Forty-two years ago this week, Republicans gathered in Kansas City to select a nominee for the 1976 Presidential election. Like most conventions, it had its fair share of cliff hangers – Gerald Ford, the appointed vice-President who rose to the position of President at the resignation of Richard Nixon, had the somewhat dubious distinction of being the first President of the United States who did not get elected – who was appointed and then, as fate would have it, assumed the role as leader of the Free World.
There were forces adamant about selecting former California Governor Ronald Reagan – and it was a contentious battle from which Ford finally won out, but which also created division within the Party. The Republican Party was having an identity problem in 1976, and for good reason – America was barely getting over the era of Watergate and the painful process of impeachment proceedings, to finally have Richard Nixon resign – Gerald Ford assume office and pardon Nixon for his wrongdoings.
It didn’t sit well with a lot of people – it somehow flew in the face of democracy. Democracy meant free elections, not consenting to elect a President who wasn’t elected by the people, but one many felt was foisted on us.
So Gerald Ford had fences to mend and people to convince – and in a country in the slow process of healing from what was considered a Political Nervous Breakdown, that was easier said than done.
But to get some idea of the atmosphere and the people, and the circumstances – here is a two hour slice of proceedings, as they happened, during the Republican Convention on August 18, 1976.
In lieu of the events we are currently going through, many will listen to this episode from 1976 with a wave of nostalgic emotion and consternation that we have gone so far off-track so fast, and that something as sinister and deadly as the Watergate scandal was – it isn’t holding a candle to the dire situations we are in now.
In 1976 we had no clue as to how it would end up. I suspect in 2018 it is the same thing – but as is evidenced by human nature and the course of events, no matter how impossible things may seem, they always work out. Maybe not exactly how we imagined, or in the timeframe we imagined it in, but it always works out.
Keep that in mind – and in the meantime, head back to 1976 for the next two hours and have a listen.