Jesse Jackson

We the people will win.

Jesse Jackson’s Influence on the Democratic Party Jesse Jackson used his campaign cast lasting change to the Democratic Party. Long before he became a leading presidential contender during the 1980s, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister and civil rights leader, was an outspoken champion for millions of minority and working class Americans. His 1984 and 1988 bids for the presidency would be the most successful by an African-American candidate until Barack Obama’s victory in 2008.

As a young minister, Jackson was a key player in the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In addition to becoming a leading advocate for African Americans at home, Jackson campaigned abroad for a number of causes, from ending to apartheid to a Palestinian state. In 1984, Jackson founded the National Rainbow Coalition, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition seeking equal rights for African Americans, women, LGBT Americans and dedicated to combatting poverty and inequality in the U.S. That same year, he sought the Democratic nomination for president, barnstorming the country in attempt to mobilize minority voters and poor white alike, including massive voter registration drives.

Jackson would surprise many in the political class by winning five contests and almost 20 percent of the vote in the 1984 primary. His pressure for change would help reform the Democratic party’s winner-take-all primary system, and his voter registration efforts would help his party take back Congress in 1986. In 1988, Jackson performed even better, finishing second to the party’s eventual nominee, Michael Dukakis, and briefly leading the field in delegates after a stunning victory in the Michigan caucuses. His powerful message and oratory would electrify the party faithful during his addresses at both the 1984 and 1988 conventions, and his pioneering campaign would pave the way for Barack Obama’s groundbreaking 2008 candidacy.

Jackson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, and he and his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition continue today to advocate for social justice and civil rights.


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