Jimmy Carter photo

Milwaukee, Wisconsin Remarks at a Reception With Carter/Mondale Supporters

November 01, 1980

THE PRESIDENT. Senator Nelson, Congressman Zablocki, Mayor Henry Maier, Secretary of State Bill Phillips, former Governor Martin Schreiber, Speaker Ed Jackamonis—[inaudible]—Bob Freibert, ladies and gentlemen:

This is the culmination of a very exciting campaign day for me. I started out this morning in Houston, Texas, and then went to Brownsville, Texas, for an outdoor rally. Then I went to San Antonio, Texas, for an outdoor rally, to Abilene for an outdoor rally, to Forth Worth for an outdoor rally, and now here to Milwaukee. And tonight I go to Chicago. And I might say that I believe this has been a fruitful day.

And I want to ask you, do you believe we're going to whip the Republicans Tuesday? [Cheers]

I've been to a lot of good places. I saved the best till last, and that's why I'm here tonight.

The outcome of this election is crucial. And I want to ask you especially this next few hours to work for a man that's important to Georgia just as much as he is to Wisconsin, and that's Gaylord Nelson. We have got to have him in the Senate. He's a man of special courage and integrity, you know that. But on issue after issue, in my judgment as President, Gaylord Nelson has been ahead of the trend of public opinion and opinion in the Senate-the Ethics Code, the environment, bringing the Vietnam war to an end, helping small business, dairy price supports, agriculture, the automobile industry.

Gaylord Nelson has not only stood by you, but because of his national stature he's been able to do you a better job, because he gets small business leaders from all over the Nation to support the programs that are good for the small business people of Wisconsin. The same way with agriculture—he gets farmers all over the Nation to work with him in order to implement programs that are better for the farm families of Wisconsin.

And I want every Democrat in this State to realize that the Republican Party is not our enemy in this election. Republicans can't beat us. Democrats are the only ones that can beat ourselves, by not voting. A low turnout Tuesday by the working families of this Nation, by the minority citizens of this Nation, by the elderly citizens of this Nation, by the farmers of this Nation, by those who've been deprived in life and have been given a better life by the Democrats—that's the only thing that might cause a defeat for us.

I've been campaigning a long time, and I've seen the issues drawn between me and Governor Reagan very clearly. You've seen them, too. But you probably have been listening to Republican candidates. Some of you are as old as I am, and you've been through former Presidential elections. What you know is that Governor Reagan is doing the same thing that Republican candidates for President always do. They wrap themselves in the cloak of Democrats and claim to be just like Democrats just before an election takes place.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever heard a Republican candidate for President quoting a Republican President?

THE PRESIDENT. You haven't. And the reason is that they talk like Democrats until election day and then inauguration day, and then they get in the Oval Office and they act like all the Republicans have done. They don't have anything to talk about or brag about after their terms are over. But their commitment is to mislead the people of this Nation, and they get away with it because they raise false issues and people fall for them.

Think about how ridiculous it would have been even at the Republican National Convention, in his acceptance speech, if Ronald Reagan had got up there and quoted one word of Richard Nixon or Herbert Hoover.

THE PRESIDENT. Obviously he didn't do it; obviously he didn't do it.

But the mainstream of the two parties year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation, does not change. Franklin Roosevelt saw it very clearly, and I'd like to read to you what he said in 1944 about how the Republicans changed their tune at election time. This is what he said: "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels. Now, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm afraid that in this case it's the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud." Fraud.

Now, he's not the only one that observed this phenomenon. In 1960 John Fitzgerald Kennedy said about the same Republican tactic, this is what John Kennedy said: "Those Republicans are even beginning to say a few kind words about Franklin Roosevelt. Twenty years from now," Kennedy said, "they might even speak a good word about Harry Truman." [Laughter] "But," he said, "I guarantee you that Harry Truman will never say a good word about Republicans."

And I'd like to make a prediction for you tonight. I predict that 20 years from now some Republican candidates for President are going to be saying a good word about Jimmy Carter's second term.

Let me remind you of a few things. No man who says that the New Deal was based on fascism has a right to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt. No man who opposes the minimum wage and says it has caused more misery and more unemployment than anything since the Great Depression has a right to quote Harry Truman.

And no man who has failed to support every single nuclear arms limitation agreement since the Second World War has the fight to quote John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And no man who has professed several times to be in favor of a voluntary social security and who campaigned around this Nation in opposition to Medicare, calling it socialism and communism, has the right to quote Lyndon Baines Johnson.

And no man has a right to come to Wisconsin and claim to be a friend of the farmers who says, and I quote Reagan: "You subsidize the inefficient when you put a floor under the price." And he also said, at a separate time, "Farmers should start planning for an end to Government assistance in production and in the marketplace."

It's important for me to point out to you, as an incumbent President in the mainstream of my party, the consequences to you and to your families and to the people that you love if you should wake up Wednesday morning and find that Ronald Reagan will be occupying the Oval Office for the next 4 years.


THE PRESIDENT. I believe that the working families of this country understand who's on their side in this election-the Democratic Party. For five decades we have fought for the rights of working people. We enacted the minimum wage; the Republicans were against it. We enacted unemployment compensation; the Republicans, against it. Ronald Reagan said that unemployment compensation is a prepaid vacation for freeloaders.

We enacted the right of working people to belong to a union; the Republican Party opposed it. And for the last 3 1/2 years, we've fought together for common situs, for labor law reform, and against the repeal of Davis-Bacon. And as Gaylord Nelson knows, the Republicans have been on the opposite side of all those issues.

My opponent's views are a matter of record. I'm quoting his words exactly. Last year when somebody proposed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should be abolished and the protection of workers' rights to health and to safety should be abandoned, Ronald Reagan stood there and said, "Amen." This is the kind of opponent that's now claiming to be a friend of the working families.

I just saw the headline in one of your local papers, and this is the candidate who's going all over this country claiming that there's really no difference between himself and me and there's really no difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Every 4 years, they almost, or they do, get away with it. And then later the people wake up in January or February of the next year and realize what's happened. And for 4 years we have maladministration under Republicans, where the working people's rights are slowly taken away and older people have to fight to keep what they've gotten under Democrats, until the next election comes along.

These kinds of issues are important to you. But I think, I believe that the most important single issue in this election is the issue of peace. No President in the last 50 years can make the statement I'm going to make to you now: Since I have been in the Oval Office, this Nation has not been at war; we have been at peace.

Now, I give him credit. I believe that every American wants peace. I believe my opponent wants peace. But's it's important on you as American voters to consider carefully the consequences of his habit of calling for the use of American military forces in time of crisis or time of trouble.

I've not been in the Oval Office a single day since I've been President that somewhere in the world there was not some kind of armed conflict. And I've had to make a judgment by myself about the degree of America's interest and how we should be involved, whether to resolve that issue, to protect ourselves diplomatically, politically, or by going to war. The judgment is a President's. The judgment is a President's.

In 1975 Ronald Reagan called for sending U.S. military forces to Ecuador and to Angola. In Ecuador we had a small dispute over fishing rights. He advocated sending the Navy, to go to war—[laugh. ter]—perhaps, with Ecuador. In 1976 it was Rhodesia and Cyprus. This year, so far, it's been Cuba, Pakistan, and the Middle East. And what I want you to do is to help me make sure that in 1981 we don't have to see which part of the world he wants to send American military forces to fight in.

Gaylord Nelson put his finger on an even more important issue than war and peace, an even more important issue than the minimum wage or social security, an even more important issue on the wellbeing of American farmers. Every President since World War II has sought agreements to limit nuclear arms. Listen to this. The test ban treaty under President John Kennedy, the antiballistic missile treaty under President Richard Nixon, the Vladivostok accords under President Ford, the nuclear arms limitation agreement, finally negotiated by me after 7 years of constant negotiation, including my two Republican predecessors—listen-Governor Reagan never supported a single one of these agreements. Instead, he proposes to tear up the existing agreement and threaten a massive, new nuclear arms race. It's a sobering thought.

And you might say, well, nobody in his right mind could propose that. But listen. [Laughter] Now's the time to think about those things and how important it is to you, because I believe that halting the spread of nuclear weapons to all nations and controlling those weapons that we and the Soviets already have is the most important single duty of an American President. We don't want Libya to have an atomic bomb. When recently Governor Reagan was asked on two occasions this year, not in ancient history, what he thought about nations getting atomic bombs of their own who presently do not have them, his reply was, "That is none of our business." This issue is one that we don't want to have to analyze with this man in the Oval Office.

I've described the election of 1980 as a choice between two futures. Here's what I see in the future that we are fighting for together, you and I. I see a nation at peace. I see a nation strong. I see a nation sure of itself because it is secure.

I see a nation dedicated to the pursuit of progress for all people, all people; a nation where everyone can have the dignity of a decent job, where new industries create a whole new generation of American buildings and vehicles that will house us and move us with less energy, yes, and that energy coming from the United States and not overseas.

I see a nation where children are educated to their maximum potential that God gives them, where the elderly are treated with the respect that they have earned with a life of hard work and dedication, where families are strong and intact and secure. I have a vision of a nation free enough to attract and strong enough to welcome the deprived from other parts of the world; a nation of liberty and justice and love.

It's important for you to think about this vision that I've outlined so briefly.

I've been President now for almost 4 years. I've made thousands of decisions, and each one of those decisions has been difficult. But it's been a learning process. Every decision I make leaves me better qualified to make the next one, because I learn a little bit about this country, about its people, about its limitations, about its opportunities, about other nations around the world and their leaders and the interrelationship among us. What I've learned makes me a better President.

I consider myself to be in the mainstream of my party and also in the mainstream, on most major issues, of the bipartisan list of Presidents who've served before me.

I know and you know that the United States as a nation must be strong militarily, and we'll keep it strong. The United States must be a nation secure, and we'll keep it secure. And we must have a society that's just and fair. We must dare to struggle for a peaceful world. There've been many times of crisis and conflict during these years; six or eight times, armed conflict has broken out somewhere in the world. In each case, I alone, as your President, have had to determine what are our interests and what should be our action.

I've got good advisers, as good as ever served. But I know from experience that when the issue is so sharply drawn and the differences are so extreme among the people of this country and the issue is so important, that quite often my advisers split almost exactly on both sides of the issue. At that time a President, in the loneliness of the Oval Office, has to make the decision. So, sometimes it is a lonely job, but with the involvement of the American people, there's a partnership formed and the job becomes very gratifying.

Now, those lonely decisions are not easy. All of you and those that you can influence will make a similar lonely decision on Tuesday. That's probably an easy one for you. I would assume that most of you are Democrats and will support me and Gaylord Nelson and the other Democrats. That's not enough. Some of you may even have contributed financially to keep the Democratic Party going, to pay for advertisements and the cost of campaigns. If so, we appreciate it, but that's not enough.

I've outlined to you as briefly as I could in 19 minutes some things that I consider to be important to you individually, to your families, to the people that you love, to the people who love you. There's no one in this room between now and Tuesday morning that can't reach at least a hundred people, most of you could reach a thousand people, some perhaps, through the use of news media and because you have positions of leadership, can reach 10,000 people, to give them basically the same message that I've just given to you.

You might say, "Well, what difference does it make, because I'm just one person and Wisconsin is just one State. So, if we don't do our job, maybe my neighbors will do a little more and make up for my laxity in shaping my own life."

In 1948 it made a difference. This time, 2 nights ago I was in St. Louis, Missouri, talking about Harry Truman. And if just a few people had voted differently in 1948, Harry Truman would never have been our President.

I just came from Texas. And I know that in 1960, and you remember, that John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson won by the narrowest of margins. If only 28,000 people in Texas had changed their minds and voted the other way, just a few thousand in Illinois, John Kennedy would never have been President, and Lyndon Johnson, the Civil Rights Act and all the changes that took place would never have come into being.

Those stories had a happy ending. But you in Wisconsin, in particular, remember 1968, when the Democratic Party was divided and Gene McCarthy's supporters, many of them, said, "Well, it doesn't make much difference: Hubert Humphrey has been tainted because he served in the White House with Lyndon Johnson." And people didn't go to the polls and didn't work the last few hours before the election took place. If we had worked, if we had given that great man Hubert Humphrey our support, he would have been President, and Richard Nixon would never have embarrassed this Nation in the White House.

Now the decision is up to you. I'll do all I can. I've made seven or eight speeches today. I'll make a lot of them tomorrow. We're going to Chicago and to Detroit and to Philadelphia and other places. But really the thing is in your hands. I've done all I could. And I'd like to ask all of you tonight when you leave here and everybody listening to my voice to make a sacrificial effort the next few days, to do much more than you ever thought you would do, to contact as many people as will listen to your voice, and remember the great issues at stake, because what we are doing here is shaping the future of our Nation and the future of your families and the future of people that you care about.

It's in your hands. And I'd like to ask you to join me in a partnership so that Tuesday when the returns come in, we will continue to have a Democrat in the Oval Office and a nation even greater every year.
Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:12 p.m. in the New Orleans Room at the Red Carpet Inn.

Jimmy Carter, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Remarks at a Reception With Carter/Mondale Supporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/252145

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives