Throwback Tuesday: 1980, when north Florida got it right and the rest of the state got it horribly wrong

We’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks talking about the “dixiecrat” vote in north Florida as well as the interior of the state. These voters overwhelmingly supported George Wallace in 1968, running as an Independent, stuck with Wallace in the 1972 Democratic Primary leading him to an overwhelming statewide victory and then voted en masse for Richard Nixon in the fall of 1972 helping him to a massive 44 point victory in the state.

In 1968, race and Vietnam protesters had been the issues whereas in 1972 school busing was the issue. Either way the counties of the Big Bend region, the interior of the state were voting largely based on cultural considerations. However in 1980 as the moral majority swept Ronald Reagan into office, the counties of the Big Bend and Eastern Panhandle wisely resisted what the rest of the state could not- Ronald Reagan.

Reagan’s campaign which was based partly on suspended reality bordering on outright fictional fantasy and partly on race and religion baiting was wildly successful south of Ocala in the state. Florida was easily Reagan’s best southern state in this election and gave him a larger margin of  victory by % than any state east of the Mississippi except for then rock-ribbed Republican New Hampshire.

Jimmy Carter carried every county between the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers on Election Day 1980. Ronald Reagan carried all but a handful of counties south and east of the Suwannee (Glades, Okeechobee, Sumter, and Hardee, all southern in their outlook were exceptions) and every county between the Apalachicola and the Alabama  border, except Jackson and Gulf which border the river and its tributaries. Reagan won the state by 17 points winning counties such as Orange  and Broward by a nearly a 2 to 1 margin. (Broward was one of the few large counties in the country where Reagan’s 1980 margin was cut dramatically in 1984, an election where Reagan recorded a record landslide victory nationally. Broward was Reagan’s third worst Florida county in 1984, after being one of his best in 1980. In 1984 Reagan won Florida by 30 points winning every county except for Gadsden). Reagan also won by huge margins in Dade, Pinellas, Palm Beach and Hillsborough while barely carrying Duval.

In many of the Big Bend counties, Reagan won a majority of the white vote, but the combination of unified African-American support and continued loyalty to the Democratic Party by some southern whites based on economic issues carried Carter in these areas. This formula was repeated through much of the south on Election Day which was Carter’s strongest region (if you exclude Florida south of Ocala) despite carrying just his home state of Georgia. This formula helped Democrats continue to win many of these counties in state elections into the 2000s and electing rural legislators until recent years.

Southern pride played a role in Carter’s success among some white voters, as did a large African-American turnout. Reagan’s efforts to make race and “state’s rights” an issue did not work universally with southern whites. Despite launching his general election campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi the scene of the gruesome murders of three Civil Rights workers in 1964, some southerners resisted what countless suburbanites and yuppies could not.  Reagan gave his speech on “state’s rights” at the Neshoba County Fair.  Some of the media caught to correlation from the beginning but others mesmerized by Reagan’s acting skill and acting with petulance towards Carter’s reality based rhetoric

The rest of Florida acted with immaturity much like their northern cousins/siblings. They failed twice to see that what Reagan offered was a suspension of reality, a fantasy world we are still paying for. Thirty plus years later, the mass delusion of the Reagan myth has been shattered by the reality of what my colleague Justin Snyder wrote yesterday.

President Carter’s school master lecture to Americans on the economy, conservation, energy and sacrifice was not heard by most. History has proven that he was right and the majority of those who voted in November 1980 in this country were wrong. But that is the peril of Democracy. Instead of making the right choice the country drifted into a world of  the type of anti-intellectualism Richard Hofstadter had written about. Ronald Reagan was the perfect leader for this type of plastic nation,  Had Carter been re-elected it is safe to say rational energy policy would have avoided three American wars in the Middle East, and the countless drips of American blood spilled over it. The deficit would have never exploded, and we would be well on our way to true energy independence.

Those Democrats who crossed over and voted for Reagan, I certainly hope the last thirty years of human history has convinced that you made a mistake. In this case north Florida showed the rest of the state the way. It’s a pity they did not listen.

For your listening pleasure our former President before he was elected on state’s rights in Philadelphia Mississippi.

and on the perils of “socialized medicine.” I believe this may have been while LBJ was pushing passage of Medicare.


  1. This piece is your biggest joke yet. Ronald Reagan inspired hope in most American people. Even democrat understood Jimmy Carter was not up to the job but Reagan was. What happened in 1980 was that Regan presented optimism and a bright future. Carter instead so so depressed the American people. He had no business being president and there is a reason why so many Democrats voted for Reagan. We called ourselves Reagan Democrats. We were also Clinton democrats.

    Reagan would be a Democrat today.


    1. Reagan was the worst President we had post World War II. I could go on and on but I just don’t see the need to argue with you.


  2. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Your best article ever. Reagan worship is the biggest reason I’m still a Democrat.


  3. Morning Star · ·

    Reagan protected Israel unlike the anti-Semite Carter who would let another Holocaust happen. Yes even compared the Israelis to apartheid South Africa. We aligned with apartheid South Africa because the African black states were all backing the Palestinians. Carter was aligned with all the black African states and put sanctions up against South Africa. Reagan removed the sanctions and allowed Americans to trade once again with South Africa’s regime a big supporter and backer of Israel and a freedom. We were in the middle of the Cold War and Carter was naïve about the cold war Reagan understood the implications. Israel and South Africa were both allies of United States.


    1. So let me get this right, you supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa?

      Reagan and Thatcher’s policy towards South Africa were immoral and furthered the notion that we were simply capitalistic states concerned only about commerce.

      Also please provide proof of Carter “antisemitism” as you claim.


  4. Blue Dog Dem · ·

    Carter’s “crime” was standing up to the Israel lobby.

    He was more concerned about America than the fantasy world if debt and machismo Reagan projected.


  5. Morning Star · ·

    Have you read anything he has ever written Kartik? The man is anti-semetuc. He hates Israel and he hates Jews and wish we were exterminated. As far South Africa’s concerned they were friendly to Israel they were friendly United States and they were hostile to the Soviet Union so who cares about their internal policy that’s not our business to force them to change your internal policies if they were allied with us.

    So Kartik what would you say if Carter had gone after India the way he went after Israel. What if he threatened to exterminate your Indian people.?What would you do what would you care when you continued to defend him?


    1. Um okay. Carter was downright hostile to India and George W. Bush was “India’s Best Friend.” I don’t vote based on India. I really don’t care. I am an American. And I bet I have been to India more than you’ve been to Israel.

      Wanna bet? For starters I have been to India 17 different times in my life and have cumulatively spent a year in the country. Do you have a similar history with Israel.

      Again instead of citing rheotric please provide REAL PROOF that “Carter who would let another Holocaust happen” and “He hates Israel and he hates Jews and wish we were exterminated”

      Also support for Apartheid South Africa was so passe’ that many Republicans challenged Reagan on it including Newt Gingrich. Of course Jack Abramoff filmed a propaganda movie promoting apartheid. Good solider he was.


  6. Morning Star · ·

    So you are admitting you are antiemetic also and showing your obsession with blacks. You do know the ANC was a pro-Palestinian terrorist Marxist organization. The South African whites were the true defenders of liberty. You know history well enough to know that, right?


    1. So are you calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist? Really???????????????

      I hope you are proud of your angry, uncalled for diatribe against one of the finest Americans to live in the last 100 years. I am sorry, I feel President Carter is a GREAT man. Not a good man like so many but a truly GREAT man. A man of peace, a man of humanism.


  7. Morning Star · ·

    Carter is a dumb hillbilly redneck who ended up getting lucky becoming president and then using his redneck instinct to go after Jews.


    1. Do you know how stupid you sound?


  8. Meredith · ·

    Ronald Reagan was one of the worst Presidents. He watched as citizens…gay men were dying and didn’t say anything about the fact that AIDS was killing them. Until AIDS was in the straight community, he didn’t care. That was 8 years of him wasting research time while AIDS became an epidemic!

    Furthermore, Reagan’s Trickle Down Economics was a joke…The wealth never got to the bottom and the wealthy just kept getting richer.

    Reagan’s administration started the “war on drugs” that really did nothing but put people in jail and cost the law abiding citizens more than we can afford!!! People are still fighting to legalize marijuana that is helpful in pain management. The War on Drugs has been a complete failure.

    Reagan’s policies were a joke.


  9. Fla Dem Insider · ·

    Reagan would be a Dem today.


    1. Based on what?

      His delusional tax cuts that favored the top 1%?

      His anti-environment stands?

      His record on abortion?

      His military buildup and cowboy statements?

      C’mon he was the worst from a progressive standpoint.


    2. Reagan was bridge between conservative Democrats like George Wallace and today’s Tea Party. No way he would be a Democrat. No chance.


  10. Reagan made us feel like we could grab the stars. Carter made us feel like we were an inferior nation and race of people. Hence why Reagan crushed him and Mondale four years later.


    1. Meredith · ·

      Reagan was trading arms to the enemy while the “Great Actor” pretended to support the people that were dying. So much for the him making us feel like we could grab the stars!

      Reagan created the ME generation. Carter (as it’s been said) was and is a humanitarian.


    2. Sampson · ·

      He was a good actor


  11. Best article ever on this site. Reagan was the worst “leader” this nation ever had.


  12. Once upon a time Dems ruled Florida · ·

    Carter’s campaign relied on race baiting and acting as if the country would collapse with a military buildup and that our water would be contaminated. Gas prices went up thanks to Carter’s unwillingness to drill for oil domestically and declaring any place with oil a “wildlife refuge.” His naivety about the Soviet threat and willingness to compromise American strength in the name of human rights was shameful. He turned his back on our allies in Chile, Argentina, Israel and South Africa, pushing a completely idealistic but anti-American notion of “peace” and “equality between the races.” As has been noted above he supported the racist and terrorist, communist ANC against a South African government that was strongly pro-Israel and anti-communist. He imposed sanctions on South Africa and Rhodesia, forcing the white government in the later to step down under pressure and giving the world the gift of the racist brutality Robert Mugabe brought.

    Krishnaiyer has proven his own racist, anti-white and anti-American views in this blog. We can now add anti-semite to the list. Anyone who supports Carter is anti-Israel and anti-American.

    And you wonder why we have left the Democratic Party in mass. The mere fact so many lefties like Carter and as Krishnaiyer put it is a GREAT man says you people are racists who should not be allowed the privilege of citizenship if Krishnaiyer is in fact a citizen, not an illegal Indian squatter who simply doesn’t want to live among cow dung like his fellow countrymen. .


    1. I was born in Wisconsin and moved to Florida in 1979. Other than a short period in Washington, I have lived in this state ever since including college.


  13. Once upon a time Dems ruled Florida · ·

    I am not trying to be mean but it is Krishnaiyer who started the anger by posting this basically saying anyone who voted for Reagan was partaking in a self-delusional fantasy. So if he who may not even be American is going to impugn my patriotism I sure as heck am going to bite back!


    1. Ronald Reagan was a bad actor playing the part of a politician. He was a puppet for the military industrial complex which propped him up and painted his face while he threatened the entire world with the brink of nuclear war, all the while diving the country deep into debt. He did not even have all his marbles left while he was in office. As an eight year old I could see through Reagan, not sure why you couldn’t.


  14. It is a real shame you would embrace Carter who is the biggest antisemite going. But we Jews are used to being sold out especially by Indians like you and the ragheads. You never had to endure anything like a Holocoust yet you pontificate about race just like the Blacks do here in Palm Beach. What do they know about true suffering? They live in the best country on the planet.

    Your constant harping on sugar and pollution shows you are on the extreme fringe of our society. Now you have added antisemitism and pro communism to your checklist. The honkey southern whites like Carter and Blue Dog are never going to truly accept an Indian like you but go ahead make your bed with them. Do not come crying to us when the Klan burns down your home and kills your family. We have been through that before but you abadoned us when we needed you.


    1. Meredith · ·

      As a Jewish person, I was taught that there is suffering in the world. I was also taught not to be a bigoted jackass who claims to understand suffering while stepping on people and being offensive!

      As a Jew whose family was in the concentration camps I am offended by your incredibly insensitive abusive statement! You should know better, Adam! You should be ashamed of yourself!


    2. Indians never had to endure anything like the holocaust? Go read a history book. People who throw around the word antisemite at anyone whose opinion differs with them on policy issues surrounding Israel do the Jewish people a disservice. No Country is immune to criticism. Blind faith and allegiance is precisely what the problem with Reagan was/is.


  15. “Jews for Social Justice” was started for social action against apartheid in 1985 after Mandela was released from jail. He attended Shabbat services at a temple in Johannesburg. Right before that he went on T.V with the PLO. Although he accepted Israel’s right to exist within the 1967 border and promoted a PA state. He was very close with the ANC and the PLO during the apartheid. He saw South African black (not the whites or the Jews) as the Palestinians. Reagan called Mandela a terrorist.


    Regan….he would not be a Democrat. He was awful on social policy and waited for an election in order to release our hostages in Iran. For both parties that say he would not be a Republican today you are nuts. He was for higher taxes, forget Iran contra affair…yeah real good for our foreign policy. He did not have Alzheimer’s disease then but acted as if he knew nothing about that situation.

    We had one the highest rate of homelessness during his presidency, he instituted the Global gag rule and was a fundamentalist on women’s health domestically, doubled the national debt, opposed voting rights act of 1965, supported prayer in school as an amendment, part of his 1980 plan was like Governor Perry’s to get rid of the Department of Education, regulated almost every industry, viewed AIDS biblically, like sins of sex & abortion, wanted to privatize Social Security like the Republicans do today, first hero to Evangelics in politics,

    Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. The act made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit illegal immigrants, required employers to attest to their employees’ immigration status, and granted amnesty to approximately three million illegal immigrants who entered the United States prior to January 1, 1982, and had lived in the country continuously…neither party today would have signed that.

    The smartest thing he did was his campaign “Morning in America” and success with the Soviet Union. So when you have little legislative aides and grown men on both sides say he would be a Democrat today….you are sadly mistaken.

    Maybe that is why the Democrats are lost in wilderness while the Republicans are still questioning if the forest event exist. Dumb and dumber. Do some homework and you might sound smart so you want have to be known as a person who lives in Flori..duh.


    1. Mandela wasn’t released from Robben Island until 1990. February 1990, I recall the day well, it was a Saturday and I got up early to watch it.


    2. The real African opponent of Israel was Idi Amin who started out pro-Israel but then tilted towards the PLO. He also expelled all the Indians from Uganda and shamefully Indira Gandhi wouldn’t take HER OWN PEOPLE BACK INTO THE COUNTRY. Most Ugandan Indians ended up in the UK, Australia or Canada, more compassionate countries than India in those days under corrupt pro-Soviet Nehru family rule. That was the issue. Sticking it to the US/UK was more important for India than standing up for her own people. Amin was against the British so naturally I. Gandhi embraced her.


      1. him, Amin was a he! 🙂


      2. Morning Star · ·

        Now Kartik maybe Idi Amin will remind you why Jews are right and the Arabs and Blacks are wrong and ultimately why Carter was horrible. Keep in mind that the meeting was friendly with Israel but Israel then turned against him because of his human rights abuses. Your people the Indians kept that country going. They were the ones with the industry they were the ones with the brains they were the ones doing the work. The dumb blacks who took over the country and remained felt that everything should be run by black Africans and kicked the Indians out. The expelled Indians went on to great success in other countries while the dumb Ugandans are an absolute shit hole currently a third world country bordering on fourth world if that is possible.

        You see Kartik is unnatural for your people to side with the Arabs the Palestinians and the blacks over the Jews. You’re in fact a disgrace to your own people. A self-hating Indian when convenient in order to play black to get ahead in the race baiting Democratic Party of the Obama years. Sure you’ll play the Indian card when it works but when you need to placate the blacks and other special-interest groups thst run the Democratic Party you run to them and abandon your own people.

        To hell with you.


  16. Carter was a mediocre president but was Lincoln or FDR when compared to Reagan.

    Reagan thought he was acting throughout his presidency and despite his hatred of science could have benefited before Alzheimer’s struck.

    Oh and he armed Iran, Saddam and Bin Laden.


  17. So sad the racism shown by these people. Ragheads? Really? I support Israel and her people completely. But I don’t vote only on the issue of her security. My own country and her people come first. And my country, like Israel, is a country built on tolerance and those like this racist that are so hateful need to go over to Russia where hatred is still accepted.

    PS-Kartik is far from an anti-Semite. He is part of my Jewish family.


  18. Reagan armed bin Laden and al Qaeda. Remember 9/11? Thanks for that President Reagan!


    1. +1 this comment. SO TRUE!


  19. The one thing this blogs show the ignorance of many and the research of the few.
    Adam calls someone a raghead, another calls someon a anti-semite and questions if he is a citizen. Then you have those praising Carter. These are the dumbocrats which proves my point. Both sides are clueless but at least one does not try to legislate racism, sexism and anti-semitism. For the record Carter SUCKED on foreign policy specifically with Israel. Scott and group you must be on drugs with this hate but its not legal yet.


    1. How is Scott on drugs? Let’s review: Reagan armed Saddam (even sent Rumsfeld to meet with him), the Mujhadeen which were then and are now Islamist zealots. He also traded arms for hostages with Iran while attacking Jimmy Carter for not getting the hostages released from Iran in 1980. As a Democrat Carter never could have traded arms for hostages because all the foreign policy “wonks” who are neoconservatives would say he was weak on terrorism because he is Jimmy Carter and a Democrat.

      He sucked on Israel according to you, but also brought the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab nation, Egypt. Besides as the AMERICAN PRESIDENT his job was to govern the USA and work for our benefit not that of Israel, or India or China or Ireland or Cuba or Argentina or whatever country outside our borders. Carter had a real plan for making us energy independent and to understood the need to reign in the military defense complex which Reagan, Bush, Clinton and W unleashed with incredible fury using imagined threats to justify reckless spending that has made us less safe. Thankfully Obama and his new excellent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are going to deal with this problem after 32 years of our of control behavior.

      Reagan lacked the basic compassion and intellectual curiosity required to lead. His election is besides 9/11 the single worst thing that has happened to this country in my lifetime.

      Calling someone a Dumbocrat for defending Jimmy Carter is itself dumb. He is a great, compassionate man and while maybe not a great President, was a visionary who never had the opportunity to finish what he started. Were Americans less reactionary and more mature that election would have had a different outcome.

      As far as racism, it’s a bipartisan problem. The Republicans have race baited for years but personally I have encountered more racism among Democrats mostly subtle but there than among Republicans. Many Republicans are business-people who have dealt with foreigners and minorities for years. Many Democrats I have found at times threatened by immigration and its potential to take American jobs. Again the parties themselves don’t take those stands- the GOP race baits while Democrats are inclusive. But I am talking about individual members of the parties.


  20. Mike in Cleveland · ·

    Hey Adam,

    I grew up with Kartik. I am Kartik’s best friend and I’m a Jew. He is married to a Jewish woman and grew up in a predominantly Jewish community. He was raised by the most tolerant, wonderful parents who treated me like I was their son. He wore a freaking yarmulke at his wedding. There is not an anti-semetic bone in his body. Your comments are offensive and have no place on this blog. If you disagree with his opinion, that’s one thing, but to call him out as an anti-Semite is offensive and disgusting. Kartik has never had a bad thing to say about anyone’s race or religion.

    And, for the record, Carter was a man of peace. Just because he was a Christian, didn’t make him an anti-Semite.

    In short, you’re a disgraceful individual and you should retract the comments you made about Kartik. And you’re an asshole.


  21. Sampson · ·

    Morningstar is obviously just a racist pathetic loser. Perhaps he would benefit from some anger management sessions as well as some drugs-and not the kind he smokes or snorts on the beach. Kartik with all due respect your tolerance for these comments is to be commended however thugs like this don’t deserve a public forum. Time to block his rants.


  22. Carter signed the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel yet the price was Israel reducing is terrorist to less than half of that it had become after the 6 day war. If you read his book you would also know that he forget what the UN Resolution 242 I think was about and what it detailed. He also claimed that Iran gaining a nuclear weapon was no big deal and claimed Hamas to be a peaceful party. His success with the SALT treating with the Soviet might be commended but we all can pick and choose what we like or dislike about Carter. The reality is this blog is disgusting in its rhetoric with it comments and you should of stopped it from the get go instead of continuing it. FYI You were right with Reagan but wrong to continue this hate speech on your site. Set some standards and respectful disourse.


    1. You either believe in free speech or you don’t. First amendment rights. Nobody is crowding fire in a theater here. nobody is threatening to kill anyone. Legitimate differences of opinion and diversity of viewpoints on various subjects is what make America so great. If we all conformed to one world view we’d be in real trouble. I don’t censor comments for a reason. Nothing as far as I am concerned has crossed the line. People have differing views about things which you or I may disagree with but it is unfair to call it disgusting in its rhetoric. That is your opinion but we cannot have a truly free and open forum by censoring comments.

      As far as a “racism” is concerned we are not all created to look and think alike. I think we should strive for a color blind society to to pretend their are no differences between peoples, religions and cultures is just as stupid as racism quite honestly. People are entitled to their point of view. We have Civil Rights and Hate Crimes laws in the US that govern this speech when it crosses the line. Go to YouTube on any political video from the 60s or 70s and you’ll see comments far more racist than the ones here.

      On the merits of your comment, Carter was the President of the United States not of Israel or Iran. His obligation was to protect the United States not some foreign power. I personally don’t care if Iran has a nuclear weapon so long as they don’t use it against the USA. Pakistan has a nuclear weapon and they are the largest sponsor of international terrorism with large portions of the country ungovernable being essentially run by taliban warlords and Saudi educated jihadists. Pakistan has pointed their nuclear bombs at India since 1998 but again they don’t point them at the USA and cannot reach the USA so why should I make it an over riding issue? I am concerned about America, the country I was born, raised and continue to live in. I’ve been to India 17 different times but I cannot worry about India. They need to worry about themselves. I support Israel but it is not the job of the USA and American taxpayers to protect them from Iran. And it is most certainly not our job to protect the Saudis with their human rights violations, exporting of clerics who preach destruction of the west and who keep women in bondage from Iran. Personally, I could care less if Saudi Arabia were blown off the map. Again none of this REALLY impacts the United States.

      Regarding Iran if we hadn’t saber rattled so much we could have had help in Afghanistan and Iraq from them. The Shiite’s in Iraq pre-invasionwere far more pro-American than the Sunnis or Christian Arabs. The Northern Alliance backed by Iran in Afghanistan kept the Taliban in check and tended to be more pro-American than the Pakistani/Saudi backed forces. Same can be said in Kosovo and Bosnia were Iran backed the same side were backing…the Saudis for all the money and their desire to spread Islam or Islamofacism as it should be called (because the Saudi version of Islam is really similar to Nazism and Facism) did not contribute the way Iran did and that’s why those countries haven’t been radicalized the way Saudi backed countries are.

      Granted much of this happened when Iran had a more moderate President but I think viewing things with regards to Iran in black and white has gotten us into so much trouble.

      My concern is our country, our economy, jobs, social justice and the environment here. Foreign policy is important in that it impacts our economy. Thus the real threats are Russia, China, India, and Western Europe. We’ve given away the farm with free trade agreements and wages are depressed here at home.

      I’m a liberal on domestic policy but the only one making total sense right now on foreign policy is Rand Paul- AMERICA FIRST ALWAYS. The liberalism in foreign policy of the Bush and Obama years has yielded thousands of young Americans needlessly killed and the accumulation of debt and the loss of so many domestic opportunities.


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