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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-01-31 15:56
Subject: [politics] Doing something I've never done: a short history
Security: Public
Music:hotel noises
Tags:personal, politics
I came of voting age in 1982, midway through Reagan's first term. I'd listened eagerly to the Reagan-Carter debates on the radio in my high school dorm room two years earlier. Without his magnificent camera presence, the Gipper sounded like a rambling fool. He never answered the questions put to him, and kept coming back to the same cheap rhetorical points again and again. Carter stammered and strained and audibly sweated through a serious attempt to answer the questions. Reagan was naturally a runaway favorite with the television audience.1

So here came the Gipper, who presided over what was then the largest run of deficit spending in post-WWII history, yet was and is a hero to fiscal conservatives everywhere. Who spoke about morning in America, then commenced the wholesale dismantling of the American social safety net. Who rarely made very much sense, except when he was tightly on script, yet was hailed as a great orator. He fulfilled Truman's prediction2 in spades.

Walter Mondale ran in my first presidential election, in 1984 when I was 20. He was uninspiring, insipid, an old machine man from the classic days of party politics. His running mate was visibly mobbed up. I know the opposition party doesn't usually try very hard in a second-term election against a popular president, but the only reason I voted for Mondale was to vote against Reagan.

Come 1988, Dukakis ran against Bush (41). I never could figure out what Dukakis stood for, except being a generic Democrat. Maybe I wasn't paying attention. Once again, I was voting against the Reagan legacy. We got the first Bush term, with such stellar moments as the Weinberger pardon. Iran-Contra. Various acts of moronic venality. It was all the corruption and incompetence of the Reagan administration, with none of the charm!

In 1992, Clinton was a no-brainer. Not because I was for Bill, but in effect, I was still voting against the Reagan legacy. Bill was interesting, but he wasn't really a liberal. He was just a not-conservative. He came into office, the Scaife-backed batshit machine cranked up, and a generation of Republicans grew up hating Hillary for doing exactly what Nancy Reagan had done in the White House, except classier and far more competently. (Anybody remember Joan Quigley? At least Bill took his cues from a trained attorney with an understanding of public policy.)

1996, Bob Dole was the Republican Walter Mondale. Apparently it was "his turn." I mostly felt sorry for him. Bill I voted for just to keep pissing off the Right.

2000, well, the less said about that the better. Suffice to say the breathtaking hypocrisy of the GOP achieved stratospheric heights in the post-election fracas.3 And those of us who'd lived in Texas without drinking the Republican bathwater were perfectly clear on what the country was getting into. Unfortunately, my first moment of enthusiasm for Gore was his concession speech, which was more clear-eyed and inspirational than any damned thing he'd said on the campaign. I had been so bored by him that I'd voted for Nader.

2004, the handwriting was on the wall, on the Constitution, on habeas corpus. I finally realized the Gipper's old White House gang were a church picnic compared to the neo-cons in all their glory. I voted for Kerry because there was nothing else I could do, but damned if he wasn't Walter Mondale come again.

2008. Even a fair number of conservatives seem to have woken up to the disaster than their rule has visited upon America. The field in the Democratic party is constructively interesting to me. Initially I had a mild preference for Edwards. In retrospect, I probably would have liked Dodd if I'd known much about him. But Obama's campaign has caught on with me. His internationalism, his generally constructive approach, even his oratory. He seems to approach politics as a leader, not a brawler. After a generation of winner-take-all brawling in presidential politics, I cannot help but like this. And Hillary's recent slide into smash-mouth machine politics tipped it for me.

So today I gave money to the Obama campaign. This is the first time in my life I've been sufficiently attracted to a candidate to do anything of the sort. I've always voted against, and I'm excited about the possibility of voting for.

Here's my challenge to you. Go give some money to whoever you believe in. I hope it's Obama, but it can be Hillary or McCain or Romney or one of the other candidates. Go do something for your next national leader, not against.

I'm still surprised with myself, and very pleased.

1. This was long before I understood the beauty contest nature of presidential debates, or how incredibly brokered they are — remember the 1988 Bush campaign's uncompromising opposition to Dukakis having a taller riser to stand on?

2. "I can remember when a good politician had to be 75 percent ability and 25 percent actor, but I can well see the day when the reverse could be true."

3. Not to beat a dead horse, but for my perspective then, see:
Post A Comment | 16 Comments | | Flag | Link

User: biomekanic
Date: 2008-02-01 00:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was 18, and it was 1986 and I was a senior in HS for me.

In '88 we I took the Honor's "Politics of the Presidential Election" class, and our prof was as bored as we were with the election.
Most of what I remember of that class was despairing that the administration had successfully rammed through a different set of requirements for Honors students - less essays and more test scores. A friend and I were horrified that a number of the freshman were voting for Bush/Quayle because "Danny Quayle is cute".

I was a donator/supporter of Dean back in '04 before the campaign imploded under the media assault after he tried to rally everyone, the constant replay of "the scream" left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Edwards had my support, but I'm moving over to the Obama camp. I didn't particularly care for Bill, nor do I care for Hillary.
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User: n5red
Date: 2008-02-01 01:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
you youngsters are just ruining the country! Bah!
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User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2008-02-01 02:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It was broke when I got here.
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Sean P. Fodera
User: delkytlar
Date: 2008-02-01 15:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It may not have been broke then, but it could sure use some welfare right about now.
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User: dirkcjelli
Date: 2008-02-01 15:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was born during the Iranian hostage crisis... though, I think I could make the same "broke when I got here" argument were I born in '64, during the Gulf of Tonkin incident, or at any subsequent point.

Or, for that matter, during the days of Macarthyism... or Debs' arrest in 1918...
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2008-02-01 01:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
1988 was my first election. It was also the year I discovered Simon and Garfunkel, and I listened to "Mrs. Robinson" that year a lot: "...Laugh about it, shout about it when you've got to choose / Any way you look at it, you lose..."
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Passionately decaying organic matter: Obama
User: miintikwa
Date: 2008-02-01 01:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Me too.

I only had $3 to donate, but I gave.

To Obama. And since then, I've been educating all my friends who keep saying "but what does he stand for?" on what he really stands for, because it's all there, right there on his website!

I love that. I've memorized his stances on education and the economy, since those are the two most popular ones I get asked about.

If he wins the nom? I will volunteer, here in FLORIDA, one of the big states, and I will campaign FOR him.

I so want him to win.
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User: zhaneel69
Date: 2008-02-01 03:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I actually gave to Kerry because I liked him and I liked getting Edwards with him.

I am considering giving to Obama, but I like him a lot. OTOH, I also recognize a lot of that like is actually an against Hilary vote. Ms. Clinton pisses me off in so many ways and it makes me very sad to let down my seven year old self who swore that she'd vote a woman president into office.

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russ: quo vadis
User: goulo
Date: 2008-02-01 07:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:quo vadis
There have already been women candidates for president. As long as your seven year old self didn't swear she'd vote for the first major party woman candidate, you're not letting your seven year old self down. :)
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User: zhaneel69
Date: 2008-02-01 09:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't think my seven-year old self realized there were other parties...
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2008-02-01 03:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The legal voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1971. I turned 18 in 1977. So I still didn't get to vote in my first presidential election until I was 21. I was incredibly disappointed at the time.

Oh, and I still haven't forgiven anyone for what happened in 2000. That grudge will go with me to my grave.

I've only voted for a winning presidential candidate twice (in 92 and 96). I am disappointed that Edwards did not do better than he did this go round, because I was very much looking forward to voting for him. He made sense to me.

However, whichever way it falls out, I will be voting Democrat (my primary vote here in Washington state is essentially meaningless, so I won't get to choose that part). I just hope whoever we end up with is not polarizing enough that the Republicans win by default. Please. Somebody's got to balance the damned budget again and get us out of Iraq. Please? It's not like I'm asking for universal health care or anything, although that would be nice...
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Twilight: Determined
User: twilight2000
Date: 2008-02-02 23:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow -- I must have been born something like 6 mos before you -- I turned 18 that year as well and while I campaigned like hell for Carter, my first vote was, same as yours, at 21. P.O.'d me at the time as well ;>.

As for your vote not counting -- go to your Caucus and make it count! Caucuses are Next Week and there's all sorts of time to get ready to go to one of those!
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2008-02-03 02:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I do plan to go to a caucus. I really don't like that format, though, and vastly prefer a primary.
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Gary Emenitove
User: garyomaha
Date: 2008-02-01 04:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I came from a not-very-political family. I seem to recall my parents talking about -- and, apparently, only voting in -- presidential races. I'm still not certain which candidates they voted for...and this rubbed off on me, in that I was fairly neutral and somewhat clueless until something happened in the 1980 election.

I was in Dubuque, IA, working in radio. We had the top station in town, but our physical plant was an outdated dump. (Those of you who have worked in radio will relate with at least that sentence.) The owner was very VERY pro-Reagan. And...he put his money where his mouth was.

The day after Reagan won the election, our owner ordered thousands of dollars worth of new equipment. I wouldn't say the place became a Broadcast Palace, but it was certainly a major renovation. And there were raises. For at least these (admittedly selfish) reasons, Reagan was being good for me.

That had an effect on me. I saw how a political event can cause some people to react. I started paying closer attention myself. Perhaps for all the wrong reasons, but at least it turned on my interest.
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User: ericjamesstone
Date: 2008-02-01 05:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I volunteered for George Bush's campaign in 1992. He lost.

I volunteered for Phil Gramm's campaign for the Republican nomination in 1996. He lost.

After that, I decided the best thing I could do for the candidate of my choice was NOT volunteer.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-02-01 12:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Wow. The magic of negative reinforcement. You could get rich renting yourself out to liberals...
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