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Author Topic: 1976 Election ("What if"-scenario)  (Read 8265 times)
Michael Z
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« on: November 02, 2003, 08:27:07 am »
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What if Ronald Reagan had beaten Gerald Ford in the Republican primaries for 1976? (It was, after all, a very tight race between them.) Would Carter still have been President? Or would the Republicans have claimed the White House?

I personally think Carter would have beaten Reagan in a 1976 contest. There was still a fair amount of anti-Republican sentiment after the Watergate scandal (which, from what I can gather, carried Carter's election victory more than any other factor), and Carter had yet to commit the economic- and foreign policy mishaps which basically handed victory to Reagan on a plate in 1980.

Of course this begs the question whether an unsuccessful Presidential run in 1976 would have scuppered Reagan's chances for 1980, or whether he still would have gone on to win two terms in the eighties.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2003, 08:37:38 am by Michael Zeigermann »Logged
Ryan
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« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2003, 10:45:19 am »
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While I am probably unqualified to provide a comprehensive analysis of what would have happened if Reagan were nominated in 1976, I would mention one factor that may have mitigated against his chances-The South.
While the South got progressively more democratic during the 70's there was a marked difference between 1976 and 1980 in Southern attitude towards the two parties. Besides in 1976 Carter was a well-known Southern Governor (if you rule out LBJ cause he wasn’t born in the South he became the first real Southern President)
Thus there was an emotional reason for the South to vote democrat. Reagan being from California may have had a tough time with that.
However in 1980 the South was thoroughly disillusioned with the performance of even a Southern democrat and had really lost faith in the party. Reagan I believe won every southern state save Georgia that year.

Besides of course there are the factors that Mike mentioned like post-Watergate blues for the GOP. Still we must remember that the country was very closely divided in 1976 and no one should underestimate “the Gipper”. If forced to, I would bet on Carter winning against Reagan but I wouldn’t put much money on it.










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Nym90
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« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2003, 12:51:01 pm »
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LBJ was born in Texas, which I would think is considered to be part of the South (it was part of the old Confederacy during the Civil War, which is usually the definition of the South).
Also, although Carter did worse in the South in 1980 than in 1976, the South was still more Democratic than the nation as a whole, and in fact 1980 was the last election in which this was true. Most of the southern states that Reagan won were by narrow margins (in fact it's kind of interesting how the results were so similar in many of them, there were alot where Reagan won by 1-2%). If Carter had run just a little bit better nationally his loss wouldn't have looked so bad in the Electoral College, as he could've picked up North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
The South was still mostly a Democratic region in 1980, it wasn't until 1984 that the dye was cast for the South to become a Republican region.
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Ryan
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2003, 12:10:00 pm »
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U sure about LBJ being Born in Texas?? I'm just asking not challenging that. I cant remember where I read he was born outside Texas so it may have been an unreliable source.

I can state however that while many people in the South voted for him as the democrat, they didnt really consider him a southern President. He didnt gel very well with Souherners outside Texas. He was one of two or three Southern legislators to refuse to sign the Souhern Manifesto and he also fell out of favor on other issues.
Btw Great society aside I kinda like the guy. He seemed like a decent President for the time.

LBJ was born in Texas, which I would think is considered to be part of the South (it was part of the old Confederacy during the Civil War, which is usually the definition of the South).
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Nym90
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« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2003, 03:09:35 am »
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I've been to his birthplace, so yes, I'm pretty sure. By the way, if anyone is ever near the Austin, TX, area, it's a great visit for any political junkie to go to the LBJ ranch west of Austin and the LBJ presidential library in Austin. For that matter, I'm sure any presidential library is a great visit for a political junkie...I've been to Johnson's, Truman's, and Ford's so far, and hope to eventually see all of them. Of course Ford's was pretty easy for me since most of my college classes were a block away...:-) (It's on the U of M campus)
I agree with you about Johnson, he was a pro-civil rights Democrat which obviously put him at odds with most of the rest of the South at that time. I feel that he was a great President who will be (and already has to a certain extent) been vindicated by history. He certainly was, however, a victim of circumstances with regards to Vietnam (getting duped by the Gulf of Tonkin incident) and with never being as "good" as Kennedy in a lot of people's eyes. He certainly seemed to have a great vision for our nation and grandiose ideas about how to transform American society for the better, all of which was unfortunately derailed by events 12,000 miles away.
As for the original question, I do feel that Reagan would've lost to Carter in 1976, and thus never would have been elected in 1980 either. If Reagan had won (possible, since he wouldn't have had as much baggage from the Nixon pardon as Ford had) I think that he would've lost in 1980 as the problems that befell Carter would've befallen Reagan as well.
Interesting how the results of 1976 profoundly affect us to this day...for example, if Carter loses to Ford (or if Reagan loses to Carter) there is never any Pres. Reagan, then there is never any Pres. GHW Bush, and thus obviously no Pres. GW Bush.
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Michael Z
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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2003, 06:15:30 pm »
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Interesting how the results of 1976 profoundly affect us to this day...for example, if Carter loses to Ford (or if Reagan loses to Carter) there is never any Pres. Reagan, then there is never any Pres. GHW Bush, and thus obviously no Pres. GW Bush.

Interesting theory, though you never know, given that Bush was the only genuine challenger to Reagan in the 1980 primaries. As far as I'm aware he was already a fairly big player within the Republican Party, so we might have seen President George HW Bush at some stage, regardless of him being Reagan's running mate or not. But that's pure speculation, of course. (But then so was my original post which started this thread... ah, diddums.)

Also, thanks Ryan for some insight on how the political demographics of the South changed in the course of the 1970s. I was totally unaware of some of the facts you presented, thanks.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2003, 06:26:08 pm by Michael Zeigermann »Logged
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« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2003, 06:02:01 pm »
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nym, I have read Robert Caro's biographies of Lyndon Johnson, specifically "Path to Power" and "Means of Ascent" and I completely agree with you about him. Caro tried to paint an unflattering picture but he didn't leave out Johnson's time teaching at the Cotulla school. What really came through was a highly ambitious man who was shaped very much by his parents' poverty, who rose very much due to his own ability (unlike our current president) from almost the bottom of the heap. He realized that he had to use imperfect means if he was to achieve constructive ends.

I really feel sorry for the man; he was probably the most liberal president in history and he probably thought he was really doing the right thing in Vietnam-- and faced a very unprecedented tide of opposition not from the right but from the left which left his life a virtual nightmare by 1968. Ironically, the generation that moved the country left in the '60s has been repudiating itself at the ballot box is the same generation that has voted for Republicans 7 times out of 9-- even today polls show that older Americans (60+) are more likely to lean Democrat than baby boomers are.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2003, 06:03:55 pm by Beet »Logged

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« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2003, 07:38:46 pm »
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Ironically, the generation that moved the country left in the '60s has been repudiating itself at the ballot box is the same generation that has voted for Republicans 7 times out of 9-- even today polls show that older Americans (60+) are more likely to lean Democrat than baby boomers are.
This is a great point - but I think you're drawing the wrong conclusion.  If the '60s generation keeps supporting Republicans it may be more accurate to conclude that a lot of them never were far left. I think the left just makes lots of noise and grabs the most headlines.  
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Ryan
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2003, 05:31:00 am »
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Ironically, the generation that moved the country left in the '60s has been repudiating itself at the ballot box is the same generation that has voted for Republicans 7 times out of 9-- even today polls show that older Americans (60+) are more likely to lean Democrat than baby boomers are.
This is a great point - but I think you're drawing the wrong conclusion.  If the '60s generation keeps supporting Republicans it may be more accurate to conclude that a lot of them never were far left. I think the left just makes lots of noise and grabs the most headlines.  

I agree with both of your points. Ndog is quite right that there is a misconception about every (or even most) youth in the 1960's being militantly anti-war. They were a minority even at that time.

But Beet is also right in surmising that many youth of the day shifted rightwards (in more ways than one) Smiley  later on.
Nor is that confined to the 60's generation.

For as Churchill said, (not exact words) "If you are not a liberal when you are young, You have no heart and if you're not a conservative when older, you have no brain."

I wont go into this in detail but I believe there is a lot of truth in this. I'm only in my early 20's but in my teens I was much more likely to believe in utopian concepts of world peace and redistributing wealth to the poor. As I got older I moved more to the right each year. Hasn't that happened to anyone else? Smiley

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Nym90
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2003, 11:34:06 am »
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Well, personally, I've actually become more liberal as I've become older, at least on social issues. I used to be more of a populist Democrat when I was in my teens, conservative on social issues but liberal on economics, now in my 20s I'm pretty much liberal across-the-board with only a few issues on which I lean more to the right.
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Ryan
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2003, 03:12:42 pm »
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Well, personally, I've actually become more liberal as I've become older, at least on social issues. I used to be more of a populist Democrat when I was in my teens, conservative on social issues but liberal on economics, now in my 20s I'm pretty much liberal across-the-board with only a few issues on which I lean more to the right.

Well then I refer you to Sir. Winston Churchill Cheesy Wink
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migrendel
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2003, 03:57:12 pm »
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There is no overarching trend so to speak of with me. I have always grown progressively more progressive on social issues as I age. I'll put anyone to shame in a few years. As for economic issues, I've moved to the right on some and to the left on others. For example, I now oppose trade unions and I feel that my old proposal, a single national wage to be payed to every worker, is wrong. I now support raising the minimum wage drastically and significantly raising taxes on upper income brackets and an increase on most lower brackets. But I still have my points of economic liberalism. For example, I feel welfare reform is inhumane, theoretically off-kilter, and generally inapposite for our complex economy. I also have been working recently for legislation that would allow the housing market to be controlled by local councils. These councils would make people register before they intend to sell, and would allow them to sell and consumers to buy based upon the amount of people housed. The council would be allowed to take and compensate for registered houses using eminent domain to remedy a housing shortage. As for Winston Churchill, that was an excessively judgmental statement. I know plenty of people in their mature years who are both liberal and quite intelligent. One must wonder whether he was drinking when he said that. Knowing what we know about Sir Winston, that's quite possible.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2003, 10:40:46 pm by migrendel »Logged

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Nym90
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2003, 08:14:48 pm »
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What exactly do you mean by saying that you oppose unions? Do you think they should be made illegal? I find this quite surprising coming from you as this would definitely be to the great benefit of corporations and would be very bad for workers. Just look at working conditions before unions came into existence.
Also, I think that raising taxes on the poor is a bad idea. The poor don't make enough money for a tax increase on them to have a very large effect, and these people are the ones who most need to keep the money in their pockets to spend.
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Ryan
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« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2003, 01:44:13 pm »
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hey ppl, this seems like this is an interesting conversation. However its in the wrong forum so others who may want to join wont know its on. I've started a new thread in General Politics discussion in case you guys want to continue the conversation, I've taken the liberty of posting your input there Cheesy Enjoy!!!
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dazzleman
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2003, 07:12:01 am »
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I agree with the previous poster who said that he would bet that Carter would have beaten Reagan in 1976, but wouldn't bet much on it.

The 1976 election was the last gasp of the old FDR-New Deal coalition of the "solid south" and northern "progressives."  The northern progressives would not have voted for Reagan, and the south would have gone for Carter in 1976 no matter what.

Reagan may have done better than Ford in the popular vote in some of the strongly Republican western states, but that wouldn't have helped him in the electoral college, since Ford carried all those states anyway.  Perhaps Reagan could have picked up Ohio and Wisconsin, and maybe in a real long shot Texas, but I doubt it.

The country was not ready as a whole for Reagan's conservatism in 1976.  It took 4 years of Carter's mismanagement of domestic and foreign policy to make Reagan acceptable on a broad basis.  And aside from his core of devoted supporters, who were not enough to carry an election, the biggest reason people voted for Reagan in 1980 was that he was not Carter.
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Sibboleth
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« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2003, 07:40:30 am »
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But you will agree that Reagan would have lost in 1980 if he had won in 1976?
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dazzleman
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« Reply #16 on: November 16, 2003, 11:51:45 am »
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That is a much more difficult question to answer.  We all know what the political landscape was in 1976 since the events leading up to that election are not at issue in this question.

However, I have no way of knowing how the 1977-80 period would have played out with Reagan rather than Carter as president.  It is hard to say exactly how much of the terrible situation during those three years was due to Carter, or might have been avoided with different policies, and how much of it was uncontrollable.

I tend to think that Carter made the problems then worse, or surely didn't help, but wasn't the primary cause.  I think that anybody in office during that period would have had a very difficult time, and there is a good chance that Reagan would have lost re-election in 1980 had he won in 1976.  However, Reagan might have handled things well enough to win re-election by a narrow margin.  We'll never know.

The bottom line as far as Reagan is concerned is that 1976 was not his time.  The country was not ready for him yet, and a Reagan presidency then would have been very different than what it turned out to be in the 1981-89 period.
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Sibboleth
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« Reply #17 on: November 16, 2003, 12:07:38 pm »
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He would have lost.
Economics was never his strong point and the late '70's saw a World Recession.
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dazzleman
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« Reply #18 on: November 16, 2003, 04:02:44 pm »
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Actually, the world recession was in the early 1980s.  A nasty double-dip recession began in the US in the beginning of 1980, and the economy didn't begin a path of low inflation growth until late 1982.  The late 1970s saw the events that led up to the world recession, including high inflation and the second oil price shock of the 1970s.  But the main economic problem leading up to the 1980 campaign was sky-high inflation, and unemployment was actually lower than what it had been in 1976.

Would the late 1970s have been better with a president other than Carter?  Undoubtedly, in my opinion, but I don't know if they would have been enough better to allow re-election of the person who presided over that difficult period.  I don't happen to believe that a president controls economic growth, but I do believe that his policies can influence it over the longer term.

As far as economics not being Reagan's strong suit, I would say his economic policies are partially responsible for a long period of low-inflation growth.  Certainly, his economic policies were better than anything his opponents at the time had to offer, and represented a break even from traditional Republican policies.

Another important element of the 1980 campaign was foreign policy, and Carter's perceived weakness in this area influenced many to vote for Reagan.  A Reagan foreign policy during the 1977-80 period might have led to a more secure mood in the country by 1980 and influenced the electoral outcome had Reagan been running for re-election then.

All in all, I think it's impossible to predict with certainly hypothetical events far in the past.  But it you want to be so definite about it, be my guest.  I am trying to be non-partisan.
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Sibboleth
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« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2003, 04:16:05 pm »
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The World Recession began in the late 70's and ended in the early 90's.
There were blips of growth from various countries, but they all flicked back to recession.
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Ryan
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« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2003, 04:20:21 am »
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He would have lost.
Economics was never his strong point and the late '70's saw a World Recession.

With all due respect Realpolitik, I gotta agree with dazzleman here. A neutral and non-partisan approach would not lead one to two such sweeping conclusions.

Anyways no harm, no foul. Reagan is an emotive topic for both sides and some judgemental statements are inevitable. Cheesy
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dazzleman
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« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2003, 09:34:46 pm »
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Here's another question.  What if Ford had won in 1976 instead of Carter?  What would have happened in the 1977-80 period, and what have happened in the 1980 election?

I have to believe that Ford would have performed better than Carter did if he had won a full term.  He would have maintained a tougher foreign policy and would probably have controlled inflation somewhat better.  The mood of the country by 1980 would probably have been at least marginally better than it was under Carter.

But I think those would have been difficult years no matter who was in office.  I don't think Ford would have been able to run again in 1980, since he served over half of Nixon's second term.  Also, by 1980, the Republicans would have been in office for 12 years if Ford had won in 1976, making a Democratic victory that year even more likely.

So a Ford victory in 1976 would likely have meant that Reagan would never have been president.  This is why Reagan didn't campaign very hard for Ford, despite his "eleventh commandment" never to speak ill of a fellow Republican (which Reagan violated in his fight with Ford for the nomination).

It is hard to imagine the 1980s with a liberal democratic president.  That probably would have happened if only a relatively few number of voters had switched from Carter to Ford in 1976.  It's amazing the narrow margins by which many major events are decided.
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Ryan
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« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2003, 05:18:34 am »
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Very Interesting angle. I do believe you are right about Ford not being able to run again in 1980.
As to who would have won, I'm gonna throw up my hands and admit defeat Smiley I have No Idea. Cheesy
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« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2003, 01:03:39 pm »
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This is one election I'm glad the Repulicans lost.  Ford was not a strong candidate and the ensuing economic/international problems would have negativley affected the Republican's chances in 1980.  Carter should never have been nominated (easy to say now)  but there was not a strong field of candidates in 1976.  (Morris Udall anyone?)
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Ryan
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« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2003, 03:44:55 pm »
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I'm glad they lost too but for a different reason Wink Carter was the Democrats last hurrah in the South. After even the administration of a good ol boy southern democrat turned out so liberal and incompetent, a lotta former yellow dog southern democrats gave up all hope in the Democratic Party. All they needed was a clear and inspiring GOP alternative to start the process of firm partisan realignment. As it turns out they got one Grin

But anyway Carters administration was not nearly so liberal as to cause permanent damage to the nation. A win-win as far as I'm concerned. Smiley
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