Jesse Jackson 1988 presidential campaign

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Jesse Jackson 1988 presidential campaign
Jesse Jackson presidential campaign, 1988.png
CampaignU.S. presidential election, 1988
CandidateReverend Jesse Jackson Sr.
AffiliationDemocratic Party
ChantIf my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it I know I can achieve it

The 1988 Jesse Jackson presidential campaign 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, Jr. of The New York Times to call 1988 "the Year of Jackson".[1]

The campaign[edit]

Jesse Jackson 1988 (3x4 a).jpg

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. 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".[2]

Jackson's campaign had also been interrupted by allegations regarding his half-brother Noah Robinson, Jr.'s criminal activity.[3] Jackson had to answer frequent questions about his brother, who was often referred to as "the Billy Carter of the Jackson campaign".[4]

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.[5] 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, Middle Eastern Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, family farmers, the poor and working class, and LGBT people, as well as white progressives, Jackson ran on a platform that included:

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.


External video
10 O'Clock News, Is Jesse Jackson unelectable?, Boston TV News, Digital Library, 03/04/1988, 3:11[6]
Outcome of Michigan caucuses, WGBH Media Library & Archives, 03/28/1988, 3:47[7]

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).[8] Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.[9][10] Some news accounts credit him with 13 wins.[11] 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[edit]

Following the election of Barack Obama in 2008 as the first African-American to become U.S. President, Jackson was asked about his emotion regarding the 20-year wait for a man of his skin color to reach the nation's highest office, and noted that while he had played some role in helping to create the circumstances for the 2008 election, his remark was not to diminish the efforts of the Obama campaign.[citation needed]



  1. ^ R. W. Apple, Jr. (1988-04-29). "Jackson is seen as winning a solid place in history". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
  2. ^ Polman, Dick. (2007, January 21). "Barack Obama's race seems to be a second-tier issue", The Philadelphia Inquirer, "The American Debate"
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Shakedown by Kenneth Timmerman
  5. ^ Dionne, E. J. Jr. (1988, April 6). "Dukakis Defeats Jackson Handily in Wisconsin Vote", The New York Times
  6. ^ 10 O'Clock News, Is Jesse Jackson unelectable?, 03/04/1988, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed September 23, 2016.
  7. ^ Ten O'Clock News; Outcome of Michigan caucuses, 03/28/1988, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed September 23, 2016.
  8. ^ Keep Hope Alive. Jesse Jackson, pages 234-235.
  9. ^ "Jackson and Dukakis Lead in Texas Voting". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 20, 1988. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  10. ^ Hal Spencer (March 12, 1988). "Jackson edges out Dukakis in Alaska". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  11. ^ Kevin Merida (December 27, 2007). "The Steepest Climb". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Classic Bernie Sanders: 1988 Speech on Race Progress and the Democratic Party, 2015-06-22, retrieved 2016-01-19
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