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SENTRY JOURNAL » 1976, 1976 convention, Conservative, Freedom of Speech, george w. bush, jimmy carter, Ronald Reagan » Reviving America

Reviving America

by Right Hand Man

Just as it is natural for men to gradually give up their freedoms for less than it cost to get them, it is also natural for the pendulum of politics to take its given course in the other direction. 2008 proved to be the year of the democrats, and rightfully so. Republicans had abandoned their base, divorced their principles, and discarded their integrity. Never mind that the majority of the people considered themselves right of center, conservatism was buried in the court of politics.

Such was the case for the Republican Party in 1976. Gerald Ford was the incumbent GOP president, but barely legitimate. The party was reeling from the Nixon fiasco, and there was little hope in site. The democrats held 61 seats in the Senate and nearly 3/4ths of the seats in the House (292/435). (Today the Democrats hold 58 seats in the Senate. If you count Lieberman and Sanders who vote caucus with the Democrats, it is once again 61 seats. They also hold 257 house seats.) The GOP headquarters couldn’t keep the lights on year around and had to close up shop. (Today the DCCC has over $15 million in their war chest while the NRCC has around $2 million.) They were simply not trusted by the American people and the democrats took full advantage.

1976 was important for the Republicans though. That was the year that the conservative element started to gain momentum. Since the New Deal, many politicians had attempted to run on conservative principles from Robert A. Taft to Barry Goldwater. None were able to make it to the highest seat in our land. Much of this was because conservative principles were new and the timing or circumstances wasn’t right. Taft had the ever popular New Yorker General Dwight Eisenhower to run against him in the primary. Barry Goldwater had to run against the memory of John F. Kennedy through his predecessor Lyndon Johnson. Reagan started running as the conservative choice in 1968 and, in spite of winning the popular vote, was defeated by the New York establishment of Nixon/Rockefeller.

The republican platform in 1976 wasn’t bold, but was much aligned with the democratic platform. The few republicans who saved their seats were mostly moderates who knew better than to stick their neck out too far. Democrats dominated the political arena and set the tone on all of the issues. There were obvious disagreements, as there always are, but Nixon had killed the party he had led for so long and few were willing to align themselves with that political noose. It was obvious that Ford and republicans alike were running on tickets that distanced themselves from the toxic Nixon. (Compare that to the current GOP mentality in regards to George W. Bush. McCain and most republicans have run distancing themselves from the former president.)

All of Washington suffered the cross of mistrust among voters in 1976. Vietnam, economic woes, civil rights, and Watergate were all aligned with the Washington establishment and the whole thing stunk. The democrats needed to face Nixon’s Vice President stand-in with an outsider. In came Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter was fairly inexperienced and had never been in Washington. The Georgian worked as a State Senator for a few years and hadn’t even finished one term as governor when he started campaigning for the presidential election. (Barack Obama also spent a few years in the State Senate and began running for POTUS while he was still in his first term as a U.S. Senator.) He was well liked, easy to root for, and was accepted and supported by the mass communications media. (Much like Carter, Obama became the media darling and most felt it easy to jump on board his bandwagon.)

Presidents Obama and Carter have many similarities. Both entered with little experience, campaigned as Washington outsiders, and came in at a time of government mistrust. Already Obama has began to experience a lot of the same problems that Carter fumbled over to include a sinking economy, a weak foreign policy perception, Russia and Iran butting heads with the globe while thumbing their nose at us, and a dwindling approval rating.

At the same time, the republicans are facing some of the same challenges they did in the 70’s; a minority in our national representative government, a lack of funds, and no true leader. The GOP’s political philosophy in the 70’s was to move to the “center” and hope to retain some political power. This philosophy failed and the leftist Carter won the presidency in 1976.

There is a way to win, and the democrats have figured it out. The way to win is to appeal to your base. There is very little energy in the middle, but there’s plenty on the wings. As I stated earlier, most of the country align with conservative principles today. Why would you not tap into that source? Remember the energy that Obama created when he ran for president? He simply ignited the left wing. McCain was a dud because he was reaching out to the middle ground. When Sarah Palin, an obvious conservative, spoke then there was a sudden fire on the right.

In 1976 Ronald Reagan was pressured by the Conservative Coalition to run on a separate “conservative” party ticket. He considered it, but opted to stay in the republican primary and run against the incumbent, President Ford. There shouldn’t have been a battle. Ford had the money, the RNC backing, the bully pulpit, and half of Washington in his back pocket. What Ford didn’t have was the hearts of the base – Reagan had that. Reagan appealed to the conservatives and stood firmly on that ground. The obvious difference between the Ford and Reagan campaign was the energy. Reagan had it, Ford did not.
In 1976 Gerald Ford stood victorious in Kansas City in front of thousands of convention republicans and began to hear a chant for Reagan to speak. Ford politely called for Reagan to come to the front and say some words. After resisting Reagan eventually came down from the top deck to the stage and gave an impromptu speech. It was only a minute or two long, but it was in that moment that a tangible realization occurred in that arena – the republicans had nominated the wrong man. Less than a year later, Carter beat Ford.

1980 proved much different. The conservatives had been stirring on behalf of Reagan for four years and the country was ready for a straight forward leader. Jimmy Carter won four states, the republicans picked up 34 seats in the House, and they took the Senate for the first time in nearly 30 years. More importantly, conservative principles, renewed trust, as well as national confidence and pride were once again common themes in the American spirit.

We can get there again and it won’t come from money raised, political savy, or democratic failures. We need the guts to stand up for someone who stands up for what we believe in, not someone who seems most electable. We need to stir as those conservatives did for Reagan. We need to talk to those around us about the basic truths that Americans should stand for and embrace. The American spirit is sad state, as it was in the 70’s; but we can revive it by carrying this country on our shoulders instead of relying on the country to carry us. WE THE PEOPLE!



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Filed under: 1976, 1976 convention, Conservative, Freedom of Speech, george w. bush, jimmy carter, Ronald Reagan

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  • Ron Russell February 3, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    Things do ebb and flow in politics and your post certainly does point that out. I recall many changes in the political scene even the Goldwater run in 1964 when the republicans were handed their lunch and we got stuck with LBJ's, the Great Society and the so-called Civil Rights Acts which was nothing more than punishment for those states that dared to vote for Goldwater—all deep south states with the exception of Arizona. It is again time for a change and as you point out the energy is always on the wings–however moving too far to the right could mean trouble–I say this despite the fact thats where I am. The path ahead is tricky and our steps need to be made recognizing this fact.

  • Matt February 3, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    Excellent post. The historical parallels are there. However, who will be our Reagan?

  • John Carey February 3, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    Great post Right,

    You and I have talked about this many times. I sometimes wonder still of the party is dropping the ball. Not sure MS is the man to lead the party.

  • Right Hand Man February 4, 2010 at 7:09 AM


    I'm not saying the party should be a party of extremists, but that they should move away from this idea of pandering to the middle and move back to their base.


    Reagan was an evolution created by the people, not a one man savior. While few love Reagan more than I, I have to be forthright in saying he was someone created by his environment. There are plenty of people out there that could step into Reagan's shoes – the important part is the American people having the gonads to put him in a position to represent us.


    I'm not sure we even see the person that is going to lead our party right now. However, if we create a caste that embodies the type of political leader we want and demand nothing less – someone will fill that mold.

    I think we have the tendency to look for that special savior as the democrats did last election and republicans have done for years now (looking for Reagan) when the real responsibility and power lies with us. Don't search for a Reagan, but take the position the conservatives did in the late 70's – demand someone that represents us.

  • Ron Russell February 4, 2010 at 7:23 PM

    I like that image I have it on one of my twitter sites—a number of people have commented on it.