David S. Brown: Jimmy Carter and the Origins of an Era of Democratic Party Dominance

Carter had no deep loyalties to the New Deal. He ran for his party’s nomination as an outsider to the Washington establishment but also eschewed the radical race politics practiced by southern Dixiecrats who, as recently as 1968, had championed the third-party presidential candidacy of George Wallace. He resisted ideological labels and told reporters that he was a liberal on some issues (civil rights, the environment) and conservative on others (fiscal policy). While in the presidency he sought to reduce government expenditures, balance budgets, and refused to push for a new New Deal. Anticipating a key theme of Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential bid, Carter, in his 1978 State of the Union Address, insisted, “government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”