In the close Carter-Reagan race, 10 million registered blacks (of 17 million blacks eligible to vote) can make a difference -- whether they vote for one of the two major party contenders, independent John Anderson, or stay at home.
If the man who has headed every recent black leadership opinion poll, Chicago's Rev. Jesse Jackson, has his way, this substantial black vote will come out strongly for Mr. Carter.
Just five weeks after Ronald Reagan met with the Rev. Mr. Jackson at Jackson's Operation PUSH headquarters here, and five days after Jackson met with President Carter in Washington, the black leader delivered a powerful speech Sept. 13 endorsing Jimmy Carter.
Jackson said the administration's record shows that the President is "a political leader who will respond in a humane fashion to pressure for change that comes from the bottom up." He said Carter "has kept us out of war and used a human rights policy as a framework within which we and others around the world can fight for our freedom."
He told his mainly black audience that "In my judgment, the nation's interests and our interests can best be served through a second Carter administration."
Strong black support for Carter, Jackson says, was never a foregone conclusion.Jackson said he and other black leaders studied all the options closely and made black needs known to each candidate. The result, he believes, was that all the candidates gave more consideration to black concerns. To Jackson, Carter has been far more responsive than either John Anderson or Ronald Reagan.
Jackson warned against throwing votes away on Mr. Anderson, "masquerading as a progressive liberal when in reality he's still a conservative Republican." He said voting for Anderson would repeat the mistake of throwing 1 million black votes away on a third party in 1968 when Richard Nixon won by half a million votes.
Despite early promises, Jackson said Reagan represents a dangerous "return to manifest destiny and gunboat diplomacy." He said Reagan's pledge to the National Urban League to create "jobs, jobs, jobs" has turned into tax-cut proposals which would help the rich, not the poor. "All this money is to be given in the hope that the rich and powerful will voluntarily create jobs for the poor and unemployed," Jackson charged, "but Mr. Reagan proposes no guarantees to ensure that this money will go into job creation or that the jobs created will go to those most in need of them."
Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young and black Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, Ind., were at Jackson's side for the endorsement here. They agreed that Carter is moving in the right direction -- not just for blacks but for America as a whole. Young described Jackson's hour-long address as "a brilliant analysis of the state of America" coming from "a leader that the overwhelming majority of the black community can relate to."
Secretary of Labor F. Ray Marshall was also on hand for the Jackson endorsement. He said the administration is responding to black concerns because "you can't preach human rights for other people in this world and deny human rights to people in this country."
Jackson spelled out the ways he feels the Carter administration has helped the cause of human rights at home and abroad. He said the administration has moved courageously regarding Panama, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua, the Middle East, and South Africa.
At home, he said, the Carter administration "has created 8 million new jobs -- more jobs than have been created under any administration in the history of this nation."
Jackson praised Carter for appointing blacks "throughout the government, not just in special ethnic slots, but to positions of power and decisionmaking."