Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Political Tuesdays: Memories of Election Days Past

Election Day, 1968 - I was learning to walk.  My family was living in the Netherlands as expat American grad students.  I have no memories of this election day, but the Republican won.

Election Day, 1972 - I think I have very hazy memories of this.  Vague separation anxiety as I accompanied my mother to the polls in Akron, Ohio but couldn't go into the booth with her... I kept an eye on her legs.  And it was interesting that everyone else in the voting booths had only legs to look at.  I think I asked her in the car afterward who she had voted for, and she told me it was a secret.  It is quite possible, at this stage of her life, that she was still voting Democratic.  But the Republican won. And I'm not sure I even was aware of the name "Nixon" until the day he resigned, because my mother made a point of taking us down to the TV in the lobby of the dorm where we were staying at Westminster College in Pennsylvania for the New Wilmington Missionary Conference to watch his resignation speech.

Election Day, 1976 - I cast my vote for Ford in the mock election at Turkeyfoot Elementary School in Portage Lakes, Ohio.  I was disappointed when Carter won, both the mock and the real election.  But my father did tell me it was remarkable that a peanut farmer who had never been heard of outside his home state could become the President of the United States.  And his daughter was my age.  My dad said he would see about arranging a playdate.  I worried for 2 whole years that Amy Carter might show up for a sleepover and my room would be a mess.

Election Day, 1980 - I was definitely political by this time, staying up late to watch election returns in our den in Manchester, Ohio.  I kept track on a sheet of notebook paper as the states rolled in for Reagan.  I remember how excited I was when it was New York that put him over the top.  I know there are a lot of people rooting for a similar turnout today.  Now I'm teaching students the same age I was during that election.  If today is as uplifting and exciting as the Reagan landslide was, great -- but I've also seen reverses of political fortunes and have learned there is a season for everything.

Election Day, 1984 - There was real partisan pleasure in watching Reagan trounce Mondale.  I won't deny it.  Is it really true as George Will suggests, that Minnesota has a chance to swing red today?  I sincerely hope so.

Election Day, 1988 - The first presidential election in which I was eligible to vote.  I was a senior in college, voted in Ohio by absentee ballot, and watched election returns and debates from whatever TV I could find available in the dorm lobby or basement.  Bad reception.  It was Grove City, so there was only one token Dukakis voter in our midst.  I learned in this election cycle that the guy you support in the primary is very rarely the guy you get to vote for in the general, and that it's all okay as long as the party comes together for the good of the country.  It may not seem like it's that big of a lesson, but it's one that many voters of middle age or older still haven't learned yet.  Of course, George H.W. Bush wasn't Reagan.  But even Reagan wasn't as Reaganesque as our memories would have him be.

Election Day, 1992 - I was a newlywed, working for National Right to Life, voting in Northern Virginia, and this was a hard one.  I was young and idealistic and I didn't think it could be possible that God would let a philandering, lying narcissist like Bill Clinton win over a thoroughly decent, classy guy like Bush.  We got a fax from the campaign mid-afternoon that basically said internal polling put the writing on the wall.  It was in black and white and I still couldn't process it.  The day after I went with several other junior staff (senior staff were probably too depressed to deal with it, and gave their tickets away) to the White House lawn to welcome President Bush back.  We saw the helicopter land, waved American flags, hugged each other and cried.  Bush gave his speech about how maybe history will have a different opinion, Rai Rojas picked up a leaf which he would later use as a metaphor for lost hopes for unborn children, and we returned to the office, convinced that we had worked harder to re-elect Bush than Bush's own campaign staff.  As a Calvinist I had an easier time accepting the results of the election than many of my Catholic friends, but it was hard.  I learned that God has different plans than mine, and I also learned a certain amount of distrust for the voters who don't weigh moral values highly in making their voting decision.  To this day, I heartily despise Bill Clinton, although I will admit he was a more competent leader than Barack Obama.

Election Day, 1996 - Secundus' due date was November 5, but he came 3 days early.  I was at home in Littleton, Colorado with two little boys.  My mother and grandmother were visiting, my lifelong-Democrat grandmother brought a little stuffed elephant labeled "Bob Dole".  By this time I was used to tuning out the President, and I had a brand new baby to distract me, so this loss wasn't quite as bad.  But I'm pretty sure both my little boys were born with a preference for Rush Limbaugh's voice.

Election Day, 2000 - We had just relocated to Washington State in 1999, and I had a new little girl, my "extra-chromosome right wing", who gave me extra motivation to vote against Al Gore.  I knew that my vote would not really matter in my state, but I was ready for the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was optimistic that Bush would win; when the initial Florida results came in I was thrilled and figured that was it.  But of course, it wasn't.  This was the election I learned to have contempt for the "anything to win" mentality of the Democratic party machine.  And when I realized how fractured our national culture had become... sadness at that and happiness at the fact we had elected a decent man were mixed for me in this election.

Election Day, 2004 - It was hard to imagine how any Democrats, no matter how partisan, could support the arrogant John Kerry, but we were still agonizingly sharply divided.  I began to be frustrated by the apolitical and third-party voters populating my community... why didn't they see how big the stakes were?  Why didn't they realize that an imperfect candidate is much to be preferred to giving up their voice altogether?  I really hope their pure idealism has comforted them during the last 4 years.

Election Day, 2008 - There was something Kennedyesque about Obama's rise to power from obscurity.  I consoled myself with the thought that his election proved America was not a racist country, and at least he seemed like a personally upright individual in comparison to Clinton.  I strongly supported Sarah Palin because I liked her, I liked her ability to give an inspiring speech without a teleprompter, I liked the fact that she was a fellow Down syndrome mom and committed to the pro-life issue.  As a knitter active on Ravelry, I had been terribly distressed by the absolute vitriol directed at her by the ultra-leftist hate groups.  (If you think civility on the internet is at an all-time low, you should have seen the online knitting forums in 2008).  It was a harsh education, but I don't regret it.  But more than ever, I'm convinced of the need for Republican leadership in the presidency, and particularly the need for Christian "values voters" to make their voices heard.  If we don't, we forfeit our say in the future of our civilization.  The stakes are very high.  There is no guarantee that the American republic will endure, not without citizen education and involvement.  Or even with it.

So there you have it, a history of my electoral thoughts over a lifetime, two continents, and from one end to another of America.  Your votes are already cast, so you can amuse yourselves by reading this if you, like me, are anxiously watching the returns roll in.  I'm wearing my team colors - red, been wearing red for a week now - and I've been encouraged by a lot that I've read.  But it could still be a long night, with disappointment at the end of it.  I'm hoping not, but let's stay strong.


Nana said...

Love your political writings Kathy. Miss you!

Nana said...

Love your political writings Kathy. Miss you!

Anonymous said...

Alert! No sleepover for any of the Obama girls planned or expected. Do not worry. Love, dad.

Lee said...

Enjoyed your political memories. The end result for 2012 was neither what I expected nor prayed for :( but God is still in control, and I know that very well and we are here for such a time as this to Shine in the Son. He sometimes gives people exactly what they want - King Saul comes to mind.