A peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter rose to national power through mastering the strategy of the maverick politician. As the face of the "New South," Carter's strongest support emanated from his ability to communicate directly to voters who were disaffected by corruption in politics.
But running as an outsider was easier than governing as one, as Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer shows in this examination of Carter's presidency. Once in power, Carter faced challenges sustaining a strong political coalition, as he focused on policies that often antagonized key Democrats, whose support he desperately needed. By 1980, Carter stood alone in the Oval Office as he confronted a battered economy, soaring oil prices, American hostages in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Carter's unpopularity enabled Ronald Reagan to achieve a landslide victory, ushering in a conservative revolution. But during Carter's post-presidential career, he has emerged as an important voice for international diplomacy and negotiation, remaking his image as a statesman for our time.