I grew up in the bluest state that singularly could affirm, “Don’t Blame Us” on a bumper sticker following Richard Nixon’s 49 state landslide in 1972. By that time, my cynicism in government was already developing. I recall a moment in 6th grade when Ms. McCarthy called Mr. Lentine into our Greenwood School classroom to hear my perspective on writing to our Congressmen. I uttered something about the effort resulting in nothing but a “form letter reply,” and the looks on their faces reflected a bleak picture of an 11 year olds government view.
My early journey into government faithlessness began with the tears of my mother in November of 1963 and concluded with my dulled, impassive response to the news that Bobby Kennedy had been killed after winning the California primary in 1968. Between the bookend deaths of those Massachusetts sons were an unending parade of casket flags and more bullets that bled dry the dream of Martin Luther King. The hope of my youth, embodied by the national pursuit of landing a man on the moon and the possibility that RFK would end a senseless war, slowly withered under the strain of Munich, Richard Nixon, Watergate, a gas crisis and blindfolded Americans in Iran.
I was ambivalent to the Iranian students marching on the postcard University of Arizona campus, but the A’s I pulled in political science classes hinted the soul of an idealist wasn’t quite still. I rejected the negative politics of both major parties and voted for independent John Anderson in 1980. Reganomics, dead Marines in Beirut and boycotted Olympics sprayed the embers of optimism, and the election of 1988 featuring a Massachusetts Democrat in a tank pierced by the politics of cold Willie Horton fear fueled my apathy.
William Jefferson Clinton inspired some, but not me, and while the Clinton years were marked by a strong economy and a non-imperialist foreign policy, a stained blue dress and the lies of Bill Clinton produced a Republican Watergate payback and increased the divide between red and blue. (As an aside, I do think the refusal of most Congressional Democrats to pursue impeachment against Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush is to immunize the next Democratic President from retribution efforts by the right.)
The contentious election of 2000 delivered us George W. Bush by a hanging Florida chad and a stacked Supreme Court. The Bush administration has led by fear, lies and contempt for the voice of opposition, whether from its own citizens or long time global allies. In spite of a disastrous war in Iraq, corporate criminality empowered by their impotent Justice Department, and arrogant rejection of our Constitution, their swift boat lies managed to turn John Kerry from a Vietnam War hero to an anti-American loser. My hope is that the administration is not allowed to further damage our country in the long year left they cling to power.
A friend once explained to me that although she sometimes couldn’t articulate emotions, her actions defined them for her. I’ve been swaying between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for a while now, and while I’d be happy with either winning in November, I have a decision to make prior to casting a real vote on “Super Tuesday.” Yesterday in South Carolina, Mr. Obama earned more than twice the votes of Mrs. Clinton and perhaps more importantly, his vote total of 295,000 was more than the top two Republicans combined. Mrs. Clinton didn’t show much class in the 2 seconds she conceded out of a 45 minute speech to acknowledge the Obama victory. I’m sure she’d rather forget the reality of the results.
I guess my actions now define my beliefs. For the first time ever, this morning I made a financial contribution to a political candidate. For the first time ever, there’s a candidate running that I believe can make a difference to this country that will benefit my children and grandchildren. Since death in the 60’s wounded idealism and tears left an indelible impression on a toddler, I believe again in a leader to make a difference. I believe that leader is Barack Obama.