- I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org). As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia! Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton. I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times. I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me? My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored. Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Voting Rites (A Tale Of Elections Past)
This was written before Tuesday's election.
I was in third grade during the 1968 Presidential election. Like other upstanding American citizens, the kids at Bear Road Elementary School in North Syracuse participated in choosing our next Commander-In-Chief. Some silly age requirement meant that our votes wouldn't actually count, but we participated. At eight years old, I was (I think) aware that Lyndon Johnson was our President, and presumably also aware that Hubert Humphrey was the Vice-President. Presumably. Probably. Yeah.
In '68, American voters were given three main choices: Vice-President Humphrey, former Vice-President Richard Nixon, and Alabama Governor George Wallace. Humphrey was a Democrat, Nixon a Republican, and (if memory serves) Wallace was running as a Conservative. I had heard my brother Rob describe his own party affiliation as Liberal; I wanted to emulate my brother, but Liberal didn't seem to be one of the choices. I knew Rob was neither Democrat nor Republican, but I figured maybe "Conservative" might be the same thing as Liberal. So I cast my third-grade vote for Liberal George Wallace.
Stupid little kid.
I subsequently switched my support to Humphrey, the candidate who had won my parents' vote. But Bear Road went red nonetheless, and the whole country followed suit as Nixon defeated Humphrey. Wallace picked off a bunch of Southern states, the last time a third-party candidate won any electoral votes. Before the election, I naively believed that the candidate who came in second would become Vice-President, prompting me to declare Humphrey a shoo-in for that office, at least. A classmate grimaced, rolled his eyes, mustered all the scorn an eight-year-old body could possess, and informed me I was an idiot. Hail to the Chief, ya big dumbass.
By the time of the 1972 election, I was in eighth grade. I'd skipped fifth grade entirely to advance from fourth grade into sixth grade in 1970, but I was still a dumbass. As the Viet Nam War raged on, Nixon was increasingly unpopular with American youth. You'd think a twelve-year-old Northeastern liberal kid would just automatically support Nixon's challenger, South Dakota Senator George McGovern. McGovern was certainly a liberal candidate, and I did support McGovern initially. But I was disillusioned when McGovern dropped his originally-announced running mate, Missouri Senator Tom Eagleton; Eagleton was dumped from the ticket (and replaced by Sargent Shriver) after news broke that Eagleton had been treated for depression--because God forbid we have a perceived psychological weakling a mere heartbeat away from possessing nuclear launch codes.
I wish I could look back and say that I was more progressive and advanced in my twelve-year-old thinking than the murk-minded mass that rejected a man simply because he'd sought help with a real affliction. But I wasn't any better than the rest of 'em; I was myself alienated by McGovern's support of gay rights, and I still cringe to recall my own unforgivably homophobic point of view. My allegiance to Eagleton was based solely upon my love of Missouri, where my grandparents lived. So, I switched from supporting McGovern to advocating a write-in vote for Eagleton (with my own catchy slogan, Right On, Eagleton! Write In Eagleton!). Alas, write-in votes were not an option for student pretend voters at Roxboro Road Middle School, so I wound up casting my vote for Nixon.
Nixon won again, of course, but eventually hadda bail on the job because...well, because he was a crook. Newly-minted Vice President Gerald Ford took office, then ran for election in '76. At the time, I believed every crazy, negative thing concocted to throw against his challenger, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, so I supported Ford in my last-ever student straw poll. I would be able to cast an actual vote in the next Presidential election.
I graduated from college in 1980, a twenty-year-old with a BA in English and a song in his heart. As a college student in the late '70s, I didn't investigate my voting options until the Presidential election reared its ugly, mutant head. As I recall (right or wrong), it was complicated and difficult for students away from home to vote in their college towns, and I don't think an absentee ballot from North Syracuse even occurred to me. But now, I had an apartment in Brockport. I was a citizen! And I registered to vote as a member of the Liberal Party.
The New York Primary had already passed by the time I registered; I don't think I even realized at the time that registering as a Liberal would have prevented me from voting for Ted Kennedy in the Democratic Primary anyway. My respect for President Carter has grown by leaps and bounds over the ensuing decades, but I was not a fan of Carter at the time. I was even less enamored of his Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan. It was the height of the Iran hostage crisis. I saw the signs of burgeoning, know-nothing Jingoism sprouting all around me, and I bristled at the saber-rattlin' simplicity of chanted U.S.A! U.S.A! nationalism. I threw my vote away on third-party candidate John Anderson. And the '80s had begun.
As the years passed, I switched my party affiliation to the Democrats. My first-ever primary vote was cast for Jesse Jackson in 1984. I supported the Democratic candidate in each ensuing Presidential election. I even went door-to-door for Bill Clinton in 1992. I occasionally voted for Republican candidates in local races; I voted for a Republican governor exactly once, because the Democratic candidate that year had pissed me off by screwing over a respected local politician. I voted for the Green Party candidate in our last Gubernatorial election.
On January 20th, 2013, my daughter Meghan was able to attend President Obama's second inauguration. This year, she cast her first vote in a Presidential election. She was (and remains) a Bernie Sanders supporter, but she voted based on the choices she had, not the choices she wished she had. I voted for Hillary Clinton in the Primary, and I voted for her again in the general election. As I write this on Monday, the day before the election, I don't know whether Clinton or Donald Trump amassed that minimum number of 270 electoral votes required to assume proprietorship of the Oval Office. Whoever wins, some of us will be elated, some will be disgusted, and others will bemoan either choice. Nonetheless, in just four years, we get to do it all over again.
And lemme tell ya: I'm definitely not voting for George Wallace this time.