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The California Recall and Proposition 54

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson
Oakland, California

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., founder and President of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition issued the following statement regarding the California Recall and Proposition 54 -- August 10, 2003

On October 7 an election will be held that is critical to the integrity and stability of our democracy. The extremists' plan to control our vote, our government, and disrupt the orderly process of democracy, is at work.

There are two issues that will affect the nation that are at stake. Thus the historic civil rights movement and labor, religious leadership, the medical and health care community, and devotees of democracy, must speak out. There are two issues that compel us to Vote NO in October: the election recall, an attempt to torpedo our democratic process; and Proposition 54, the Connerly information ban initiative, which attempts to ban race as a factor in pursuit of research, law enforcement, and other legitimate quests. Racial inclusion is an imperative, but we continue to confront historic patterns of racial exclusion. Tyrants would rather burn the books of history's library than seek the more difficult challenge of remedy and fairness.

We oppose the recall. It undermines order and the stability of our government. It is another attempt to overturn a legitimate democratic election by using an archaic law established in the early 20th century as a precautionary measure to fight against political corruption. The motive of the recall is to destroy rather than to build. This leads to democratic anarchy. The atmosphere may be a circus, but the ramifications are much too serious. As Stanford Professor David Kennedy states, "The recall is really a nuclear weapon in the political arsenal."

There is a standard for removing elected officials from office. If there is malfeasance, corruption or treason, or if someone is shown to be unfit for office based upon the standard, there should be orderly succession and the people's government continues. A privately funded, multimillion dollar petition drive to initiate a recall election is not the answer. The state is facing an historic budget deficit (as does nearly every other state), as well as the largest federal budget deficit in history. In part, this has been triggered by a massive cut in taxes without the corresponding capacity to generate revenue.

In the last three years, nearly every state has gone from surplus to deficit, and every state has suffered a net loss of jobs. All have felt the impact of the corporate exploitation and thievery of Enron, Halliburton, Harken, MCI, and WorldCom. Corporations are allowed to go offshore to avoid paying taxes, while getting no-bid contracts.

We are all in a hole. When you are in a hole, you need a ladder and a rope of hope to climb your way out, not a $60 million golden shovel to dig a deeper hole. If this event in California becomes a national trend, it can destroy fragile democracies here and impact governments around the world.

We are now witnessing a pattern of destruction unleashed by the right-wing: Gingrich's contract on America in 1994: a confederate agenda attacking civil rights and civil liberties. The 1998 election where a false standard for impeaching the President and the will of the people was unleashed. In 2000, a stolen election in Florida where the loser won by manipulating the rules, and getting the federal government and courts involved in how state's conduct their democratic voting process. Engaging in redistricting schemes in Texas and Colorado to seek control the Congress. Upwards of $100 Billion spent in Iraq under the pretense of an imminent threat, weapons of mass destruction, Al Qaeda connections -- none of which has proven to be true, while Americans are being killed daily.

The recall campaign in California is the latest attempt to dismantle a democratically elected process and seek a cheap road to victory. People who cherish democracy should not take a short cut to victory. Recall is a short cut. Under the radar screen of the recall, is Proposition 54. Proposition 54 is bad for health care, bad for public safety, bad for education and bad for business. It undermines America's promise of "include all under one big tent" and equal protection under the law, and seeks to roll back the clock on America's struggle for civil rights. Proposition 54 argues not for privacy, but for ignorance. It is nothing less than a recall on the historic commitment to civil rights, equal access and equal protection under the law.

Today, the legacy of slavery permeates every segment of our society. Racial disparities and inequalities exist in every facet of our society: health care, education, employment, housing, criminal justice and business. How can we fight HIV/AIDS without information? How can we fight cancer without information? How can we achieve educational equity without information? How can we fight sickle cell anemia without information? How can we fight hate crimes without information? How do we fight high infant mortality rates without information?

Ward Connerly and Proposition 54 is bad medicine for the people of California. We will not allow Ward Connerly to place a "gag order" on the collection of data and information needed to analyze social problems, design public policy and identify positive solutions. Censorship of information is no way to achieve equality.

Ward Connerly's dream world makes "information ignorance" a virtue, and puts the nation's health at risk. We live in the real world: Californians come from many places, many races, religions and cultures. We are not, and should not be, blind to these realities. We should embrace the diversity of the new California. That is why a broad coalition of medical professionals, educators, business groups and chambers of commerce, law enforcement agencies, public health experts and civil rights organizations have joined together to oppose Proposition 54.

We seek another direction: our modern society is information-based, where the collection of data, research and information is vital to social development. FACTS are critical to learning more about health disparities, where people of color suffer cancer rates, high blood pressure, heart disease and other medical problems at much higher rates than the rest of society. We will not allow Ward Connerly's information ban (Proposition 54) to deprive us of the tools to achieve Dr. King's dream of equal access and equal protection under the law.

During these next 60 days, we will engage in a mass voter education and voter registration campaign, a campaign of voter mobilization and coalition building. Let's keep our eye on the prize and not succumb to misguided attempts to subvert the democratic process and turn back our struggle for civil rights.

We can and we will win.

No on Proposition 54. No on the Recall. Keep Hope Alive.

Published in In Motion Magazine August 18, 2003.

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