America was in a quandary in 1975. Suffering through the Watergate scandal and the fall of Richard Nixon, along with the soul-searching going on at the end of the Vietnam War. We had a President in the White House we didn’t elect. A vice-President who was appointed, and a country looking to 1976 and someone to offer direction. We wanted a change. The way it had been going on was no longer working and we were still at a loss for a solution.
The political horizon was uncertain. Former Governor Ronald Reagan was hoping to unseat Gerald Ford and become the GOP’s standard-bearer. On the Democrats side, there was talk of Ted Kennedy, although the mere mention of Chappaquiddick cast a potential dark cloud over an earnest run. There was California Governor Jerry Brown, who was attracting the youth vote and was a serious possibility. He was young, was dating Linda Ronstadt, was charismatic and, if you were to judge a potential President on the basis of personality, would have been a shoe-in. However, being popular with the Youth of America didn’t guarantee votes, because even though the voting age was lowered to 18, actually getting the average 18 year-old to the polling place was a whole different story. And so some eyes were cast in the direction of Georgia and a little-known Governor and Peanut Farmer by the name of Jimmy Carter, was looking more and more likely.
But this was 1975 and 1976 was an eternity when it came to politics.
This episode of the long-running radio series America’s Town Meeting focused on the issue of what was leadership? What constituted those qualities in a person to assume the highest office in the country and to lead out of this dilemma and into a renewed sense of purpose and hope. Was it all about personalities? Did it come down to that, after all?
Joining in the discussion were panelists I.F. Stone and Kevin Phillips and a barrage of questions (and sometimes rambling statements) from the audience. Interesting to consider what we were going through in 1975, how our country was looking at politics and the ritual of picking a President.
42 years ago our world was different, but we were still complicated people looking for simple answers.