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M ayor Pete Buttigieg gave an important speech about race relations and law enforcement last week. The Democratic presidential contender didn't do it in his beleaguered city of South Bend, Ind., though. He chose to give it in Chicago.

It is noteworthy that a mayor who is facing backlash for mishandling a controversial shooting of a black man by a white police officer would unveil his national platform on police reform in a much bigger city with similar problems. It shows that the issue isn't just his. It's universal.

But perhaps the candidate's most calculated political move was to make a speech apologizing for his failures and promising to do better at the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition--the house of Rev. Jesse Jackson.

If there's one thing every Democrat knows, it is that the road to the White House is paved with the votes of African Americans. Because of Jackson, that path long has included a detour through Chicago.

Buttigieg was among seven Democratic presidential contenders who made their way to the South Side of Chicago over the past five days to speak at PUSH's annual convention.

They came to Chicago not so much to court the African American voters in solidly blue Illinois. It was for the chance to appear on a national stage with Jackson and other black leaders who could bolster their credibility as the candidate best suited to bridge the racial gap that has burgeoned under Donald Trump.

With a slate full of Democratic contenders seeking to harness the African American vote to unseat Trump in 2020, Jackson has positioned himself once again as a political power broker. It was obvious in his appearance with Buttigieg at a news conference shortly before the mayor spoke on the final day of the conference.

At the podium, Jackson talked about issues such as voting rights and systemic housing segregation--issues he was championing decades before 37-year-old Buttigieg was born. The mayor stood next to him, soaking in every word like an apprentice eager to learn the ropes.

It sounds as though Buttigieg really gets it. Or maybe he was merely echoing Jackson. Maybe that's what all of the candidates who appear at Rainbow/PUSH do.

In a presidential campaign, though, it will be hard to hide the truth. We will know for sure once they leave the safe confines of Chicago and return to the campaign trail or back to their political lives.

Editorial on 07/08/2019

Print Headline: The trip to Chicago


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