Skip to main content

How 2008 isn't that far from 1984, politically

In 1984 I was a teen, but not old enough to vote yet. That didn't keep me and my peers from being interested in the election that year.

For those of you who don't recall (or weren't born yet) in 1984 Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro challenged Republican incumbents President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush. It was unprecedented: a ticket with a woman. The nation was sort of flummoxed, and everyone was talking about it, a lot.

That was the year then Colorado Senator Gary Hart, former Vice President Walter Mondale and Illinois minister Jesse Jackson all ran for Democratic nominee. Hart lost after Mondale mockery of his new ideas, and Jackson lost because...well, we can all speculate why. History will probably attribute it to his bigoted remarks, largely about Jewish people. History is rarely completely wrong, but it also doesn't always tell the whole story.

Once Mondale secured the nomination, he selected Ferraro as his running mate, and the Woman Question took center stage, despite repeated efforts to make it about experience and qualifications.

Trivia Fact: Do you remember who else Mondale considered as a running mate? Two other women, including Dianne Feinstein. He also considered Henry Cisneros, from San Antonio, Texas, which was a big deal to my family since he was a good friend.

Reagan retained his office in a landslide win. It wasn't even close.

What happened?

That's a long story, but since you asked me, I'll tell you I think it was the Woman Question and the Economics Question.

Again, you may not remember (or have been born yet) but I recall the 70s in vivid technicolor. I remember both energy crises (oh yes, we had the same energy crises back then, and what did we do? DRILL HERE DRILL NOW and release reserves---now how's that working as a long-term plan, my friends??). Who here remembers being assigned days you could get gas at gas stations because supply was so low? By license plate number. Who remembers that being a half a day to a day errand, sitting in the long lines, waiting for your turn at the pump, praying they didn't run out before you got there? Oh yeah, those were the days. 1979. Loads of fun.

And then what happened? Big recession. Terrible recession.

So Reagan came in and applied reaganomics. Then the US recovered and gained a robust economy. (Note: Just because those two sentences followed one another doesn't mean I buy that the first resulted in the second.) So in 1984 we were fat, happy, and feeling a little cocky with our strong economy.

Mondale was my favorite (big shockeroo) despite Reagan and his economic theory. I liked his attitude towards policies for women, and I really wanted him elected so that by the time I was adult there wouldn't be any question about the Equal Rights Amendment (which he promised to pass) and fair salaries. He also promised to end the Cold War and stop nuclear proliferation with a freeze. I was a big fan of that plan too, if for no other reason than I was tired of ruining the knees of my white linen pants in duck and cover drills. But also because, by God, I hoped the Russians loved their children too. (Okay so the 1984 election preceded that song, but the song nailed how many of us felt.)

We were also all feeling very patriotic after a successful Olympics. I was totally in love with Mitch Gaylord, that talented men's gymnast. Of course I loved him for his talent. I support athletes. That's why I went to the parade when the men's gymnastic team came to town and screamed myself hoarse. (Irrelevant note: I wore my favorite new outfit: pink, gray and white plaid Bermuda shorts, a pink short-sleeved cotton summer sweater with wide neck for slipping off the shoulder if one wanted, white sicks with pink and gray dots, and gray and pink loafers. Yes, I remember that outfit and day. Vividly.)

What we weren't feeling was kindly disposed to Mondale, his female running mate, and his liberal economic, diplomatic, and equality policies.

So he lost. By a lot. So back to the woman and money questions.

I think Mondale lost because he chose a female running mate. A lot of people pressured Ferraro to step aside, and in my memory she understandably got a little belligerant about it. That I respected. In my memory, one day, she said she would, if it helped the party. That crushed me. I had no idea what she went through but I could imagine, but I so wanted her to pave that way.

Also, I think he lost because he told the truth. He said taxes would have to go up. He said we'd have to make friends with the Russians. He said we had to reduce the deficit. He did not sing sunshine up voters' asses. He did not say what they wanted to hear (exclusively). He did say what he thought. He said what needed to be said. And it cost him the election.

In 1988, the Democrats weren't even contenders against George Bush, especially after Gary Hart's sex scandal, and the sometimes incomprehensible Dukakis won the nomination. I could vote by 1988---a Democrat even back then---and even I had to swallow hard to cast that ballot.

Trivia Fact: Who remembers Bill Clinton at the Convention? Luckily, he learned brevity is the soul of wit. To some degree. Who remembers Ann Richards at the Convention? "Silver foot in the mouth," she called Bush. I adored Ann Richards. Adored her. Who remembers that Dukakis thought to correct Mondale's error and selected Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate? He thought to appeal to the Southern male vote, and Bentsen wasn't some "liberal New Englander" a phrase that strikes me as a little oxymoronic to some degree. Who remembers Jesse Jackson, once again running, and his ire over being passed up for VP? Oh Jesse.

Sidebar: I was on the school newspaper in 1984 (I know! another shockeroo!)...and we ran a poll of how our classmates would vote. If you're curious, here are the results:

Note: Keep in mind kids often vote as their parents do. So...

430 students responded to the survey
82% selected Reagan/Bush
15% selected Mondale/Ferraro
3% undecided

And yet, 50.7% did not consider themselves loyal to any particular party. 40.7% declared themselves Republican, and 8.6% declared themselves Democrats.

Then came the wildcard...if you could vote for anyone...? 5% of the vote went to Van Halen and 2% to Ozzy Osbourne.

So what can we take from the election of 1984 and what has come since then? Weigh in. Do you think we've made much progress--enough progress? How do you think the racial and gender factors in 1984 replayed out in 2008?

At least tell me where you were in 1984 (even if it was "twinkle in Mom and Dad's eyes).

What's not to love? All American guy, Olympic gold medalist, reputed nice guy...and...
Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert. Do not reprint or reproduce without permission.
Also blogging at:
Julie Pippert REVIEWS: Get a real opinion about BOOKS, MUSIC and MORE
Julie Pippert RECOMMENDS: A real opinion about HELPFUL and TIME-SAVING products
Moms Speak Up: Talking about the environment, dangerous imports, health care, food safety, media and marketing, education, politics and many other hot topics of concern.


Whirlwind said…
I'd like to think we progressed since there, but I don;t know if we have. I think with the right candidates, they would be elected, regardless of their race/gender.

In 1984, I was four. So I don't remember those times you've written about, however, I've heard the stories.
Karen Jensen said…
I was working 11-7 at a nursing home. In my fervor, I had convinced a couple of people to register and vote for the first time. The day after the election, we all went out and got drunk (at seven in the morning).
Melissa said…
Wow...I miss Ann. A lot. But moving on...

I'm not sure I'd agree with you totally on this one though. Yeah, we have the whole "first" thing going, but the mood of the country is very different. We were still positive then. And now?

The energy situation is even more dire than it was then. We might not have the shortages, but we need to find better solutions other than drill, drill, drill.

I do agree that part of the reason Mondale lost was because he told the truth. That and he has the charisma of soggy bread.

And Mitch? Hmm...I was more of a Bart Conner and Tim Daggett kind of girl. Sure, Mitch was fun to look at, but at the end of the day, Bart and Tim would go to the grocery store and pick up milk on the way home. Know what I mean? :)
Julie Pippert said…
Melissa, I'm not sure I've made up my mind (hence the questions---I require you guys to help me think it through). I agree re. energy b/c we keep passing the problem down the line. Well, it's time for the buck to stop here. It's been passed to me and I REFUSE to pass it along to my kids. I also agree re. Mondale. Yeah, his charisma factor, next to Reagan. Sigh. Oh the men's gymnastics team in 1984. Has anything ever been so brilliant since? Bart & Tim were awesome, but Bart...just so blonde and fair. Also? Claimed by my best friend Caryn. We were so sure they'd pick us out of the crowd and want to marry us. LOL

Proj J...did the drinking help? Because so far? I haven't found it enough consolation. I'm not sure what I'll do if in November... well...

Whirlwind, OY! FOUR! I love your attitude. I don't think I can share it. Maybe I'm too old. I just still think people decide too much based on race and gender. But God love your generation for being the group that LIVES the idea. Boomers broke it down, Xers built it up, and Yers live it. I love it. I hear it takes 3 generations. May your POV rule the day.
Anonymous said…
I hugely enjoyed this post. Maybe I will tackle the subject on my blog. In 1984 I lived on Long Island; I had an 11 year old, a 9 year old, a 6 year old, and a 4 year old. A year previously we had moved back to Long Island (whre I grew up) after 2 ill-advised years in Bangor, Maine. Before that I had lived in Manhatatan for almost 20 years. I had learned to drive in Maine and found driving in congested LI terrifying. It might have been a year before I stop avoiding left turns.

I followed politics but I wasn't politically active in that election because I was obsessed with helping my kids adjust to traditional Baldwin Schools. I was absolutely thrilled at Ferraro's candidacy. In Manhattan they had gone to an open classroom pubic school. In Maine, they had gone to a unique one room schoolhouse, across the street from the University of Maine. There were 50 kids from 5 to 18. It was absolutely brilliant. My third child, only 5 when me moved, mourned her lost opportunity to go to Skitikuk for her entire school career. Even my pointing out the school had closed 3 years after we left never assuaged her grief.

They had never had homework, standardized test, worksheets, etc. My 5 year old absolutely refused to make up stories using the teacher's assigned words. "A writer doesn't use someone's else's words," she insisted. My 11 year old waged epic battles against homework. It was a very good traditional school, and the principal was amazingly understanding of divergent thinkers, but it was a painful adjustment for all of us.

My grandma was slowly dying and my dad was disappearing into Alzheimer's Disease. My mother needed a great deal of help and support.

Sorry to be so personal, but that was probably my least involved election.
Unknown said…
Hmmm... In 1984 I was old enough to vote for the first time. I got my first experience at mentioning in a conversation I liked a particular candidate, only to be verbally reamed for my preference. I discovered my deep seated (right word?) tendency towards big picture practicality when I wrote a paper for my American Govt. class on both candidates budget proposals. Ultimately, I refused to pick one over the other because of the potential I saw for hindrances from the House and Senate. (Got 205 out of a possible 200 on that one!)

In 2008? I seldom discuss my political preference because it seems like there is little chance I won't get reamed by someone for it. I still don't believe that any one candidate is going to be capable of doing the things he/she promises. (i.e., the health care reform that was my main reason to vote for Clinton the first time. And yes, I got reamed by people I knew when they heard. And yes, I could get reamed by people when I say that I think that man is a plague in politics and Democratic party needs to stop worshiping the ground he walks on.)

Sigh. So where does that leave me? I don't know. I have no trust. I try to balance they "everybody is human and makes mistakes" philosophy with the "there has to be an evidence of some integrity" philosophy with the realities of the political system we have which gives the House and Senate a lot of power to stop the president and vice versa. How can a president accomplish that much?

I am not looking forward to the next four months. Double Sigh.
Mayberry said…
I was in high school. And I can still picture all the SNL spoofs of the debates. That was '84, right?

Paul Simon: And ... that's ... why ... I ... wear ... the ... bow ... tie.
Anonymous said…
OMG, what a walk down memory lane!! And I'm surprised how conservative your student body was, in LI NY I believe we were all backing Mondale.

I, myself, like Peter Vidmar over Mitch or Bart. Call me the odd duck.
LizP said…
1984 - I was 18, it was my first presidential election, and I voted for Reagan - hey my parents were Republicans. (I have since changed parties.) The woman running mate thing never entered my mind. DiFi was mayor of SF (my home town) - and that was a first and only. I vaguely remember thinking at the time that Mondale was a bit of a dork. Maybe if he'd looked more likd Mitch Gaylord :-)
Gina Pintar said…
" I hoped the Russians loved their children too" I can't believe you quoted that song. Loved it. Used it as my selected poem in junior year honors english. I adored the haunting music and the church bells. I still have it on a 45.

I remember waiting in line for gas and checking if you were an odd or an even. I also remember my parents telling me I was too young nto sell soda to people in line.
Anonymous said…
Ah, 1984. 14. I was way more into Carl Lewis than the gymnasts...I thought Mitch Gaylord looked like the kind of guy that would cheat on a girl.

I thought Geraldine Ferraro was so cool, but Mondale - eh. Remember when his daughter posed for PLAYBOY? I thought he must be embarrassed, and liked him more. The Democrats had a rough road in
'84, fighting a popular encumbent.

I loved Reagan then, and I love him now. Maybe I love him because those were great years for me as a person, and I emotionally tie him in to my coming of age...but most of my years have been pretty great. I have acquired a wonderful education, been fortunate to be raised in nation with boundless freedoms, and know wonderful, intelligent, caring people who believe a variety of things across the spectrum on a number of topics.

I work with kids every day. What a great way to keep hope alive! I've lived under presidents I love, tolerate, and abhor. Whomever is elected, I will support. He will be the leader of what I believe is the best place in the world to live, and I want to support whomever has that daunting task.
jeanie said…
Hmm - 1984. I remember we won the 100m Butterfly - does that help?

Obviously I had different politics to focus on (although we did get a lot of US politics even then).

Bob Hawke had just become Prime Minister, Paul Keating was just a twinkle in his own eye, Peacock and Howard were still stoushing over who was top dog of the Liberals but an unknown Hewson would gain the ascendency and lose at least one election for them on the basis of tax reform.
we_be_toys said…
In 1984 I was working in a fancy hotel in downtown Raleigh, NC, where in the line of my duties I met Geraldine Ferraro, Martha Bryant Quinn, David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen (and Valerie, bless her heart),Red Skelton, and the vile members of both Men at Work and Herbie Hancock.

And I voted Democratic - fat lot of good it did, though.

Reaganomics - alwyas makes me think of Ben Stein in Ferris Buehler - "Blank D-O-O economics. Anyone? Anyone?"
Florinda said…
Like Matriarch, I may need to expand this into a blog post...if you don't officially post a Hump Day Hmm for next Wednesday, maybe this will turn into mine.

In 1984, I was twenty years old, and voting in my first Presidential election. I held my nose and voted for Reagan because I was sure that Mondale had no chance (I agree with Melissa as to why - he said what people didn't want to hear). I haven't voted Republican in a Presidential election since.

But honestly, I wasn't really paying as much attention to politics back then as I should have; my son was born that summer, and I had much more domestic concerns, in the narrowest sense of the word.

One of the reasons that I love your blog is your grasp on recent history. My memories of the '70's are also pretty vivid, but I tend to think we're in the minority, given the fact that the country seems to be in "doomed-to-repeat-it" mode. Deja vu all over again.

And that Sting song? I love it too, and I think it's still meaningful - it doesn't have to literally apply to the Russians.
Gwen said…
1984--could I have loved Mitch Gaylord, too? Prolly. I think so.

And .... that's all I got, babe. But as I was living overseas at the time, I can't really comment on the American reality anyway.
thailandchani said…
In 1984, I was supporting Jesse Jackson. In fact, I was quite active politically at that time. I worked with union organizers, worked on the Jackson campaign, was involved with CISPES (Committee In Solidarity With The People of El Salvador), CORE and some things I can't recall from this distance. I was 32 years old.

Anonymous said…
My issue with Jackson (in addition to him having way too big a mouth) is that he is a man of the cloth. I like my church and state very separate.
painted maypole said…
i was only 10, and in the 5th grade. i remember making charts of the candidates and little pictures to help us remember them.
Robert said…
Julie, I've got to say it, I really do: you admired Carter, who had a big hand in that energy crisis, yet you can overlook the positive effects of Reagan's economic policies and the subsequent recovery with a statement as simple as you don't know that the two are connected? I really expect more of you, honestly. Reagan was the most popular president ever. Ferraro is not the reason Mondale lost. Mondale never had a prayer in that election.

Have we evolved since then? I'm not sure, since we have a Democratic party that had a noninee, oh, wait, not really... then we have a Republican dud. We have a huge national debut, but raising taxes would not have nearly as positive an impact on that as reducing a lot of federal programs. That's the "no sunshine" fact of the matter. Social Security is a system that has no logical reason to work as it stands. Money put in a hole with no interest or any other form of growth appreciation on it should not be expected to fund the number of retirees living well past the initial average age of the system.

I can tell you what I was doing in 1996, as a lead up to that election. I was given the assignment in my AP Government class to get rid of the national deficit by the end of five years or something close to that. I found the assignment far too easy. So instead I got rid of the national debt in seven, with a tax cut in every year but the first. I was too young at the time to realize my plan would've actually worked faster because the revenues of the government would have increased with those tax cuts (that's a verifiable fact, based on Reagenomics and good old fashioned basic economics). Getting rid of the debt like that meant the deficit would be a massive surplus in the future, because at the time, the entire deficity was entirely caused by the interest payments made on the existing debt.

That's the sort of real solution I'd rather talk about. Whether we've evolved or not, we still have to make some headway on energy (and no, drilling alone is not the answer, and not one I've heard anyone propose, personally), the economy, and out of control spending by the government. I don't care who you want to blame for that last one, it's just a fact. I think at least McCain's plans to reduce spending could help there. I'm not satisfied he's close to the best available, but I'm certain Obama would be very dangerous if elected.
Lawyer Mama said…
Hold it. Did Robert just reveal that he's still in his 20's? And that he solved the deficit in high school? So in 1984 he was ...... in elementary school?

LOL! Aside from that little laugh I just had, I was 12 and living in North Dakota. I thought Rowdy Gaines was cool because he shaved his head. I absolutely adored Janet Evans and met her at the Olympic Trials, where I also got Mark Spitz's autograph. (FYI, he was kind of an ass.)

Politics wasn't on my radar much in 1984. Sorry to disappoint, babe. (-; I'll have to ask T his thoughts since he's been a politics freak since birth.
Lynnie said…
I was 12 that year, and our school had a mock vote as well. I can't recall the exact numbers of votes the way you have, though! (What, did you save all your schoolwork, or do you just have one of those super powerful memories?). I just remember that I voted Democratic, and we won by a landslide. Even though it was the south. Every election since then I have such high hopes! And when they are dashed I swear I feel physical pain.
Anonymous said…
(And then there are those of us who aren't American, who were alive but weren't paying attention to American politics because we don't live there. Just a nitpick.)

Ah, Reagonomics. We had our own version here in Ontario with the Harris government in the 90s. When they were voted out we'd discovered they'd sold off every crown asset of any value and the deficit, after a decade of tax-cutting, was through the roof.
Anonymous said…
Mondale didn't lose because of his running mate (though the fact that *her* mate had some shady connections probably didn't help.) What killed his chances was the fact that he had the personality of a Communion wafer. Seriously, Al Gore as VP had more personality than Mondale did!

In 1984? I was tending to computers that occupied like 70,000 square feet of floor space, and had less power than the PC I am using to write this comment. Socal (Chevron) and Gulf Oil were going through a merger (hailed as "the largest to date".) Houston (south of Westheimer and west of Wilcrest) was still mostly pasture land. Oh, and the price of oil would go down by more than 60%(!) in the coming years.

I *did* vote in the election... can you guess for whom?

Anonymous said…
In 1984 I was 13, attending Junior High in a very conservative Colorado town. The whole election went by largely unnoticed by me. I'm sure my mother voted for Mondale/Ferraro. I vaguely remember being happy that there was a woman running for Vice President.

But mostly, my attention was absorbed by being made miserable by the cruelty of other 13-year-olds.
Magpie said…
my first presidential election was 1980. i was away at school, and crushed when reagan won.

Popular posts from this blog

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Quorum

After being confronted with written evidence, Julie admits that she is a total attention whore. In some things, in some ways, sometimes I look outward for validation of my worth and existence. I admit it. It's my weak spot, my vanity spot . If you say I am clever, comment on a post, offer me an award, mention me on your blog, reply to a comment I left on your blog, or in any way flatter me as a writer...I am hopelessly, slavishly devoted to you. I will probably even add you to my blogroll just so everyone can see the list of all the cool kids who actually like me . The girl, she knows she is vain in this regard , but after much vanity discussion and navel-gazing , she has decided to love herself anyway, as she is (ironically) and will keep searching for (1) internal validation and (2) her first person . Until I reach a better point of self-actualization, though, may I just say that this week you people have been better than prozac and chocolate (together, with a side of whi

Is your name yours? How your name affects your success...

Made by Andrea Micheloni Not too long ago I read What's in a name? by Veronica Mitchell. She'd read the NPR/USA Today article, Blame it on your name , that shared new research results: "a preference for our own names and initials — the 'name-letter effect' — can have some negative consequences." Veronica's post and that article got me thinking about names, and their importance. Changing to my husband’s name and shedding my maiden name was no love lost for me. By the time we married, I’d have gladly married any other name just for a change. My maiden name was a trial; I was sick of spelling it, pronouncing it, explaining it, and dealing with the thoughtless rude comments about it. My sister and I dreamed and planned for the day we could shed that name. So I wonder, sometimes, whether I adequately considered what a name change would actually mean. Heritage and genealogy matter to me and my maiden name reflected a great deal of familial history. Histo

What you really need to tell teens about sexual assault

The Steubenville Ohio rape case  highlighted a huge ugly disturbing gap in our society about rape. Internet outrage erupted about the "drunk girl" and "getting what was deserved." There was a lot of nasty commentary about all the things women and girls need to do to not get raped (as if rape and rapists are completely fair and only go after the deserving). People commented in typical "blame the victim" ways , shamefully and appallingly. It made me fear for humanity. Maybe, possibly, worst of all, major news network CNN reported the case from a distressingly sympathetic view for...the convicted rapists . Reporters Poppy Harlow and Candy Crowley evinced grief about the convicted rapists' lost bright futures. As the brilliant Gawker piece by Mallory Ortberg said: People who commit acts of sexual violence (rape, for example) and are convicted in a court of law are required to register with the national sex offender public registry, so that future