I had never heard Jackson speak. I swear I'm surprised the walls of the buildings at Huston-Tillotson University (where DemFest is being held) are still standing. The passion of the man is beautiful.
Here's what he had to say:
The republicans have a simple theme: Less government, lower taxes, strong defense. It doesn't matter which Republican is running for whatever office - the theme is consistent and clear. Democrats don't have a theme. We wait for the presidential candidate to tell us what the theme is, and we rally round. Four years later - a new candidate sets a different theme, and we rally round it. Then four years later - another candidate, another theme . . . We wait each time to be told what the theme is - what Democrats stand for - this time. It's time for us, the people, to say what Democrats stand for and for the candidate to take our message to the country.
We need to start standing for people's rights. What rights do the Democrats fight for? . . . . NONE! We fight for policies.
Now there's nothing wrong with good policies - but every time, the Republicans co-opt our policies, distort them beyond all recognition and pass them into law. Marian Wright Edelman worked to give every child an equal, high-quality education. She called on America to "leave no child behind." Instead of her vision, we now have the travesty known as NCLB, courtesy of the republicans. Prescription drug benefits. Protecting Social Security. Ad nauseum.
Republicans use constitutional amendments as a weapon. In non-election years, they introduce constitutional amendment after amendment - to ban gay marriage, to ban abortions, to ban flag-burning - on and on - one amendment after another. Why? It is unlikely that any of the amendments will ever make it all the way through the process and become part of our constitution. (Thank god.) They do it because during non-election years they can force votes on these proposed hateful amendments and then use the votes as a wedge when elections roll around.
Republicans use proposed constitutional amendments to define what they are for - even though what they are for is hateful, telling people what you are for is always more powerful and persuasive than telling people what you are against.
Democrats can use the same amendment process to define what we stand for. Rep. Jackson has introduced three amendments.
Did you know that we do not have a constitutional right to vote in presidential elections?
In Bush v. Gore, justices in the 5-4 majority reinforced their belief that "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote..." Although their statement refers to electoral votes for president, it reinforces the view that voting is merely a state function and a privilege granted at the discretion of those in power.
Rep. Jackson has introduced HJR 28 - an amendment to the constitution that would give us a constitutional right to vote.
He has also introduced HJR 29 The Right to A Public Education of Equal High Quality Amendment and HJR 30 The Right to Health care of equal high quality.
What is Rep. Jackson's theme? "Toward a more perfect union."
A few hours later at Stubb's, Rep. Jackson had the crowd roaring with his powerful support for Howard Dean. The Backbone Campaign fought their way to the stage to present him with a Golden Backbone trophy.
And damn straight he deserves it. The Congressional Black Caucus is saving Democracy.