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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Hamilton Jordan RIP

My home state of Georgia has contributed more than its share of interesting personalities to the political life of this country, but none was more unlikely than Hamilton Jordan, who died yesterday at the age of 63. In one amazing decade from 1966 to 1976, Jordan started as the driver for a long-shot gubernatorial candidate and eventually engineered a successful presidential campaign, before becoming White House chief of staff at the tender age of 32.
It’s often forgotten that Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential bid was one of the most improbable victories in U.S. political history, based in no small part on a mind-bending coalition of African-Americans, evangelical Protestants, and former Wallace supporters. The campaign’s blueprint was very much Ham Jordan’s work.
Like Carter, Jordan didn’t fare as well in the White House as in its pursuit, and like Carter, his later life took some unexpected turns. Afflicted with three different kinds of cancer, Jordan devoted much of his time to work as an advocate and philanthropist for children with cancer and diabetes.
I didn’t really know Jordan, beyond brief encounters when I served as a low-level policy advisor to his unsuccessful 1986 Senate campaign. But those who did know him described him as tough, canny, and completely unpretentious, in the best Georgia tradition. After a turbulent and remarkable life, may he rest in peace.

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