Jackson challenges Bush

Published July 26, 2004 5:51PM (EDT)

What did Jesse Jackson really tell George Bush when they were photographed head to head last week at the National Urban League convention in Detroit? Bush used the event to challenge black voters to rethink their deep allegiance to the Democratic Party. But Jackson said he in turn challenged President Bush to have a meeting to discuss the integrity of the voting process.

Between Florida 2000 and all the recent talk of suspending this years presidential election for security reasons, there have been some major shock waves about the fairness and integrity of our American democracy, Jackson told Salon as he left Bostons Fleet Center Monday morning. Thats why some are calling for U.N. supervision of the November election.

Does Bush have a chance of peeling off more of the African-American vote this year? Look, said Jackson, in more than three years in the White House, Bush has not met once with the Congressional Black Caucus, not once with organized labor, not once with the United Methodist Church. Wed be suicidal to vote against our own interests.

Rep. Corrine Brown, who charges that some 20,000 black votes in her Jacksonville, Florida district were thrown out in the last presidential election, was even more vehement in her rejection of Bushs advances. Standing near Jackson, she angrily dismissed the president as a man who on Martin Luther Kings birthday announced he wanted to kill off affirmative action. We have lost ground, we have gone in reverse under this administration.

A new BET poll shows that John Kerrys support among black voters is widespread but not intense. But Brown insisted this year is not about Kerry, its about our future. In my 20 years in public office Ive never seen a more mean-spirited, more backward administration. They have great slogans  like leave no child behind. But meanwhile they cut the funds for public education.

Like Jackson, whose Rainbow Coalition is working with an alliance of groups to monitor the election process in Florida this year, Brown believes that Democrats must be extremely vigilant in November. The bottom line is we won the election last time, but they took the White House. This year we need to make sure we have a fair, transparent election.

Earlier this month, Brown outraged Republicans by accusing them in a fiery speech on the House floor of stealing the 2000 presidential election. The GOP-controlled House voted to strike her remarks from the record.

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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