I sat indoors in the summer of ’74, rejecting the call of the swimming pool for the Watergate hearings. As I eagerly anticipated my first presidential vote, I created my own personal clippings folder on Congressman Morris Udall and Senator Birch Bayh, two of the liberals running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976.
And, yes, I CAN spell ‘geek.’
I’m really not sure where my early interest in presidential politics came from. It might have been the subscription to Time Magazine I received from my aunt and uncle one year for Christmas that gave me a broader perspective on the world. It could have happened after I saw All the President’s Men. Or I suppose it might have been the crush I had on my high school civics teacher. I guess it doesn’t really matter at this stage of the game, because it pretty much stuck.
I read, breathe and write about politics. But I admit, the 2008 presidential campaign has given me an electoral mid-life crisis. In a way, the 2008 season resembled the 1976 campaign with its plethora of qualified Democratic candidates. But 32 years ago, as a newbie to the political scene, I reveled in every moment of coverage and tracked every issue and nuance. I even took part in the mock presidential convention at the local college.
Ahhh. It was good to be young and uncynical.
But this year, my inner wonk felt worn out by all the personality politics. The 2008 campaign coverage of which candidate was sexist or racist or in-touch or disconnected or likable or not enough of a certain color made me wonder if I had wasted all those years learning to love all things political.
I was so upset, I swore to sit this one out for the first time ever. That feeling remained for much of the summer because of the sense of betrayal I couldn’t shake –by the whole process, by the candidates, and by the lack of substantive coverage by much of the media. Then there were so many supporters of one candidate willing to attack supporters of other candidates in the same party, I wondered what kind of political creatures we’d become and whether I could be one anymore.
But as we’ve inched our way, ever so slowly, toward the finish line, somehow I let it slip that I had considered not voting. My eight-year-old daughter reprimanded me, “MOM!! WE HAVE to vote!” Among other things, her schoolgirl indignation brought me back to reality. She still sees the best of our political system — two sides, talking about their ideas and people listening and choosing a winner. Plus, she still harbors dreams of being president one day, and before my year of electoral cognitive dissonance, I had always made it clear that voting was important.
She’s told me that she can end the war, give money to poor people, make sure sick children have medicine and find homes for children without parents. That’s a pretty good platform in my book.
So for her, I’ve officially shaken off the Great Electoral Funk of 2008. I guess I knew that, even with all the election year disappointments I felt, that I would never sit it out or vote for someone who wants the Supreme Court to send us back to the stone ages.
And, anyway, with a platform like that, she’s going to need a political geek of her own!