Had it not have been for 1974 and the Watergate scandal, Jimmy Carter doesn’t get elected President of the United States, at least in 1976. He probably runs for reelection for Governor of Georgia in 1974 and probably gets reelected and waits for 1980. And looks at his options then. Jimmy Carter, basically was in a time that was perfect for someone like him, after Watergate and President Nixon resigning in 1974. Americans were looking for decent honest person to lead the country.
Which is what President Gerry Ford was, but they were also looking for an outsider and a new voice that was not from Washington. Not a cabinet official, or someone in Congress, but a breath of fresh air, someone who wasn’t an elitist and someone who spoke their mind and could take the country on a different course. And perhaps end the gridlock in Washington and to a certain extent that’s what President Carter brought to Washington. He was able to pass a lot of legislation out of Congress.
Yes President Carter, had a Democratic Congress with large majorities, including a 3-5 majority in the Senate his first two years. But he was also able to get a lot of Congressional Republicans to vote for his legislation, because he worked with the Republican Leadership in the House and Senate. He probably actually had more Republican allies in Congress, than Democratic allies. He had problems with Congressional Democrats.
Former Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole who was in Congress during the Carter Administration, once said that Jimmy Carter was the smartest President he had ever served with, which might be true. But great intelligence and knowledge is a great thing to have as President, but you also have to have a political feel as a politician. You have to know what you want to do, where you want to take the country and how far you can take it, based on the political situation and what’s possible.
Which is something that President Carter didn’t have unlike President’s Reagan and Clinton and wasn’t sure how to communicate a message that he could get Americans to rally behind. And move Americans to get their Senators and Representatives behind him. He also had a Democratic Congress to deal with that was run by New Deal/Great Society Progressive/New Left Democrats, that since there was a Democratic President, automatically felt that it was time to move back to days of the Great Society and big government progressivism. And that wasn’t the type of Democrat that Jimmy Carter was.
President Carter, was ahead of his time in the Democratic Party in this sense. That he understood the limits of the Federal Government. And that there was only so much that it could do on its own to solve the nation’s problems and that it was time for a different approach. And even though his political feel wasn’t that good, he understood that by the late 1970s, that America had moved past the Progressive Era. And that Americans were ready for a different approach. Which also caused him problems with Congressional Democrats. So Jimmy Carter, ended up being a President with few allies in Washington, which made his job even more difficult.