Jesse Jackson: "Tomorrow is Minnesota's big moment."

On his way to a rally for Democrats on Minneapolis' East Lake Street tonight, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson made a stop in North Minneapolis at the home of State Sen. Linda Higgins. Although he was there to rally the assembled before tomorrow's mid-term election, he was among friends--Keith and Kim Ellison, State Senate candidate Augustine "Willie" Dominguez, Hennepin County Commissioner candidate Gregory Gray, former city council president Jackie Cherryhomes and her husband, defense attorney, Tyler Clayton, councilman Don Samuels and his wife Sondra, three dozen northside residents and their children (including one who got her copy of Green Eggs and Ham autographed by Jackson)--so he assumed a casual, at times quiet, tone that resembled his trademark fiery speeches only in his adept wordplay.

The real occasion was a sign-party: ever since Paul Wellstone's first campaign, Higgins has been organizing the placement of "Vote Today" signs--120 of them, purchased by Higgins--on the north and south sides of town. The crowd was truly diverse, a "rainbow coalition," as Dominguez said in his introduction of Jackson. Founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Jackson, too, noted the racial mix of the audience:
An African American can reconcile Davey Crockett in Appalachia and Elvis Presley’s people in Memphis, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and Stax Records and Isaac Hayes in Memphis: you’re doing some coalition building. And it speaks well for the future of who we are. What makes this race tomorrow make me tremble—why I had to come to be with Keith tonight once again—there are these breakthrough moments. We wish we were around the Boston Tea Party, one of those bigs moments. Wished we’d been someplace around when the 13th Amendment was passed into law—by two votes, I must add—in 1865. To have been someplace around Kansas in 1954 when legal Jim Crow was determined to be outlawed. To have been at the march on Washington in 1963. These are big moments. Tomorrow in Minnesota’s a big moment. After Hubert Humphrey in the ’48 speech and Paul Wellstone comes Keith, an African American Muslim in a non-majority black district: This is America at its best. This is the dream team.
Along with optimism came criticism: Jackson had tough words for the Republican Party. On the Iraq, "a war that has no sense of higher purpose and no moral foundation," he said, "Bin Laden hit us, Saddam didn’t, and we’ve given up on pursuing the man who hit us. It’s like going to the dentist and pulling the wrong tooth." He decried the cutting of $12 billion in Pell Grants, while--according to a student he met at the University of Minnesota today--tuition has gone up 83 percent. And he mentioned how the "October Surprise," Saddam Hussein's death sentence announced within days of the election, was foiled by the misdeeds of Bush spiritual adviser Ted Haggard. On why Democrats shouldn't exploit Haggard's downfall, he said, "The lesson to be learned about hypocrisy [is] when you have a religion devoid of forgiveness and tolerance that when your crisis comes you can’t find the mercy and tolerance, because you haven’t given it out."

The evening was short and the excited crowd seemed weary--talk of naps and looking forward to "when it's over" could be overheard--but an excitement was also palpable. And Jackson hit on it: "There’s electricity in the air as I travel around the country. There is a fresh wind blowing, taking on the kind of foulness that’s in the air... I guess I’ve been in the dark so long, a little light will do me—just a little breeze—will give me life."

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