I grew up in a very patriotic family who took the right to vote very seriously. Politics were argued often between my uncles and their father and as a child I sat and listened and took it all in. I loved history and every election held was history in the making. It was during these times of listening that the simple basics of my political philosophy were born.
In 1968 I was in the sixth grade and it was an election year. We discussed the election in school most of that fall and I became truly fascinated with an election for the first time in my life. I followed the candidates on the evening news as they were followed around the country talking to people face to face. I watched with fascination both conventions that year. I watched the devastating Democratic convention in Chicago which showed riots in the streets. I was proud when Senator McGovern picked my senator, Tom Eagleton, as his vice presidential running mate. A few days later I look on in confusion as Eagleton was pulled from the ticket and replaced by Sergeant Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan. McGovern lost the election the moment he pulled Eagleton from the ticket. Then I watched the Republican convention, a peaceful united party nominating one of the democrats most hated republicans, Richard Nixon.
During the campaign the candidates traveled the country meeting the citizens one on one and explaining where they stood on the issues. It seemed to me that Richard Nixon held a stronger handle on foreign policy during the campaign. This was important because the country was in the middle of a war in Vietnam that was not a popular war. It was perhaps the most unpopular war up to this time in our county's history. Nixon became President Nixon rather easily in 1968 thanks in part to George Wallace of Alabama taking the whole southeastern block of states from McGovern. I sat up Most of that night watching the returns come in well past the time when they declared Nixon the next President of the United States. I went to school the next day very tired, but very pleased with myself. It was the beginning of a tradition I would follow every four years faithfully ... until tonight.
As I write this, I hear gunshots outside so I checked the CNN web site and saw that they are projecting another four years of President Obama. Although that means my choice lost, the country will survive another four years. We always have and we always will. Might be rough going and sacrifices may need to be made, but the country will be okay. Now, back to my cynicism.
During the 1972 election, a little break in at the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel would give the press enough fodder to drive President Nixon out of office, even though he never broke the law or obstructed justice. He did not tamper with witnesses, but it got to be such a distraction for the country that the republican leadership in the congress suggested to President Nixon that he should resign. Being the classy man that he was and realizing what was best for the country, that is what Nixon did on August 5, 1974. At the time it was a low point in our history, but we had no idea how low things could go in the future.
During the next few elections, the campaigns were run with class and properly. Reagan and Carter followed their predecessors by traveling the country meeting with citizens one on one and had some very respectful debates. The pattern was followed in 1984 as Reagan ran against Walter Mondale. In 1988 as Vice President Bush ran against Governor Dukakis the pattern of how a campaign should be run was again followed. Then came the year 1992 where the first steps of the classic campaign began to fall.
I first noticed it when Governor Clinton of Arkansas showed up on MTV for a "town meeting". It was the first step toward my total cynical look at campaigns. During the MTV show, one of the potential voters asked Clinton what kind of underwear he wore. Let me say that again. To this voter, a young lady, one of the most important issues in her little head was what kind of underwear the man who would be the next President wore. What was worse than the question being asked? Clinton actually answered the question. Instead of explaining that the election process in the United States was a serious process and should be treated as such, he answered what many would think to be a private matter that was of no business to the general population. This was where my cynical nature of elections began.
Forward to Clinton's second term. He was being sued by two women for sexual harassment. He hid behind his office of President to protect himself from lawsuits for actions taking place before he became President. Then came THE investigation. It started as an investigation into the unlawful use of FBI files that the President reportedly using to pushing for votes on issues that his administration wanted to ram through. He never turned over the files claiming they couldn't be found, thus ignoring a subpoena by the Special Prosecutor. During the course of the investigation, it came out that he was having extra marital sex in the oval office. The man who was proud to tell the world what kind of underwear he wore suddenly found himself thinking that there are somethings in his private life that the country had no business of knowing. He tampered with a witness to a Federal Grand Jury by trying to force Monica Lewinsky into lying to the Grand Jury. He went on television and pointed his finger at the american people and lied to us, saying that he did not have sex with this woman, as a matter of fact he hardly knew her. He then perjured himself to the Grand Jury, a felony, at least three times and was rightfully impeached. The incredible part was this man who had witness tampered, committed perjury and lied directly to the American People was acquitted by a partisan Democratic Senate. It was the most blatant example of the President being above the law ever. While Nixon had decided that the country needed to move on and resigned, Clinton was egotistical enough to commit felonies while in office and say he was above the law. The FBI files were eventually found after the impeachment trial ... on a table in the living quaters of the White House. How could I not be cynical after that?
Then came the election of 2000. Back to Richard Nixon for moment. In the election of 1960, Kennedy and Nixon had one of the closest elections in history. The vote coming from Illinois did not come in until the early morning hours. As was documented in Theodor White's "The Making Of A President-1960" everyone knew that Mayor Daley of Chicago was holding the Cook County votes until the southern part of the state reported so that he would know how many votes Kennedy would need to take Illinois and thus the election. White even quotes Bobby Kennedy as saying that Daley was coming through. Richard Nixon knew what was going on. He knew Daley and what he could do in Chicago. Nixon advisers tried to get him to demand a recount, but Nixon said no. It would not be good for the country. In the year 2000, George Bush won an extremely close election. Vice President Al Gore was not as classy as Nixon though. They recount votes for a month after the election until finally the Supreme Court had to decide that enough was enough and rightfully give the Presidency to Bush. Yet another step on my way to being cynical about whether these men want whats good for the country or just want power no what the effect it would have on the country.
Now comes the completeness of my cynicism. The last two elections have shown a new way of campaigning. Obama found that an easy way to get to voters with softball questions was to hit the talk show circuit. I still can't believe our election process has come to this. Candidates, primarily Obama, hitting the Letterman Show, The View, Late Night, and the worst of all, appearing on the comedy channel on a satiric news show. I can snicker at the thought of Obama being on the comedy channel. There is a certain symmetry to it. But then the serious side of my philosophy on politics and how campaigns should be run kick in. It has become a joke. Candidates, through PACs, throw out half truths or half lies at their opponents and treat it as the truth. Both parties take part in this. No longer does a candidate travel the country meeting with the citizenry on a face to face basis. Much better to sit and have some light hearted banter with David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg, or Jon Stewart.
I voted this year. I voted by researching the actual facts instead of the half truths. I did not vote a straight ticket, I seldom do. I vote for the man and his beliefs and philosophy, not on how well Jon Stewart likes him. I have been lumped in with voters who are haters, bigots, misinformed. I challenge that picture of me as a voter. I take my right to vote very seriously and I do not take it lightly enough to even pay attention to what a candidate says on a talk show. It is the candidate out with the people that you find out what kind of candidate he truly is.
It seems as though, as younger voters enter into the voting booths, America does not take casting their vote with the seriousness that it deserves.
Yes, I am a very cynical voter. I do not believe that campaigns should be run the way they are and that votes should be cast for the reasons they are.
God Bless America .... we need it.