Jackson: Election ‘tug of war for the soul of America’

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The electoral college, along with other issues around voting, is partly to blame for the upset of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said Wednesday at the University of Michigan.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson holds media interviews at the Rackham School of Graduate Studies on the U-M campus in Ann Arbor, Wednesday morning.

For the second time in modern history, a presidential candidate won the majority vote but failed to win the electoral college. In the most recent election, 1 million more voters cast their ballot for Clinton but President-elect Donald Trump garnered the necessary electoral votes to win the election.

Meanwhile, there are many issues that make it hard for Americans to vote, including not automatically registering people to vote when they turn 18, a reduction of early voting days and precincts, elections held on a work day and not a national holiday, along with targeted and suppressed votes of minority groups in Michigan and other states.

“It’s the tug of war for the soul of America,” said Jackson, a former presidential candidate who campaigned in Michigan several times for Clinton. “The point is to make voting easily accessible if you believe in the democratic (process) from the bottom up, rather than top down.”

Jackson, founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, made his comments as he prepared to speak Wednesday at UM, where he was honored for his decades as a civil rights activist.

He visits Michigan after the state voted for Trump, a Republican, for the first time since 1988.

Asked why nearly 50,000 more Detroiters voted for President Barack Obama four years ago than they did for Clinton, Jackson said Obama’s campaign was a “phenomenon.”

“Barack’s run was a phenomenon, created tremendous excitement,” Jackson said. “He is a charismatic leader of substance who as a first African American had a certain appeal quality. Many people looked up seven years later, and they had hope for change but Detroit faced thousands of vacant lots and abandoned homes ... They didn’t vote for (Donald Trump), they just didn’t vote.”

But Jackson pointed to Flint where Clinton won in Genesee County.

“The water is still undrinkable,” Jackson said. “(She committed) to invest in infrastructure and the health and the economy.”

He predicted mass demonstrations and a difficult time when electors officially cast their ballots on Dec. 19.

“This time it might be a real challenging day for voters because the gap between the winner and the loser is so substantial,” Jackson said.

Besides that, American still has to come to terms with the pain and polarization of the campaign.

“It is straight-out racist, xenopobic, misogynist,” Jackson said. “An election should be built around the hope for tomorrow, not the return to the fears of yesterday.”