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Analysis of Presidential Election Campaign: Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter

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The purpose of this paper is to analyze the presidential election campaign of 1980. Each of the two candidates, Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter, will be examined in this report. Each candidate will be examined in terms of their political background and experience prior to the campaign. In addition, both candidates will be observed concerning the major issues relevant to the 1980 campaign. Lastly, the results of the 1980 presidential election will be addressed in terms of the effect that this particular election had on American Politics and what both short term and long term effects impacted American citizens.

A one time actor to then a governor of California, Ronald Reagan faced a multitude of adversities following up to the 1980 presidential campaign. After moving to California in 1937, Reagan became President twice of the Screen Actors Guild, a labor union for actors, which he worked to root out Communist influence (6). In the 1950s, he moved into television and was a motivational speaker at General Electric factories (1). In 1964, Reagan began to circulate through the political parties after his speech, 'A Time for Choosing', which supported Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, earning him national awareness as a new conservative spokesman. By building a network of supporters, Reagan was elected governor of California in 1966. As governor, Reagan raised taxes, changed the state budget deficit to a surplus, and responded accordingly to protest movements in 1969 (6). After years of acquiring political support and building his name, Reagan ran twice unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976. Yet, four years later, Reagan decided to run again for office.

Reagan kept his message for the 1980 campaign straightforward: he promoted the idea that lower taxes and decreased federal expenditures would help strengthen the domestic economy. According to Reagan’s, high taxes were inflationary and inhibited Americans from saving, investing, and producing. By evaluating the government's effects on the American people he composed the idea to reduce the federal government entirely. Throughout the 1980 campaign, Reagan argued that the federal government’s blown up size prevented prosperity and was a problematic situation that needed to be addressed (2).

Additionally, Reagan emphasized two other policy proposals during his campaign. He offered solutions to the nation’s energy problems, by declaring that the United States must work to produce more domestic energy sources. The essence of his energy plan focused on increasing the productivity of America’s energy sources through deregulation. In foreign affairs, Reagan promised an increase in pay and benefits for the armed services and a strengthening of the military. Reagan claimed that his proposals would strengthen the military’s numbers by making reenlistment an unrefusable option for those already serving.

Reagan’s 1980 campaign advertised several policy positions that went from different spectrums of diversity relating to America’s greatest oppositions during the time period. For example, Reagan criticized the United States’ relationship with the Soviet Union. He believed that in order to defeat communism, the United States should build relationships with its allies to secure international posture. He also stressed his commitment to end discrimination against women, calling for an association with state governments to repeal discriminatory regulation (3). Lastly, Reagan ran on a “moral leadership” platform which promised to renew a “spiritual revival” in the country. However, controversial topics such as school prayer and abortion was rarely mentioned in the 1980 campaign (5). Instead, Reagan’s 1980 rhetoric consisted more of a feel good approach that advocated a moral hindsight of American life. Yet as the 1980 presidential campaign took root, the Republican nominees began to surplus. A figure of power and determination, also from the Republican party, challenged Reagan during the primaries and eventually became Reagan's greatest opposition.

Candidate Bush, a former representative and Central Intelligence Agency director, began to push as the primary elections went on and posed a threat to Reagan. Bush had won over the moderate Republicans who worried that Reagan’s conservatism might isolate the broader electorate. As Bush began to rack up number of supporters in the states, the contest between the two began to tensen. Bush would use adhomienian attacks on Reagan to persuade voters to have a negative perception on Reagan; claiming that his ideas to lower taxes would be “voodoo economics” (5).

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In a debate in Nashua, N.H., hostility between Bush and Reagan flared up in public. A debate between the two was set up by the Nashua Telegraph, yet it was considered to violate Federal Election Commission rules since the debate originally circulated around Reagan and Bush only. Inevitably, the debate didn’t help Americans decipher who would be a better face of the country as both the manners were distasteful ending with Reagan fleeing the stage. Bush eventually abandoned his campaign for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in May 1980 and threw his support behind Reagan. However, even though Reagan passed one obstacle, there were more determined nominees in his future.

Jimmy Carter, part of the Democrate party, had a role in politics much longer than Reagan did, making him a credible nominee for presidency. Carter graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946 and later joined the United States Navy. Carter became an activist within the Democratic party from 1963 to 1967 where he served in the Georgia State Senate. In 1970 he was elected as Governor of Georgia staying till 1975. One year later Carter won the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination, narrowly defeating Republican President Gerald Ford. Carter is credited with significantly moving his faith closer to the American mainstream; him advertising his Christian faith as a qualification on the campaign was new at the time and is seen as a significant event in the rise of the Christian movement in America.

During Carter's term as President, significant changes were made that strengthened Americas stability as a strong nation. Two new cabinet level departments, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, were established (7). He also established a national energy policy that included conservation, price control, and new technology (7). In foreign affairs, Carter pursued the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, the second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, and the return of the Panama Canal Zone. On the economic overlook, he confronted constant stagflation, a combination of high inflation, high unemployment and slow growth. The end of his presidential administration was marked by the 1979–1981 Iran hostage crisis, the 1979 energy crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (4). In response to the Soviet invasion, Carter escalated the Cold War when he ended detente, pressed a grain embargo against the Soviets, and created the Carter Doctrine.

By the time the 1980 campaign had begun, the country was increasingly dissatisfied with the motives of the government and more importantly with Carter. As the months rolled by, the nation was devastated by high inflation and unemployment, gasoline shortages, and the hostage crisis in Iran (1). Carter seemed weak and insufficecient in office not taking great enough steps to help the American people.

Reagan proved to be the best choice for the job having new ideas and a right moral compass. Many people thought that he was too extreme, but the electorate decided to give the former movie star a chance to rebuild the American status. Reagan defeated Carter in a landslide, winning 44 million votes to Carter's 35.5 million votes (1)

Dealing expertly with Congress, Reagan obtained legislation to invigorate economic growth, curb inflation, increase employment, and strengthen national defense. He initiated cutting taxes and government investment, refusing to diverge from his plan even when the strengthening of defense forces led to a large deficit. During his two terms he increased defense spending by 35 percent, but looked to improve relations with the Soviet Union. In meetings with former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, he negotiated a treaty that would eliminate intermediate-range nuclear missiles (5). Reagan also declared war against international terrorism, and it was marked by sending American bombers against Libya after evidence came out that Libya was involved in an attack on American soldiers in West Berlin. Reagan also helped maintain the flow of oil during the Iran- Iraq war by ordering naval escorts in the Persian Gulf. After creating the Reagan Doctrine, he gave support to anti-Communist revolts in Central America, Asia, and Africa (6). By the end of his administration, the nation was enjoying its longest recorded period of prosperity without depression (6).

In conclusion, Reagan left a monumental political legacy. Reagan carried Republicans into control of the Senate when he won the presidency in 1980. After he was reelected in 1984, it became clear that Democrats would be unlikely to return to the White House (5). Although Democrats controlled the House throughout the Reagan presidency, the Republicans won control for the first time in 40 years in 1994 under the banner of Newt Gingrich's 'Contract With America,' an assortment of unfinished Reagan proposals. Today there are more avowed Reagan Republicans in Congress than there ever were during Reagan's lifetime. To show the true impact of Reagan's legacy and impact on American politics, the 2008 contest for the Republican presidential nomination showed that all the candidates proclaimed that they would follow in Reagan's footsteps.

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Analysis of Presidential Election Campaign: Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-presidential-election-campaign-republican-ronald-reagan-and-democrat-jimmy-carter/
“Analysis of Presidential Election Campaign: Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-presidential-election-campaign-republican-ronald-reagan-and-democrat-jimmy-carter/
Analysis of Presidential Election Campaign: Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-presidential-election-campaign-republican-ronald-reagan-and-democrat-jimmy-carter/> [Accessed 1 Mar. 2024].
Analysis of Presidential Election Campaign: Republican Ronald Reagan and Democrat Jimmy Carter [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Mar 1]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/analysis-of-presidential-election-campaign-republican-ronald-reagan-and-democrat-jimmy-carter/
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