The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Flashback Friday!

This week, I thought a little political Flashback Friday! was in order. That campaign button to the left (do candidates still do campaign buttons?) belongs to the first presidential candidate to ever get my vote. It didn't do him much good, but it did a couple things for me. It taught me a couple of hard and fast lessons.

The best man for the job is not always the man who gets the job. And sometimes, voting with your heart first and your head second, isn't the smartest way to succeed in your goals. (See Ralph Nader, 2000, who, ironically, was endorsed by John Anderson.)

Now, in 1980, I had just graduated from high school and I was beginning my freshman year of college. I hadn't been particularly politically active in high school, but I'd awaited my own opportunities to vote with a great deal of anticipation. Just as I'd eagerly awaited my 16th birthday and the opportunities it brought, my 18th birthday would bring a voice in my government.

Okay, maybe it was a power trip. I was gonna get to review the candidates and someone, somewhere, was going to listen to what I thought about it. At least that's what I thought at the time.

I registered to vote on my birthday. With the general election only a couple months afterwards, I didn't want to miss registration deadlines and pass up my first voting experience. My excitement about this was certainly heightened by the fact that it was a presidential election, but also by the political events of the day.

There is a box in the top of a closet that has some notes in it about what was going on in the world my senior year. (I'm thinking my grandchildren will be interested in seeing it someday.) The most notable thing was the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and it definitely played into the elections that year.

My dad, a lifelong republican (in the footsteps of his dad, who was a lifelong republican), had expected his eldest child to follow that tradition. It may have been the very first time I disappointed him. I was just NEVER a Reagan fan. And while Jimmy Carter had his moments, well, he wasn't getting the job done either. I made what I thought was the logical decision, though I did the unthinkable in my father's eyes.

I registered as an Independent.

Thwarting generations of history for the republican party, I checked the bottom box. I was advised, even as I was doing it, that there would be no primary vote for me. I didn't care. (Though that was the main reason I changed my party affiliation some years later.) Even at the tender age of eighteen, I had nothing but contempt for the way the government was being run. I felt I was doing "the right thing". (It's likely I was born just a little too late, and missed out by not being in college in the late 60's).

"The right thing", I came to learn, is rarely so black and white. That's especially true in politics.

When I came home, my father asked me if I'd actually gone through with my plans. I told him I had. His guilt, for clearly having failed me somehow, hung on him for weeks.

During the weeks leading up to the election, we'd have long political discussions about the republican agenda and how there was no other right way to vote. But I knew that Reagan's "voodoo economics" had to involve cutting every social program out there to achieve his goal of a balanced budget. (Little did we know that he'd not only cut the social programs, but that he'd kick the deficit to places we'd never dreamed it could go.)

Dad never could "save" me, or "turn me around" on these things. (I was quite the headstrong young woman intent on making a difference in the world and insisting on not being suckered by the man. Boy, does that ever seem like a lifetime ago.) And, so, on that crisp fall morning in November, 1980, I pulled the lever for the first time.

The memories of walking into the polling area and waiting my turn are so clear, even now. Showing my identification as I signed my name for the very first time, and then, filled with nervousness and pride and AWE at the entire situation, I walked towards the portable booth. I felt a tear welling up in my eye as the emotions overwhelmed me, knowing that this was a memory of a lifetime for me and that it was so much less about winning, and so much more about doing what I felt was the "right thing".

You don't need a history book to tell you that I didn't pick the winner that year. John Anderson (who began his political career as a republican, btw), got over 5,000,000 popular votes, but not one electoral vote. Watching the results that night, my father taunted me that I'd wasted my vote and had, in fact, taken one away from Jimmy Carter, thus giving the edge to Ronald Reagan. Perhaps there is more than a little truth in his statements. I certainly thought so at the time.

Mostly, I felt as if I was no longer "talking the talk", I was "walking the walk". My candidate may not have won the election, but I was not just bitching about things, I was doing something about it. Sure, I was young and naive, but it was the First Step. Things had to get rolling somehow.

I had long felt (and still do) that to not take advantage of the opportunities afforded by those who fought so hard, not for themselves, but so that we could have them, was somehow a serious affront. And I simply would NEVER minimize the importance of those efforts. I just couldn't.

In a few short days, I'll be lining up with my ID in hand, once again. This time, for the first time, with Highlander at my side. And while it's only the mid-terms, I'm still excited (and it's not only because Highlander will be at my side...;). I remember watching DEADWOOD last season, and seeing Richardson dressing up to go vote. It was so easy for me to empathize with him, and truly feel the import of the occasion.

While there have been more than a few elections where it was (for me anyway) about picking the lesser evil, I never want to lose the feeling of contributing to the political process completely. This year, with the republican party reeling, I am probably a little more exuberant than I've been in some time. The feeling of empowerment is something I want to embrace tightly.

Before I end this, I'd like to leave you with three things...

*Be informed!*
*Help inform others!*

A couple of things to pass along, to that end, are resources that will help you decide if you're informed enough to vote (click on the graphic and take the test...btw, I'm totally cleared to go).

...and a link to help you see what candidates in your area stand for. (A big help in cutting through all the mud-slinging!)

Now get out there and do it! Do it because you DO make a difference. Do it because every voice should be heard. Do it because you're fed up and this is the way to make it better. Do it because hundreds and thousands of people before you never had the right and they fought the tyranny to give this precious gift to you. Do it because somebody just MIGHT give you a million dollars if you do! Do it because it's the "right thing". Listen, like the folks at Nike say, Just Do It!



Blogger Handsome said...

Well, at least you voted. I abstained from voting in 1980, pretentiously sniffing that "I couldn't vote for ANY of these candidates".

Youth is wasted on the wrong people.

11/04/2006 8:22 AM  
Blogger MJ Norton said...

Regrets, regrets...

My disgrace is that in 1980, my first outing as a voter, too, I was one of the millions duped by the voice promising a bright future. The man was a better actor than he was given credit for. I ::choke:: voted for Reagan.

Not a mistake I repeated in 1984, but bad enough. I jokingly think of it as my brush with cultism or an unfortunate episode in which I briefly joined the Hitler Youth.

11/05/2006 10:48 AM  
Anonymous Superfiancee said...

Okay, I gotta tell you Mike, I audibly gasped (and I have a witness), when I read your comment...and then the screeching began. AUGH!! AUGH!! AUGH!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Tell me it ain't so! Tell me!! TELL ME NOW!!!!!

::shivering and whimpering:: Hold me, Highlander.

We shall never speak of this again.

11/05/2006 1:44 PM  

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