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Election 2000
Democratic National Convention
Photo courtesy of the
The Carter Center
Conventions Past:
The Past is Prologue
Hear speakers from past Republican Conventions:

Jordan Barbara Jordan

Conventions Past
1976: Aftermath of Watergate Unify Democrats

By 1976, the primary season had all but replaced the political convention as the proving ground for presidential candidates. Jimmy Carter, a former Georgia governor, emerged from political obscurity as the Watergate scandal eroded the power of the Republican Party and hurt national confidence in Washington, D.C.

Carter, a former Naval officer turned peanut farmer, had no Washington ties. He used his outsider status and southern influence to eclipse a far better-known group of rivals. He started by winning the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, then sealed his legitimacy by defeating conservative Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the Florida primary.

Carter went on to earn a first-ballot victory at the Democratic convention in New York City.

Democrats used the convention to keep Watergate fresh in the minds of the nation's voters. A star of the Watergate proceedings on Capitol Hill -- Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas -- was chosen to deliver the keynote address.

Jordan was the first black woman elected to Congress from a southern state. And she was one of the most gifted orators the nation had produced. Listen to her address, entitled "Who Then Will Speak for the Common Good?"

Despite her Watergate prominence, Jordan resisted the temptation to attack Republicans. She instead made a vivid appeal to her fellow Americans to "begin again to shape a common good... a common future."

audio button Listen to Jordan's remarks.

In 1992, Barbara Jordan returned to the Democratic convention to deliver another keynote address. Less than four years later -- not yet 60 years of age -- she was dead of complications related to leukemia.

Candidate Carter picked Senator Walter Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate. He used a convention inspired by Jordan's oratory to build a sizeable lead in the polls against President Gerald Ford, who served as vice president under Nixon and who ran with Senator Bob Dole of Kansas.

Despite a late surge by the Republican campaign, Carter was elected in the fall of 1976. He served one term as president before the Reagan Revolution in 1980 swept Republicans back into the White House for the next 12 years.

Web link: The Carter Center

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