Former President Jimmy Carter blames negative campaigning on the polarization of the U.S. political landscape. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo
PLAINS, Ga., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says negative campaigning of today is polarizing the country.
The political landscape is different between now and when Carter, a Democrat, defeated Gerald Ford in 1976 then lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Then, he said, candidates called each other "my distinguished opponent," Voice of America reported Thursday.
"[We] never had any dream of having negative advertisements. We would just refer to each other as 'my distinguished opponent,' and that's all," Carter said.
Carter said much of the money spent on his presidential campaign was from a general fund of taxpayer contributions of $1 from a voluntary check-off on income tax forms.
"This massive injection of ... hundreds of millions of dollars -- and the spending of a lot of that money on a negative campaign to destroy the reputation and character of our opponents is what has divided our country," Carter said. "That division takes place not only in the congressional district or in a state, but it carries over into Washington. It also permeates, I think, the general society, where you have very rigid, now, blue states and red states, which we didn't really know when I was in politics."
After he defeated Ford, Carter said he and his Republican opponent became friends.
"When I was with Jerry Ford and we were riding somewhere together in the same car, we always hated to get where we were going because we just liked to be with each other," Carter told Voice of America. "I think that's a kind of a personal relationship that used to exist, even among senators who are Democrats and Republicans, and members of the House 25 years ago. It no longer exists. And there's an incompatibility and an animosity."