There is probably no hotter political subject in Washington than what Democratic leaders often call their ''Jackson problem.'' Will he be a divisive element at the convention? Could he, if not handled correctly, wreck the Democrats' prospects in the November election?
There is an answer that is gaining credibility: That the Rev. Jesse Jackson will not jump ship - and that, after the convention has made some concessions to his demands, he will become an important team player in the fall campaign.
This emerging confidence in Jackson's intention to participate vigorously in the party effort at and after the convention comes through in a number of recently-arrived-at views of key Democrats.
Says Robert Strauss: ''I have found in talking to Jackson that he is in a very positive frame of mind. I think he will turn out to be a very positive force in 1984.''
US Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, head of the Democratic platform committee and a possible nominee for vice-president, says, ''I think if Jesse Jackson brings an initiative to the convention, it is going to be through the platform, and I think it's going to be a dual primary question. I think what Jesse Jackson is about is not truly winning the presidency but making a statement in the platform on black involvement in this country.''
Ferraro indicated that through the use of general language on goals, as opposed to precise language on legislation, Jackson's statement could probably be made in the platform to his satisfaction and without incurring destructive devisiveness at the convention.
There is a growing feeling among Democrats that Jackson can be accommodated and that he is anxious to find such an accommodation.
On Jackson's current thinking an influential Ohio Democratic leader said, ''I talked to Jackson after a fund-raiser we had in Columbus. When we got on the subject of what Jackson was going to do, he said, 'I'm not going to do anything that will cause people to say that I brought about Reagan's reelection.'''
Mr. Strauss, who has a close relationship with Jackson, says he senses that Jackson believes he can do much more for his black constituents by working within the party system.
Jackson's impact on the race comes down to this:
* As a candidate he has already proved himself a spectacular success, rallying black support all over the nation and, in so doing, making himself into an important participant at the Democratic convention.
* Developments might elevate Jackson to consideration for the No. 2 spot - but they seem unlikely.
* It is certain that black leaders and causes will have a prominent place on the agenda. And Jackson will be a much-listened-to adviser and teammate of the presidential nominee. He and other prominent blacks will be given top jobs in a new Democratic administration.
Undoubtedly, too, Jackson will be given some more delegates in primaries where he feels the rules have worked inequitably against black voters.
* Jackson has drawn thousands of blacks into the political process. With Jackson continuing as a highly visible participant in the fall campaign these additional black voters may swell the Democratic vote in the fall. And in a close election they could make the difference.