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Why Not the Best?

by John Heckenlively 2 years ago in history

Democratic Conventions 1976-1980

Kennedy ran for President in 1980, losing to President Carter

This is the 14th in a series of 20 on the history of the Democratic National Conventions

1976: Why Not the Best?

Dates: July 12 - 15, 1976

Venue: Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (31st to 33rd between 7th and 8th), New York City. Built in 1968, the arena is home to the Knicks and Rangers. Nearest subway station: 34th Street - Penn Station

Events: Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter was the first candidate to successfully exploit the primary system. He racked up 30 victories. California Governor Jerry Brown and Arizona Representative Mo Udall both only won 3 each.

Carter won easily on the first ballot, with 75 percent of the vote. Both Udall and Brown got around 10 percent of the vote. Ellen McCormick should get a nod as one of the first women to run a serious campaign for president; she received 22 votes.

Carter announced Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a close associate of Hubert Humphrey, as his running mate and delegates gave Mondale the nomination with 94 percent of the vote.

The 1976 convention was a landmark for women. Congressman Lindy Boggs of Louisiana was the first woman to chair a national convention, and Congressman Barbara Jordan of Texas gave the keynote address. Jordan spoke on the idea of creating a national community.

Celebrity Watch: Warren Beatty, brother of Shirley MacLaine, was a major Jerry Brown supporter.

November 1976: When Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon, he effectively sealed his doom. Americans tired of the scandal of Watergate sought honesty and reform, and that was what Jimmy Carter was promising to them. Still, it was a close election. Carter only beat Ford by 297 to 240 in the electoral college. Flip Ohio, which Carter only won by 11,000 votes, and it becomes 272 to 265. Carter won the popular vote by 40.8 million to 39.1 for Ford. Carter is one of only five Democrats to win an absolute majority of the popular vote. In his case, an extremely narrow 50.1 percent.

A big part of Carter’s victory came because he won the South, the last time a Democrat would carry Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina or Texas.

1980: The Dream Shall Never Die

Dates: August 11 - 14, 1980

Venue: Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (31st to 33rd between 7th and 8th), New York City. Built in 1968, the arena is home to the Knicks and Rangers. Nearest subway station: 34th Street - Penn Station. Jimmy Carter must have figured “It worked once.”

Events: President Carter had been in a bruising battle with Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy over the nomination. Carter had won 36 primaries to Kennedy’s 12, so there was never a question of what would happen at the convention.

Given fairly new rules that guaranteed proportional representation, Carter won with 2123 votes over Kennedy’s 1151. Walter Mondale was retained as VP with 73 percent of the vote.

The highlight of the convention was Ted Kennedy’s concession speech, which is one of the greatest defenses of New Deal liberalism ever given. Kennedy closed by stating “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Many pundits view the 1980 convention as the last unscripted convention.

Celebrity Watch: Willie Nelson, Gloria Steinem and tennis star Arthur Ashe were among the notable celebs at the 1980 convention.

Election 1980: Carter was faced with a tanking economy, high interest rates and a foreign policy nightmare in Iran. All these factors combined to make the election a cakewalk for former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Carter wasn’t helped when Republican Congressman John Anderson (IL) entered the race as an independent.

Bush and his running mate George HW Bush (more on him later) swamped Carter in the electoral college, 489 to 49. Carter only won six states, including Georgia and Minnesota.

Reagan beat him in the popular vote 43.9 million to 35.5 million. Anderson carried no states, but did win 5.7 million votes.


About the author

John Heckenlively

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