RIP, John Anderson

Anderson got my first presidential vote (because you had to be 21 to vote in 1976, and my 21st birthday fell a week too late). In my defense, those were more innocent days; I was outraged at Jimmy Carter’s cynically abandoning women to court “heartland” anti-choice voters, and besides, my individual vote didn’t mean much in then-dependably-Democratic Michigan.

What happened next convinced me (and should have convinced younger voters, IMO) that there are only two possible choices in American presidential elections, and the Democratic one is always preferable. The ensuing, increasingly suicidal, embrace of Ralph Nader by “progressives” only reinforced my conviction that too many leftists are less interested in actual political progress than in performative virtue-signalling.

We may not have fully appreciated it in 1980, but John Anderson marked the last bastion of Liberal Republicanism. Per Ed Kilgore, at NYMag

John B. Anderson of Illinois, who died today at the age of 95, served in Congress for 20 years. But what gave him national fame was a briefly sensational independent candidacy for president in 1980, running against President Jimmy Carter and soon-to-be-president Ronald Reagan. By doing so, Anderson represented two milestones in modern political history: He was the most conspicuous of early conscientious objectors to the conservative movement’s takeover of the Republican Party, and he was the prototype for the kind of centrist third-party presidential candidate that so many pundits and billionaires long for in today’s era of partisan polarization.

Anderson was not, of course, the first moderate-to-liberal Republican to oppose the rightward drift of his party. But he was the first to take an unsuccessful presidential primary candidacy right out of the GOP and into an independent ballot line. He took that fateful step in part because of the low regard he had for Ronald Reagan, his vanquisher in the primaries. But he also realized his brand of socially liberal, fiscally conservative politics had a stronger constituency outside his own party…

For a while, Anderson’s campaign was quite the phenomenon. In June his National Unity Party ticket (with running mate Pat Lucey, a Democratic former governor of Wisconsin) was polling at 24 percent according to Gallup. But as is typically the case, voters returned to the two major parties as the election approached. And in fact, Anderson largely abandoned his centrist positioning in order to poach liberals from Jimmy Carter, whose Evangelical background, fiscal conservatism, and cool relationship with Israel alienated a lot of usually Democratic voters. I recall seeing Anderson speak in San Francisco in the fall of 1980, by which time he was emphasizing his progressive social views, including what was then an unusual attitude of support for gay rights.

In the end, Anderson won only 7 percent of the vote, and his National Unity Party vanished without a trace. By 1984, Anderson was endorsing Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale. And so he was the prototype for millions of other relatively liberal Republicans who trended Democratic as even larger numbers of conservative Democrats joined the GOP. He had a distinguished later career as chairman of the electoral-reform group FairVote, which promotes a national popular vote and ranked-choice voting…

94 replies
  1. 1
    trollhattan says:

    Did somebody mess with you on the voting thing?

    I remember John Anderson as a decent guy and IIRC, the second-most successful independent candidate after Wallace (of my lifetime). RIP.

  2. 2
    MikeBoyScout says:

    Never voted for Anderson, but respect him for the campaigns he ran.
    A dying Republican breed is now dead. RIP

  3. 3
    mvr says:

    At the time he ran for Prez, I was one of about twenty people organizing the Barry Commoner campaign in Oregon who got him (Barry) on the ballot and got him around 1% of the vote. Since Reagan won by a larger margin I don’t feel to0 guilty, especially since the Citizens Party folded into the left wing of the Democratic Party in 1984. But i do remember meeting with JB Anderson in church in the early 70s as my rep in Rockford Illinois on two different Sunday mornings before church. back when some of the folks in my (then) church could still credibly vote Republican. He seemed serious but I was about 12-14, at the time.

  4. 4
    Irony Abounds says:

    @trollhattan: I was confused at first because I am apparently 3 weeks younger than Ms. Laurie and I remember voting for Gerald Ford in ’76. Followed that up with a vote for Anderson in ’80. I was a Republican in my youth, felt burned by Nixon’s lies but still took a while to transition to voting for Democrats. Finally broke through in ’84 for all the good it did Mondale (I actually was gung ho on Hart). I think Anderson was a thoroughly decent man and it was exciting for about 2 weeks when he actually got into the high 20s before the conventions. Alas, party tribalism killed his chances.

  5. 5
    Mary G says:

    I can’t remember if I voted for Carter or Anderson. Either one was fine. I hated Reagan’s guts from working for the state during college.

  6. 6
    Wallis Lane says:

    My first presidential vote also, and the last time I ever voted for a Republican. I did some campaign work for him, but at the end I began to have some second thoughts about casting a third-party spoiler vote, and wavered. I remember a long bus ride from college to my polling place, miserable about the news on the radio that Reagan was winning big. Eventually by the time I voted, Carter had already conceded well before the Western state polls were closed (which was stupid and damaging to down-ballot candidates to Western Dems) so I felt more comfortable casting my California vote for John B.

    .He was an extremely intelligent man with a great capacity for personal growth. He started out as a rigidly evangelical candidate, introducing bills naming Jesus as the country’s personal savior, then became gradually sickened by the greed and hypocrisy and un-Christlike nature of the Moral Majority, and appalled by the fiscal irresponsibility and snake oil of the Reaganites. He became socially quite liberal, while fiscally prudent, and was always a man of sterling integrity. We don’t have many like him anymore, and that’s a shame.

  7. 7
    NotMax says:

    The 26th Amendment (voting age of 18) was ratified and became a part of the Constitution in 1971.

  8. 8
    Temporarily Max McGee (you just keep me hanging on) says:


    Yeah, in 1976 the voting age and legal drinking age were both 18. Michigan upped the latter to 21 in December of 1978.

    And Jerry Ford won Michigan in 1976. Home state and all that jazz,

  9. 9
    Ladyraxterinok says:

    I remember Anderson as well. My 1st presidential vote was in 64. (I was 20 in 60.)

    I frankly don’t remember much about the campaign of 76; we were preparing to go to Newfoundland for a yrs sabbatical and getting our house ready to rent for a year.

  10. 10
    Anne Laurie says:

    @trollhattan: Quite possibly I was either misinformed or confused about my rights in 1976! But my first presidential vote, on the record, was for Anderson.

  11. 11
    🐾BillinGlendaleCA says:

    I figured out early on that there are only two choices in the presidential race, I voted for Carter in 1980 as my first presidential vote.

  12. 12

    My first presidential vote was John Kerry, and to this day I’m a neoliberal whore.

  13. 13
    🐾BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Major Major Major Major: We know.

  14. 14
    rekoob says:

    In 1980, John Anderson was the Doonesbury candidate (Mike was his Advance team). He was a stolid, centrist choice in those days, but I still went for Carter in my first Presidential ballot. I filled out my absentee form in Santa Fe, duly witnessed by my then-crush, and mailed it back to Richmond, where I saw it evaporate in the Reagan landslide. It’s gratifying to be back in Virginia at a time when being blue no longer hurts.

  15. 15
  16. 16
    NobodySpecial says:

    I was 9. My dad used to do lawn work for him for years.

    One year, he cleaned out the garage and gave a bunch of his kids’ old toys to my dad. I never forgot that.

    Years later, he came back to Rockford for a fundraiser for one of Manzullo’s futile challengers. I got him to sign Kos’s book, and we talked about my dad. 30 years later, he still remembered him.

    If only sanity would have prevailed in the ’79 GOP primary. RIP to liberal Republicanism.

  17. 17
    justawriter says:

    Anderson was also my first vote at the age of 20. I was young and stupid enough to believe the pundits that said the debt was going to kill the country and Anderson was the only candidate who said he would raise taxes to pay off the debt. Plus, he wasn’t going to kill everything worthwhile like Reagan wanted to do. I’ve been thinking that Carter has been the pattern for the right’s media campaigns ever since 80. 1979’s Killer Rabbit story (a one day story if ever there was one) was my generation’s “but her emails.”

  18. 18
    TriassicSands says:


    So, I guess the real question is how old is the person who claims to be Anne Laurie…really? And what is she hiding? A vote for Tricky Dick in ’72? A vote for Taft in ’48? “Enquiring” minds want to know.

  19. 19
    Mike J says:

    Two things that might shock you:
    1) American missile defense isn’t as good as the military likes to pretend it is.
    2) Trump lies.

  20. 20
    TriassicSands says:

    @Mike J:

    From what I’ve read over the years, the military has long exaggerated the effectiveness of our missile defense system. This is nothing new.

  21. 21

    Just shy of 60, if I remember correctly from biographical information she’s give out here.

  22. 22
    normal liberal says:

    I also voted for the first time in 76, for Carter, but went with Anderson in 80. We had lived in Rockford years earlier, and I vaguely remember meeting him at some high-minded civic event my parents took me to. I think my parents also voted for him, since they had soured on Carter. I think if i had known more about Reagan and the pre-election Iran shenanigans, I would have stuck with Carter.

  23. 23
    Emerald says:

    Awww. Good man, John Anderson.

    I deliberately sat out that election, feeling quite superior and sophisticated. The result was Reagan.

    Yeah. I learned my lesson the hard way.

  24. 24
    AxelFoley says:

    Damn, I go on certain websites (gaming, comic books, etc.) and feel old interacting with some of the other posters, but then I come here and feel like a kid when I see some of you stating shit you’ve been doing either before I was born (1973) or when I was a child (early 1980s).

  25. 25
    JaneSays says:

    my individual vote didn’t mean much in then-dependably-Democratic Michigan

    Then-dependably-Democratic Michigan went to Reagan by a solid 5 points in that election. And it hadn’t been won by a Democrat at that point since 1968, nor would it be won by a Democrat again until 1992.

    It was pretty dependably-Republican Michigan for five straight presidential contests.

  26. 26
    Elizabelle says:

    I liked John Anderson a lot. Voted for him.

    For people of a certain age, he was our wake up call on not voting for third parties. Because we got Ronnie Reagan. It took me most of a year before I could get used to that idea.

    I do wonder if Carter was as bad as the conventional wisdom had it. Probably was an early test run of “Democrats — ewww!” And he was an actual Christian. Anyway, I was young and susceptible and picked up on the zeitgeist.

  27. 27
    NotMax says:


    Still able to vividly re-live the outrage and disappointment felt at the perfidy of comics books suddenly going from 10 to 12¢.

  28. 28
    opiejeanne says:

    @Elizabelle: I voted for Anderson. I was just about over the Republican Party and I liked him. Watched Reagan do a 180 on several policies from his days as governor and that was it. And mr opiejeanne worked for the state until Jerry Brown laid him off, but he still blames Reagan which is kind of amusing.
    His first vote for any democrat was for a congressman named George Brown, Jr. He gritted his teeth and voted for him because Brown got him the Federal money to fix a train crossing that was deadly. The year before that a train killed 4 people in their 60s whose car got trapped on the tracks (poor visibility over the tracks).
    After that first vote for a democrat it got easier and we voted for that same guy again and again, but boy that first one was hard.
    I think that was the first point where we could easily compare what each party was doing for us and to improve people’s lives.

  29. 29
    Sab says:

    I am feeling old amongst you puppies. I voted for McGovern in 1972. I also worked hard on his campaign when I was in high school.

    I have always felt badly about not sending him fan mail afterwards. We lost the election, but I have been a reliable Democrat (from a moderate Republican family) ever since.

    I remember him saying how bad he felt about disappointing all those kids who worked for him. I was crushed by the election results, but I was never for a second disappointed in him. And I never did anything to let him know that.

  30. 30
    Quinerly says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Carter was my first vote in 1980, also. Born in 1961. Parents had been supporters of Jimmy in 1976 in NC.

  31. 31
    Elizabelle says:

    @Sab: Yeah. George McGovern got a raw deal from history — so far — and he truly was both a WW2 pilot AND an ordained minister. You’d think the GOP would have more respect for him, but he is one of their devils incarnate. I’d have enjoyed meeting Senator McGovern, or thanking him for being such a decent guy.

    Thinking on RMN and the 1972 race. Ran on Law and Order both times, the second amidst Watergate’s infancy. And now we realize L&O is a synonym (often) for racism and undermining others as they attempt to advance. Reaction to societal cataclysm over Vietnam and the Civil Rights Act.

    Mostly, the sheer character assassination the GOP rightwing has weaponized. It might come as a surprise to many that George McGovern was not a wild eyed hippie type, that Jimmy Carter is actually quite competent, as was WJ Clinton (whom they have now made into a rapist, a rapist, I tell you).

    Interesting that they never destroyed John Anderson’s reputation. I guess he was no longer a threat to them.

  32. 32
    Elizabelle says:

    @opiejeanne: Interesting to hear of your political journey. What did you think about JFK and LBJ? Ike? (Before your voting years, but wondering what you thought of them, at the time ….)

  33. 33
    opiejeanne says:

    @Elizabelle: Not to mention that Hillary is to blame for her husband’s messing around. One of my friends who is a democrat thinks her inability to rein him in reflects on her in some negative way.

    he’s never been married.

  34. 34
    ThresherK says:

    So, which of the GOP “moderates” is gonna be fluffed as “the modern (sic) John Anderson” , by which pundit?

    Place your bets!

    And John McCain is this game’s Free Space: it’s so preordained that points are not awarded for guessing him.

  35. 35
    NotMax says:


    Gentlemen’s bet evenly split between Ben Sasse and Brian Sandoval.

  36. 36
    opiejeanne says:

    @Elizabelle: We were Republicans and weren’t allowed to like the Kennedys, I was 10 years old when he was first elected, until the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then it was ok to like him a little, and when he was assassinated my parents were horrified, and my mother had us write letters to Jackie and Caroline.

    LBJ? I despised him . I volunteered for Goldwater when I was 13 because Mom was volunteering in our little town and my school was on a strange schedule so I had to go with her. I stuff envelopes and swiped campaign buttons. There was a man running for something, his name was Kuychel (Kee-kull) and his little button was a metal key with his name on it, with the little fold-over tab. I liked that one a lot but Mom said he wasn’t a Real Republican, being a liberal. When Nixon ran for governor of California my mom went to a tea for Pat and Mom got her to sign Mom’s name tag for me. I’ve still got it somewhere. My kids will be as puzzled by that when I’m gone as they were shocked when they saw my dad’s swastika armband that he kept after the war; it was part of an education kit on how to recognize Nazis. I think there’s a button from an officer’s jacket too.

    Ike? I was 10 when he left office and everyone I knew liked him, probably because of WWII and that he seemed to be a decent human.We didn’t know about Kay Whatsis back then.

    I had no real understanding of politics until I was in college but I was still a Republican. My first vote was in 1972 for Nixon.

    I never voted for another Republican for president after Jerry Ford and John Anderson.

  37. 37
    opiejeanne says:

    @ThresherK: Not a one of them fit to clean his boots.

  38. 38
    NotMax says:


    As for which pundit (or rather, “pundit”), Erick bin Erick.

  39. 39

    @Quinerly: Get off my lawn, ya damn kid! I was born in ’60.

  40. 40

    @opiejeanne: Kuychel was running for Senate.

  41. 41
    Sab says:

    @ThresherK: There aren’t any GOP moderates left to fluff. Lately they are trying to pass John Kasich off as a moderate. As an Ohioan living under his administration, that is ludicrous.

    My little city just passed an income tax hike by 80/20% margin (passed in every single precinct in the city) because our local finances have been so devastated by Kasich tax cuts that benefitted a couple of wealthy Columbus suburbs and clobbered the rest of the state.

  42. 42
    Elizabelle says:

    @opiejeanne: Thanks. Very interesting.

    My parents were a mixed marriage: my mom a fervent Democrat (her dad was a county commissioner in the midwest); my dad a moderate Republican. Who would vote for Democrats, on occasion.

    I just remember that everyone seemed to love JFK — his photo up all over the place, since he was the first Catholic president. I heard of Pope John 23rd before I heard of Ike.

  43. 43
    raven says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (you just keep me hanging on): Yea, I came home from Vietnam in September, 1969 and I was still 189. A week after I came home I got busted in a campus bar in Champaign for underage drinking. I turn 21 and they lower the fucking drinking age!

  44. 44
    ThresherK says:

    @opiejeanne: Certainly, you’re right. NPR, for one, will do their regular goldfish memory shitshow about this, and if someone says that bald fact you said, on the air, it will vanish into the ether.

    I’m not quite the age to have been politically sentient then. All I remember is that Reagan made my skin crawl.

  45. 45
    raven says:

    Chuck Percy was another “moderate” Illinois Republican. He hosted a meeting of a group of Illinois vets during Operation Dewey Canyon 3 and was quite receptive to our plea to stop the war.

  46. 46
    Narya says:

    My first vote was for Carter in 1976 (born in 58). Dad was a Nixon-hater from way back—we had the Watergate hearings on all the time. Mom’s family were anarchists, so no Republican voters in our household. McGovern was my commencement speaker when I graduated college.

    Was watching All the President’s Men last night…

  47. 47
    geg6 says:


    Shit, you’re all babies. Proudly born in ‘58. A few weeks too young to vote for Carter in ‘76, but I canvassed for him. I was crushed when my first presidential vote in ‘80 proved futile. Only Republican I ever voted for was John Heinz for Senator. A pretty good guy who died too young. He could have made a presidential run had his plane not crashed.

  48. 48
    Elizabelle says:

    Getting ready to head out for lunch. Followed by a stop at the Christmas market, for more gluhwein (hot mulled red wine). It’s habit forming!

    My friend is bringing the world’s most photogenic standard poodle. He’s so friendly and approachable (the dog). Don’t know if he’ll be sporting his man bun today. People come up to pet him, and he loves it.

  49. 49
    Rebusite says:

    I turned 18 in 1976, and voted for Ford–my first and last Republican vote. In 1980, my father and I had long talks about voting for an independent candidate. I did cast my vote for Anderson, but felt that Reagan’s victory was not predicated on my abandoning the Democrats. Friends and I held a wake for Democracy the night Reagan won, and I have felt ever since that the threat of what he represented was obvious, and yet people were willing to ignore it because he hated who they hated.

    I did not realize then that his hatred was going to shape every presidential race from there on out. I did think that surely, at some point, we would recognize the folly of his bad administration. I thought wrong.

  50. 50
    raven says:

    @geg6: sheeeet

  51. 51
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @AxelFoley: You young whippersnapper…

  52. 52
    geg6 says:


    Are those onions on your belt?

  53. 53
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    I truly don’t remember my first presidential vote, but I did vote for a dead guy once. (Mel Carnahan)

  54. 54
    raven says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yea, I left out the part that I couldn’t vote for over a year after I came home.

  55. 55
    raven says:

    Nasty fire in Ventura.

  56. 56
    evap says:

    I turned 18 in July 1976 and voted for Jimmy Carter that year. I was in New Jersey, so my vote wasn’t really needed, but it was a thrill to vote for the first time. All these years later, I still get a thrill every time I vote. 1958 was a good year, in addition to me and geg6, Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson were all born that year.

    Which reminds me, I must remember to vote in the run-off election today. I have to choose between two awful candidates for mayor and two great candidates for my state house seat.

  57. 57
    PST says:

    Another Anderson vote here, and another one who wishes in retrospect I had voted for Carter. I find it interesting how many Juicers did the same. I also took the same lesson as Anne and became a more consistent and reliable Democrat. I feel now that if I could understand better what induced me to go with the outsider then I might be better dealing with friends and relatives who sat out the last election because they “didn’t agree with either candidate.”

  58. 58
    satby says:

    I voted for Anderson too, though he wasn’t my first vote, that went to Ford, mainly because of Betty. I dislike evangelical Christian proselytizing and thought Carter was going to be a southern, sanctimonious fake Xtian like so many are. I began to appreciate how different he was in office, but thought he was pretty ineffective as President. Anderson was the only one to campaign honestly about taxes, and was socially liberal. He really did mark the last of the sane Republicans. And as is so often true, John Rogers wrote a perfect post at Kung Fu Monkey about the transformation of that party into what it is today.
    Edited to add: the results of that election cured me if third party voting too.

  59. 59
    Marmot says:

    I was outraged at Jimmy Carter’s cynically abandoning women to court “heartland” anti-choice voters, and besides, my individual vote didn’t mean much in then-dependably-Democratic Michigan.

    You sound like me 20 years later. I admit to stupidly voting for Nader, but hey, Clinton assiduously avoided the wealth gap, and I was in Texas, where my vote didn’t count.

    What happened next convinced me (and should have convinced younger voters, IMO) …

    What! That’s ludicrous. I was a child in 1980. I had to learn this lesson first hand, just like you. (And Ms. Cracker, I believe).

    How I wish it weren’t so.

  60. 60
    Narya says:

    @evap: we are apparently the same person. Where in Jersey?

  61. 61
    satby says:

    And while I was tripping down the Kung Fu Monkey memory lane, I enjoyed this follow-up post where our blogfather got a shout out.

  62. 62
    Woodrowfan says:

    @NotMax: Yep. 18 year olds could vote in the 1972 and 1976 elections. I voted for the first time in 1980 because I was only 17 in 1976. Almost voted for Anderson in 1980 but voted early by absentee and the polls were still really close so I voted for Carter….

  63. 63
    arrieve says:

    @mvr: I also voted for Barry Commoner in 1980. In my defense, I lived on the West Coast then and by the time I got home from work and was ready to go vote, the networks had already called the election for Reagan. It was a vote of pure fury.

    My first presidential vote was actually 1976, though. I was a student at Berkeley, and the polling place was on the first floor of our dorm, so I voted in my bathrobe. For Eugene McCarthy.

    I don’t waste my votes anymore, because I’m an adult, even though I live in a very blue city in a blue state and our results tend to be foregone conclusions.

  64. 64
    debbie says:


    I know about feeling crushed. McGovern was my first election (absentee vote in college). Mimicking my parents like little kids do, I hoped for Nixon (shudder) over JFK, but quickly learned to love the Kennedys. The only time I voted Republican was for Ford. I will say that my NY State Rep Roy Goodman (R) was excellent and took care of all of his constituents. I had no problem voting for him.

  65. 65
    evap says:

    @Narya: Millburn High School class of 1976. I spent much of my childhood in Short Hills. Now in Atlanta.

  66. 66
    frosty says:

    Anderson was the last Republican I ever voted for. I’m probably not alone in that.

  67. 67
    AxelFoley says:



    Still able to vividly re-live the outrage and disappointment felt at the perfidy of comics books suddenly going from 10 to 12¢


  68. 68
    satby says:

    @frosty: sounds like that’s true for many of us.

  69. 69
    frosty says:

    And I’m proud to say Hillary wasn’t the first woman and Barack wasn’t the first POC I voted for President. Shirley Chisholm, California primary in ’72.

  70. 70
    ewrunning says:

    I voted for McCarthy in my first presidential election in 76, and organized my small private college campus (in Washington state) for Anderson in 1980. We overwhelmed the mostly elderly GOP voters when we showed up at the precinct caucuses. The newspaper headline the next day quoted one of them as saying “We were taken over by Democrats!” By 1984, I was married, employed, a father and a proud Democrat. I’m a “Reagan Democrat” in so far as Ronald Reagan made me into a Democrat.

  71. 71
    YellowDog says:

    I registered to vote in 1972 at age 17 and voted less than three weeks after my 18th birthday, for George McGovern. I don’t know where you got your news, but the voting age was lowered long before 1976. Was this an earlier example of GOP voter suppression?

  72. 72
    buckeye666 says:

    My parents left the Republican Party when Reagan became the nominee. Dad voted for Anderson, Mom for Carter. I would have voted for Anderson as well, had I been of voting age, which I wasn’t anywhere near at the time. So a couple of years later, Dad’s back ‘home’ in Chicago on a business trip and runs in Anderson and an aide in his (Dad’s) hotel lobby. Dad decides to bother him and let him know that he voted for him and mentions that I would have as well. Anderson thanked Dad. Next morning there was a handwritten note in Dad’s mailbox, thanking him for the conversation and encouraging Mom and Dad to continue to encourage me to stay attentive and involved in politics, even though I wasn’t old enough to vote. It’s a pity we lost the note.

  73. 73
    Narya says:

    @evap: philllipsburg now chicago

  74. 74
    Skepticat says:

    I voted for Anderson, but my first vote was against Nixon in 1968. I so want to be able to vote for people again.

  75. 75
    Emily68 says:

    My first presidential vote was McGovern. And I voted for Carter in 1976, in part because of this:

    Initially, Anderson was among the most conservative members of the Republican caucus. Three times (in 1961, 1963, and 1965) in his early terms as a Congressman, Anderson introduced a constitutional amendment to attempt to “recognize the law and authority of Jesus Christ” over the United States.[11] The bills died quietly, but came back to haunt Anderson in his presidential candidacy.

    From Wikipedia

  76. 76
    Nicole says:

    Thanks for this post, Anne Laurie. I remember my dad voted for Anderson and, at 9, I couldn’t understand why, because I was really, really upset when Reagan won (I think kids are better than grownups at smelling out phonies). This post helps me understand. And I really love reading all the comments from the balloon-juice jackals who were old enough to vote then.

    It’s also nice to hear that, overall, he was a pretty decent human being, for a politician. As for recognizing the “law and authority of Jesus Christ”- if it were the actual authority, you know, the pay-your-fair-share-of-taxes-and-take-care-of-the- poor parts, I’d be all for it. But that’s never what religion ends up being about in politics, is it?

  77. 77
    kindness says:

    Way back when I switched my registration from Democrat to Republican just so I could vote for John Anderson in the CA primary. As luck would have it he dropped out of the race just before the primary here. I wasn’t stupid. I switched my registration back to Democratic because even then (Reagan years) Republicans were lying assholes. Thank God for the Democratic Party.

  78. 78
    John Waldron says:

    I voted for John Anderson. I knew Minnesota was going for Jimmy Carter so I wasn’t wasting my vote. My daughter was six at the time and she still remembers that I voted for John Anderson and brings it up every election to remind me that I didn’t always vote Democratic. I liked John Anderson’s idea of gasoline tax to help fund mass rapid transportation.

  79. 79
    Eric U. says:

    I was 18 in ’76. Voted for Carter and Rick Boucher. I was more excited that Boucher won, really. Living in a retrograde area of Virginia, it was amazing that any Democrat won, even a Blue Dog. I always was annoyed when people complained about him. The Republicans that preceded him were awful. I don’t think those progressives understand the relief of having a blue dog instead of a horror story as a representative.

  80. 80
    Scott says:

    Anderson was my 3rd presidential vote. Been a Republican since 1972. Still am but primarily vote Democrat. Even giving money to them this year. I keep the R label so I can legitimately say I’m a Republican voter when I yell at them when I call over healthcare and tax cuts.

  81. 81
    mvr says:

    @arrieve: Yeah, I would not vote for a 3rd party again. But Carter was moving to the right to the point his Secretary of State resigned, and Commoner did basically stand for what I did at the time. (How do I know? — A friend and I wrote his ballot statement for the Oregon Voter’s Guide put out by the state for each election. I wonder how much of it would embarrass me now.)

  82. 82
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    @Elizabelle: FTR I did meet George McGovern in 1973 or 1974. In 1972 I’d joined a Democratic campaign organization in southeastern Baltimore County & knocked on doors for the ticket. After the debacle we decided to stay together & formed a political club. After we got organized we threw a fundraiser & voted to donate the proceeds to help retire the Senator’s campaign debt. Only a few hundred bucks – but about a dozen of us went to his Senate office to present the cheque. Nice man. He was clearly pleased that his campaign had resulted in organizations like ours. (And in ’74 we rocked the county Democratic party in the primary!)

  83. 83
    JoeyJoeJoe Junior Shabadoo says:

    @Eric U.: I remember who preceded Boucher -William Wampler, the Bald eagle of the Cumberlands, his nickname according to the 1982 Almanac of American Politics. SWVA elected a lot of Dems locally; there are still some way downballot

  84. 84
    Julie says:

    My first vote for president was Carter in 1980. The professors and staff at the Institute of Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley, where I had a grad student office, were quite alarmed by the prospect of a Reagan presidency and no one was supporting Anderson. Of course by the time I voted late in the day in California, Carter had already conceded the election!

  85. 85
    jackmac says:

    John Anderson was my congressman in 1980. That year marked the first — and only — time I ever took a Republican ballot and voted for him in the Illinois presidential primary.

  86. 86
    Benjamin Mays says:

    @Eric U.: Did Rick run in 76? I worked on the 84 campaign and it was his first reelection race. Billy Wampler was pretty bad though.

  87. 87
    marcopolo says:

    In the summer of 1980 John Anderson’s MO state campaign office was located about 6 blocks from my house. I wasn’t totally happy with Carter (don’t remember why now) and wound up working on his campaign for about a month. Then I saw the light vis a vis Reagan (that Anderson was only going to play a spoiler role), jumped on the Carter bandwagon and helped him till I went off to my Freshman year in college. I missed being able to vote in that election by two weeks. Wore a black armband around campus until I went home for winter break. Heady days. But I always did respect Anderson and even voted for a Republican or two though I full-stopped doing that in 2000.

  88. 88
    opiejeanne says:

    @Scott: I did that, never changed my registration so I was still listed R until we moved to the Seattle area. When I registered to vote in WA there was no party affiliation box to tick.

    I hate caucuses. I discovered that in 2016.

  89. 89
    J R in WV says:



    Depending on your birthday, I had finished my service in the USN before you were born. Or was real close, I got out IIRC in February.

    When we got home to WV from the Gulf Coast, our old car froze up hard. Not the engine/radiator, but everything else, speedometer, transmission shift, any moving part had accumulated moisture down south, which froze when temps were below zero.

    I didn’t vote in ’72 even though the voting age was lowered because I wasn’t home to register. And being in the military, it seemed somehow irrelevant – hard to explain today. We all knew it was going to be a landslide for Nixon.

    But after I got out I was able to see Watergate take place, and Nixon get his comeuppance. Been political ever since, never missed an election, never voted for a Republican, if they would vote for Nixon I know they were/are no good.

    Before Nixon there were honest, good Republicans, now, not so much!

  90. 90
    smintheus says:

    @mvr: Barry Commoner would have been an excellent president. John Anderson would not have been, for the majority of Americans. His screwy gas hike proposal would have been disastrous for a lot of people given the already high price of gas. An indication that Anderson lived inside his own privileged bubble, like so many other Republicans. In the end, Anderson was targeting potential Carter voters when he had portrayed his candidacy as a protest against Reagan; it was a mark of personal aggrandizement, not principle.

  91. 91
    NoraLenderbee says:

    “Vote Johnny, Elect Ronnie.”
    As it turned out, it didn’t matter.
    I voted for Carter in 1980, about a week after my 18th birthday. It seemed like the world turned upside down. And now it’s happened again.

  92. 92
    Mohagan says:

    @Sab: My first vote was for George McGovern in the CA primary in June of 1972 (you had to be 21 in those days). My mother was a Democrat and I always was too. In fact I really can’t imagine voting for a Republican. Even the “good” ones just give votes to the Republican party. I instinctively knew a vote for a third party would split the vote so have never gone down that road. I can remember supporting Humphrey in high school (even compromised as he was because of LBJ/Vietnam War) because NIXON. It wasn’t too popular a position. So I never voted for Anderson. I voted for Carter in 1976, and then wrote in a candidate in 1980 because I knew Carter wasn’t going to win reelection (he didn’t deserve it). He really had been an ineffective president, although the finest modern ex-president we’ve ever had.

  93. 93
    Mohagan says:

    Since my comment above won’t let me edit, let me add I wrote in Barry Commoner. Thanks for the comments above to remind me who it was.

  94. 94
    Gravie says:

    I didn’t know John Anderson was still alive. I volunteered for his campaign, and even did phone-banking, but pulled the lever for Carter in the end. I still have my “Anderson of Illinois” t-shirt somewhere in the attic. RIP, John Anderson.

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