The explainer

by | Mar 15, 2023 | Editor's Blog | 7 comments

Yesterday, my friend Gary Pearce wrote a blog titled “Jeff Jackson’s Bank Shot.” In it, Pearce calls Jackson “the best political communicator in North Carolina.” I read his piece and immediately emailed Gary to let him know that he had pre-emptively stolen my blog for today. The only qualm I have with Gary’s piece is that I think Jackson is probably the best political communicator in Congress, too. 

Jackson has been showing us how to reach people since he was first elected to the legislature. He first caught my attention with a viral Facebook post that became known as Jeff Jackson’s Snow Day

In 2015, as a freshman state senator, Jackson showed up at the General Assembly on a day when snow kept most of his colleagues at home. Jackson pretended to hold a session of the legislature by himself. He wrote, “This is going to be like Night at the Museum only at the end we’ll have a stronger middle class.” He passed Medicaid reform, raised teacher pay, ended puppy mills, and addressed most of the major issues of the day. It was both hilarious and brilliant and it went viral. He’s been doing explainers ever since.

He’s been communicating ever since. Jackson has the unique ability to break down seemingly complicated political issues into very easily digestible language. He is an explainer. As Pearce noted, he does a better job of explaining the news than all the cable outlets in our 24-hour news cycle.

I realized we were seeing something unique when I read his email on Ukraine. He explained what is happening in the country, how we are responding, and why. I learned a lot from his straightforward email and I’m reading a lot of other sources. 

Jackson isn’t just talking to his constituents. He’s getting attention across the country. He’s building a national audience. While he occasionally sends out fundraising emails, he’s mostly been informing voters. In an age when every politician is spamming us with fundraising emails, Jackson is using the same mediums to inform us. He’s single-handedly transformed email fundraising again. His efforts will pay huge dividends and Jackson knows it. Expect imitators to pop up soon. 

I missed Jackson’s first emails as a Member of Congress, including one about the tensions between China and Taiwan. That one was a master class in a short history of the two countries. Jackson’s emails and videos remind me of a modern version of FDR’s Fireside Chats. He’s using a new medium to connect with people. He explains complicated issues in an uncomplicated manner. It’s both informative and reassuring. And nobody but Jackson is doing it well.

The rap against Jackson has always been that he’s a better communicator than he is a legislator. He might tell a good tale but he doesn’t get much done. As a member of the minority party, though, maybe the best thing he can do is explain politics in a way average citizens can understand them. He certainly isn’t going to pass any major legislation with Republicans in control of the body in which he’s serving.

All of this is relevant because Jackson won’t likely have a district after the legislature gets finished with the next round of redistricting this summer. He’ll have a term of Congress under his belt and he’ll have a national following. That’s a pretty remarkable feat for a freshman Member of Congress. And remember, he drew similar attention as a freshman state senator. 

A lot can happen in a few years, but Jackson’s likely next step seems to be a run for US Senate in 2026, though he could run for attorney general in 2024. Regardless, he’s laid the groundwork for a national fundraising network. He’ll have the low-dollar donations necessary to fund a statewide campaign. Between now and then, I look forward to hearing what he has to say. 


  1. Cliff Moone

    I had the privilege to be the parliamentarian in Charlotte on the day he was first appointed to the State Senate by the Meck. County Executive Committee. I have been a supporter ever since. He spoke that day without notes and from the heart. He is a gifted communicator and an innovative campaigner. I hope he runs for the Senate after the Republican gerrymander his district.

  2. LAC

    My first encounter with Jeff:
    I’ve been a fan ever since. My favorite of his recent email missives are his behind-the-scenes descriptions of what it is like to be a freshman Member of Congress. I’ve never seen anything like it.
    And while the language is simple, he does not talk down to you. It is brilliant stuff.

  3. paul

    I don’t know why more electeds don’t adopt his model. It’s an approach tailor made for the educated voter, the folks that talk a lot, always vote and help with campaigns.

  4. Kathryn

    When the pandemic started, I found myself avidly reading Jeff Jackson’s emails about what was going on and what needed to be done. Mostly I never read emails from politicians, but his emails were so useful and informative that I started looking forward to them. I emailed one to a friend in California who responded, “Just a great send. Run this guy for president 🙂 No really run him now! :)”

    Add that to the fact that he had his eye on the greater good in the recent senate race, when he withdrew from the race and threw his support behind Cheri Beasley. It’s not all about Jeff. It’s about us.

    • Lu E. Huntley

      Informative. Thank you, Thomas

  5. cocodog

    Like many, I learned of Jeff Jackson on Rachel Maddow’s humorous, but tragically real depiction of the snow day caper. He gave real meaning to the Trump phrase, that he could fix it. In stead of just words, Jackson introduced legislation that could improve NC educational system, assist those who rely on Medicaid and repaired the roads and aging bridges. Of course, the legislation never saw the light of day as Republicans quashed the whole thing. It was foreseeable, as there was no self-dealing or corruption in any of the legislation he introduced. Just laws that serve the needs of ordinary hard-working folks. I was disappointed he withdrew from the last US Senate race, as his ability to communicate and reputation of being a supporter of the ordinary working person could have produced a better outcome for North Carolina.

  6. TC

    “plain talk is easily understood.” I’m sure as an attorney he could wow us with any number of words on a variety of issues. Why muddy the water though when you don’t have to? There is no harm in the use of simple basic language. It helps everyone understand the basics of what they see. The language of the academician and the lawyer has a place in those specific forums. Not so much in a public venue on matters that are important to everyone. Everyone is not so learned or is it necessary that they be when simple direct language is the means of transference.

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