Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Election of 1976

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“Apathy is dead,” said Paul Sullivan, the Illinois manager for Jimmy Carter. The number of voters was “astonishingly heavy” as they came to vote in “fantastically high” number. With beautiful weather across the country reports of jammed voting places came in from state after state. Before the polls would close in Florida, they would report on having reached the highest level of voter turn-out since 1975. Labor unions that had supported the Carter campaign with their unusually sophisticated computer-designed voting operation also played a major role in the large turnout throughout.

Rolling around issues involving Watergate and having the government lie to the people, many citizens were ready to lose faith in their system of governing. The population of Americans at the legal voting age was expected to let apathy reign amongst them, to care less about a government that could care less about being honest and clean with them.

As a result, the 1976 election was dominated by issues of integrity and character. With Carter, who promised, I will never tell a lie to the American people, running his brilliant campaign as an outsider, offering a fresh change from Washington politics as usual, Ford found himself in the rut of the backend of the popularity spectrum.

James Earl Carter Jr.- the man, the myth, the peanut farmer and nuclear engineer.

“Leadership for a change.”

Born in Plains, Georgia, Jimmy Carter was the poster boy of the South. After being interviewed by a television news medium located in the South, the journalists jokingly claimed that they finally had a candidate they could intelligibly understand. Almost as if to complete the image, before entering politics, Carter’s job resume entailed such occupations as peanut farmer only after he served as an officer and nuclear engineer in the United States Navy.

Carter’s started off his political career as a lonely campaigner. Short on money, staff, and national recognition, Carter remained unperturbed by these shortcomings. His efforts were relentless as he would put effort into meeting with even a small group of voters just to build up his image and reputation. When advised to cancel traveling through a storm in order to promote his campaign, Carter staunchly replied, “People support you only if you ask them to support you and you can’t very well ask them if you don’t show up.” James T. Wooden, special to the New York Times, wrote that “he [Carter] believed passionately that if he could talk to enough voters about a ‘Government as good as the American people’ he could win.”

His perpetual urge to strive for acknowledgement in the political world finally helped him gain merit as won positions over better-known figures as Senators Birch Bayh and Henry M. Jackson as well as Representatives Morris K. Udall and Governor George C. Wallace.

His campaign advertisements were well orchestrated by Atlanta advertising executive Gerald Rafshoon, who skillfully created ads that took advantage of his heritage. They portrayed him as honest, hardworking, and wholly untainted by Washington politics. With the Watergate scandal fresh in the voters minds his position as distant outsider became an asset and a direct hit to his presidential opponent, Gerald R. Ford, who struggled to get out from under the Watergate scandal. Carter was shown to have an almost mythical connection to America’s agricultural past that dream place where there were no lawyers and people knew the value of manual labor. The effect of such media mind-play proves that the media will forever play the upper hand in the power to sway public opinion.

In his 1970 campaign for governor he said in speeches that the time of racial segregation was over, and that racial discrimination had no place in the future of the state. He was the first white southern politician to say this confirming that his victory attracted some attention as a sign of changing times. His rhetoric was skillfully used to his advantage. He was able to make friends with the opinions and preferences across the board. Liberals though of him as their own while conservatives came to sympathize in responding to his political platform. He even led the minority party revelers into a frenzy with their decision on who they should really vote for in the end. It was obvious Carter was to become one of the most influencial figures of our time, especially taking into consideration the period in history in which his figure emerged.

With government reorganization as the centerpiece of his campaign platform Carter struck a chord with many Americans left bitter by the degradation of the American govenrnment through the Watergate issues.

Gerald R. Ford- football playing, University of Michigan attending, fearless leader of the executive branch repair man.

“He’s making us proud again.”

Gerald R. Ford, born in Omaha, Nebraska, was first a lawyer before turning his interests towards politics. He would eventually become the only president to serve without ever having been elected. He was appointed president after Richard Nixon became the first president to resign from office in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Spiro Agnew then had to resign when a bribery scandal was revealed. Ford assumed the presidency and, with the public’s trust in government completely shattered, promised that “our long national nightmare is over.”

Ford gave Nixon a blanket pardon for dealings in the Watergate scandal and anything else he might ever have done, but the move backfired and hurt Ford in the election. Ford later ended up winning the Republican nomination only after fighting off a strong challenge from former Governor Ronald Reagan of California. As Senator Robert Dole of Kansas for his running mate Ford still found himself trailing by points in the polls through much of the campaign.

Also, as mentioned earlier, taking office in the shadows of Watergate was difficult, yet Ford was able to restore the candor of the White House to a certain measure. In braving most obstacles that would hinder a successful presidency and his attempt to enter the election race next time around after Nixon, he was unable to shake the incumbency factor. He was at the unenviable position of being the incumbent of the time when Americans had lost their faith in the presidency combined with his status as the first appointed president, he lacked the strong hold on the voters’ emotions, the main component for most incumbents�the factor of an emotional connection. This perpetually black cloud hanging over him put a dent in his success, and left him battling for six months to beat the challenge from Reagan, the photogenic conservative whose familiar face nearly beat Ford for the position of presidential candidate.

During the campaign, the Ford ads pictured him as a different kind of leader than Nixon. They consistently portrayed him as a regular guy and a non-imperial president who wore loosely buttoned shirts and a casual no-tie garb around the White House.

With the Vietnam War over, inflation began to ease and the Ford campaign produced a series of ads with a montage of happy Americans and upbeat music. This was all done as attempts to subtly make amends between the government and the governed. Perhaps most of this election pomp and circumstance was done in vain, anyway.

Some Election Generalities

During the three presidential debates many presidential election debate “firsts” occurred. These debates marked the first time in 16 years where presidential candidates participated in general election debates. It would also be the first time where an incumbent president would participate, where both Presidents Johnson and Nixon had refused to share a platform with their opponents.

The first debate topic was domestic policy, the second to international policy, and the third open to any topic which led to only brief hits into personal accusation after which each candidate spoke of a new spirit in America. At these presidential debates, moderators were allowed to ask follow-up questions, allowing candidates to respond with closing statements all this was far beyond the conventionality of the 1960 tradition of debates. Also, these debates were broadcast from public places and before an audience, instead of being conducted in a television studio.

These debates truly helped Carter shine in the eyes of the voting public. Even Carter himself said later on that, if it hadnt been for the debates, I would have lost. They established me as competent on foreign and domestic affairs and gave the viewers reason to think that Jimmy Carter had something to offer. He was right. Viewers started to take the man more seriously than they had before. His desire to run for president no longer seemed like a sporadic satiation of his whims he was in it for serious business.

Money was also a factor as it is with most presidential campaigns. Throughout the course of the 176 Election, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) was responsible for distributing money to candidates and parties according to the distribution process set up by Congress. According to the FEC, the total amount distributed to candidates and parties was $7,7,1.7, with the 100% of that going to major party candidates and parties leaving the minor parties shafted with 40% going to their party candidates and the parties themselves.

The campaign trail ended and James Earl Carter was declared President of the United States of America the morning after the voting election. With 5 percent of the eligible voters participating he won the popular vote with 40,85,8 and the electoral vote with 7. Gerald Ford had 40 electoral votes and 1,147,770 popular votes.

Presidential Candidate Electoral Vote Popular Vote Party Running Mate

(Electoral Votes)

Jimmy Carter (W)

7 40,85,8 Democrat

Walter F. Mondale (7)

Gerald R. Ford

40 ,147,770 Republican

Bob Dole (41)

Jimmy Carter - the man above and beyond that plastered smile.

Jimmy Carter became our nation’s th president as a result of the 1976 election. Among carrying out his political platform promises, Carter separated the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) into the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services. He was also able to give the Energy agency cabinet-level status as the United States Department of Energy.

With all this, his administration is really best remembered for the Camp David Accord which entailed the peace treaty between the states of Israel and Egypt in 1978. Carter also brokered with the Soviet Union the SALT II treaty and was able to turn the Panama Canal over to Panama in the Panama Canal treaty.

Beyond his presidential accomplishment, Carter gave a nationally televised speech in 17 where he addressed and identified what he believed to be the crisis of confidence among the American people. Although throughout the speech he never once used the word “malaise,” this has come to be known as his “malaise” speech. This speech unveiled a most pessimistic outlook towards the American people. Instead of inspiring Americans to action as he had hoped, he was perceived by many to hold a lackluster gait and an entirely negative outlook on the situation of the American people. This may have damaged his hopes for re-election.

Apple Jr., R.W. “Carter Victor in Tight Race; Ford Loses New York State;

Democrats Retain Congress” Nov. 1976

Wooten, James T. “The Next President - A Determined Georgian James Earl

Carter Jr.” New York Times Nov. 1976

Whitson, James R. President Elect - The Unofficial Homepage of the Electoral

College. 1 Feb. 00 http//

MultiEducator, Inc. The Multimedia History Company History


Wikipedia�The Free Encyclopedia. Mar. 2000


Commission on the Presidential Debates


Core Collections on the 1976 Presidential Campaign June 2001


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