Monday, October 29, 2012

Back When I was a Youngster...

Wow. The World Series started last Wednesday and it's already over. I'd better use these little items before people forget it happened at all. Did you notice that the Giants had a guy whose name describes what all hitters want to do (Belt)? How about the Tigers, with a guy named for what all good teams need (Fielder)? Both of them happen to play 1st base. Then there was the moment in game three when a pitcher faced a batter with the same last name - Sanchez. Such a thing hadn't happened, we were told, since the 1990's. The common name then? Ah, Rivera. What a country! USA! USA!....

The election campaign last just another week, and the candidates are receiving endorsements, some, of course, more important than others. Colin Powell stuck to his endorsement of Obama, first made (and, of course, derided by the GOP) four years ago. But Romney didn't come up empty. Besides a surprise nod from the usually left-leaning Des Moines Register, Mitt got the support of that star of pretty much everything, Meat Loaf. I wonder how he's listed on the voting rolls?

I was too young to register back in 1969 before leaving for Taiwan to serve a church mission. And there was no election of any consequence on tap when I returned in the fall of 1971. So, my first vote was cast in 1972, when I was twenty three, and about to be married. 
As campaigns go, this one was pretty forgettable. The Democrats had nominated George McGovern to run against the incumbent Richard Nixon, but they had to reset everything when it turned out that McGovern's first running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, had years before undergone electroshock therapy to treat a mental condition. Oops. A quick post-convention huddle led to a switch in running mate to Sargent Shriver, a Kennedy son-in-law and the first director of the Peace Corps.
The only issue of consequence in the campaign seemed to be the War in Vietnam. McGovern cast his lot with the antiwar forces of the day, many still characterized simply as "hippies". Nixon stalked the middle of the electorate by holding out for something vaguely called "Peace With Honor", and the public bought it so completely that McGovern could only carry one state - Massachusetts. He returned to the Senate, his status oddly raised by his quixotic campaign quest.
Of course, McGovern had a past even then. He had served as a bomber pilot during WW II, defying death when brave men dropped from the skies all around him. He introduced something new (which they have since forgotten) to citizens of his native South Dakota - The Democratic Party. You can't fall off a mountain there, but people can and do freeze to death when trapped in snowbanks far from the nearest town, and so campaigning there involved certain risks. He never complained about the whipping he took from Nixon, but history took a bit of revenge itself when illegal hijinks in  the Nixon campaign acquired their own name - "Watergate".
McGovern, you may know, passed away last week at age ninety. We'll never know if he would have been an effective president, and it's useless to even try to figure out that kind of question. But I'm sure there were plenty of widows and orphans who wish he had been given the chance. By the way, my first vote, done absentee in Iowa, was for McGovern. I'm equally proud of stating that I didn't vote for Nixon when I had the chance.     


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