It’s my five most personally memorable presidential elections. Some of the decisions we made as a nation may have been more pivotal than others, but these choices come from how powerfully I remember them.
1. Richard Nixon vs. Hubert Humphrey, 1968. I remember trying to persuade my first grade teacher and most of my classmates why Humphrey was the angel to Nixon’s devil. Part of the price of growing up in a house full of Democrats while living in a school district full of Republicans. In this case, as it turned out with Nixon’s resignation in 1974, my parents might just have been right. (The fact that I was debating the merits of the Tet Offensive and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution while my classmates were playing with G.I. Joes and Barbie Dolls is, as you might suspect, fodder for another blog. Or therapist’s couch. Or both.)
2. Jimmy Carter vs. Ronald Reagan, 1980. By this time, my environment and my friends had come to have more influence than my family of origin. I cast my ballot in New Jersey of all places, having just begun my freshman year of college. I vividly remember attending a political science class the day after Reagan’s landslide and the professor began the lecture with all kinds of predictions of America’s impending doom. In this case, as it turned out eight years later, he was most probably wrong. There you go again indeed.
3. George H.W. Bush vs. Bill Clinton vs. Ross Perot, 1992. When the most famous part of a Presidential Debate is one of the candidates looking at his watch out of sheer boredom, you know your choices are somewhat limited. President Bush was the clock-watcher that night and Bill Clinton took his job a short time later.
4. Al Gore vs. George W. Bush, 2000. Can you really believe we lived through a Constitutional Crisis for over a month without knowing the winner? And can you believe the man with the popular vote win actually lost? And can you believe it all came down to hanging chads? Overlooked in all the furor is the fact that Gore couldn’t even win his home state of Tennessee — and if he had, who knows what the next eight years would have been like?
5. Barack Obama vs. John McCain, 2008. The saddest part of this election was McCain’s appearance on Saturday Night Live three days before the voting . . . and he all but gave his concession speech then. Wonder who’s going on SNL this year?