Ford and Carter
*Gerald Ford is the
only president never
elected to the executive office. Even other vice-presidents who
had been elected on a ticket with their running mate. Ford,
appointed to the office of the Vice-President by Nixon when Nixon’s old
Spiro Agnew was charged with taking bribes when he was governor of
*When Ford came to power, the nation was deeply disillusioned by Watergate, the war, and all the economic and social problems of the early 1970s. Ford was seen as a good man who offered the chance to fix these problems. However, when Ford pardoned Nixon for any potential crimes he may have committed (although Nixon never admitted to being guilty), many people lost faith in him, concluding that he was as corrupt as any other politician. Ford wanted to just get the long national nightmare over with, but many citizens accused him of selling out.
*Ford also had the
misfortune of making a
couple stumbles on television. Although he was, in fact, quite an
athlete, having been on the
*When Ford took office, the country was in a recession (that is, the economy was shrinking, with fewer jobs and less money to go around), but it also had bad inflation and suffered from the energy crisis and gas shortages. Ford had perhaps the most difficult economic challenge since FDR. However, Ford, being conservative, did not believe in the wide-ranging government spending FDR had tried (and he also doubted the government could afford it). His plan to fix the economy was a voluntary programme called ‘Whip Inflation Now,’ or WIN. People were asked to wear WIN buttons to show support, to grow their own vegetables rather than buy over-priced food at the grocery store, to save money rather than spend it, to conserve fuel by not travelling or by carpooling or taking the bus, and to turn off lights and faucets that were not in use. Most people were not willing to make these changes, and WIN had little impact.
*Ford and Congress did eventually pass a tax cut and an increase in unemployment benefits, but he vetoed many bills to give more government funding to education, public housing, health care, and other forms of welfare. Congress over-rode his vetoes, overturning a higher percentage than any Congress since that of Franklin Pierce’s administration in the 1850s.
*Ford kept Kissinger
as Secretary of State
and followed his policy of détente. Ford visited many of
allies, and was the first
*Many Americans were disillusioned with more than politics. The 1970s are sometimes called the ‘Me Decade’ because pampered Baby Boomers, now safe from the draft and influenced by the free love and the drug use of the 1960s, seemed to ignore traditional morality. The divorce rate doubled between 1965 and 1979 and so did the number of babies born out of wedlock. Roe v. Wade legalised abortion nationwide in 1973. The War on Drugs began as many drugs were outlawed by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (although marijuana, heroin, and LSD were already illegal).
*Many religious fundamentalists (20% of Americans by 1980) reacted against this decline in morality, particularly televangelists such as Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, and Pat Robertson. They wanted a return to prayer in schools, an end to abortion, and a reduction in divorce and illegitimate birth rates.
*During the Me Decade, many people also turned to self-improvement. Exercise, especially jogging, became popular, as did body-building and the health-food movement.
*There was one bright
spot in the
decade: in 1976, the nation celebrated its bicentennial, the
anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
fireworks, parades, and hundreds of sailing ships sailing through
*1976 was also an election year. Ford ran again, but Americans were sick of the professional politicians in Washington who they felt were too corrupt to run the country. Also, since he had never been elected president, even his own party had many members who thought they could do a better job than he.
*In 1976, Ford was beaten by a Democrat who had never had any national political experience.
*Jimmy Carter had
been an engineer in the
navy, and later a peanut farmer in his home state of
*Carter was a down-home kind of guy. He walked in his own inaugural parade rather than riding in a limousine, a brave thing to do considering that two women had tried to kill Ford at different times during his presidency. It showed that Carter trusted the American people and, unlike Nixon, did not have anything to hide.
*Carter appointed more women, blacks, and Hispanics to government positions than any other president had ever done. However, he also cut welfare programmes and other government spending in order to save money, hoping to lower taxes and reduce the Federal debt, because the US were still in bad economic shape. He also raised interest rates, which eventually helped end inflation.
*Some people also accused Carter of not doing enough for civil rights because he did not fight for affirmative action (created by LBJ) when people began to attack it in the courts as reverse discrimination. For the moment, the courts said that colleges could consider race as an aspect of admissions, but could not set racial quotas.
*He deregulated many industries, saving the government money because it no longer had to supervise them, and supposedly making them more competitive. In many cases this made for better businesses, but sometimes it allowed unsafe conditions and corruption to go unstopped.
*One of the biggest
*Many people thought nuclear power was the answer. It had the potential to be clean, cheap, and an unlimited source of energy. However, no-one had yet found a way to actually make it cheaper than coal-burning power plants or TVA’s hydroelectricity. Furthermore, some people feared it was dangerous.
*In March 1979, there
was an accident at the
nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island, near
*Carter upset many
conservatives but pleased
many families in
*In foreign affairs, Carter had some successes but more failures.
*When Carter took
office, détente was going
well for the
*Things went beyond
the point of repair when
foreign policy problem was in
*In January 1979
revolution broke out in
*The hostage crisis
was a major issue in the
1980 election. The Republican, Ronald Reagan, a former actor and