Carter was being attacked in a new way, by the newly-formed web of right-wing organizations funded by a few extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations, and employing many of the CIA’s covert-government-destabilization experts that Carter had fired following the Church committee hearings that exposed so much CIA wrongdoing. On top of the turmoil of the previous years the country was being subjected for the first time to a well-funded campaign of well-crafted anti-government and extremely partisan anti-Carter messaging. This kind of mean-spirited, harsh, extreme, cruel, mocking, ridiculing partisan attack that we’re so familiar with today was not something that the public had been exposed to on such a scale in the 1970’s. Until this time the country held together and worked with their leadership – you can feel so much of that attitude in Carter’s speech.
That whole piece is worth reading again.
Here’s some of Carter’s speech:
As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.
These changes did not happen overnight. They’ve come upon us gradually over the last generation, years that were filled with shocks and tragedy.
We were sure that ours was a nation of the ballot, not the bullet, until the murders of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. We were taught that our armies were always invincible and our causes were always just, only to suffer the agony of Vietnam. We respected the Presidency as a place of honor until the shock of Watergate.
We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to choose. One is a path I’ve warned about tonight, the path that leads to fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.
All the traditions of our past, all the lessons of our heritage, all the promises of our future point to another path, the path of common purpose and the restoration of American values. That path leads to true freedom for our Nation and ourselves. We can take the first steps down that path as we begin to solve our energy problem.
He goes on to talk about our dependence on oil from the Middle East and the consequences.
PLEASE read his whole speech. And keep in mind what we know today — the right had been cranking up its “message amplification” infrastructure, spreading their anti-government, anti-community, pro-corporate messages, working to set us against each other and discourage us from voting and participating in democracy.