Gerald Ford wins the 1976 election!

In each election, the candidates involved portray the race as the most pivotal election of all time. The supporters of Romney and Obama often claim that this is a critical juncture in American history and that we must be careful not to bungle it. Of course, the truth is that whichever candidate gets (re)elected, the nation will soldier on and survive.

That takes me to 1976. Perhaps this was a more significant election than previously assume. Let’s suppose that incumbent appointed President, Gerald Ford, defeats Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter. Ford was a moderate conservative. It is impossible to know how world events would have progressed, but let’s consider the presidents who come after Ford.

In 1980, Ford could stand for reelection again because he became President due to the resignation of President Nixon. Since he won his own election to President, the taint of never having been elected to the Executive Branch is removed. He is now a much stronger incumbent than he was in '76. Assuming now major difficulty, he would likely have withstood a challenge from Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. (Remember, Reagan nearly beat Ford for the nod in '76.) (As an aside, would the Iran hostage affair been as devastating for him as it was for Carter?)

So, relieved of a damaging primary fight, Ford wins reelection in 1980 (against whom? Mondale?) By 1984, Reagan would seem too old to be a first term President. I don’t see him getting the nomination; 1980 was his last chance. Now, the 1984 race is wide open with an ineligible GOP incumbent. Who are the candidates? Carter and Mondale are already losers; I don’t see them getting the Dem nomination. Of course, Nixon lost in 1962 and won the whole show in 1968, so maybe Carter is a possibility. Who does the GOP have at this point – Rockefeller?

Why does this matter? With a Ford win in 1976, the whole Reagan Revolution doesn’t happen. Reagan doesn’t have the opportunity to sell the GOP to the Religious Right. He doesn’t lead a “deficits don’t matter” administration and build the military-industrial complex into a budget-busting behemoth. Meanwhile, conservatives also don’t get Jimmy Carter to kick around as the “worst President ever.”

Could a Ford win in 1976 have prevented the hard-right current GOP?

Note: I turned 9 years old in October, 1976, so I have no adult recollection of these times. As a child, I favored Ford because he had experience in the job and Carter did not. My parents, Austin liberals, supported Carter.

I could see Ford losing in 1980. A lot of the stuff that soured people on Carter would have been the same under Ford.

Rockefeller died in 1979. The GOP’s candidate for 1984 would be Bob Dole or George Bush. Ted Kennedy wins re-election.

Ford wouldn’t have been eligible in 1980 after winning in 1976. He served more than two years of Nixon’s term, so he could only be elected once.

Yeah, most of Carter’s problems were with his image and how people responded to his whole populist down-home shtick. I think by most objective measures, the state of the nation during Reagan’s first term wasn’t much better than during Carter’s term, but Reagan was just so much better at deflecting blame and seeming like he was rising to challenges. The general opinion of Ford wasn’t exactly glowing either, so I could definitely see a longer Ford administration devolving into the same sort of malaise as the Carter administration did.

Yeah, and as Lord Feldon points out he wouldn’t have been eligible in '80, but I have a feeling that if the sorry state of the nation at that point could be chalked up exclusively to 12 years of Republicans, Reagan’s chances would have been a lot worse.

Oops. Upon reading the 22nd Amendment more carefully, I see you are correct. So, I suppose that, assuming a fairly successful or uneventful Ford term, Ronald Reagan could still sweep into office in 1980. The only difference is that there would be no incumbent in the race. So, I guess 1980 would be Reagan vs. Ted Kennedy. After a Republican in the White House since 1968, perhaps the electorate votes for a change and Kennedy wins.

You’re right. Kind of kills the OP, doesn’t it?

Well, it doesn’t make Ford the incumbent shoo-in that I envisioned, but it sets up an incumbent-free election in 1980. The Republicans would have been in the White House without interruption since 1968. Maybe this sets up a Democratic win in 1980. Therefore, a Ford win in 1976 may still have averted what I consider to be a disastrous Reagan Revolution.

If the Iranian hostage crisis had happened under Ford’s extended watch, the oil embargo happens, and the Soviets invade Afghanistan, then I don’t think Reagan would have beaten the Democratic candidate in 1980. Thus no right wing revolution, no disastrous tax cuts, and the whole world today lives in peace and harmony.

The Iranian hostage crisis was engineered to harm Carter.

Assuming this is not a whoosh, do you mean Carter specifically or whoever happened to be president at the time?

Aside from a general dislike of Americans and their politicians, why would the Iranian revolutionaries care about Jimmy Carter?

That’s what I think. Whoever was in would have taken in the Shah and pissed off the Iranians. They would have been just as happy to make Ford look weak as they did Carter. And there isn’t jack shit that Ford would have done that Carter wouldn’t have.

Maybe Ford gets lucky and the helicopters don’t crash in the desert. The butterfly effect and all…

The Reagan Revolution wasn’t about one man, the Republican Party would have moved to the right regardless, the real question is whether they’d have someone to rally behind who could win over independent voters and what became Reagan Democrats.

So let’s say we go into 1984, with a two-term Ford retiring. Who is the GOP nominee? I don’t think it would be George Bush. George Bush was a horrible campaigner. What he got he got because of Reagan’s coattails. I think that with Reagan out of the picture and George Bush not catching on, Jack Kemp probably would have been the nominee in 1984 and would have had a good chance of winning and doing everything Reagan did as far as selling a new way of thinking to the American public.

“Pardon me”, but Ford’s presidency was a fraud…