Presidential Campaign Promises

July 31, 2022

When teaching the 2nd half U.S. history survey, we come all the way to the present. This can prove troubling for students as we cover the good, the bad, and the ugly of politicians they either admire or disdain. 
To try to help students evaluate presidents as historians do, I made the following charts of presidential campaign promises. 

Before we cover the particular president in lecture, we look at the first chart showing their major campaign promises. We go over a brief explanation of each promise making sure student understand what was promised. 

[Note in the charts, I measure presidents from the year of their campaign until the year of the campaign that will unseat them. I didn't want to confuse students or clutter the slide with campaign year and presidential term years separated out]. 
Full text available in PDF at end of page
Campaign promises by Jimmy Carter
Then we proceed with the lecture as we normally would, but with the students primed to look for these major issues and whether this president was able to deliver.

After completing the lecture, we turn to the second table. This shows what progress if any the president made on each of the promises listed on the first chart. We go over a brief explanation of their actions and then decide if they kept their promise, did not keep their promise, or made a good faith effort but were unable to keep their promise.

This final category is a great reminder for students of the limitations of the American presidency. Congress and the Judicial Branch can still check the president. 

In my online asynchronous classes, we have the full chart up as I discuss this. 
In on-campus classes, each item comes up individually, so the class can decide what they think before they see my verdict. 
Campaign promises and results by Jimmy Carter
Historians judge how effective a presidency is by how much of their agenda they are able to implement. 
We can also judge if they ran an honest campaign and attempted to do what they said they would.

By starting this exercise with presidents that most students do not remember, I'm also able to show how these ideas can be applied to all presidents regardless of their party or policies. And it is easier for students to grasp the concept before we get to presidents they have preconceived notions about. 
To download the slides from Carter thru Biden, click the link at the very bottom of the page. The powerpoint begins with a list of sources I used when compiling the slides, which you might find useful. The final three sources may be particularly useful in class.
Sources for Campaign Promises Slides
4President Website
This site has campaign brochures, announcements, and convention speeches for presidential candidates going back to 1960.
Living Room Candidate Website
This site has presidential campaign commercials going back to 1952. 
University of Virginia, Miller Center website
University of Virginia's Miller Center
This site has a wonderful website covering each president, their campaign, domestic policy, and foreign affairs. It is incredibly useful for student projects.  
You can also use these examples to have students write their own charts or verdicts using evidence from lecture, textbooks, podcasts, and/or assigned readings. 


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