Jesse Jackson: ‘You Can’t Vote Against Healthcare and Call Yourself a Black Man’

Mike Soraghan, The Hill, November 18, 2009

The Rev. Jesse Jackson on Wednesday night criticized Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) for voting against the Democrats’ signature healthcare bill.

“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill,” Jackson said at a reception Wednesday night. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”

The remark stirred a murmur at the reception, held by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation as part of a series of events revolving around the 25th anniversary of Jackson’s run for president. Several CBC members were in attendance, including Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who’d introduced Jackson.

Davis, who is running for governor, is the only black member of Congress from Alabama.

He is also the only member of the CBC to have voted against the healthcare bill earlier this month.

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Jackson {snip} added that he wasn’t saying that black lawmakers must vote a certain way. Instead, they should vote the interests of the people in their districts, and he said the healthcare bill would help Alabama because it’s one of the poorest states in the country.

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Other members of the CBC found no fault in Jackson’s words. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) was in the audience. He called Jackson’s criticism of Davis “accurate,” but said he did not hear Jackson say “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”

“If it is an issue that disproportionately impacts black folks, race has to be considered,” Cleaver said. Jackson, he added, “is expected by his constituency to call balls and strikes.”

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