Jesse Jackson presidential campaign, 1988
|Jackson for America|
|Campaign||United States presidential election, 1988|
|Candidate||Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.|
|Chant||If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it I know I can achieve it|
|Pre-World Wide Web (none)|
The Jesse Jackson presidential campaign, 1988 was Jesse Jackson's second campaign for President of the United States. This time, his successes in the past made him a more credible candidate and he was both better financed and better organized. Although most people did not seem to believe he had a serious chance at winning, Jackson once again exceeded expectations as he more than doubled his previous results, prompting R.W. Apple of the New York Times to call 1988 "the Year of Jackson".
In early 1988, Jackson organized a rally at the former American Motors assembly plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, approximately two weeks after new owner Chrysler announced it would close the plant by the end of the year. In his speech, Jackson spoke out against Chrysler's decision, stating "We have to put the focus on Kenosha, Wisconsin, as the place, here and now, where we draw the line to end economic violence!" and compared the workers' fight to that of the civil rights movement in Selma, Alabama. As a result, the UAW Local 72 union voted to endorse his candidacy, even against the rules of the UAW. (Dudley 1994) However, Jackson's campaign suffered a significant setback less than two weeks later when he was defeated handily in the Wisconsin primary by Michael Dukakis. Jackson's showing among white voters in Wisconsin was significantly higher than in his 1984 run, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had indicated it would be. The discrepancy has been cited as an example of the so-called "Bradley effect".
Jackson's campaign had also been interrupted by allegations regarding his half-brother Noah Robinson, Jr.'s criminal activity. Jackson had to answer frequent questions about his brother, who was often referred to as "the Billy Carter of the Jackson campaign".
On the heels of Jackson's narrow loss to Dukakis the day before in Colorado, Dukakis' comfortable win in Wisconsin terminated Jackson's momentum. The victory established Dukakis as the clear Democratic frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November. In both races, Jackson ran on what many considered to be a very liberal platform. Declaring that he wanted to create a "Rainbow Coalition" of various minority groups, including African Americans, Hispanics, Arab-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, family farmers, the poor and working class, and homosexuals, as well as white progressives who fit into none of those categories, Jackson ran on a platform that included:
- creating a Works Progress Administration-style program to rebuild America's infrastructure and provide jobs to all Americans,
- reprioritizing the War on Drugs to focus less on mandatory minimum sentences for drug users (which he views as racially biased) and more on harsher punishments for money-laundering bankers and others who are part of the "supply" end of "supply and demand"
- reversing Reaganomics-inspired tax cuts for the richest ten percent of Americans and using the money to finance social welfare programs
- cutting the budget of the Department of Defense by as much as fifteen percent over the course of his administration
- declaring Apartheid-era South Africa to be a rogue nation
- instituting an immediate nuclear freeze and beginning disarmament negotiations with the Soviet Union
- giving reparations to descendants of black slaves
- supporting family farmers by reviving many of Roosevelt's New Deal–era farm programs
- creating a single-payer system of universal health care
- ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment
- increasing federal funding for lower-level public education and providing free community college to all
- applying stricter enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and
- supporting the formation of a Palestinian state.
With the exception of a resolution to implement sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies, none of these positions made it into the party's platform in either 1984 or 1988.
Jackson captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests: seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.  Some news accounts credit him with 13 wins.  Briefly, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democratic caucus, he was considered the frontrunner for the nomination, as he surpassed all the other candidates in total number of pledged delegates.
Hindsight following the 2008 election of Barack Obama
Following the election of Barack Obama in 2008 as the first African-American to reach the presidency, Jackson was asked about his emotion regarding the twenty year wait for a man of his skin color to reach executive office, and noted that whilst he had played some role in helping create the circumstances for the 2008 election, it was not to diminish the effort of the Obama campaign.
- R.W. Apple, Jr. (1988-04-29). "Jackson is seen as winning a solid place in history". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
- Polman, Dick. (2007, January 21). "Barack Obama's race seems to be a second-tier issue", The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The American Debate"
- Robinson had a long running feud with a criminal named Leroy "Hambone" Barber who had been convicted of armed robbery against Robinson. While Barber was imprisoned Robinson had written letters to him stating that he would enact a violent revenge upon him upon his release from prison. (These letters would come back to haunt Robinson at a future date). Noah Robinson had made good on his violent promise by contacting imprisoned gang leader and longtime friend Jeff Fort and wiring him $10,000 to assemble a hit team to hunt down Leroy Barber and have him murdered. Through a HUMINT asset in Jeff Fort's El Rukn gang, the Illinois State Police was able to conclude that Robinson had ordered the murder, and he was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
- "Shakedown" by Kenneth Timmerman
- Dionne, E. J. Jr. (1988, April 6). "Dukakis Defeats Jackson Handily in Wisconsin Vote", The New York Times
- "Keep Hope Alive". Jesse Jackson, pages 234-235.