Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis stood side by side with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the vast audience of nearly 4,000 diners stood up and cheered the Democratic presidential ticket of Dukakis-Bentsen. This scenario wrapped up the 18th annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend and opened a political campaign of unity between the two chief rivals for the Democratic Party's nomination for president and was designed openly to end bickering among two factions of the party's black leaders.
In spite of Mr. Jackson's declaration of support for his former primary rival, cheers for Mr. Dukakis, and pledges of support for the Democratic ticket, an undercurrent of doubt was expressed by many of the 10,000 participants in various meetings, forums, and study sessions.
A black former newsman sums up the dilemma:
``Many blacks voted for Jackson, but Dukakis won. Now he wants to put Jackson in mothballs, but many blacks want to hear from Jesse. This weekend should determine the black stand Nov. 8.''
Speaking at the $300-a-plate dinner to the audience chant of ``Duke, Duke, Duke,'' the governor forecast:
``Together we'll aim high. A Dukakis Justice Department will support civil rights. The Dukakis White House will raise minimum wages; will increase jobs. Together we'll support affirmative action. We shall aim high. We'll seek good schools in every community. We'll seek a cure for AIDS. We shall aim high. We shall have a single standard for all American citizens.''
Jackson closed the banquet with a speech in which he praised Dukakis and blasted the Republican ticket of Vice-President George Bush and Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana. He listed ``Bush failures'' in relation to South Africa, employment, and equal rights for women.
``Jesse has delivered us a clear message and charge. I heard the signal, and I'm ready to go,'' says Larry Womble, a city councillor in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a district manager of the Jackson campaign. He plans to accept the offer to serve as co-chairman of the same district for Dukakis.
``Jackson is a brilliant communicator,'' says Renee Worthington, a native Bostonian now living in New York City. ``Dukakis? He's my second choice.''
Rep. Mickey Leland (D) of Texas, who will run for Sen. Lloyd Bentsen's seat in case of a Dukakis victory, says, ``Can Dukakis win without black support? No! We know it, and he knows it. We all have to work together if we want a Democratic victory.''