The making of the President 1976
By the time the 1976 campaign rolled around I was teaching at Sam Houston High School in Houston, awaiting letters of acceptance or rejection to law school. Nixon and his crooked V.P. Agnew had resigned in disgrace and Gerald R. Ford was running the country. There was no way in hell that a Democrat could lose in 1976, but they almost found a way.1976 was supposed to have been Ted Kennedy’s year but he had messed it up by drowning a female office staffer whom everyone assumed he was sleeping with. With Ted gone a vacuum was created in the Democratic party since they were now fresh out of Kennedys’. The vacuum was filled by a born again, peanut growing one term Governor from Georgia who had siblings and a mother right out of the “Adams Family” and I don’t mean John Adams.
At the time I was down on born again Christians, actually, I am only slightly less down on them today. I hesitated in supporting Carter and, as it turned out, I was wise to do so. But poor Ford was such a buffoon that I never took his candidacy seriously until about 1980 when I saw how Jimmy had performed. The only thing I admired about Ford was that he beat back the nomination attempt of Ronald Reagan whom I was very sure had the numbers 666 tattooed on the back of his neck.
By the fall I had headed for Austin and watched the rest of the campaign from there. Despite the fact that two morons were running (and this is not at all unusual in American politics at any level) my law school class was intense about the race. It was probably divided about half and half until the debates. The first since 1960. The debates showed that Carter could sound sincere and had a nice smile and confirmed that Ford was a bumbling nincompoop who, in the words of Lyndon Johnson, had played too much football without a helmet. By the end of the debates most of my law school compadres had decided to vote for Carter.
1976 was the longest voting line I had ever stood in. Two hours. I was married by then and had to physically hold onto my wife to prevent her from leaving before she could vote for Jimmy. Rayda has never like lines. By the time I got home, Carter, who was essentially tied with Ford coming into election day seemed very confident of victory. But it was not as easy as he thought that it would be. As the hours wore on, the election appeared to hang on the outcome of Mississippi and Hawaii. Ohio was so close that we would not know how they voted until the next day. Late in the night, the networks finally called Mississippi and Hawaii for Carter and the Democrats were back in the White House for the first time in eight years. After a very short stay they would be out for twelve more years. Carter turned out to be everything we thought he would be, and even less. My wife and I were overjoyed that Jimmy had won. What’s that old expression about being careful what you ask for ?