WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT. When I was 16 years old, before I could even vote, I volunteered for Jimmy Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign. The experience left a mark on my life that’s with me today.


I don’t care if you like former President Jimmy Carter. Most people don’t.

I do.

I don’t think he was as bad of a president as everybody rants. He wasn’t as effective or as good as I had hoped, but he certainly wasn’t the worst. He did some good things, he did some bad things, which I’m not getting into — nobody cares anyway.

But after seeing this story in Politico today — 2020 Democrats see Jimmy Carter as the antidote to Trump — I had to laugh. At least now, after all these years, former President Jimmy Carter is finally getting some love (attention and respect) from fellow Democrats.

It’s about time.

David Siders writes for Politico: “After a decades-long climb from the gutter of public opinion, the truth-telling one-term ex-president is suddenly a sought-after commodity in the 2020 Democratic presidential campaign — a symbol candidates can wrap themselves around as everything Donald Trump is not.”

Siders notes that Sens. Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar have met with Carter separately and that the ex-president has become a “constant point of reference early in the campaign for Democrats polling outside of the top tier.”

Good. As he should be.

What attracted me to Carter way back when was the time, the mid 1970s. I remember sitting in a friend’s room wondering if we’d be called to service in Vietnam (even though we were still too young). I remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV during summer vacation rather than going outside to “play.” I watched a tiny black-and-white TV in my bedroom the night Nixon resigned.

Jimmy Carter on the campaign trail. Photo by Dan Langendorf.

It was a time that should have soured me on politics, politicians, and government — kind of like now. But it didn’t. Thanks in part to Jimmy Carter.

As far as I could tell — in a time before the internet and the onslaught of social media — Carter stood for truth, honesty, decency, integrity, humanity, hard work, caring, and respect for the institutions essential in our lives as Americans.

Were things perfect? Was Carter perfect? Of course not. Could things have improved? Could he have made better decisions? Of course.

Carter’s post-presidency work only amplified those worthy attributes — his work with the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity. His winning the 2002 Nobel Prize for “his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” And, let’s not forget, the more than 30 books he authored himself.

I believe those attributes are just as valuable today as they were back in the mid 1970s, but they seem long gone from politics, our politicians, and our government. And what were we left with?

Trump.

Jimmy Carter autographed one of his books for me long after he left office.

The morally bankrupt Republicans.

The Fox News apparatus.

And so on.

I’m not saying the Clintons, the Obamas, and the past four decades of Democrats were perfect. They are not without fault or blame here.

But at least today’s Democrats — young and old, men and women, people of various backgrounds and perspectives — are trying to fix the party and get American democracy back on track, awakening it from a 40-year stupor that most likely began the day Reagan routed Carter.

Will there be disagreements between Democrats heading into 2020? Will they argue and fight and challenge each other on issues, ideas, programs? Of course. That’s politics. That’s what we need. Honest discussion and debate. It’s healthy.

As long as there is a foundation of truth, honesty, decency, integrity, humanity, hard work, caring, and respect for all. Kind of Carter-esque, isn’t it?


About the Featured Image. I took the picture of Carter on the campaign trail, most likely in St. Petersburg or Tampa, Florida, probably in 1976. I’m not sure I even have the negatives any more. What I like about the picture is Carter’s rolled up sleeves, his smile, and his earnestness.

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