As we anxiously await the ascendancy of President-Elect Barack Obama, I’m reminded of another anxious time in our nation’s history and another momentous Presidential inauguration—that of Ronald Reagan.
Governor Reagan rose to national prominence in 1976, after challenging then President Gerald Ford for the Republican Party Presidential nomination. Reagan, a staunch conservative, lost to Ford, a moderate Republican and Nixon appointee, in a hard fought primary campaign. Reagan, however, gained considerable stature within the party after Ford lost the general election to Democratic Governor Jimmy Carter.
As a political novice, Jimmy Carter was the metaphorical breath of fresh air to a troubled nation. He was the change America so desperately yearned for after years of war, civil unrest, and political scandal. In the end, what we needed and what we got were two totally different things.
I still have vivid memories of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. These memories include 18% interest rates, economic stagflation, Olympic boycotts, and a new late night news program called Nightline that gave us continuous coverage of the Iran hostage crisis. Four years of insecurity, indecision, inept foreign and domestic policy, and presidential malaise proved to be Carter’s undoing. Jimmy Carter simply became overwhelmed by the course of events. By the time the 1980 presidential elections rolled around, we were looking for something much more profound then change. We were looking for leadership. The rest is history.
As President-Elect Obama takes office, I wish him well. I hope and pray his mantra for change can deliver us from economic catastrophe and give us renewed peace and prosperity. However, if the “change” mantra should fail to deliver and another novice President becomes overwhelmed by the course of events, the eyes of a nation will be looking forward to the 2012 presidential inauguration—and scanning the political horizon for Ronald Reagan incarnate.