Mitchell: Jackson camp is treating the public like a bunch of fools
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 2:14AM
U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. (pictured in October 2011) | Charles Dharapak~AP
Updated: November 17, 2012 6:21AM
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. once symbolized the hope black people had for the future.
He was young, educated, ambitious, connected — all attributes that gave him a touch of arrogance and a level of confidence that breeds respect among powerful people.
But now Jackson is the poster child for the dysfunction that is destroying too many black communities.
It was bad enough that he was at the center of events that contributed to the downfall of the state’s former corrupt governor; that his extramarital affair became fodder for news programs and that he was on leave from Congress for two weeks before the public was told of his whereabouts.
But now that touch of arrogance has become a case of full-blown entitlement and confidence has turned to shame.
Jackson, who hasn’t represented his district since he disappeared from the public spotlight in June, is now poised to win re-election without even bothering to campaign.
His wife, Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th), recently told reporters that he might not resurface until after the November election.
The congressman got a lot of sympathy when it was revealed he was suffering from a mental illness — and rightfully so.
But now the Jackson camp is treating the public like a bunch of fools.
There are plenty of people living with bipolar disorder. They see their doctors, take their meds and get up and go to work most days because they have to provide for themselves and their families.
The tolerance for Jackson’s dereliction of duty exposes a glaring fault within the African-American community.
Black voters can be loyal to a fault.
That partly explains why a lot of black areas are worse off than they were 50 years ago.
Major thoroughfares on the Southeast Side in Jackson’s district are overrun with vacant storefronts and boarded up properties.
I drove through the old Roseland shopping district the other morning and it looked like a ghost town.
Unfortunately, Jackson isn’t the only elected official riding the waves of voter apathy and party loyalty.
In the 10th District, Democratic State Rep. Derrick Smith is keeping such a low profile that his opponent is practically stalking him.
“I want to debate him, but he keeps running and hiding,” said Lance Tyson, who is running as an independent.
“We have gone to his crib. He is nowhere to be found,” Tyson said.
I’ve reached out to Smith several times but have yet to get a response.
After Smith was charged with accepting a $7,000 bribe, he was ousted from the House by a 100-6 vote, making him the first member to be thrown out in more than 100 years.
The indictment hit days before Smith won the primary.
Despite the humiliating charges, Smith’s attorney said voters should expect a “vigorous” campaign.
Tyson claims Smith has ignored his repeated demands for a debate.
That’s not surprising, is it? Smith knows he doesn’t have to do anything. A poll taken last month showed Smith leading Tyson 48 percent to 9 percent in the polls.
There are numerous other examples of pols who have worn out their welcome but are allowed to languish in office until they retire or the feds come for them.
Last weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that federal investigators have launched a probe involving Jackson unrelated to imprisoned Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempted sale of a U.S. Senate seat.
Feds are looking into whether Jackson made inappropriate use of his official House spending account or his campaign finance account.
No surprises there, either.
A lot of Jackson’s critics argued that it wasn’t mental illness that drove Jackson from the public spotlight but allegations of wrongdoing yet to come down the pike.
Indeed, few people believed that Jackson, who is privileged to have premier health-care coverage, would have to put his $1.3 million dollar house on the market to pay his “mounting” medical bills.
Yet that’s the story the media was fed when the couple put their Washington, D.C., home on the market.
If Jackson were defending himself against multiple investigations, the lawyers’ fees would take that kind of a bite out of the family budget.
But there has been a Jackson sighting, according to Gawker.com.
The online publication reported Monday that Jackson had been spotted on two separate occasions with two different women drinking in a Washington, D.C., bar.
There’s no telling.
A spokesman for Jackson told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter he didn’t even have a telephone number to reach his boss.
Obviously, voters in the 2nd Congressional District owe Jackson their appreciation for the work he has done over the years.
But an absentee congressman is a lot like an absentee landlord.
While Jackson is looking out for himself, his district is going to hell.