“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.”
— First two lines of “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Alright all you history and civics know-it-alls, as a former U.S. senator, the Rev. Jesse Jackson still has a considerable voice in America, right?
The senator still sways lawmakers, politicians and business leaders on such meaty issues as prison reform, voting rights and philanthropy, right?
Welcome to the World of the Lie, where every two years D.C. voters are asked to elect “senators” and a “representative” who are but a shadow of the real deals — and not because they’re corrupt or thin-skinned.
Truth be told, as truth demands, there is no such thing as a “U.S. senator” for D.C. and there’s no such thing as a “U.S. representative” for D.C.
In fact, that those titles appear on D.C. election ballots is an affront to the D.C. delegate who officially represents the nation’s capital in Congress. Her name, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is on the ballot 2018, and she is the District’s go-to voice when it comes to city affairs.
Now, ironically, Mrs. Norton was first elected in 1990, the year D.C. voters also were asked to elect two “senators” and a “representative” to Congress, as states do on a regular basis.
Thing is, the D.C. delegate is sworn-in as the Federal Voice of the City. And anyone who has heard Mrs. Norton speak over the years, whether they’re in the swamp or joined at the hip to President Trump, knows well that she needs no one to speak for her.
So, the remainder of the backstory to this “U.S. senator” for D.C. and “U.S. representative” for D.C. thing is this: The same year Mrs. Norton was first elected, the Rev. Jesse Jackson was elected, too.
While a man of many, many things, Mr. Jackson never has been a U.S. senator — not from Illinois, where he raised his family, or South Carolina, where he was born and reared.
He is, however, a former “shadow senator” — a bona fide lobbyist elected to push for D.C. statehood.
Neither Mr. Jackson nor other lobbyists have delivered D.C. statehood, and continuing such feeble efforts actually make a mockery of Mr. Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” anthem, which punctuated the end of his address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.
The lying title “U.S. senator” of D.C. is a bone picker, but when residents go to the voting booths Tuesday for the city’s primary elections, there it shall be. The word “shadow,” however, is not included. The ballot only says “United States Senator.”
Funny, Mr. Jackson himself took issue with those very words: “That’s not the title,” he protested to The New York Times in 1991. “It’s United States Senator from Washington.”
Well, since 1990, the District can’t seem to push the statehood wagon forward to educate and energize D.C. voters, let alone the rest of America.
Andria Thomas, who is running to unseat the incumbent “senator,” told my colleague Jada Butler that she thinks many longtime D.C. residents oppose statehood and don’t want to “commit any energy” to the movement. And she revealed these nuggets: “99 percent” of voters she has encountered had no idea what a “shadow” senator is.
“I don’t expect them to,” Ms. Thomas said. “They focus on roles that have a more direct influence on people’s everyday lives.”
• Deborah Simmons can be contacted at email@example.com.
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