Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Brief History of Voting

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I am someone who has an interest in politics and history, and, in particular American government and history.  My undergraduate degree had a major in history and a minor in political science, and I spent several years teaching history and civics at every level from sixth grade in middle school on through community college.  I do my bit to inform and direct history and politics through minor efforts like stating (and blogging) my opinion - and voting in every election.

I have been voting in presidential elections since 1972, the fist time I was old enough to cast a ballot.  That time I voted Democratic for Senator George McGovern, who ultimately lost the race to the incumbent and most odious Richard Nixon.  In 1976 I cast my first vote for a winner - Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia who defeated the Constitutionally-installed Gerald Ford.  Four years after that I had cooled toward Carter and cast my vote for an independent, Congressman John Anderson of Illinois.  Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, went on to win the contest in a landslide.

By the time the next presidential rolled around in 1984, I was actively engaged in the political process.  As the Democratic County Chairman of McDonald County, Missouri, my focus was on winning seats up and down the ballot.  I voted for Walter Mondale over Reagan, but he, too, lost by big numbers.  One of my personal highlights of that campaign was meeting the candidate's daughter, Eleanor Mondale, at a political rally.

Supporting Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts over Vice-President George H.W. Bush in 1988 was an easy choice for me, even though Bush's somewhat sleazy campaign (remember Willie Horton?) led him to victory.  The election of 1992 was a bit more fun as Bush struggled for re-election against young Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas and third-party candidate Ross Perot.  To me, Perot came across as a funnier and meaner version of the elder Bush, so I cast my vote for Clinton - who went on to win the three-way race with less than 50 percent of the vote.

Clinton ran for re-election in 1996 against Senator Bob Dole of Kansas.  A friend of mine who had grown up in Kansas liked to refer to Dole as a "mean bastard."   Heeding his admonition, and not yet fed up with the Clinton presidency, I voted again for Bill Clinton.

The only presidential vote that I regret over the years is the one I cast in 2000.  By the time that election rolled around I was definitely through with the embarrassment of the Clinton years, and rather than support his Vice-President, and the Democratic nominee, Al Gore, I again voted third party.  That time for consumer safety crusader Ralph Nader.  George W. Bush won that election via the electoral college, even though he lost the popular vote.   If I had voted for Gore, it would not have changed the outcome, but it would have put one more vote in his column and added one more bit of embarrassment to the Bush "win."

One other vote in 2000, however, was particularly satisfying.  Missouri's Governor Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, was locked in a very tight race to oust John Ashcroft, a Republican, from the U.S. Senate.  I knew Governor Carnahan personally and had a great respect for him - so I, like the rest of the state and much of the nation, was shocked when he was killed in a private plane crash just a couple of weeks before the election.  It was too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, and many feared (or hoped) that Ashcroft would be automatically re-elected.  I cast my vote for Carnahan, as did many of my friends, and when the results were tallied that evening, Governor Mel Carnahan, a literal dead man, defeated John Ashcroft for his seat in the United States Senate!  I was proud of that vote - you betcha I was!

My vote in 2004 went to the Democrat, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts over the incumbent George W. Bush.  Bush went on to win that election, though some, such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr, argued for years that the election outcome had been rigged by Ohio's Secretary of State.

(Interesting fact:  Since the presidential election of 1988 and up through today, the Republican candidate for President has only won the popular vote one time - and that was in 2004 - and even that was questionable.)

I was sending money and encouragement to Barack Obama by mid-year of 2007, and the first entry into this blog was in early November of 2007, exactly one year to the day of his election to the White House.  That first entry was entitled "Obama - '08!"   The following year, during the campaign, I was able to see him in person in a large auditorium in Phoenix where he appeared with Arizona Governor Janet Napalitano and Caroline Kennedy, both of whom went on to play important roles in his administration.  So, yes - I enthusiastically voted for Obama over my own senator at the time, John McCain.   Four years later, still riding high on the dream, I voted for him again, this time over former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

Bernie Sanders was my choice to head the Democratic ticket in 2016, and to say that I was unenthusiastic about bringing the Clinton circus back into the White House would be serious understatement.  And even though Bernie did manage to win the Missouri county I live in during the primary season, it seemed to be apparent throughout the campaign that the fix was in with the party establishment and Hillary Clinton would carry the Democratic banner into the fall election.  I struggled with who to vote for for a long time.  Hillary wasn't going to carry Missouri - as evidenced by the polls and the fact that she even declined to campaign here, so electoral college-speaking, I could cast my vote for any third party candidate and not hurt her chances - and I regarded two of the third-party candidates, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, far preferable to her.  But I also remembered the close election of 2000 where I voted third-party and thus denied Al Gore a fragment of a figment of a bit more legitimacy.  So, in the end, I voted for Hillary -who went on to win the popular vote by nearly three million - a fact that our Dear Leader is still whining and lying about to this very day.

I'm glad that I voted for Hillary if for no other reason than it makes Trump appear even more illegitimate as our "elected" leader.

Whine on, Hair Furor, whine on.  We'll be renegotiating your contract on America in 2020, and Pa Rock, hopefully, will still be voting.  See you at the polls!

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