyone.


He was not too bad for me

I met Jackson while he was a law student at University of Illinois, Law School.  He made a case against our being in a predominantly white college.  He had some good things to say but nothing of originality.  For that speech, the school was paying him $6, 000.00.  In a way, he got embroiled in the corrupt politics of Chicago and the democratic party.  I think he just happens to be one of the victims of Rahm and his mafia's dragnet.  Every politician has some dirty laundry but it does not get exposed until you become a threat to or offend some more potent political forces.  To his credit, he voted against the Patriot Act, all the imperialist wars and even the bank bailout.  I just think they wanted to finish him politically so he never stood the chance of becoming Mayor of Chicago.  Those who are hurling stones at him should look in their closets. There are worse crimes overlooked. I am sad for him but politics is one bloody game.

Products of our environment???


Excellent insight and points taken.  Jr. grew up in an environment infested with thieves and back-stabbers and climbers.  A "gang" that rivals the Southside Chicago gangs like the Gangster Disciples in ruthlessness, only they drink Cabernet and wear Prada and Brooks Bros., and attend charitable events.  Like the head of street gangs they have "creed" and status.

No doubt, Jr. got use to "something for nothing," because that's what PUSH specialized in: shaking down corporations for selfish reasons versus transforming and restructuring their cultures or capitalism itself for self-less reasons.

Karma is a bitch.  And also, despite what RG3 and Tiger Woods or the "Rock" think about race-neutrality and a color-blind society.  they are delusional.  There's always going to be a double standard. One drop rules apply whether fair or not, always have, always will.

Bottom line, Black folks can't "cut up" in office like White folks do or they'll end up doing federal time.  Whites on the otherhand, they resign, burnish their reputation, and get a "consultancy" making even more money than they did while in office.

Don't believe me?  Here's simple/indirect example: How many failed, scandal ridden college coaches doing commentary or play by play on ESPN that are White vs. Black?  I actually think Bruce Pearl is an excellent coach, but an ethical bum.  Seth Greenberg? A failure.  Isn't this the guy that passed on not one BUT 2 sons of Dale Curry-- one of the most famous alum of the school he coached-- 2 young dudes who are now blowing it up at Duke and Golden State ?

Get my drift???  There's justice and then there's "just us."

Warning to future, wannabe Black politicians:  keep thinking the rules that apply to Whites apply to you, its a recipe for full employment for U.S. Attorneys.  Mamma told you that had to be twice as good, didn't she?


In case you didn't like my last example....

Here's another one.   Pretty soon you catch on.


Citizens of Mexico and the United States question the appropriateness of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government offering former Mexican president Felipe Calderón a prestigious and lucrative fellowship, given the dramatic increases in drug violence and human rights violations during his tenure.

When Felipe Calderón completed his Mexican presidential term in the fall of 2012, he boarded the first plane out of the country and landed at The Harvard Kennedy School of Government to start a prestigious fellowship. In his wake, he left a country reeling from violence, where kidnappings, extortions, beheadings and grave human rights violations have become part of every day life. In the past six years, over 70,000 people have been murdered and more than 25,000 people have been disappeared under Calderón's "war on narco-trafficking."

EC:  "Blood money, anyone???



Not to beat a dead horse..... I lie...

Last example, I promise.  Wonder how many Pookie's and Ray Rays or felonious Black politicians had their voting rights restored by the state governor?   Things that make you "Mmmm......"  LOL


"McDonnell spokesperson Tucker Martin insisted there was nothing out of the ordinary about the pardon.

“We look at the merits of each application, not the name,” Martin said. “This application was handled like every other one that comes to the office.”

EC:  Quote:  "Nothing out of the ordinary."  Actually not as incredulous as we think, that statement is my point exactly!!!  Move along, nothing to see here.

p.s.  Wonder if Scooter had his house foreclosed upon, his assets seized, and sleep on the streets at all, following his fall from grace?  (sarcasm)


J. Jackson Jr. was said to be diagnosed with bi-polar

Bi-polar condition used to be called Manic Depression.  My very close friend, was an art professor in his late 30s when he got sick with what finally got diagnosed as manic depression.  I knew him after his diagnosis was made, until his death many years later.  I have a woman artist friend who also has bi-polar.  Hers is controlled by medication, without any of the "ups" and "down".  My male artist friend was more severely disabled by his manic depression.  (Same illness, but I use the name each self friend called their illness.)

  The guy had manic episodes that made him act totally different than his usual.  He'd fall in love with a check out young woman in a supermarket, or think he was Christ.  Then he'd get his meds fixed.

  It is possible that J. Jackson Jr. acted like someone with bi-polar in manic mode, when he did those "odd" things.