Jesse Jackson backs Sanders; Harris endorses Biden

Civil rights icon says independent senator’s campaign offered him responses on 13 issues he raised, whereas former vice president didn’t reach out for endorsement

The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrives at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 1, 2020, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of 'Bloody Sunday,' when white police attacked black marchers in Selma. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
The Rev. Jesse Jackson arrives at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 1, 2020, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of 'Bloody Sunday,' when white police attacked black marchers in Selma. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator aiming for the Democratic nomination in the coming United States presidential election, announced Sunday that civil rights icon Jesse Jackson was formally backing him.

Jackson was appearing with Sanders during a campaign stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and planned to say that Joe Biden had not reached out to him for endorsement and Sanders had. He said he chose Sanders after the senator’s campaign offered responses on 13 issues Jackson raised, including protecting voting rights, increasing funding for historically black colleges and universities and committing to putting African Americans on the Supreme Court, according to prepared remarks released by the campaign.

Jackson noted that the “black firewall” of support for Biden had changed the dynamics of the race, but he questioned whether moderate policies would benefit African Americans.

“A people far behind cannot catch up choosing the most moderate path,” he said.

“The most progressive social and economic path gives us the best chance to catch up and Senator Bernie Sanders represents the most progressive path. That’s why I choose to endorse him today.”

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent-Vermont, wave their campaign signs at a rally in Chicago’s Grant Park, March 7, 2020. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Sanders, who has had trouble attracting black support, touted the endorsement on Sunday television talk shows, calling Jackson “one of the great civil rights leaders in the modern history of this country.”

“He changed American politics with the concept of the Rainbow Coalition — getting the blacks and whites and Latinos together in ’84 and ’88,” Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“He’s been a leader in helping to transform this country, an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., so we’re proud.”

Sanders backed Jackson’s historic presidential bids in 1984 and 1988, notwithstanding the black leader’s then-acrimonious relationship with the Jewish community.

Jackson’s relationship with the Jewish community was left tattered after anti-Semitic remarks he made during his 1984 presidential bid. Yet he emerged in the 1990s as an opponent of anti-Semitism, in part because of the counsel of Abe Foxman, then the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris endorsed Joe Biden, saying she would “do everything in my power” to help elect him, becoming the latest dropout from the Democratic race for president to line up behind the former vice president in his battle with Sanders for the nomination.

The decision by the California senator, who was one of three black candidates seeking to challenge US President Donald Trump, further solidifies the Democratic establishment’s move to close circles around Biden after his Super Tuesday success. Her endorsements comes before the next round of primaries, with six states voting Tuesday, including Michigan.

In a statement on Biden, Harris said, “There is no one better prepared than Joe to steer our nation through these turbulent times, and restore truth, honor, and decency to the Oval Office.”

“He is kind and endlessly caring, and he truly listens to the American people,” her statement added.

Harris said the United States “is at an inflection point. And the decision voters make this November will shape the country and the world our children and grandchildren will grow up in. I believe in Joe Biden.”

Among Biden’s former rivals, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Mike Bloomberg, Tim Ryan, Deval Patrick and John Delaney have endorsed him. Sanders has gotten the endorsement of Marianne Williamson and Bill de Blasio.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, Democrat-California, left, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent-Vermont, center, and former Vice President Joe Biden all speak at the same time during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, in Westerville, Ohio, on October 15, 2019. (John Minchillo/AP)

Harris withdrew from the race in December, ending a candidacy with the historic potential of becoming the first black woman elected president. The former California attorney general was seen as a candidate poised to attract the multiracial coalition of voters that sent Barack Obama to the White House. But she ultimately could not craft a message that resonated with voters or secure the money to continue her run.

Biden and Sanders, two white men in their 70s, are now the front-runners for the nomination in what was once a field of candidates that includes several women and much younger politicians.

Harris said in her statement that “like many women, I watched with sadness as women exited the race one by one.” Four years after Hillary Clinton was the party’s nominee, “we find ourselves without any woman on a path to be the Democratic nominee for president.”

“This is something we must reckon with and it is something I will have more to say about in the future,” she said.

“But we must rise to unite the party and country behind a candidate who reflects the decency and dignity of the American people and who can ultimately defeat Donald Trump.”

Biden on Friday won the endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who was one of the black candidates for the nomination. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker hasn’t made a public endorsement yet.

Black voters have anchored Biden’s comeback since disappointing finishes in overwhelmingly white Iowa and New Hampshire in early contests that put his campaign on the brink of collapse.

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