55 Plus Lecture: Suddenly, it’s 1976 All Over Again: Reflections on an election two generations ago

Date:  April 4, 2019;  meeting # 588
Topic:  Suddenly, it’s 1976 All Over Again: Reflections on an election two generations ago that may foretell 2020
Speaker:  Ross Baker, Distinguished professor, Political Science Department at Rutgers University

The 2020 presidential Democratic nominating contest is shaping up as an "all-hands-on-deck" primary -a contest with an unusually large number of presidential hopefuls.  These "all hands on deck" primaries typically develop when a president has completed his second term and is not eligible for re-election, or when an incumbent president is perceived to be vulnerable.  The most recent "all-hands-on-deck" presidential primary was, of course, the Republican primary in 2016.  But there was another presidential primary that took place four decades ago that next year's contest may come to resemble.  It was the Democratic nominating contest of 1976 and I present it for three reasons: first, to illustrate how two structurally-similar elections reveal the dramatic changes in American politics in 44 years; second, to reflect on how so many forces in play in 1976 persist to this day and, finally, because I had the opportunity to observe that primary campaign at close range by working on the staffs of three of the Democratic hopefuls in the years 1975 and 1976.  USA Today's article for additional background for Ross Baker's talk: Senate Republicans will commit institutional treason if they support Trump's 'emergency'

Professor Baker received his B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.  After military service, he served as a research associate at the Brookings Institution.  Subsequently, while on successive sabbatical leaves, he served on the staffs of six United States Senators and one member of the U.S. House of Representatives.  He was a Fulbright lecturer at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs in Stockholm. Ross Baker is a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today and a frequent commentator on the National Public Radio Programs All Things ConsideredMorning EditionWeekend Edition, and Marketplace.  In 2008, 2012, and 2016 he was Scholar-in-Residence in the Office of the Majority Leader of the United States Senate.  His publications include: The Afro-American (Van Nostrand, 1970); Friend and Foe in the U.S. Senate (Free Press, 1980 and Copley. 2000); The New Fat Cats (Brookings, 1989); House and Senate (W.W. Norton, 1989, 1995, 2000, and 2008); Strangers on a Hill (W.W. Norton, 2007); Is Bipartisanship Dead? (Paradigm, 2017).