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Nashville, Tennessee Remarks at a State Democratic Party Fundraising Reception.

October 26, 1978

Governor Blanton and Senator Sasser, distinguished Members of the Congress from Tennessee, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor, who have honored me by your presence, and good, solid, strong, dedicated, sacrificial, committed, determined Democrats :

It's good to be with you.

Jim Sasser said that there's so much excitement and so much enthusiasm, the Democratic candidates have such a wonderful support in Tennessee this year, he wishes that this is the year he was to run for the Senate again— [laughter] —almost.

I don't think you could have sent anyone to Washington who could have done a better job so quickly and earned the respect and admiration of his fellow Senators and of the President than you have with Jim Sasser, and I thank you for him.

I'm not going to make another speech to you, because you don't need it. And I've already made one speech pointing out what the Democratic Party is trying to do both here in Tennessee and throughout the country.

In 1974 I was a nationwide campaign coordinator for the Democratic Party. I read the little almanac every time I went into a State. I was going to go to Memphis to meet with Jim Sasser and some of those who are on the stage with me, to try to see what could be done to rejuvenate a dormant Democratic Party in Tennessee.

The political almanac said—and I can almost quote it—"The most Republican State in the Nation is Tennessee." You've changed that, and I'm thankful for it.

Well, we've got a long way to go. As a neighbor of yours and one who has been interested in politics for the last number of years, I've watched with a great deal of interest the almost unique primary system that you have in Tennessee, where a lot of people run and where the one who gets a plurality wins.

In Georgia, we have a runoff 2 or 3 weeks after the first primary. You don't do that in Tennessee. And quite often it creates scars, because those who are defeated-and I've been defeated—can't build up enthusiasm to support those whom the people have chosen.

I'm thankful that this year in Tennessee that's not the case. Every single candidate for the U.S. Senate and for Governor have endorsed and are working for the nominees that you've chosen. I'm glad of that.

It's been a long time though since Tennessee had a chance to choose a Democratic Governor and two Democratic United States Senators. It's going to require a lot of work. Many of you have already helped. You wouldn't be here at this particular fairly exclusive meeting had you not had a deep commitment to the Democratic Party and what it stands for and if you were not supporting the candidates who are waging such a tough battle for election.

The Republican nominees are formidable, they are well known, they are well financed. Had I let characteristics like those make much of an impression on me, I would never have entered 30 primaries, and I would never have gotten the nomination and been elected for President.

We know that in the last few days of a campaign, the candidate who can convince the people that he or she is closest . to them is dependent upon them for the
election success and will serve them and rely on them after they are in office. Those are the candidates who win.

There have been an enormous number of upset victories in our Nation the last 3 or 4 years. You've seen them all over the country. And that's the reason, because people have gotten doubtful about those who are proud, those who are aloof, those who forget about a particular constituency and cast their lot on a nationwide basis; those who might forget that their unique responsibility is, first of all, to be an American, yes, but secondly, to represent Tennessee.

In the last two or three decades in the South, Democrats have been afflicted by an undeserved reputation that Republicans are more fiscally responsible, are better managers, and are more attuned to competence and efficiency. That reputation has now changed. Had it not been changing, I would never have been elected President.

But I ran my campaign talking about zero-based budgeting, cutting down the Federal deficit, cutting the size of the Federal work force; getting Government's nose out of private people's business; making sure that the free enterprise system had an opportunity to be stronger even than it already is; putting my confidence in government at the lowest possible level, closest to the people, rather than concentrating it in Washington.

Of course, I also talked about a strong defense; also talked about better lives for farmers and talked about peace. But now we've changed that earlier reputation, and I noticed with a Gallup poll this summer that by a 2-to-1 margin the people of our country now believe that the most fiscally responsible party is not the Republicans, but the Democrats.

I believe now you have an opportunity to put a man in the Governor's office who will maintain competence, efficiency, dynamism, who understands the distinction that ought to be drawn between government and the private sector; who understands the problems of working people; who's shown that the free enterprise system works in an honorable way; and who can bring to government a vision of what Tennessee can be—with new jobs, new industry, lower taxes, a better life for senior citizens, a better education system.

These are the kinds of things for which the groundwork's been laid. But Jake Butcher is the kind of person who didn't have to run for Governor. The Lord knows it's not an easy thing to run for a major political office, with one's family involved, with a deep, unshakable commitment. He and Sanya have been willing to go out, as is indicated on this poster, and put himself before you to serve Tennessee. And I hope you'll put him in the Governor's office and give me a good partner here in Tennessee with whom I can work the next 4 years.

I just want to say a word, too, about Jane Eskind, who I think has a campaign that pretty closely parallels mine in 1976. It would be good for Tennessee to have her as a U.S. Senator. She understands the intricacies of government from the point of view of one who is deeply interested. She's been a loyal public servant without holding elective office.

I'd never served in Washington myself, and I know the advantage that I had, along with Jim Sasser, of coming there, as Jay Solomon has done, with kind of a fresh point of view. But she understands the intricacies of government. And she, I remember, in 1976, led a voter registration drive in Tennessee and added 250,000 new voters to the rolls. She didn't have to do that, but she did a good job with it. And she is running a very aggressive, very competent campaign.

I want to say this in closing: It's not easy for them to run; it wasn't easy for me to run. I did it because I wanted to, and I'm enjoying being President. I never have claimed to know all the answers, 'but I think as long as I put my faith in you, as they will do, I can avoid some of the mistakes that have been made in the past.

You've come here maybe feeling that you've done enough. I bet everyone in this room has been blessed socially, politically, economically. We've enjoyed the fruits of a free society. Some of you may have come from humble background, maybe even from illiterate parents who had to work every day for a living. But you've done well. And I hope that you will see in the next 10 or 12 days that the most important thing that you could possibly do with your time, your influence, or your money is to help good candidates be elected on November 7.

There's no one in here who's not competent enough to be, in effect, when you go back home, a campaign manager for Jake and for Jane and for Keith and for others; to call your own friends and your own neighbors, to see your business associates or those who have confidence in you, and say, "Let's help these candidates restore to Tennessee, which has in the past been heavily oriented toward the other party, a new fresh Democratic spirit." It will really help me as a President to do a better job and help you to have a better State and a better Nation.

And I'd like to ask every one of you, if you will do that, to actually work between now and November 7 to actually raise extra money for them and use your influence in a beneficial way for Tennessee. Would you say when I ask you, "I will"? Will you do that for us? [Applause] Right on, thank you.

I came here to thank you and to hear you say that. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:15 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Jimmy Carter, Nashville, Tennessee Remarks at a State Democratic Party Fundraising Reception. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243585

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