Jackson's clout will effect Democratic Party nuts and bolts
JESSE JACKSON'S demands on the Democratic Party have come mostly as metaphors: a seat at the table, an embrace from the party and its nominee, that his constituents' voices be heard. But under pressure from the Rev. Mr. Jackson, some nuts and bolts of Democratic Party power are loosening, too.
The united front that Jackson established this week under Michael Dukakis's banner is consolidating some concrete shifts in party structure.
The most direct impact to emerge from Atlanta meetings this week: The Jackson camp will appoint new officials to national party leadership offices. Some Jackson aides will also be melded into the Dukakis general-election campaign.
Less immediate but more far-reaching, the success of the Jackson campaign has also bred to practical politics a national network of his operatives. They are likely to make much deeper inroads into the structure, composition, and even the rules of state and local party organizations, according to Democratic organizers inside and outside the Jackson camp.
Jackson has brought his supporters to the mundane structures of power. ``People don't think about executive committees and the Democratic National Committee,'' says Lois Deberry, speaker pro tem of the Tennessee House of Representatives and head of her state's Jackson delegates. ``He's brought that to people's attention.''
``The only way you can change the rules - you have to have the people on the committees,'' she says.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC), meeting today in Atlanta, cannot make rules for the state and local party organizations. But, says Jim Burke, chairman of Florida's Jackson delegation, ``State and local organizations take their key from the national party.''
Few nuts and bolts have emerged from the key meeting Monday morning between Jackson and Mr. Dukakis. Party leaders indicate that few specifics were discussed. The purpose was to establish trust.
Jackson has repeatedly said that he wants no position or salary in the party or the Dukakis campaign. Rather, he wants the freedom to continue fighting for his constituency to be heard. ``I'll use every rule within the convention laws to expand the party,'' he said this week.
Democratic national chairman Paul Kirk confirmed Tuesday that Jackson will name a new DNC vice-chairman for voter registration and mobilization, at least one executive committee member, two new members on each of three standing committees, and eight new at-large DNC members - added to 25 current at-large members.
Dukakis and Jackson have been meeting during the convention week over how to meld their campaign staffs at the top levels.
John White, a former DNC chairman and a Jackson backer, speculated that top Jackson aide Ron Brown and ``10 or 15 other Jackson operatives around the country'' will join the Dukakis campaign.
Jackson's power rests not only on the size of his vote, but also on his ability to bring new voters into the system.
He made the greatest gains in registering new black voters in 1984. The black electorate grew this year as well, but by a fraction of 1984's leap. According to a survey by the Joint Political Center, over two-thirds of the 2.5 million black voters who registered for the first time between 1980 and 1984 named Jesse Jackson as their reason for registering.
According to Pettis Norman, a Jackson delegate and organizer, Texas has already seen Jackson-led rules changes as a result of the 1984 campaign - when Jackson had narrower support than today. The 20 percent threshold for winning any delegates by district was lowered to 15 percent. It now may be lowered even further, he says.
``These voters will never be ignored again,'' says Mr. Norman, ``because they know what they can do.''
Jackson's biggest party impact this time, however, will be on the national committee, says California organizer John Emerson. The national committee currently ``is pretty much an old-boy network'' of big contributors and longtime organizers, he says.
Jackson people are joining those ranks, he adds, but even at more local organizations, ``a lot of folks now know a lot about how to organize.''