ON JESSE.

ON JESSE. When Schmitt says something, one pays attention, so I�m thinking about my lumping Jesse together with Sharpton yesterday.

There was a time when I admired Jackson more than possibly anyone else in politics. I was a young man, a little to the left of where I am today. I thought and still think there was a lot to admire in Jackson�s presidential runs, the 1988 one in particular, when he did all that campaigning in Iowa with farmers being foreclosed and so on. Because we had mutual acquaintances in the New York political world, I got to know him just a little, and I was there at the Sheraton Wardman here in town (I think it was a Marriott then) in 1992 when Bill Clinton gave his Sister Souljah speech to the Rainbow Coalition.

So I think Jackson�s done a lot of good, and he�s not a huckster in the way Sharpton is (and indeed, the words to describe their relationship are words like �competitive,� �distrustful,� and �suspicious�). However, I do think that the kind of politics of protest and witness with which Jackson is so closely associated is rather long in the tooth by now. What was powerful in 1968 or even 1988 just isn�t powerful now. At a time when there are new and exciting modes of political communication and community-building that are (finally and blessedly!) changing and transcending the categories that were put in place in the 1960s and have held sway for far too long, Jackson is a bit of a relic. I get almost the same feeling looking at him now that I get looking at, say, those 1970s Astros uniforms.

Sharpton is an active negative. Jackson isn�t that, even post-love child. He�s done a great deal of very honorable work. But by having him up on the stage, Lamont was sending a signal about his candidacy that was, given its netroots-fueled rise, both paradoxical and anachronistic -- and thus confused. His presence spoke of the past, not the future -- and of a particular kind of political profile that, as I said yesterday and will say again, will not benefit a candidate who needs to pull a large percentage of his state�s 900,000 unaffiliated voters to win in November.

Finally, bottom line, as Mark and I agree: No one not from Connecticut should have been up on that podium. And finally finally, I should note that in at least one way, Lamont�s shindig was superior to almost all others: He mentioned �the common good,� and some people actually chanted the phrase!!! OK, end of primary-night punditry.

--Michael Tomaksy

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