Is Pete Buttigieg Jimmy Carter 2.0?Roundup
tags: Jimmy Carter, election 2020, Pete Buttigieg
J. Brooks Flippen is an historian and author of four books, including "Speaker Jim Wright: Power, Scandal, and the Birth of Modern Politics."
With the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary now behind us, people who lived through the past may be experiencing a little deja vu. Forty-four years ago, at exactly the same point in the 1976 presidential election campaign, the nation seethed in the wake of presidential scandal. Republican incumbent Gerald Ford had not instigated the infamous Watergate fiasco, but he had pardoned the culprit, his predecessor Richard Nixon. It was a quid pro quo, many Democrats clamored, suggesting that Nixon had selected Ford for the vice presidency in the midst of the scandal only in exchange for his potential pardon.
Democrats, who had won big in the midterm congressional elections two years before, saw opportunity but were perilously divided. Their ideological and younger left wing battled the party’s more traditional moderates, while new faces focused on winning suburbanites entered the fray with a message of more efficient government and empowerment.
Much of the electorate was simply disgusted with it all, longing for a fresh face, someone new to Washington, someone to save the broken system. This yearning would catapult little-known former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, his relative inexperience almost a plus, to the White House. And the lessons from Carter’s campaign and presidency shed light on the quest of an almost eerily similar candidate today: former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Like Carter, the former long-shot mayor has emerged as one of the front-runners by winning Iowa and performing well on Tuesday in New Hampshire, finishing a close second. Like the former president, Buttigieg grew up in a middle-class household — Carter’s father was a prominent landowner and Buttigieg’s father a professor. Both served in the Navy, Carter having attended the U.S. Naval Academy and Buttigieg having served with the Naval Reserve in Afghanistan. When they declared their presidential ambitions, both were derided as too inexperienced and thus garnered little media attention.
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