Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson on Saturday launched a fierce attack on Republican presidential nominee George Bush at a Los Angeles rally designed to motivate union members to make a maximum effort on behalf of Democratic nominee Michael S. Dukakis in the final days of the 1988 campaign.
Jackson accused Bush of being anti-worker, anti-women and “un-American” because of his stands on the equal rights amendment, minimum wage, child care, national health insurance and the homeless. “When George Bush stands against equal rights for women, it’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s un-American,” he said.
Blasts Bush for Attacks
But Jackson was even more strident when he blasted Bush for his attacks on liberals and “the warmed-over radicals of the 1960s,” referring to a speech the vice president made Friday.
“He’s making a very basic statement” with those attacks, Jackson said. “In a sense, he’s saying those who arrested Rosa Parks, those who had traditional values were right and that Rosa Parks was a warmed-over radical,” Jackson said, referring to the black woman whose refusal to sit in a segregated section of a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1957, ignited the civil rights movement.
“When George Bush attacks the liberals he’s talking about labor leaders who marched and struck and faced jail for the common workers,” Jackson said. “You got to watch this issue about conservative and liberal, because there’s a hidden message there. . . . Slave masters were conservatives. The abolitionists were the liberals. . . . Conservatives keep that which is; liberals change things, make things as they ought to be,” he said, generating cheers from the crowd of 2,000 in Elysian Park.
‘Purpose is High’
From the start, he acknowledged that Dukakis was behind and had not generated great enthusiasm. “The polls say the interest is low, but our purpose is high and our mission is great,” Jackson said, as machinist Joe Mosher of Whittier, standing a few feet from the podium, chanted back, “Talk to us, Jesse. Speak to us, Jesse.” And indeed Jackson talked on: “When workers come alive, America comes alive. . . . The struggle is about wages for the common man--to stabilize their families.”
Then, Jackson attempted to place Dukakis’ frequently criticized campaign style in a historical perspective. “Who says there’s a constitutional requirement that a presidential candidate has to have passion? Presidents should have priorities, the people have the passion.
“John Kennedy didn’t inspire us to civil rights,” Jackson said, referring to the 1960 campaign. “We inspired him, he had the priorities. . . . If Dukakis will stand for an increased minimum wage, we’ve got the passion. . . . If Dukakis will stop drugs coming in and jobs going out, we’ve got the passion.”
The rally was sponsored by a multi-union coalition called Jobs for Justice. Before Jackson spoke, representatives of numerous unions, including the Communications Workers, the Service Employees and the United Farm Workers, spoke of adversity they have faced during the Reagan Administration.
“American workers have been butchered for the last eight years by regressive, reactionary federal policies,” said William R. Robertson, secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. He said 700 local union members were manning phones every night in an attempt to generate a higher turnout for Dukakis. And he told the crowd that if the 1968 campaign had lasted two days more, Democratic candidate Hubert H. Humphrey would have overtaken Richard M. Nixon and “that would have changed history.”
Both Jackson and Robertson also urged the crowd to work on behalf of the Democratic Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, who is trailing incumbent Republican Sen. Pete Wilson.