I remember sitting in the large impersonal lecture hall in my American History 101 class feeling a bit forlorn and overwhelmed. I'm a freshman at the University of South Carolina. It's 1968, the Vietnam War is raging, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King have been assassinated, riots erupted in several U.S. cities, the antiwar movement, woman's movement and civil rights movement are in full swing, my father's currently serving in Military Intelligence, Saigon and my mom's hospitalized after suffering 3rd degree burns because she's having a nervous breakdown trying to deal with my father being at war leaving her responsible for raising 4 kids ranging in ages from 5 and 18. I feel like I'm hanging on by my fingernails.
The professor asks, "What is democracy?" I'm wondering the answer to that question myself. Student's hands shoot up as one by one they proclaim, "Freedom of speech." "Freedom of religion." "Freedom of the press." "Freedom to peacefully assemble." Freedom to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." "Freedom from illegal search and seizures." And the list goes on and each time our professor nods, "Yes, and what else?"
After our ideas are exhausted the professor responds, "Democracy means one man one vote. Period. This is the only power you have. If you don't wield that power at the ballot box then you have no power." His statement made a huge impression on me. Until then I was so apathetic about what was going on in our country I'd decided to ignore the entire rotten system but his words changed my mind.
My voting record
I became a registered Democrat. And every four years I'd march myself to my voting place and "wield my power." Granted, I don't have a very good success rate at the poles but I vote anyway. 1968 gave us a choice between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace, the racist governor from Alabama. I was a Robert Kennedy supporter so I pulled the lever for Humphrey and we all know how that turned out.
1972 gave us Richard Nixon and Gov. George McGovern. McGovern ran on ending the war in Vietnam, amnesty for war resisters, abolition of the draft, a guaranteed job for every American, lifting people out of poverty, women's rights, gay rights and saving the environment--no wonder he lost by one of the largest margins in U.S. history winning only Massachusetts and D.C. What a different world we might have had if he'd won. Today we're facing many of these same issues. Nothing has changed in fact things have gotten much worse.
I've never understood and never will understand why the majority of Americans prefer liars, crooks, thieves and warmongering politicians to honest, compassionate, peace loving statesmen. And because they do we find ourselves in a dying empire rife with corruption and inequality collapsing from the weight of its own hubris.
1976. Jimmy Carter, a soft-spoken, kindhearted peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia runs against Gerald Ford, who served 25 years in the Senate and became president after Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon resignation on August 9, 1974. Finally, my candidate wins but because of the Iran hostage situation he loses in 1980 to Ronald Reagan.
I never liked Reagan. He was a second rate actor and a third rate president. I'd sit and watch him lie to the American people as he pushed the corporate agenda, killed the air traffic controllers union, which signaled to workers you have no power here and promoted his "trickle down economics," which even George H.W. Bush referred to as, "voodoo economics."
1984. Walter Mondale loses to Reagan.
1988. Michael Dukakis loses to George H.W. Bush.
1992. Then Bill Clinton, defeats George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot.
1996. Bill Clinton wins a second term defeating Bob Doyle and Ross Perot but then the unthinkable happens. Bill Clinton becomes embroiled with a White House Intern and trying to save himself claims "he did not have sexual relations with that woman" and depending on "what the meaning of the word is is" was impeached on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice as Hillary proclaims there's a mass right wing conspiracy under foot. And although unemployment's at 4.8%, the lowest in 8 years and he claims to leave us with a huge surplus, he finishes out his term in disgrace.
In retrospect we now know Clinton killed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which was put into place after the great depression to make sure we were protected from the banks ever collapsing the economy again, dismantled welfare which mainly hurt poor hungry children, and touted NAFTA as a huge job creator, which we now know sends American jobs overseas.
2000. George W. Bush versus Al Gore turns out to be a huge fiasco. Between the hanging chads in Florida, and being aided and abetted by the then Gov. Jeb Bush, the little brother to G.W. Bush and then Secretary of State of Florida, Katherine Harris. People were purposely excluded from the voting rolls and hundreds were turned away at the polls. And then the final nail in the coffin, the Supreme Court stops the recount and calls the election for George W. Bush even though Al Gore won the popular vote.