Explaining Jesse Jackson

Explaining Jesse Jackson

The most important impact of Jesse Jackson’s campaign has been his ability to fashion for black Americans a parity-status within the Democratic party. A parity-status with regard to a political party is the opposite of a client-status. It entails the coalescence of relatively sovereign groups or interests. Parity-status is what white ethnic groups carved out for themselves within the Democratic party in an earlier period. The Irish did so first by the 1920s, though not consolidating their parity-status until the 1950s, as reflected in John F. Kennedy’s presidential nomination in 1960. Italians, Jews, and Polish-Americans—and smaller groups like Greeks and Armenians—didn’t achieve parity-status in the Democratic party until the 1950s-1970s era. Thus acquiring parity-status in the Democratic party for Italians, Jews, and Poles overlaps the period in which blacks enter the rocky climb to intraparty equality.

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