To the Editor:
In 1965, Barry McGuire sang in his plaintive protest song, “Eve of Destruction,” “Yer old enough to kill / but not fer votin’.” By 1971, the 26th Amendment lowering the voting age to 18 had passed with record speed which made it so that you were both old enough to kill and fer votin’. Alas, the amendment came too late for me because I was already 21. Nonetheless, I cherished voting upon being eligible and haven’t missed an election since except for an occasional uncontested primary and all local fire district contests.
Well before reaching the age to vote, I paid great attention to presidential elections. I was outraged when during the 1950s, Eisenhower-supporting hoodlums in the neighborhood attached Adlai Stevenson pins to the soles of their pointy hoodlum shoes and scraped them across the sidewalk.
In 1960, I went to a rally where Eleanor Roosevelt introduced Adlai Stevenson for an attempted third run for the presidency. Talk about being in the presence of history. Later that year, following his having secured the nomination, I waited for the arrival of John F. Kennedy for a rally at the same site only to leave at midnight, before JFK arrived, because I had to get up the next day for school.
In 1962, as an undergraduate, I attended a rally for then vice president Lyndon Johnson in Burlington, Vermont. I recall that his icy glare made me feel that he was looking directly at me and that I’d best not entertain any untoward thoughts about this formidable Texan. And this was before Vietnam, a time when I entertained a great many untoward thoughts about LBJ.
In 1964, I attended a rally held for Nelson Rockefeller in his bid for the presidential nomination. As he was leaving, he stretched out his hand to those of us in the crowd. I declined to shake his hand—and that was seven years before Attica.
I even attended a speech in 1968 by Harold Stassen, once Minnesota’s “boy wonder governor,” who by then had become a comic figure after running for president unsuccessfully NINE times.
While I am no stranger to the electoral process, I am, however, a stranger to electoral success.
In high school, I was once recruited to pad the ticket for class officers. I squirmed with embarrassment on the school assembly stage. The ticket was soundly defeated. I continued as so pathetic a candidate that later in life, when I became a faculty union vice president, it was more by appointment than popular vote.
In fact, the only position to which I was ever elected was as class clown in junior high, an honor which was accompanied by my mother being called to school where I was sitting on the bench outside the principal’s office.
Ultimately, I decided that I could be more successful politically working behind the scenes rather than as a successful candidate. When a department chairperson proved to be eminently unpopular with the department, I very quietly (perhaps sneakily) made the rounds of faculty offices suggesting another colleague for the position. It worked. The change was smoothly effected.
When county politicos attempted to take over the presidency of our community college, I was one of the actors that working deviously behind the scenes to prevent that from happening.
And now, it’s a presidential election year again, one that is undoubtedly the most important election in my lifetime. Living in a plague-ridden world, it took a while to figure out how to get involved.
Finally, I found a group recruiting folks to write postcards encouraging infrequent voters to vote. So far, I have scrawled over 37,000 postcards in my godawful handwriting to voters in swing states where participation is critical. After the first five postcards, the task got really tedious. After 500 postcards, I began to look for ways to keep going and to keep from going insane. First, I tried including every other word from the script. Then I included only vowels and then only consonants. Finally, I wrote the message backwards so it could only be read in a mirror.
I remain a glutton for politics, particularly presidential politics, and am deeply devoted to voting. So there is no question that I’ll be casting a ballot this year. But why should you vote? Let’s consider the reasons:
- It will allow you to cultivate a keen self-satisfied sense of civic virtue. That’s what Mrs. Putnam told us in the third grade, and it’s still true.
- It will bring a little purpose, a little meaning, a little outreach, to your otherwise pandemic-restricted life.
- If Republicans are opposed to widespread voting, it must be good.
- American democracy is threatened by the potential reelection of a genuine monster. We can only hope Orange Godzilla will leave office once he’s defeated.