My earliest childhood memory is being at the small city hall precinct in my hometown, playing with the multicolored sample ballots that were nearly knee deep to me on the floor. Back in those days, the voting was all done by paper ballots. The official ballots you voted on were white, so the two political parties printed up sample ballots in every color of the rainbow, each with its party choices marked by X’s. Voters often carried the sample ballots to the voting booth with them, then tossed them on the floor when they were finished voting.
I can still remember that some grownup person asked me what political party I belonged to and I said, “Demi-cat.” That got a lot of laughs. Of course, even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have dared say, “Republican.” That was a dirty word in my liberal Democratic house.
We had two photos hanging on our living room wall. One was a velvet Jesus Christ, preaching the Sermon on the Mount. The other one was a poster of President Harry Truman. Those wire-framed glasses that Truman wore magnified his eyes to bigger than life. Everywhere I went in that room, I could see Truman staring at me.
Some houses in my hometown also had wall pictures of John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers union, who was just below Jesus and Truman on some folks’ chain of command. However, Lewis had fallen out of favor with my father because he had defied Truman and taken the miners out on strike.
The childhood stories I loved weren’t the “Three Bears,” “Cinderella” or “Robin Hood.” I liked to hear the stories my parents told about the Great Depression, how everybody nearly starved under President Hoover and how Roosevelt saved the day. Half the structures in my hometown were built by the WPA, one of Roosevelt’s programs that gave my daddy work. Some of them are still standing today.
I also remember our first television and getting to watch the summer political conventions. They were exciting back then because they actually chose the presidential and vice presidential candidates at the event. They sometimes voted 20 or 30 ballots before they came up with a nominee. Now the conventions are just like royal coronations. The winners have been chosen months before in the primary elections all across the country.
When President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, it was almost beyond my realm of comprehension. At that time, I thought of assassinations as something that happened way back in the past, like President Lincoln. The last assassination had been President William McKinley in 1901, back in ancient history, long before my time. Then for awhile in the 1960s, it seemed like everybody was getting shot.
The 2000 presidential election was the big game that went into double overtime and was finally won with a Hail Mary pass, with the officials making a bad call. Then, I watched in 2004 in disbelief as the Republicans “swiftboated” my candidate to defeat. I still wonder if there wasn’t some hanky-panky in that Ohio ballot counting.
But I got my revenge in 2008. If I had been a betting person, I could have mopped up. I watched all the polls through the campaign and looked at every red state-blue state projection online. On election day, I drew my own map and predicted that the winner (Obama) would be announced by 11 p.m. I missed predictions on only two states, Missouri and Indiana.
However, this Nov. 6 is really going to be a cliffhanger. Most of the state-by-state polls, and they’re the only ones that count in our crazy electoral system, give an edge to Obama. However, the margins in many states are so slim that they could easily go either way. It’s almost like a coin toss.
I stayed up almost all night back in 2000, watching the returns. I don’t really feel like doing that again. And anyway, they may wait to announce the winner on the Today show. Whatever. I just hope the vote is decided by the voters and not the Supreme Court.
Jones is a staff writer for the Times-Georgian.