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Monday, March 19, 2012

March 19, Presidential Losers: Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford, 1976

The election of 1876 centered on the biggest presidential scandal up to that time - the engineered election of Rutherford "Rutherfraud" B Hayes.  For the Bicentennial, we out-did ourselves.  As he was proud of saying about himself, Nixon was no quitter.  This is what he said the day he quit.  His vice-president Spiro Agnew, having earlier resigned in disgrace, the administration had selected Gerald Ford as the new VP.  He'd been second banana less than ten months before Nixon's resignation and his ascension to the top spot.  In his speech accepting the presidency, Ford said, "Let us restore the golden rule to our political process, and let brotherly love purge our hearts of suspicion and hate."  Less than a month later, in a touching display of brotherly love and golden-rulism, Ford pardonned Nixon of any crimes "he may have committed against the United States."  Lyndon Johnson once opined that Ford had spent too much time playing football without a helmet, but this underestimated a canny and resourceful statesman.  Battling a sagging economy and rising prices, in a nationally-televised speech Ford introduced the "WIN" button, urging Americans to wear the red-and-white button standing for "Whip Inflation Now."  It is unclear how many Americans actually wore the button, but no economist has ever been able to calculate the effect wearing these buttons had on the nation's economy.  Against Ford was a relative unknown from Georgia, Jimmy Carter; but following years of political scandal that seemed to touch virtually every politician in DC, the last thing Americans wanted was a known.  Given this, it's surprising Carter didn't have a bigger victory, winning by the popular vote by a margin of only 2 percent, but a win is a win is a button.


Jimmy Carter: 297
Gerald Ford: 240

1 comment:

  1. The thing I remember most about the 1976 election was the Democratic Convention. In 1972, McGovern had only carried D.C. and Massachusetts on his way to a landslide defeat. And after Nixon's resignation over Watergate, the best bumper sticker was "Don't Blame Me...I'm From Massachusetts!" And whenever a delegate from Massachusetts would take the microphone to speak at the convention, he or she would always start out: "Mr. Chairman...the great state of Massachusetts...the 'I TOLD YOU SO' state..."