American Archive of Public Broadcasting

Reagan Campaigns in Louisiana

A list of the 44 presidents of the United States hardly begins to tell the story of the rich history of personalities, activists, politicians, and outsiders who have entered the national stage as presidential candidates. Despite the domination of our current two-party system, the structure of our representative democracy is designed to support voices and input from across the political spectrum, with a Constitution that intentionally grants no authority to partisan interests.6

While the first presidential candidate debate to be broadcast on the radio took place in 1948, it was not until the first televised Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960 that the public came to expect the debate setting as central to itsability to select a national leader. Public media has consistently covered debates, interviews, speeches and rallies of presidential candidates. From the NAEB’s 1964 feature highlighting the contentious debates between Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater, which highlighted the sharp schisms caused by the Vietnam War and racial inequality that ultimately led to the cultural revolution, to a 1987 debate broadcast on Iowa Public Television between potential first ladies Jill Biden, Jane Gephardt, and Kitty Dukakis. The Archive also includes more recent material--like this 2008 debate on health care reform between Barack Obama and John McCain, affording viewers the opportunity to track the national discourse around this and other social issues, and New Hampshire Public Radio’s extensive collection of primary-candidate interviews and speeches ranging from 1995 through 2007, and including notable politicians like Al Gore, Mike Huckabee, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting features endorsements and campaign announcements like Duluth entrepreneur Jean Paulucci’s expressed frustration with the Democratic Party in 1972 and subsequent support for Richard Nixon, and Carole King’s 1984 endorsement of Gary Hart. Public media has also provided a forum for connecting audiences to third-party and non-mainstream candidates via broadcasted interviews, speeches and rallies. WILL’s programs like Open Line and Focus consistently offered third-party candidates airtime by which to reach prospective voters, including this 2000 broadcast with John Hagelin, Reform Party Candidate for President, and this 2004 interview with Dennis Kucinich.

Despite the efforts of non-mainstream candidates, the United States track record for inclusion and diversity in terms of representation is lacking. The International Women’s Democracy Center reported that, as of 2008, with only 16.8% women elected to the House of Representatives and 16.0% women elected to the Senate, the US ranks 68th of 134 nations worldwide.7 By 2014 those numbers had risen only slightly, to 19.4% in the House and 20% representation in the Senate,8 still with no women to ever hold the office of U.S. President. The voices of women candidates are recorded in the AAPB--sometimes before they ran for president, like this 1996 speech by First Lady Hillary Clinton, and during their campaigns, like this call-in NHPR interview with Hillary Clinton from her 2007 Presidential campaign.

Racial diversity in the U.S. political sphere continues to be an issue. Last year the Pew Research Center reported that the 114th Congress was the most diverse in U.S. history, yet the makeup is still disproportionately white with only 17% of representatives belonging to a non-white demographic, despite those groups sharing 38% of the nation’s population.9 In 1968 Pacifica Radio provided coverage of presidential nominee for the Peace & Freedom Party, Eldridge Cleaver’s 1968 address at the Racism in America Symposium held at Sacramento State College in 1968, a speech opposing racism that has parallels to racial conversations happening in the U.S. today. AAPB has followed the long careers of U.S. presidential candidates representing minority groups: We see Jesse Jackson speaking to the American Baptist Convention in 1971, calling for an African American presidential candidate; again in this 1984 piece from WGBH, as a potential presidential hopeful touching on the important role of minorities on the national political stage; then again in 1987 on Iowa Public Television discussing his run for the national office in the 1988 election. In this 2004 WILL segment of Talk with the Candidate featuring Barack Obama, voters are given the opportunity to learn of then-candidate for US Senate’s evolving positions on issues like healthcare and same-sex marriage, and on foreign policy and the Middle East, as a Presidential candidate in this 2007 interview from NHPR. WHUT’s program Evening Exchange from 2003 features a panel of African American leaders discussing Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton’s potential Presidential bids, then we hear Braun herself speak about her campaign in this NHPR call-in show from later the same year.

Debates

1960

1964

1988

2000

2008

Interviews and Town Halls

1976

Democrats

1984

Democrats

1988

Democrats
Republicans

1996

Democrats
Republicans

2000

Democrats
Republicans
Reform Party
Taxpayers Party

2004

Democrats

2008

Democrats
Republicans

Speeches and Rallies

1960

Democrats

1968

Democrats
Peace and Freedom Party

1972

Democrats

1976

Democrats

1980

Democrats

1984

Democrats

1988

Democrats

1996

Democrats
Republicans

2000

Democrats
Republicans

2004

Democrats

Endorsements

Next: The Voters and the Issues