This is the 10th Presidential election that I have been eligible to vote in – 40 years of watching politicians get elected, some that I supported, most that I didn’t. I look back to my college days at Northwestern where, as a Freshman from the Northeast, I entered as a Republican from a Republican family, but where I changed into a Democrat with a profound interest in what a vote for a candidate actually meant.
I said I came in as a Republican, and that is true. My family supported Nixon against Kennedy and it was a particular shock to me when Kennedy won. I recall having discussions with one of my English teachers at the time (a guy from England, actually) who explained to me why the Europeans were in favor of Kennedy and saw this coming from a mile away. I’ll admit that I didn’t see it at all.
My mind started to change around the time of Kennedy’s assassination. I think most Americans, Republican or Democrat, felt like someone had kicked them in the teeth as Americans. I graduated the next year and was off to college in the Fall of ’64 having, for some reason, an interest in Goldwater.
What college in the sixties did for me was get me involved in the Civil Rights movement… not something I was involve in at my 99% white New England prep school. It was there, in Chicago, that I became aware of Lyndon Johnson’s commitment to equal rights (I will admit, his stance on Viet Nam was not something I was willing to support. I couldn’t vote in that election anyway… and when Johnson did not go for a second term, primarily to seek peace in Viet Nam, I was a Humphrey supporter in the first election I could vote in.
You may recall that 1968 was the year that Nixon implemented his “Southern Strategy” as a technique to win… alienating black southerners from white southerners in tremendously subtle ways: for instance, encouraging blacks to register as Democrats to vote as a way of scaring racist whites into leaving the Democratic Party and joining the Republicans. We have spent 4 decades with the Republican south because of these racist beginnings, and, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, a southerner himself, Democrats pretty much kept out of the south (except Florida) when campaigning.
One of the things that is becoming apparent with Obama’s “50 state campaign” (grown from the 50 state push Howard Dean instigated in the congressional elections to go after Bush’s control of Congress) is that the south may not be solidly Republican any more. We are looking at states like North Carolina and Virginia with a changing face. Even Georgia is moving more to the left, even if it does not make it this time.
Hopefully, we are going to get to an America for Americans and away from the racism of recent Republicanism.
As a prep for writing this I visited the GOP site (gop.com) and the equivalent Democratic site (democrats.org) and compared their campaign techniques and coverage of issues. You should do the same. In each you will find all the support information for their respective candidates. But in their discussion of opponents you will find a very different scene. What little there is about McCain at the Democrat site is concerned with the issues: war, economy, health care… that’s what I expected. At the Republican site, as opposed to issues, I found all the slime in a section called “Meet Barack Obama”: Reverend Wright, his good friend Tony Rezko, his other good buddy Bill Ayers, how as a “Socialist” he’s going to redistribute the money as he sees fit, etc. etc. If I were to read it to find Obama’s actual stand on the major issues, it would not be possible.
As I said at the beginning, I have been through 10 Presidential elections where I could vote. This one has had the dirtiest campaigning I have seen… and it comes from one side primarily. With any luck, the right will learn from this if, and when, they lose, and come back to issues that effect us all.