I never voted for Jimmy Carter

Chris wondered:
You voted third party? What made Jimmy Carter unattractive?

Hey, I was young and foolish and headstrong. In 1976, I wanted to vote for Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic presidential primary. Remember him, the guy who challenged President Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire primary and received 43% of the vote, which prompted LBJ not to seek reelection?

But the Carter forces in New York State got Clean Gene knocked off the ballot. I had no idea how or why at the time, but I now wonder if it was because, as the Wikipedia states, he had quit the Democratic party. In any case, that anti-democratic behavior really ticked me off.

In the race between President Gerald Ford and the peanut farmer from Georgia, I opted to vote for McCarthy; I don’t think he was on the ballot in my state, though he was in about 2/3s of the others, so I wrote him in.

I rather liked Jimmy Carter as President early on. He was saying enough of the right things for me, especially when he talked about conserving energy. Sitting in the White House wearing a sweater, he called the energy crisis the Moral Equivalent Of War. But it wasn’t what the country, already feeling down after Watergate and Vietnam, wanted to hear; his plan was ridiculed as MEOW.

Still, it was the Iran hostage crisis that began on November 4, 1979, that did him in. Maybe not immediately. But as the news networks started delaying their late-night programming in favor of 15 minutes of news from Tehran – DAY 42, DAY 108, DAY 159 – it made him appear weak, and the failed rescue mission even more so.

When Senator Edward Kennedy and California governor Jerry Brown challenged him in the primaries, this just codified that feeling that Jimmy Carter was ineffectual. I worried about Teddy running, fearing that if he had won, he would die in office, like Presidents elected in years ending with zero, going back to 1840, and the fact that all of his brothers (Joe, Jack, Bobby) had died violently. Despite that, and despite Chappaquiddick, I’m pretty sure I voted for him.

Of course, a battered Carter prevailed at the Democratic convention and faced the Republican, Ronald Reagan, who I disliked intensely from when he was governor of California. He was also challenged by Congressman John Anderson of Illinois. But I didn’t vote for ANY of them.

I figured that if I were going to throw away my vote, I had to REALLY toss it. I had read the 1971 book The Closing Circle by Barry Commoner, where he “suggested that the American economy should be restructured to conform to the unbending laws of ecology.” I voted for him – he was on the ballot in New York – and he came in fifth nationally, behind the Libertarian.

So it wasn’t that I disliked Jimmy Carter, or thought he was that bad. It was that he didn’t excite me, inspire me. I also figured that if Reagan were to get elected, the Democratic Congress would keep him in check. HA!

Of course, in hindsight James Earl Carter wasn’t THAT bad a President. And he is is, by far, the best ex-President ever.