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U.S Presidential Election 1980 (Return of the Kennedys)

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‹ 1976 Flag of the United States 1984 › ›
United States presidential election, 1980
November 4, 1980
Nominee Ted Kennedy George Bush John B Anderson
Party Democratic Republican Independent
Electoral vote 249 290 0
Popular vote 41,870,684 41,784,174 2.262.115
Percentage 48.4% 48.3% 2.8%
1980 Election (RTK)
Red-Reagan

Blue-Kennedy

President before election
Jimmy Carter
Democratic
Elected President
Ted Kennedy
Democratic

Background

In 1980, the American Economy had taken a downturn from the late 70's recovery. Many blamed this on the standing Carter Administration. To make things worse the, Shah of Iran had been forced into exile by the Iranian Revolution and 55 American Ambassadors were taken hostage. Jimmy Carter failed to immediately recover the hostages and grew ever more unpopular. The final blow to his reelection chances came when he could not even make a healthcare settlement with his own party, this meant that the White House was up for grabs by all that were well known and wealthy enough to pursue it.

Democratic Primaries

Ted Kennedy was at the root of dissent against Carter within the Democratic Party, surfacing when they failed to negotiate a healthcare plan: Carter highlighted that Kennedy refused to cooperate on anything because he was planning to run for President. Kennedy launched his campaign quickly in the fall of 1979 with an extensive coast to coast venture, traveling a total 15,000 miles and 80 towns and cities, slamming Carter accusing him of being incompetent, ignorant and over proud.

" The problem with Carter's Foreign Policy is that he likes to play with the marbles while our servicemen and ambassadors are attacked overseas."

Speech in Reno, Nevada

In the end, weak reprisals from Carter and Kennedy's Chicago Address "The Dreams of the New Deal and My Brother Marches On" assured Kennedy the nomination. Carter refused to concede until the National Democratic Convention in New York.

Republican Primaries

Ronald Reagan, near winner of the 1976 Republican Primaries, was the favorite of the Republican Primaries, and again tried in 1980. Reagan won in the first round of the 1980 Republican Convention in Detroit but failed ultimately to overtake George Bush.

General Election

Tedkennedy1980dnc1

Ted Kennedy at a Campaign Rally in Miami

Abiding by Federal Campaign Laws Bush and Kennedy both received 29.4 million each in campaign funds while third party candidate John B. Anderson was given a limit of 18.5 million. The three were allowed to spend any other money. Kennedy spent 12 million on television ads and focused more on large city rallies and demonstrations to carry out his campaign in a way that rejuvenated a declining voter base.

John B. Anderson poising himself as an centrist candidate at first had up to 25% approval rating was pushed to the side by both Kennedy and Reagan by September and lost focus and attention.

Reagan's platform strongly favored an increase in national defense spending and to end "Trust Me Government". He strongly criticized the Wind Fall Profit Tax Act that Congress and Carter had enacted that year in regards to Domestic Oil Production and promised to repeal it as President,

Kennedy announced that he would create a New Deal Two to get America out of its recession:

Platform of New Deal Two

  • A Universal Health Care System
  • Investments in Green Technology
  • Investments in Education
  • An Accelerated Development Plan for Public Works Projects Around the Country

In October the debates between Kennedy and Bush became a confrontation of all of the politics of the past 40 years and the pure opposite visions for the country polarized American Politics, leading to a near violent confrontation on both sides in Philadelphia. With crowds of about 25,000, campaign demonstrators stared each other down in October the 20th, Reagan and Kennedy both arrived, shook hands and pledged an attitude of American Friendship to each other to settle the tense situation. Still however neither candidate could be found superior to each other.

On Election Day, Reagan managed to fulfill the Republican Southern Strategy while Kennedy received a solid base in New England and Washington State winning by 100,000 votes.

The Electoral Vote on the other hand turned into a solid tie after the declaration of Kennedy's Victory in Florida by less than 50,000 votes. The House of Representatives voted 283 to 152 in favor of Kennedy, all but four southern Democrats voted Kennedy, all but 10 Republicans voted for Bush.

Legacy and Public Image 

It is often seen as an symbolic step of modern America and among it's most fragile, Kennedy only won by a 100,000 and then had to push his case to the Supreme Court to secure his victory, agreed as the climax of the culture wars between the American Right and the Left nearly boiling into open conflict, America had experienced Social and Political Rift since the death of Ted Kennedy's older brother JFK. In the years to follow the Second New Deal would take full swing marking a move in the polices of the United States to a Social-Democratic Model. The succeeding decade after the election is considered by the masses as a healing period from controversy of the 60's and 70's. It is a great question of what may have happened had the election gone the other way and is a common topic among historians today.

In American Popular Culture-


A Corporate America; An Alt History Book by Robert Harris published in 1996 adapted into a HBO Mockumentry in 2006, detailing how the world would change if Carter had won the Democratic Nomination.

The Greatest Day; A 20th Century Fox Feature Film released in 2008 based on the life of Ted Kennedy leading up to the 1980 Election. It was a blockbuster and an Academy Award winner.

Two Dumbchucks; A Heavy Metal Song composed by the band The Flying Nag. it is considered their first success.

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