AS the Democratic convention got under way yesterday, Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson mended their rift and declared they would work together to ensure an election victory in November. After a meeting at Dukakis campaign headquarters here, the Rev. Mr. Jackson said the two had discussed expanded roles and participation in the Democratic National Committee at the state and national levels. ``We're now on a track that would lead to expanded involvement and motivation to go on to victory...,'' Jackson said.
Governor Dukakis, who appeared with Jackson and vice-presidential nominee Lloyd Bentsen at a press conference following the meeting, paid tribute to Jackson's accomplishments, especially in reaching out to new voters. Mr. Dukakis said he wanted Jackson to play ``a major role'' in the campaign. (Unity could mean winning margin, Page 4.)
``He will be involved actively and fully in a way that will bring us together and that will build the strongest grass-roots organization...,'' Dukakis declared.
Clearly wanting to convey that he will play a constructive and unifying role - not the divisive role some Democratic leaders feared - Jackson also said that he had no plans to put his name in nomination for the vice-presidency Thursday night and that ``there will be no encouragement for anyone to do it.''
While there was no clasping of hands beteen the three Democratic leaders, their appearance together and warm words have laid the basis for a harmonious convention - even if there are vigorous platform debates.
The supporters of Jesse Jackson will continue to look to their standard-bearer to set the tone and direction. Many are pleased that efforts have been made to put the rift behind.
But it is also clear that many Jacksonites feel the onus is still on Dukakis to help heal the hurts lingering from the treatment of Jackson over the vice-presidential selection.
``The question is not just accommodation or expediency,'' says James Pitt, a black Jackson delegate from Buffalo, N.Y. ``It's a matter of recognizing the respectful place of all the people that have been brought in. Jackson has earned a leadership position.''
At the same time, many Jackson delegates expect that Jackson and Dukakis will develop a good working relationship over the next few days and that the convention will end in a strong show of unity. It is felt that Jackson is too shrewd a politician and too desirous of playing a continuing role on the national scene to throw away what he has won by feeding controversy and conflict in Atlanta.
``If he's as smart as I think he is, he will demonstrate he is a team player,'' says Barbara Bryan of Gadsden, Ala., secretary of the Alabama delegation.
``There is much more that unites us than divides us,'' says Anthony S. Butler, mayor of a town in Alabama, and another Jackson delegate.
Mr. Butler represents a growing number of blacks who have been elected to public office and have a political stake in a Democratic victory in November. They would not want to see the chances of black office seekers and holders at the local and state level jeopardized because blacks stayed away from the polls.
So they are pleased that Jackson and Dukakis have moved toward a reconciliation that will make it possible for Jackson to be an enthusiastic and effective campaigner.
To some ardent Jackson supporters, it is not of overriding concern to have feisty, honest debate over the platform. More important, they say, is to give Jackson constituents a genuine sense they will not be forgotten, that his extraordinary climb to political legitimacy and stature will be rewarded in a Democratic administration's concern for the nation's disadvantaged.
``Jesse's made clear he's not here to be disruptive, but he has promised to lift up people that are not part of this process,'' says Carrie Saxon Perry, the black mayor of Hartford, Conn. One factor creating tension in the Jackson camp has been the fact that blacks across the country do not know Michael Dukakis. ``In Dukakis we're dealing with an unknown quantity,'' says Michael Figures, Jackson campaign chairman in Alabama. ``We respect him as a technocrat and manager, and then we watched the vice-presidential selection process.''
Exhilarated by the anticipation of victory in November, Jackson delegates hope the reconciliation lasts. ``We need to heal the rift and get on with winning,'' says Billy Dupree of Hempstead, Long Island. ``If Jackson is satisfied with Dukakis, we're satisfied, and are prepared to move to unity and victory.''
For all the preconvention tensions, there is a palpable excitement in the air produced by the Jackson phenomenon, a feeling of history being made.