Jesse Jackson's pitch to raise money: 'a poor campaign with a rich message'
Washington — ''This is a poor campaign with a rich message.'' Jesse L. Jackson - a man with a program but no money to tell it to the public - capsulizes his campaign for president of the United States.
The Rev. Mr. Jackson beams this pitch to his kind of crowd - a Palm Sunday audience of nearly 10,000 black people who paid $10 or $12 a head to sing, shout , cheer, clap hands, and stomp feet during an old-fashioned ''Explosion of Gospel Music,'' a fund-raiser at the Convention Center here.
The fund-raiser wrapped up another week on the road for Mr. Jackson in his efforts to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president, and more urgently, to raise money.
Last week, his itinerary took him to Pennsylvania and victory in Philadelphia. Next he was off to Arizona, where he added native Americans to his struggling rainbow coalition, but won no delegates in the caucuses. Then he zoomed back to the East Coast, making brief stops in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, home in Chicago, and Maryland, before coming to Washington.
''I need your enthusiasm,'' he told Sunday's gospel rally. ''But I need your financial support as well.''
A money shortage is only one inconvenience dogging Jackson. Add other roadblocks, including:
Headquarters staff. Jackson's campaign team is virtually as thin as his purse , though fervent in its support of the ''country preacher.'' Members of his cadre have official titles, and offices have desks and telephones. But there are few workers - paid or volunteer - to carry out the mission.
Travel entourage. The road crew is efficient, but has too many duties. It handles the national as well as the local news media. And it tries to keep pace with a candidate who loses track of time or may suddenly decide to alter his route, disrupt his schedule, or delay appointments. This process also disturbs Secret Service agents assigned to Jackson.
The rainbow coalition. Although Jackson advocates a ''rainbow coalition'' of people of different races, creeds, and colors, his idea has not been converted into votes.
Jewish-Farrakhan-Jackson triangle. Jackson wears scars from his ill-chosen reference to Jews in a casual conversation with a reporter Jan. 25. The problem has been complicated by minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), who has threatened the reporter for publicizing the conversation. Reporters quiz Jackson about this issue in each community he visits.
Legitimacy as a candidate. In the initial stages of his campaign, Jackson was considered - even by some blacks - to be a symbolic black candidate who would drop out early. Instead, Jackson has persevered, running a distant third behind the two leaders. He could surface as a broker for black political interests at the Democratic National Convention.
Jackson woos black followers with a combination of inspiration, protest, rhetoric, and a bright promise. ''It's better to lose an election going in the right direction than to win going in the wrong direction,'' he tells the gospel house.
The throng chants, ''Amen.'' And he promises:
''We'll utilize trained minds, not guided missiles, for world peace. We'll include Africa, Asia, and South Africa in our foreign policy. . . .
''Facts and figures can be manipulated, but faith cannot be manipulated. Our time has come!''
People respond, ''Win, Jesse, win!''
He turns as if to leave the platform, then returns to the microphone.
''Be quiet,'' he gestures with hands raised. The cheers soften. ''Who's willing to give or raise $1,000?'' Jackson asks. ''Please come forward.''
Two people raise the ante to $2,000. About a dozen or so volunteer to contribute $1,000 each. Jackson's pleas drop to smaller sums. And small tote bags are passed through the auditorium to reach the anonymous donors.
Then it's time for a break. Very few people leave. They stay to hear more gospel music - the Staples Singers of Chicago, and Edward Hawkins and the Hawkins Singers of Oakland, Calif.
Jackson escapes without saying a word about Mr. Farrakhan. He doesn't have to. In Washington, the minister has spoken for himself, in a press conference, on television, and in a community meeting.
Last week, Farrakhan tempered his remarks, ensuring the ''safety'' of the reporter and his family, a retreat from earlier statements that have been attributed to him.
The District of Columbia has raised more money for the Jackson campaign than any state, say local sponsors of the rally. Jackson is expected to win most of the delegates in the May 1 primary here. Then the second big wave of primaries, which begins May 8, will move Jackson and his opponents westward.