Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Remembering Campaigns Past.....

Politics has never been an entirely safe topic to discuss among family and friends.  This was true even before people took their social relationships off into the Virtual world where it is much easier to have your meaning misconstrued, and where "Unfriending" is a public and irrevocable thing as compared to say, having a few days where you decided to not have a cup of coffee with somebody at work.

I've been around for more election cycles than most.  I will admit that this last one was an eye opener.  The results surprised everyone and I think that whether you like or dislike the outcome it is salutary to periodically re-evaluate your world view.  Some world views are being dismantled down to their very foundations and every brick and board being tested.  That is a good thing.

For the Record I did not vote for either Donald Trump or for Hillary Clinton.  You may express your opinion of my declining to support either of them but it was my decision to make. So I decided this year to write in my choices for President and Vice President.  I picked two individuals, one a Democrat and one a Republican.  Who? Again, my business, not yours but I picked two people who I consider to be among the few honest, capable, willing-to-put-country-ahead of party politicians who have appeared on the ballot for these positions in recent years.

This has caused me to go back and re-visit all the Presidential campaigns I can remember.  I made various choices in them which is only reasonable as I was a different person years ago than I am now.  And it was a different country.  Or of course from another perspective I and the country are not so very changed over time.  You judge.

my age: 7
my issues: plastic dinosaurs
my memories: I recall going with my mom when she went to volunteer at a campaign office for Barry Goldwater.  I remember it was downtown Minneapolis. It seemed like it was some kind of big garage or former auto dealership.  Signs were being made. For years there was a can of "Gold Water" soda on a shelf.  I think it was acquired that day.

my age: 11
my issues:  The Vietnam war was going on pretty actively at that time.  I do recall observing that all the bombing raids never seemed to actually hit anything important. This was a very turbulent election, probably crazier than 2016.  

my age: 15
my issues: I was in high school, so things that concerned me then are almost by definition all trivial in retrospect.  That was the year Richard Nixon beat George McGovern by a tally of 520 to 17.  A pretty bad Electoral College 'whupping' but a real nail biter compared to 1820 when James Monroe put it to John Quincy Adams, 231 to 1.  JQA came back four years later for the Win.

my age 19
my issues: I was in college.  I concerned myself mostly with inexpensive beer and interpersonal relationships that had no future potential.  This was the first year I could vote, and I cast it for Gerald Ford.  I felt then, and still do, that he was a fundamentally decent man. Jimmy Carter was one of those political peculiarities that come along once in a while.  He had bad luck with respect to the times and the circumstances he was handed.

my age 23
my issues: I was in medical school.  It was all rather overwhelming.  This was another time when neither major party candidate looked appealing.  Carter had an air of "malaise" about him. Reagan was a B movie actor.  Also he was old.  Well, I was young.  So the appeal of voting for a Third Party candidate was strong.  There was a guy named John Anderson running on a platform of not being either of the other two guys.  He had a full head brilliant white hair which on a fairly young guy looked striking.  This is the only Presidential campaign I have ever donated money to.  Anderson lost, and to boot seems to have sold my name and address to a bevy of fund raisers.  It was two more years before I moved out of the house I shared with my brother. The plaintive letters asking us to save the (Seals/Whales/Planet) were still going strong then.  The house has since been demolished.  In my imagination the fund raising appeals are still delivered to the north east corner of a modern day parking lot where they have just as much impact now as they did then.

my age 27
my issues:  Well by now I am married and in Residency.  I think I voted absentee for Ronald Reagan's second term.  I actually spent November of that year in a sleep deprived blur doing a high risk OB program in Houston Texas.  I suppose there were major issues that year but seem to recall it not being much of a contest.  The 525 - 13 Electoral College landslide buried Walter Mondale so deep under that I had forgotten that he was involved.

You'd think that my perspective on issues would have changed as I approached real world, working guy status.  But we were poor, newly wed and happy.  That was just fine.

my age 31
my issues: Maybe there were none.  I was now starting out in practice and a new father.  The country seemed to be running fairly well under the existing managment.  And Michael Dukkais seemed an unserious challenger.

my age 35
my issues: Having been around the health care system long enough to see that it was a jumbled, dysfunctional mess I decided to vote for Bill Clinton who said he was going to do somthing to fix it.  I had nothing against George H.W.Bush, but three terms of one party is almost always plenty.  Time for new ideas.

yes, 39. Where does the time go?
So much going on.  The Berlin Wall comes down. Scandal in the White House. Times are good economically.  My first "if this-then this" decision.  I felt Bill Clinton was the better choice for the country but I found his behaviour as a person to be repugnant.  So my decision was that if Wisconsin was looking to be a close call I would hold my nose and vote Clinton.  If it was not close, a vote for Bob Dole as a token of respect for a hero and patriot.

The Twenty First Century
The issues that concern me have become more weighty.  In recent years I have had to ponder the nature of work and retirement, of being a parent and a grand parent.  More things bother me now than in the past,  perhaps that comes with age.  More things delight me than in the past, perhaps that comes with experience.

It is always more recent history that becomes more contentious.  My decisions have become less predictable even to myself.  I have donated to two more campaigns at the local level.  Both were to friends who were running as Democrats.  In each instance - one won, one did not - it looked to me as if politics did not do good things to them.  I found myself sometimes voting different ways when the same individual stood for election in two different cycles.  I have voted for one of the recent political dynasties and against another.  

I wonder if we will ever see a "normal" election again.  Candidates can't realistically influence people by newspapers or television any more.  Most of the money spent in any given cycle serves only to enrich consultants and to clog land fills.  Large segments of the population simply won't, or perhaps can't, get their minds around anything other than party line allegience. 

It is sobering to realize that you have more four year increments behind you than ahead of you. But for what it is worth, and I'm not sure how much that is, the strangest times probably lie ahead. 

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