Jefferson–Jackson Day

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Not to be confused with Jefferson's Birthday.
President and Mrs. Truman at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner

Jefferson–Jackson Day is the annual fundraising celebration (dinner) held by Democratic Party organizations in the United States.[1] It is named for Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson; the Party says they are its founders. During presidential election campaigns, key dinners are important venues for candidates to attend.

It is usually held in February or March around the same time as the Republican Party's equivalent Lincoln Day, Reagan Day, or Lincoln–Reagan Day dinners. The Iowa dinner is held in November so as to precede the state's caucuses for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Into the 1960s, state and local Democratic parties across the country depended on well-attended Jefferson–Jackson Day dinners to provide their annual funding.[2]

Many state Democratic Parties have used the day to highlight local party leaders. For example:

  • the Democratic Party of Mississippi also honors civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, with a Jefferson–Jackson–Hamer celebration,[3]
  • Until 2015, the Democratic State Central Committee of Connecticut held "Jefferson–Jackson–Bailey Day" in honor of state Democratic boss and Democratic National Committee Chairman John Moran Bailey. It was renamed the "Connecticut Democratic Progress Dinner."
  • Florida Democratic Party renamed their key dinner event "Leadership Blue"
  • Wisconsin Democrats renamed their dinner the "Founders' Day Gala." Minnesota Democrats renamed theirs the "DFL Founders Day Dinner."
  • Missouri has changed the name of their State Dinner.[4]
  • Georgia has changed the name of their State Dinner.[4]
  • Iowa in August, 2015 voted to change the name of their Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.[5]

Controversies

Due to modern controversies over Jefferson's slave holding and Jackson's policy toward Native Americans while in office, some Democratic Party organizations have been removing Jefferson and Jackson from the title of party fundraisers.[6] The various news articles reporting on the seemingly unending flow of the State Democratic Parties seeking to change the name of their iconic Jefferson-Jackson dinner seemingly agree on one thing.[7] That it is a desire to embrace a more modern identity that is spurring this change and nothing else.[6] The argument is made that while Jefferson and Jackson both are great men and for a time embodied the spirit of the Democratic Party they now fail to represent the breadth of change that now affects the members of the Democratic Party.[8] In changing the name of this iconic dinner they can better reflect their voting base. Jefferson and Jackson while both important have contradictions with the Democratic Party's vision of what they represent with their history of slave owning and Indian removal. While some individuals involved in this process are genuinely motivated by sincere ideals and desires to fully represent the democratic vision the party now represents others are not so noble in their motivations.[9] The feeling that is obtained from reading various articles and interviews with those involved in the process is that there are those concerned that brought up this issue and there are those involved in making the actual change who are simply motivated by public perception of that issue in a way that is akin to an animal being poked with a stick. That is not to deny any sincere feelings that are possessed by politicians debating and in cases making this change but to simply bring to mind their true motivation which appears to be expanding and maintaining the party more than any sense justice and fairness on the issue. The main arguments for changing the names comes from the controversial nature behind Jefferson and Jackson. Both were slave owners and have possible racial implications. Contemporary Democrats have been trying to move towards a more gender and racial inclusive face for their party. The arguments against changing the name have stated that they the name should remain the same, as a reminder from where the Democratic party first began. Others fear that the part of history would be erased if the name was changed. The Democratic party stands very divided on whether or not to change the name of the dinner.[7][6][8][9]

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