Steve Ahlquist has been writing his Mythographical Meanderings over at ForcesofGeek.com for two years now. If you haven’t been reading his column you’re missing out. We’ll be posting excerpts from his best essays with links back to FOB where you can read the rest. This essay was originally published March 9, 2009.
The presidential election of 1976 is generally considered to have been held, like most recent presidential elections, between two parties, the Republican Party, who presented as their candidate Gerald “Jerry” Ford, and the Democratic Party, who put forward James “Jimmy” Carter. In the aftermath of the Watergate Scandal and Nixon’s resignation, there was much dissatisfaction among the voting public with the major parties, and for the first time, there were serious attempts by third party candidates to achieve the presidency.
Eugene McCarthy ran as an independent. Roger McBride was the Libertarian candidate, and Peter Camejo was running for the Socialist Workers Party. Another key factor was that for the first time since 1960 there were held a series of three televised Presidential Debates, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Ratings for the first debate were okay, but for the second debate they were much worse. In an attempt to garner ratings, ABC TV executives instructed their producers to extend invitations to candidates from all the minor and trivial parties, with the policy that the first three candidates to respond would be granted a place on the stage. By the time the television executives and the League of Women Voters realized what a mistake they made, it was already too late.
The debate, held on October 22, 1976 was hosted by Barbara Walters, and consisted of five candidates. Here is the unaltered transcript: