Jackson learned of the fellowship from (naturally) an admirer, the institute's facilities director, Lawrence Bush. Impressed by the Black Sphere, Bush suggested Jackson apply. Institute director Bill Lacy considers Jackson's course outline one of the most complete he has ever seen.

On a brilliant Tuesday afternoon in early October, Jackson and his guest, Princella Smith, start a discussion of women's issues, which veers off into a defense of black conservatism in general. The audience numbers eleven, a mix of students, middle-aged white men and two black women, one of whom, it later emerges, is running for the Lawrence school board.

"The scariest thing in politics right now is the emergence of the black conservatives," Jackson tells them. "We're teaching people, we're telling them: 'You can think for yourself.'"

Jennifer Silverberg
The politician who inspired Kevin Jackson, Ronald Reagan.
The politician who inspired Kevin Jackson, Ronald Reagan.

The academic setting gives weight to the pronouncement. The black women nod. A few of the students jot down notes. Before they leave, the institute's librarian snaps a photo of Jackson and Smith standing in front of a giant stained-glass American flag in the lobby, which overlooks the glass cases containing memorabilia of Bob Dole's long and storied political career.

Chapter 6: Build Your Own Media
There was a time when, for Jackson, a call from Glenn Beck was like a miracle.

"I was visiting my grandmother when the ACORN-prostitution thing hit," he remembers. "My cell phone doesn't get reception at my grandmother's house. The phone never rings. But this time it rang. And a couple of days later I was on Beck."

Lately he has grown tired of waiting for the 4 a.m. calls from Beck and his ilk. Jamie Allman tried to get Jackson his own show on KFTK, but the only slots available were on the weekend, when Jackson tends to be on the road, traveling to Tea Parties. So Jackson started his own radio program on the Black Sphere, which features a lot of riffing on the stupidity of liberalism. He has also written an entire TV pilot's worth of sketches; some are posted on the Black Sphere but have yet to go viral.

During this past year, several conservatives have decided to get into the TV business. Kelsey Grammer, erstwhile star of Frasier, recently launched the Right Network. Also this past summer, Tea Party HD began offering a player widget and syndicated content that bloggers and webmasters can download to their own sites.

While Jackson still aspires to a show on a mainstream network, Teachable Moments, a series of animated shorts depicting little-known events in black history, is already running on Tea Party HD, and he's working on his comedic news show, ENN: Emancipation News Network. (Slogan: "This time, even the whites get free.") A new project will launch on the network later this month, though Jackson is reluctant to reveal details.

"More Americans agree with what we have to say," says Tony Loiacono, a former ad executive and founder of Tea Party HD. "Soon you will find satire and lampooning the left as common as people lampooning the right. It wasn't OK to lampoon President Obama until about six months ago, but then the country shifted. Leno was doing it, Letterman; the guys on Saturday Night Live are lampooning him like they did with Sarah Palin."

Loiacono sees Jackson at the forefront of the lampoon movement. "He's a writer, an actor, a thought-provoking creative guy," Loiacono says. "He's immensely talented."

Not that Jackson harbors illusions about his acting skills. "I try to make my videos a little cheesy," he says. "The cheese factor makes them fun. I'm not Denzel Washington; I'm not gonna win any Emmys." All he wants, he says, is for his skits to be seen.

Perhaps Tom Schlegel, who writes most of Jackson's comedy sketches, best sums up his boss' ambitions. "Kevin," says Schlegel, "wants to be a king of all media."

Chapter 7: How Far Can You Go?
Nobody, not even Jackson, is sure where he'll be a year from now. He recently began charging for his speeches. (His rates top out at $3,000.) "I'll still have to speak a lot to replace my previous income and keep myself above water," he says. "I'm not Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck." So far he has collected $7,000 from donations to the Black Sphere, but nearly half of that came from a single family.

Some team members believe he'll run for office one day. So does Princella Smith. "You'd be refreshing," she tells Jackson over dinner after the Dole Institute session.

"I'm not running," Jackson insists.

Smith looks unpersuaded. "You could be convinced."

Others see Jackson making a mark in the public sphere, if not as an officeholder. "His talents should be used in a more broad way than as a candidate for office," says Jackson's sound engineer, Dave Perkins. "It's a waste of time and energy. He's better than that."

"I see him as a conservative Tavis Smiley," says Jamie Allman, referring to the popular PBS talk-show host. "With race you really have to be careful. It's a bad topic for talk radio — it's so incendiary, and it's so easy to be misunderstood. White people talking about race is even worse. Kevin doesn't go on and throw every person who's black under the bus. He doesn't belittle black people to make himself look better. It's a real skill and a sign of real intelligence and a sign of good character."

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