Last month, I voted in my twelfth presidential election. I rarely share my vote, but this time, I voted for who I assume will be the eventual winner, Joe Biden. I haven’t always voted Democrat. As I like to taunt my extremely polarized friends in both parties, I have voted Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and Independent. I don’t vote for a party and never will. I vote for the person.
Not always for the best reasons, but they are my reasons, and it’s my vote. Like many Americans, I didn’t so much as vote for someone as against someone.
However I voted, the fact that I did vote put me ahead of the 40+% of the eligible population that doesn’t bother. Since most elections are relatively close, this means that somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the citizens of this country decide who will lead it. When I think of this, I am always reminded of the election held in Iraq in 2005 where people waiting in line to vote were being shot at. And yet, 40% of America is too stupid or lazy to get in their air-conditioned vehicles and drive a couple of blocks to vote. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Term limits? We already have them. They’re called elections.
My first interest in politics was in the early 70s. I was too young to vote, but watched with interest the Watergate scandal. Being a child of the 60s, I was a bit of a hippy. That, coupled with my impending 18th birthday and eligibility for the draft, meant I wasn’t a huge Nixon fan. Before my 19th birthday, I sat at a bar with many strangers and watched him resign on national TV. Looking back, I believe the events leading up to that night was the beginning of the end of American politics.
Everybody loves to dump on poor Tricky-Dick, but remember, he got 61% of the popular vote. No one has topped that since. And that’s the point I keep having to bring up for people. People constantly say that everyone loves their guy and everyone hates the other guy. But since Nixon, seven of the eleven winning sides has done so with percentages in the 50s. Yeah, I know, it’s the electoral college that elects the president, and I don’t disagree with that, but based on people voting, the margins are slim. In case you are wondering, Bush once, Clinton twice, and Trump all had less than 50% of the popular vote.
Of course, at that point Nixon resigned, he had ‘won’ the election, and was replaced by Vice-President Ford, so it was over two years later before I got to cast my first vote — for Jimmy Carter. Why Carter? For the simple reason that he was a homeboy — a horrible reason to choose a president. Then, I watched in horror for four years as the Clampetts moved to the White House, the economy tanked, he got attacked by a rabbit, and finally, the Tehran hostage crisis. I thought, what could be worse?
And then we saw Bedtime for Bonzo.
The next election of note to me wasn’t until 1992. There was this squirrely little guy from Texas running as an independent. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around him running the country, but he was a very successful businessman. This got me thinking, wouldn’t it be a good thing if someone ran the country that understood business. Someone who could improve the economy with sound business decisions, based on established economic principles?
I remember hoping Lee Iacocca would change his mind and run, but it turns out he was too smart to take such a crappy job. It was around then that I remember thinking, what kind of a nut would want that job to begin with. And worse, after doing it for four years, what sort of lunatic would like to do it again? To paraphrase Groucho Marx, we should never vote for anyone who would run for president.
All that passed quickly, and I voted for Clinton. I liked the person. I like what he had to say and how he said it. It was a heady time. It seemed like good times were ahead. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow and all that. Remember, at that time, no one outside of Arkansas had ever heard of Hillary Clinton.
But he couldn’t keep his pants zipped up. I know, Kennedy was worse, but I didn’t vote for Kennedy; I voted for Clinton, and I believe that after the Nixon resignation, the next notch in the declining role of the presidency came with the famous quote, “It depends on what your definition of is, is.” The American public, mostly fueled by the popular press began to lose respect for the office.
Of course, for at least a few weeks after 9/11, we were all Republicans, but like most things, that faded quickly. And though Bush was a successful businessman, he and his family were still career politicians. Not since the times of Roosevelt and Truman has a business person run the country.
But I never forgot my idea. And so, in 2016, I cast a vote for Donald Trump. (Yeah, bring it on.) There was no doubt in my mind that, at best, he was a loose cannon, but I hoped his business acumen would override his celebrity apprentice reputation.
And, at first, I actually enjoyed some of his antics. His late-night Tweets shook up a country that, quite frankly, needed shaking up. He was clearly not a politician and I so wanted someone who was not a politician running the country.
But Jesus H Fucking Christ did that get old very quickly. (I figure by this point in the article, offending anyone is the least of my concerns.) Yes, the economy improved, but it got to a point where I had to tell the cab drivers in countries I visited that I was Canadian. (Sorry, Canada.) Not that I was ashamed of my country, far from it. I just got tired of talking about the guy and hearing others talk about him. To me, this was Nixon and Clinton all over again.
People that know me will be surprised I even wrote this article. I never discuss politics, and will quickly change the subject when it comes up. For two reasons. First, the country has become so polarized. Even though it’s actually that middle 30% of the voters that make the decision, the left and right 45% are so vocally cast in stone that a bipartisan discussion is impossible. In other words, no one ever changes their minds, so why talk about it.
The other reason is that for my last 16 years of working, I listened to people argue about politics all day every day. All the way through both Bush and Obama presidencies, it never ended. People that could only see one side of any argument yelling with people that could only see the other side. It was pointless and mind-numbing.
And so, 44 years later, I came full circle. I wanted to vote independent this year, but unfortunately, that just meant a vote, not for Biden, which meant a vote for Trump. It’s not that I don’t think Biden will do a good job; it’s just that for the most part, this country didn’t vote for Biden. They voted for Not Trump. Most of those same voters would have voted for Wile E. Coyote had he been on the ballot.
So, following in the footsteps of George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, Donald Trump becomes a one-term president.
Now, someone just has to tell him that.