Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Carter's Challenges

I’m not a huge fan of Jimmy Carter, but I have to admit his rise to the forefront of the Democratic Party in the mid-seventies is something to ponder and study especially due to the fact that he faced several challenges.

The American Experience website states, Traveling around the country long before other candidates began their campaigns, Carter listened, assessed the national mood, and decided it was the perfect time for an outsider like himself to run. While running essentially as a moderate to conservative Democrat, Carter emphasized his message of honesty, integrity, and character over specific issues. "I will not lie to you," he said, and he meant it. "The fact that he was unknown was part of his appeal," remembers Carter speechwriter Hendrik Hertzberg. "And he brought simple verities to the campaign trail: a promise not to lie to the American people, a promise to be good, a promise to love. And this was enough to bring him through the early primaries."

Carter’s campaign took off with success in the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary, and the Florida primary, but many better known politicians in the Democratic Party couldn’t understand how an unknown peanut farmer/governor from Georgia could garner ANY primary wins. They launched something we remember today as the “ABC Movement”----Anyone But Carter. Some of the possible ABCs were Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington, Senators Mo Udall, Frank Church, Fred Harris, and Governor Jerry Brown of California. However, none of these folks could ever really seriously get a major campaign underway though they tried. Two Time Magazine articles….Stampede to Carter from June 21, 1976 and Carter Battles a Revolt from August 11, 1980…..relates a bit about the events during this period.

Carter was also helped by Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., the father of the famed civil rights leader. Carter lost several later primaries, but due to King’s involvement Americans…..especially Black Americans….learned how Carter had been a progressive leader during segregation in Georgia and had been at the forefront of repealing laws that ending voting restrictions in Georgia that worked against African Americans.

Another challenge Carter faced was his name. Though his name on his birth certificate is listed as James Earl Carter the candidate had never referred to himself in that way preferring the more friendly and down-to-earth, Jimmy. Recently while I watched an episode of The Antiques Roadshow that featured an interesting piece of memoralbilia from the 1976 Presidential Election. I’ve pictured it below. You can read a bit about the Maine affidavit more here.

It is an affidavit Jimmy Carter had to offer to the State of Maine in order to get them to change his name on their ballot from James Earl Carter to Jimmy Carter.

Why did President Carter feel so particular about his name? The man, a former attorney for the Maine Democratic Party and President Carter stated, “Well, the unfortunate thing was that this campaign took place not too many years after Martin Luther King was assassinated by a man whose name happened to be James Earl Ray. A lot of people made that connection when they heard the name James Earl anything. Beside that, Mr. Carter was convinced that there would be confusion as to who it was that was really on the ballot.”
No matter the challenge during that election season Jimmy Carter prevailed.

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