The 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns of Jesse Jackson : a rhetorical analysis
Powell, Kimberly Anne
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Until 1984, no black person had ever launched a major campaign for President of the United States. In 1984 Jesse Jackson's campaign was one of symbolic protest. In 1988 his campaign was a serious bid for the presidency, which challenged the established stereotype of presidential candidates. Because of the uniqueness of Jackson's campaigns and his increased support among black and white voters in 1988, this study asked, "What rhetorical strategies did Jesse Jackson use to foster more widespread support in the 1988 presidential race than in the 1984 presidential race?" In order to answer this question this study employed the stages of a political campaign discussed in J.S. Trent and R.V. Friedenberg's Political Campaign Communication: surfacing, primaries, and nomination conventions. These stages are examined in Jackson's 1984 and 1988 campaigns through a survey of popular press coverage, an analysis of the major speeches of each campaign and discussion of voter support. The two campaigns are then compared in each stage in order to uncover the reasons for Jackson's increased success in 1988. After completing this study, reasons for Jackson's 1988 success become clear. Although there were many significant changes in each stage, I argued that the major change which increased his support among voters was his image change from a minority to a mainstream candidate for the presidency. By conforming to voter expectations of the typical political candidate, Jackson decreased negative stereotypes associated with blacks and with himself as a controversial minority spokesperson, thus making Jackson a more successful politician. From this study of Jackson's campaigns, a theory evolved. This theory of minorities in national political campaigns has the potential to serve as a guide to minority political candidates: It suggests elements which must be met if minority candidates are to be successful in national political elections.