Political Elections, Social Movements

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio? Our Nation Turns Its’ Lonely Eyes Towards You: The 1980 Presidential Election

There are certain presidential campaigns where one can practically feel the tension in the air almost, as if there is a battle for the soul of the American nation taking place. I think the past election of 2020 certainly qualifies. Some past historical presidential campaigns that also had this significance in my opinion would be those of 1960, 1968 and the one I will discuss a bit here, 1980. The summer of 79 witnessed the emergence of gas lines throughout much of the country, yearly inflation that reached the double digits, mortgages with 20 percent interest rates, the three American auto manufacturers failing dismally and American productivity and manufacturing quality overall very much in decline. In regards to international relations and foreign policy matters there was even more pessimism. The year saw the Sandinista Victory in Nicaragua which established the second communist run nation within the Western Hemisphere. Islamic fundamentalism began to explode throughout the Middle East, especially once the Islamic Republic was established in Iran with the fall of the Shah in the earlier part of the year. Christian Fundamentalism in the United States was also increasing greatly as many Americans began to feel there was a moral rot of sorts taking place in American Society. During the fall of 1979 things became even worse when American diplomatic staff was taken hostage when the American Embassy was stormed by militants in Tehran, Iran. Americans woke up each morning to see video footage on the morning talk showing effigies of Carter and America being parade in front of the seized embassy in a mocking and demeaning manner. For many Americans this incident symbolized a sort of basement low point of sorts. This atmosphere of anxiety, pessimism and national angst was how the 1980 Presidential Campaign kicked off and which would lead to the political demise of Jimmy Carter and the election of the former governor of California and Hollywood “B” movie actor Ronald Reagan.