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.