IN THE BEGINNING . . . .
I grew up in Mid-Michigan. We lived with my Grandparents and I have vivid memories of gathering 'round the old Zenith radio in the evenings to listen to the political conventions. Normally that time of year we would have spent the evening on the screened-in front porch, hoping to catch a slight breeze -- waiting for it to cool down before bedtime. After all, this was the 50's --- we had a lovely house, but air conditioning was not part of the package.
So here we were -- huddled in the darkened heat and humidity --- hanging onto every word that came across that radio. It was exciting. My blood raced as we listened to the speeches from the podium and the floor. Mealtime conversation revolved around the previous night's convention activity. The newspaper was read from front to back. This was post-WWII and the U.S. was involved in the Korean "action" at the time. The election of a new President was an incredible responsibility. It was exciting. It was patriotic. It was OUR DUTY! And I could hardly wait 'til I was old enough to vote.
I was 20 years old in 1964 --- could not vote that year. What a disappointment. But, I was living in Mexico City at that time and learned much about our political process through the eyes of the international community as we watched Goldwater and Johnson bash it out. What tried to pass for a refined political contest inside the U.S., simply looked like a 3-ring circus from another country.
My First Vote!
My first Presidential election came a year after my marriage to a man 10 years my senior --- Richard had served in Korea in the Marines. He had lied about his age to enter the Marines and felt strongly about the Presidential race. It was my first time to vote and I was incredibly excited. However, my husband and I disagreed loudly about the candidates. To make things worse, Richard was determined that my youth rendered me incapable of properly determining who should be the next President. He wanted Nixon. I wanted Humphrey. All the way to the polling place, all the way through the line, he constantly pushed me about how to cast my vote. I voted for Humphrey and never told him who I voted for. Given the Watergate fiasco, I still feel I was right.
Years passed. Elections came and went. In 1978 I moved to Denver. My dad moved to Colorado in 1979 and he was a Reaganite if ever there was one. Dad loved to cook and my son and I had Friday night dinners with him. Once again I was under the gun for my support of Jimmy Carter. Election night that year was difficult --- half the country had already voted before our polls closed. The country was overwhelmingly "red" and I couldn't even get any sympathy from my own Father!
In 1991 I married again and moved to Southern California. My husband's family was largely Republican. The elections in 1992 didn't really matter much to me because the race was declared by the media before I even got off work and headed to the polls. Not only was West Coast news on TV too early for those of us who worked in REAL jobs, we were effectively shut out of the voting cycle by those in earlier time zones. I still voted in every election; but it no longer carried the mystique or appeared as compelling. The fire had gone out of our election process for me.
Fast forward to 2008. My life was in transition as I left SoCal and headed East to move my office and home into an RV. I watched with interest as the political "field" whittled itself down. I remembered a speech made by a junior senator at a 2004 convention -- a speech which brought tears to my eyes -- a speech which renewed my appreciation for our political process. I awaited this year's conventions with renewed excitement. I only wish we could return to conventions of old -- where decisions were made AT and DURING the conventions -- in smoke-filled rooms with lots of conjecture taking place outside closed doors. OK --- maybe we could do without the smoke. But it would be nice if there were still some anticipation about the process during the conventions!
Today I will vote in a new state (Missouri). I could have voted absentee ballot. In the end, I opted to really participate in the process this year --- if it means standing in a long line -- so be it. I've stood in line for Sony Playstations for my son's Christmas gift; I've stood in line to have a book autographed. Surely I can stand in line to exercise my right to vote.
I am glad to see a renewed sense of excitement about this year's presidential race. I am proud to live in a time when we finally have a black running for President and a woman running for Vice President. There were times, through the years, when I thought I would not live long enough to see either event. I rejoice that I am young enough to truly appreciate the renewal of our political process. Regardless of who wins, it will be a joy to observe another successful transition of the United States Government.
And I think I'm actually going to enjoy the excitement of spending election night in the middle of the country, listening to the pundits do their thing, wondering who will REALLY win when the final votes are tallied. I will miss some of the Old Guard --- like Timothy White and Eric Servareid. I hope we won't have a repeat of the Florida drama of prior elections. And I pray that whoever is elected serves our country safely and with wisdom.