Fallout from the Carter Years

Richard Nixon resigned. At the close of our last mix, the new President Ford pardoned him. He felt bipartisan heat because of it, fair or not. Americans skipped ahead to the next election, and so shall we.

Eager to regain the White House after the turbulent Nixon-Ford years, the Democrats nominate a peanut farmer from Georgia. His name was Jimmy Carter, and he would be the only Democrat elected to the White House between 1968 and 1992.

1. The Boys Are Back In Town — 1976 — Thin Lizzy
2. DNC Keynote Address — 1976 — Barbara Jordan
3. Walk This Way — 1976 — Aerosmith
4. Democratic Convention Acceptance Speech — 1976 — Jimmy Carter
5. Don’t Fear the Reaper — 1976 — Blue Oyster Cult
6. Peace — 1977 — Anwar al-Sadat
7. Stayin Alive — 1977 — Bee Gees
8. Heart Of Glass — 1978 — Blondie

9. Women’s Work — 1978 — Margaret Mead
10. I Wanna Be Sedated — 1978 — The Ramones
11. Crisis of Confidence — 1979 — Jimmy Carter
12. Complete Control — 1979 — The Clash
13. Rock Lobster — 1979 — B-52’s
14. 1980 DNC Address — 1980 — Edward Kennedy
15. That’s Entertainment — 1980 — The Jam
16. Inaurgural Address 1981 — 1981 — Ronald Reagan
17. Super Freak — 1981 — Rick James
18. The Message — 1982 — Grandmaster Flash
19. On the Falkland Islands — 1982 — Margret Thatcher
20. Beat It — 1982 — Michael Jackson
21. The Evil Empire — 1983 — Ronald Reagan
22. Sweet Dreams — 1983 — Eurythmics
23. Religious Belief and Public Morality — 1984 — Mario Cuomo
24. When Doves Cry — 1984 — Prince
25. 1984 Vice Presidential Nomination — 1984 — Geraldine Ferraro
26. Pride — 1984 — U2
27. Keynote Address for the DNC — 1984 — Mario Cuomo
28. Born In The U.S.A. — 1984 — Bruce Springsteen

Once we hit 1980, the Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs stops being as reliable of a resource. I blame the generational bias of the aging hippies who are now the editors of Rolling Stone, but that’s just me.

Fortunately, there’s still more than enough songs to fill up the 80 minutes of an audio CD once I added my chosen speeches, though they perhaps weren’t as relevant to the content of the speeches.

Reservations aside, let’s take a closer look at what I came up with.

“The Boys Are Back In Town” was the best song to start off our mix, if only because the first speech that follows it was delivered by Barbara Jordan, a black lesbian woman who first made headlines for passionately arguing in favor of Richard Nixon’s impeachment, covered on the last mix.

Jordan tells Democrats in her speech that once every American decides individually to become part of an international community, “no president can veto that decision.” Aerosmith’s 1976 hit “Walk This Way,” later famously covered by rap duo Run-D.M.C., fits in nicely here.

Egyptian leader Anwar al-Sadat petitioned for Israeli-Palestinian peace famously during the Carter administration, noting that “Pursuing peace is the only avenue which is compatible with our culture and our creed. Let there be no more wars or bloodshed.” Seminal disco hit “Stayin’ Alive” works almost too well.

Later, when Jimmy Carter worries aloud about the nation’s crisis of confidence in his administration, he seems to want to impress upon the public that he had everything under Complete Control. It isn’t anything more than coincidental that the British rock group The Clash had a song with that name in the same year, but it serves this mix to throw it in.

In an ironic twist of fate, Edward Kennedy, after a particularly bloody primary fight with Carter that dragged all the way to the nomination, insisted in 1980 that the dreams, goals and valiant effort of the Democratic Party will never be forgotten.

Republican Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, would be elected that year, radically reorganizing the political spectrum. Democrats, whose support was hugely undercut by disenchanted Reagan Democrats, tried to reorganize in 1984. They would fail.

Yet perhaps the best speech on the whole collection is the keynote that then-Gov. Mario Cuomo of New York gave to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. He posits that his Democratic party:

… which has saved this nation from depression, from facism, from racism, from corruption is called upon to do it again. This time, to save the nation from confusion and division, from the threat of eventual fiscal disaster, and, most of all, from the fear of a nuclear holocaust.

It would take an independent, third-party challenger before the Democrats would retake the White House. However critically that party railed against the Republicans, the electorate disagreed, siding with the party of Lincoln.

Bruce Springsteen would write “Born in the U.S.A” during that same election year as an anti-war protest. Reagan, ever spurring on the arms race, used in on his campaign trail to victory in spite of it.


“I’m ten years down the road, / Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go.”

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