What Life Would Be Like if Jimmy Carter Won a Second Term

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Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale at the Democratic National Convention, New York City, July 1976
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Earlier this year, Jimmy Carter announced that he had been diagnosed with melanoma and that the disease had spread to his brain. But with his characteristic good sense of humor, Carter told reporters how much he was looking forward to “a new adventure.”

Today is Carter's birthday, and as he enters his 91st year, America's 39th president will surely be measuring time a little differently. And we're doing the same. In a special broadcast, The Takeaway imagines what the world would have been like if America woke up on November 5, 1980, to a second term Carter presidency. Guests and topics include:

  • Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University and a Jimmy Carter biographer. Brinkley explains how Carter fundamentally changed the Democratic Party.
  • Michael Barone, a Conservative writer at the Washington Examiner and the American Enterprise Institute, explains how a Carter second term would have impacted the 1984 election, what it would've meant for the economy, and how we might have fared without the Reagan tax cuts.
  • Would the Cold War be prolonged under Carter's second term? Tim Weiner, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter and National Book Award winner for his definitive history of the CIA, answers.
  • Would Jimmy Carter have had a chance to appoint justices to the U.S. Supreme Court in a second term? Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court reporter from 1978 to 2008, reflects on the judiciary in an imaginary second term. Greenhouse is currently the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. 
  • Randy Lewis served as an aide to Jimmy Carter’s Press Secretary, Jody Powell, in the White House. He explores Carter's possible achievements, and the possible impact a second term would have on politics in Washington. See Also: "Jimmy Carter and Me," an essay by Randy Lewis.
  • Human rights and the release of political prisoners was a personal passion of Jimmy Carter's. Robert Duval is a former captive who says he owes his life to Carter.
  • How might the Middle East look now if Carter won a second term as president? Weighing in is Gary Sick, a senior research scholar at Columbia University who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford and Carter, and briefly with President Reagan.