It is still more than a year to the next Presidential election but the headlines are already there with the latest in this upcoming contest. Even though the elections are only ever four years if you live long enough you endure or enjoy quite a few of those events. The memories may be colored in sepia and the sounds more like echos but the recall can still be vivid.
I was too young to have any memory of Roosevelt’s ’44 election but I do recall later hearing my Dad and his friends who were all in the War talking about the shock of his death because he was the only President they really remembered. His death was quickly forgotten though in the turmoil of winning the War. Berlin still had to fall and Iwo Jima and Okinawa were not yet done deals.
I do remember the newsreels at the movies about the ’48 election. Images of Truman on the back of the train speaking inevitably to the union group and then photos of the suave Dewey. I just remember thinking even then that Dewey didn’t look manly enough with that sissy skinny mustache. He was no Clark Gable. I don’t remember much reaction to the election afterward as all the adults were very much in the getting back to normal life after the War. Mostly everyone just wanted stability and a chance to resume doing anything routine.
I was young but I definitely liked Ike just as most of the country. He came across as that firm but fair grandfather and with a touch of the sage to him. Even as a youngster I found Truman’s screaming and ranting a bit too much. Besides Ike had led all those millions of men to victory and he knew how to lead. Those ’50’s were great years. Adlai Stevenson was the opponent both times. He was too prissy; supposedly a real intellectual but he also had a very sharp tongue with his opponents. He was too friendly with the Commies for the country. You have to take into account the threat of the Commies during those years. We really did have bomb drills at school regularly and the Commies continued to crush the Hungarians and foment wars and terror around the world. The Commie threat wasn’t an abstraction, it was palpable.
Those first televised debates in ’60 were interesting and frustrating. I didn’t like Kennedy from the git go. He was too cool and cute by half. Plus I resented him coming from a family with a corrupt history and born with that silver spoon in his mouth and then having the gall to say how the rest of those aspiring to do better for themselves had to pay more in taxes. (yes, I know it reduced them some later). I wasn’t wild about Nixon but he was a Navy man himself and I thought would do a better job of standing up to Khrushchev. I didn’t mind Jackie much but really got irritated with the liberal media treating her like some celebrity for just standing there and looking chic. By the way the election was stolen from Nixon by the crooked Democratic machine in Illinois, the Daleys. It was that close. Many wanted Nixon to sue as Gore did later to challenge the fraudulent results from Cook county but he refused saying it would be bad for the country to have the integrity of the election in question for months. That was the real profile in courage.
Then came the Goldwater/Johnson duel in ’64 with the famous mushroom cloud behind the little girl. I thought Goldwater was a very bright guy and that it was time for a Jew to come to the fore just as the Catholics had with Kennedy. Johnson was the epitome of the crooked politician. I was aware of the venality of the ’48 election were he had the dead vote for him down there in South Texas. When he and Ralph Yarborough were the Texas senators each of them never met a union boss with a bag of money they didn’t love and would obey. It was a nasty election with horrendous consequences. The Great Society has been a miserable and costly failure and resulted in even more powers being concentrated in Washington just as the Democrats wanted. For them it was a huge success and their corrupt reach expanded exponentially. Of course we got the Viet Nam war out of him after all the fear mongering he did against the alleged war hungry Goldwater. You have to at least appreciate the irony of it all.
Next up was Humphrey and the reborn Nixon. Humphrey definitely talked too much. You should not that I believe he still holds the Senate record for a filibuster. He was the guy to continue the Great Society programs and even expand them. Nixon was for the Silent Majority the did their jobs and wanted a decent society with much less government. I voted for George Wallace. Didn’t even like the guy and he was way too populist for me, but, but , but, he was totally anti-establishment man and especially against the Democratic view of running everything and everyone from DC. His campaign cost Nixon lots of votes and at least it sent a message. He did as promised and started the draw down in Viet Nam although I wish he had bombed and mined Haiphong harbor right away as long as we had guys on the ground fighting VC and North Vietnamese. I will discuss Watergate with you only if you have actually read the Watergate Transcripts in their entirety as I did and not just news accounts of those events and if you used you tube to listen to all the Watergate testimony before the Joint Committee and again not news accounts that are consistently skewed and often flat out wrong on the basic facts.
There never was any question about McGovern versus Nixon. He was too liberal even for a nation at the height of the Hippie movement. I always tipped my hat to him for being a bomber pilot during the War but otherwise found him liberal trite, if not lite.
Then we had Ford against Carter. Ford was a handsome man and a former All-American football player at Michigan. Carter was a peanut farmer with a hokey approach with pretensions of profound depth. He was the former but certainly lacked the latter. He was evil incarnate like Johnson but he was an embarrassment. He tried a one and done military action to get those hostages out of Iran but then wouldn’t follow through with any other efforts and his economic policies only lead to “stagflation”. Look it up that was the call sign for an economy during his era, that along with inflation off the charts. We took a home improvement loan then at 13 and a half percent that was floating in anticipation of it going higher.
Thankfully the good Lord took mercy on us and we got Reagan in the ’80 election. If you weren’t there you can’t begin to understand the breath of fresh air he was and the new sense of pride he brought it and hope that things would finally get better after two decades of slow but constant decline. That floating loan I took out for the house actually dropped under Reagan because inflation was at last tamed under his direction for the economy. Mondale never had a chance and for good reason in ’84. The detractors said he was not smart enough, well he won. Besides we’ll likely never have a President as bright as Jefferson again. He had a clear vision and direction and got the right people to move us in that way. The results surely speak for themselves.
Then we had Bush 41 in ’88 against Dukakis. The country was not in the mood for a return to traditional Democratic theories after seeing the results of trying things a different way and Dukakis was again to prissy and prim. Bush had been shot down by the Japs during the war and no one could challenge his courage or his devotion to the country. Dukakis was still singing the Democratic mantra of kissing up to the Commies and criticizing vehemently the whole Star Wars program and military build up under Reagan and Bush’s pledge to continue it. Reagan was right and Bush fulfilled the commitment to win the Cold War. Like Reagan said when asked how the Cold War would play out. He said–we win. The wall came down and the Soviets finally got the demise they deserved. along the way he faced Saddam and was resolute in Desert Storm. Only wish he hadn’t called of the dogs so soon.
Then there was Clinton who portrayed himself as a new Democrat with a more centrist approach. He was a chameleon who would adopt any ideology that got him power. The millennials and other youngster are ignorant completely about his election. Virtually none of them recall or know that he won without a majority of the vote. H. Ross Perot handed the elections to Clinton. Perot took 19% of the vote; Clinton barely got over 40% to sneak into the White House. All the shame and ignominy that Clinton brought to the Presidency can be laid at the doorstep of Perot. It was a time of despair for honorable people and even as the door was hitting his behind he added one last insulf with the Marc Rich pardon on his last day. Dole was a decent man and admired his tenacity after those awful wounds he survived from the War but he didn’t have the zip or personality to win.
“When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near” Will Durant, American, philosopher, anthropologist and historian extraordinaire. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com