Jimmy Carter photo

1980 Democratic Victory Dinner Remarks at the Democratic National Committee Fundraiser.

September 30, 1980

It's always wonderful to listen to an absolutely unbiased and objective introduction. [Laughter] I know a lot of Presidents of this great Nation have been blessed with many assets and with many degrees of support during the crises that we have faced in past years and generations together, always successfully. There has never been a President in the history of this Nation blessed with so close and so fine a Vice President as the one I have.

If you notice any degree of nervousness among those of us who are on the public payroll tonight, we are a little bit like Cinderella. Unless the continuing resolution passes this evening, the Government comes to a screeching halt and all salaries stop. This afternoon I got a call from Tip O'Neill and Bob Byrd and they said, "Mr. President, you know the continuing resolution has not yet passed. We've got a choice to make, whether to come to the Democratic National Committee dinner and help raise money for the party or stay here and get the continuing resolution passed." I thought about it— [laughter] —not very long. And I said, "Stay. Stay on the Hill and do your duty. Our financial security—I mean our national security comes first. [Laughter] We've got to have that bill!"

It's always good to be with friends, Democratic friends. Although Tip and Bob can't be here and some of those who are with them, at least we've got Bob Strauss. Bob is to politics what Ethel Merman is to music. [Laughter] When those two are finished performing you don't know exactly what they said or what they meant, but you are sure that you have heard it and heard it loud and clear. Bob, I'm glad to have you tonight. And I'm particularly glad with the way Bob can inspire a group of prospective contributors. He says, "The President has to pitch in and do his part; the voters have to pitch in and do their part; and you have to pitch in and do your part, or," as Bob says, "come November we won't have a part to pitch in." [Laughter]

Well, Bob Strauss—I hope the fidelity is good—Bob Strauss is a man of many parts—most of them still working. [Laughter] And as you know, he just came back from Texas with a secret assignment to write that endorsement that's been mentioned a couple of times already by Leon Jaworski. And I'm very grateful that Leon made his endorsement; otherwise, our speechwriters would have had a dearth of material for this evening. [Laughter]

Leon is kind of old; he's getting confused. They asked him who was the last Democrat he voted for, and he said he thought it was Calvin Coolidge— [laughter] —but he wasn't quite sure.

Among those of us in this room tonight, I must admit that there have been some disputes and some disagreements and some arguments—that's all part of being Democrats. But there's one thing I know that we all agree on, and that it that we're going to whip the Republicans on November the 4th as bad as they have ever been whipped in this country.

On a few occasions I've been given a little advice. They say, "Mr. President, just lay back and let the Republicans defeat themselves." But I say, "Why should we let them have all the fun?" [Laughter] I want to get in there and help them defeat themselves. Right? [Applause]

The Republicans in their attitude to the people are exemplified by the Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax bill. It's a Godsend to the property tax collectors of this country. You know it gives gigantic tax breaks to the rich, while looking down their nose at everyone else.

Their theory is to forget about inflation. We can have a 30-percent tax cut, plus an all-out arms race, plus essential programs, plus a balanced budget. It's an interesting theory, but I think the Republican candidate is blithely singing a solo version of "The Impossible Dream." And unfortunately, his running mate is serenading him with a kind of note of discord from a famous Cole Porter lyric, "Do do that voodoo that you do so well." [Laughter] It's bad to have two running mates on the same ticket who are still debating each other.

We have in this party a tremendous opportunity for the future. And I want to talk a little about the future. But before I do, I want to discuss a few more serious issues along the lines of those I've already mentioned.

I'd like to address myself to an area of gross misunderstanding. Some members of the press have accused me of running a mean campaign. That accusation is patently false. I will say here and now that I believe all Republican candidates to be people of genuine principle. I'm sure you've all heard of the "Peter Principle." [Laughter] The fact is that if I did want to run a mean campaign, I could use such rhetoric as this: The Republican candidate has refused to debate me one-on-one, but I won't say it; I don't want to cut too deep. [Laughter] I have observed, however, that the muzzle is back in place and he is, once again, being led around the country by a group of senior advisers. I must say they're all doing a good job, though. When he speaks, you can hardly see their lips move. [Laughter]

Now, that kind of remark has no place in this campaign. [Laughter] But I have to admit that in order to point out the differences between what I'm doing and what a mean campaign really is, it might be necessary now and then, between this and November, to give you many examples of this kind of out-of-bounds rhetoric, purely, of course, for illustration and clarity. We simply must keep the political debate on a very, very high plane. But, as a matter of fact, even the subject of debates has become a very controversial one.

Offered the opportunity to meet me in a head-on-head debate, my Republican opponent has taken his own version of the Rose Garden approach. There's just one item that he failed to overlook—he doesn't have a Rose Garden. [Laughter] And we're going to see to it that he never gets one.

Some of my advisers have finally come up with a good solution to this debate question. First, I debate Governor Reagan, and then Fritz debates Pat and George, and then Rosalynn debates Nancy and Kiki. [Laughter] And after that, Amy debates Maureen and John, Junior, and then whichever two groups come out on top then meet in a special winner-take-all version of "Family Feud." [Laughter]

Well, you know, speaking of Hollywood and television—well, I'll be more serious than that. I know you've all heard me speak of my vision for the future. I also have a recurring nightmare— [laughter] -and that is the Hollywood-izing of Washington. In it I see every bill signing ceremony on the South Lawn taking place at night with huge spotlights, and I see Pennsylvania Avenue turning into the Avenue of the Stars, and I see visiting foreign dignitaries putting their boot prints into cement on the South Lawn— [laughter] —and I see the most important news personality in America is Rona Barrett. [Laughter] And then I wake up and I realize immediately that it's only a bad dream. And the reason I know it's a bad dream is because of where I wake up. And thanks to you and millions of other concerned Americans, that's where I'm going to be waking up for the next 4 years.

This campaign has already had some lighthearted moments. It's had some frivolous moments. It's had some times when the major issues were obscured by tangential debates. Sometimes the obscurity was deliberate, but it's important for us as Democrats and as leaders, as supporters of this party and as lovers of this Nation, not to forget the deep and penetrating issues that are involved in this election of 19130. It could not possibly be more sharply drawn in the vision that we have for the future between myself and my opponent, between the Democratic Party of history and of today—which is the same—and of the radically different Republican Party which was pictured so clearly in the recent convention and the platform that was evolved from it.

We're talking about the future of this Nation. We're talking about the life and the quality of that life and the fruitfulness of that life and the prosperity of that life of every human being who lives now and who will live in this country in the years ahead.

We're talking about a. difference in basic philosophy: what our government is; how precious is a human ambition; how damaging is a human frustration or alienation; what it means to be deprived of equality of opportunity; what it means to be despised if you're different; what it means to have hopes for continued progress where children lead a better life than their parents led; whether consumers will have a voice in Washington on the Hill and in the Oval Office; whether the quality of our land and our air and our water will be maintained or even improved; whether working people will feel that they're part of societal structure, now and in the future, on the inside of those deliberations when the future is planned, or whether they'll be outside, excluded, searching for some peripheral way just to let their voice be heard; whether there'll be an alienation of black from white or Christian from Jew or North from South or rural from urban, or whether the Nation will be unified with a common purpose, a search for peace, sound judgment, consultations, a clear vision of where our Nation's going to be—continued prosperity, better education, better homes, an end to discrimination, a healing of past wounds inflicted on this Nation before Fritz Mondale and I took over the responsibilities for the Government, harmony between the Congress and the White House being continued, major threats to our Nation met before they become crises. Those kinds of questions penetrate the existence of this Nation and the existence of every person who lives here, and it's my responsibility as the standard bearer of our party, as the incumbent President of the greatest nation on Earth, and as the nominee of yours for reelection to lead you and to work with you in defining those issues in the clearest terms for the American people to understand.

I have no doubt that if our voice can be heard and if we can describe those issues clearly that the American people will make the right judgment. But it's not easy to get that message across clearly, because of the circumstances I described to you just a few minutes ago—the confusion, the withdrawing, the muzzling, the lack of an adequate debate forum between the nominees of our two parties. It's a travesty to know that that has not been possible to arrange, when the American people need it and it ought to be offered to them. I'll do the best I can the next few weeks, and the weeks are not very long and riot very many before the American people make a judgment about what kind of future this Nation will have.

You have helped time after time after time, some of you for decades, to keep this party together through thick and thin. Our party's strong now. Our party is solvent. Our party is united, more than I ever remember it, certainly in my time in the political arena. We've got a wonderful opportunity to let our philosophy be known, to let our standard be raised, to let millions of Americans join us and to face the future with confidence—not only in our government but in one another.

There are some ideals that we espouse that would be a dreadful loss to the world if they were abandoned. And we cannot permit our Nation to abandon them. Every one of you here tonight is a leader, with varying degrees of influence, perhaps measured by the number of people who will listen to your voice. But there is no one here who couldn't reach a thousand, and there are many of you who could reach millions of ears between now and November the 4th.

I'm going to do the best I can; there's no doubt in my mind that Fritz Mondale will continue to do so. But I need for you to leave here tonight not just having been self-congratulated or thanked by me or John White for your financial contribution, which is crucial to us, but determined to be an equal partner with me and Fritz Mondale in giving our views to the Nation in a clear, unvarnished, absolutely truthful way about the choice that will be made on election day in November.

I don't believe that you will ever have a more important responsibility. It's much more important than which college your child might attend. It's much more important than whether your income might be $100 thousand a year or $50 thousand a year or $20 thousand a year, because we're talking about the character of the future of our Nation, and we're talking about the character of the opportunity or absence of opportunity that your children, whom you love, might have.

If you'll help me in a dedicated, even a sacrificial way, above and beyond what you had dreamed of doing when you came here tonight, there is no doubt that we will win, because you're here from Florida, a close State; Texas, a close State; New York, a close State; Pennsylvania, close; Michigan; Illinois; Ohio; Connecticut; Virginia, close; California, close. You know what happened in 1968 when many of you, and I, had we done what I'm asking you to do now, would have put Hubert Humphrey in the White House instead of Richard Nixon. You know it.

And I don't appeal to you out of a lack of confidence, because if I have one common criticism from the press or observers, it's not that I lack confidence. I won in 1976 over overwhelming odds because many of you helped me and we had a fervor and a spirit and kind of a crusade that permeated our campaign, particularly in the primary days. And I see no reason why we couldn't have that same crusade now, because much more is at stake. I tell you, in 1980 much more is at stake than it was in 1976. You know that what I say is true, and you know why I'm saying it, and I don't say it in derogation of any particular person, but because the issues are greater than two people.

Well, I'm confident. I do not intend to lose this election and, with your help, when November the 4th comes that bright future and not that relatively dismal future or doubtful future will be in store for the people of the greatest nation on Earth, which you and I love.

Will you help me? [Applause] Okay. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:21 p.m. in the International Ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, 1980 Democratic Victory Dinner Remarks at the Democratic National Committee Fundraiser. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251941

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