Op-EdRev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.Opinion

JESSE JACKSON: Dems Need a Plan Beyond Responding to Trump

With majority control in the House of Representatives, Democrats have an enormous opportunity — and face a distinct peril.

The opportunity is to lay out in hearings and in legislation a long-overdue change agenda for America. The peril is they’ll get caught responding to President Trump’s outrage a day, focus on pursuing his corruption, his taxes, his payoffs, his fulminations and unending lies. The latter fixates the media. The former serves the American people.

No doubt, Democrats have to defend the democracy, ensure that Trump is not able to obstruct the investigation of Russian interference. Democrats, however, have to walk and chew gum at the same time, and that requires laying down a clear agenda for change.

The needs for reform are apparent. Democrats gained popular favor running on extending and defending health care and on democracy reform, including reviving the Voting Rights Act, curbing big money in politics, automatic voter registration, ending gerrymandering and a rollback of the voter suppression techniques that have spread across the country.

The reform manifesto is far broader than that. Democrats should stand for raising worker wages — a $15 minimum wage, mandatory overtime for those earning $70,000 or less, labor law reform to protect workers right to organize.

A major investment in a Green New Deal, generating good jobs while moving rapidly to meet the threat posed by catastrophic climate change and modernizing our decrepit infrastructure, needs to be detailed and pushed. Student loan debt continues to hit new records, even though enrollment in colleges has dropped. A good public education from pre-K through college or advanced training should be available to every child in America.

Democrats need a plan for reviving the impoverished ghettos and barrios of urban America and the devastated small towns and red-lined regions of rural America.

Simple steps for building equal justice for all are also needed. Trump campaigned by rousing fears of a fake “invasion” of immigrants, yet most Americans continue to believe immigrants are more beneficial to America than costly.

Comprehensive immigration reform should be on the table, with the first easy steps to protect the DACA children — the children of undocumented workers raised here who know no other country — and to end the grotesque policy of putting babies in cages separated from their parents.

Criminal justice reform — there was once a bipartisan accord on ending imprisonment of non-violent offenders and on reforming discriminatory police practices — is long overdue. The repeated mass shootings should, at the very least, allow the revival of the ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons that were designed for military use.

Americans elected Trump to shake things up, after he promised that he would be the champion of working people. Then he larded tax cuts on the rich, creating deficits that Republicans use to justify cuts in Social Security and Medicare. He turned his administration over to Wall Street executives and corporate lobbyists. They did not deregulate, then re-rigged the rules to favor their entrenched interests.

With fires and floods wracking America, Trump cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is caused by humans.

With mass shootings horrifying the nation, Trump sided with the gun lobby to block reforms.

With wages still stagnant, Trump opposed lifting the minimum wage and his Supreme Court nominee provided the deciding vote to gut unions for teachers, nurses, police officers and other public employees.

Americans did not elect Democrats to harass Donald Trump personally. They elected them to hold his administration accountable to law and to push for reforms that will address the challenges they face in their lives.

Yes, Democratic reforms will likely be blocked by a Republican Senate or vetoed by the president. But they can show Americans that there is an alternative, if only Trump and the Republican Senate would get out of the way.

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Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.

Founder and President, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. On August 9, 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Reverend Jackson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you Rev Jesse Jackson for your article. I agree with all you have stated 100%. President Trump is running the country as a businessman and as a candidate, but not as a true president. He seeks to implement policies and actions that will benefit himself or businesses/individuals that can elevate his agenda or status. Him and the Republicans want to cut Social Services, cut Medicaid, want to continue to repeal ACA (ObamaCare). After various mass shootings, there has not been any talk or action on gun control or assault weapons. President walked back on changing the gun law age from 18 to 21. Betsy DeVos (Trump’s selected Secretary of Education) wants to decline public education and increase for profit schools, loosen regulations that have helped held for profit schools accountable against debt suppression towards students, and now wants to grant more rights for assault offenders. However, despite these deep concerns we have about this President, the Democrats can’t waste their time and their talent simply going back and forth arguing with the President. We have an opportunity to come together (progressives and moderate have to align together) and establish a Foundation for the party itself. Democrats need a long term plan, not only ones that regard the President (i.e. impeachment, block policies, investigation). Need to create policies and laws that will benefit the individuals, that will help and strongly establish the party. I think Health Care, Strong Regulations against Financial Institutions, Education are strong topics that will benefit Democrats, but have to be willing to be bi-partisan when need be. I have indicated that we need to establish a foundation after the 2016 election loss. We also have to let people know that the Democrat President (Obama) was the one who revived the economy and lower unemployment, not President Trump. Thank you again Rev Jackson Sr. I really appreciate your truth to your article.

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