Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson strongly hinted yesterday that he could support Republican efforts to take over the White House this year.
And the Republicans apparently are prepared to make a pitch for such black support, especially in the urban-industrial states of the Midwest and Northeast, which Republican National Chairman Bill Brock said yesterday would be the main target of the GOP pitch of "jobs, jobs, jobs."
The promise speaks to one of the needs Jackson outlined in a telephone interview from New Orleans, where the annual convention of his People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) organization was wrapping up. "It's not a matter of who we want, but of what we want," he said. "I believe we should support whomever can give us what we want."
But another black leader, Carl Holman, president of the National Urban Coalition, said that the Republican promise may not be all that it is presented to be, that it may be a tactical ploy to win only a small number of black votes and shore up a Republican victory in November.
"It might very well be that the Republicans have calculated that a relatively small shift of black voters to their side is all they need to win," Holman said. And, in a backhanded slap at Jackson, Holman said that a black's announcement of support for Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan might have some shock value, but that "we may grab some attention today by doing that, only to pay bitter prices tomorrow."
Blacks played a critical role in Jimmy Carter's narrow election victory in 1976 by giving him 94 percent of their 6.6 million votes cast in that race.
According to studies by the Washington-based Joint Center for Political Studies, the black vote gave Carter a winning-margin in Pennsylvania and Ohio, two of the states targeted this year by the Republicans.
In all, Carter won 23 states and the District of Columbia for 297 electoral votes -- 27 more than the required majority of 270.
Brock, appearing on "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM), said the GOP was trying to "broaden the base" of the party, and would welcome the help of anyone who can help Republicans carry the urban-industrial areas on Nov. 4.
"The real battleground will occur in the industrial states of the Midwest and the Northeast," Brock said. "Those are the states that are suffering most from President Carter's policies and the Democratic Congress' policies," he said, referring to high unemployment in those areas.
Sounding much like the Democrats his party is trying to remove from office, Brock declared that the major Republican issue in the upcoming general election will be "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Brock said his party would even welcome "a good Democrat" like Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, also a black leader, in its efforts to make its point in its target areas.
In an interview before Brock's television appearance, Jackson said that "senior advisers" for Reagan and his running mate, George Bush, have contacted him and other PUSH supporters about possible support, but he would not say if any of the talks were conclusive.
"The fact is that Reagan and Bush are not being suicidal about the black vote. . . . They realize that we have 10 million votes. . . . The Carter people are making a mistake if they go into the election thinking Republicans have written the black vote off," Jackson said.
But Holman disagreed. "Bill Brock is one of those Republicans who has been pushing this notion of a black-Republican alliance for a good many months," he said. "But if the rest of the Republicans are genuinely concerned about including blacks, they had a very strange way of showing it in their platform."
Holman said GOP platform's call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion and refusal to support liberal issues like the Equal Rights Amendment strikes at black interests. However, he said that he is aware of talk among some prominent blacks that, "If Ronald Reagan says the right thing, they are going to support him, if only to teach Jummy Carter a lesson."
Many middle-income blacks in particular are feeling threatened by Carter's economic policies which are drying up jobs and needed business and housing loans, Holman said.
As a result, holman said he expects Republicans to make a pitch to the black middle class, "many of whom, though they say it privately, really don't care that much about the social programs."
Holman said the black middle class "is an endangered species," which has been created an maintained largely through public sector employment.
"The public sector is shrinking," he said. And as more middle-class blacks turn to the private sector for survival, "I have no doubt that some of them will listen to the Republicans," he said.