Stop Mimicking GOP, Jesse Jackson Urges : Politics: He calls on Democratic leaders to come up with a plan to rebuild cities.


As he considers a possible third run for the White House, Jesse Jackson called on Democratic leaders Tuesday to stop “mimicking” their Republican counterparts and, instead, to put forth a plan for rebuilding America’s decaying cities.

Jackson said he believes that the Democratic Party is heading in the wrong direction and that the debate in presidential campaigns has become so narrowly focused that he may be more effective at pursuing his issues outside of the political process.

He said he will announce his decision on whether to seek the White House this fall.


“I have to decide what is the most effective way to serve,” Jackson said in an interview after a rousing speech to a national labor convention here that was interrupted eight times by standing ovations. “I’m convinced right now that we have to open the system up again, and whether we can do that by running or whether one can do it by a series of conscientious mass demonstrations, I don’t know.

Jackson was especially critical of Democratic leaders in Congress for not adequately challenging President Bush on many of the nation’s major domestic issues. He said that the party lacks leadership and that it needs to “claim its distinction.”

“I will challenge the Democratic Party to stop mimicking the Republican Party,” he said. “We need at least two parties; we don’t need one party with two names.”

Jackson, who was elected last November to serve as a non-voting member of the U.S. Senate representing the District of Columbia, told a breakfast audience of about 1,000 members from the American Federation of Government Employees that Washington has failed to address the problems of American cities such as health care, education, crime and housing.

Last month, Jackson led a march in Connecticut from a city that recently declared bankruptcy--Bridgeport--to Hartford in order to demonstrate that poverty and urban decay exist even in the nation’s most affluent state.

Connecticut is home to three of America’s 10 poorest cities and it has one of the nation’s highest infant mortality rates, Jackson said. Last year, he said, there were no students from New Haven admitted to hometown Yale University.

“I raise this because this is duplicated in the neighborhoods where you live,” he said. “There are too many debates in Washington and in state capitols where, when the debate is over, it means nothing to the people where you live.”