How I voted so far... musings on decisions
At my first Toastmasters meeting, a witty host invited me up to the front of the speakers’ group, and asked me to discuss who I was voting for in the upcoming presidential elections. While I’m not a shy person and can readily speak to a group, I was somewhat hesitant to declare my voting intentions in order to not polarize myself to anyone that might have to evaluate my next ten speeches (the goal of having to achieve a Competent Communicator status). It was early fall in 2008 and Obama vs. McCain were the main political contenders. Having overheard and occasionally engaged in recent political discussions, I was well aware of the great divide and animosity that erupted between opposing views. So my being in front of the Toastmasters group was now potentially going to set the trend of stereotyping me in the event that I choose one candidate over another.
As I stretched out my two-minute pseudo-tirade about each candidate’s qualities, I heard myself come up with an uncommitted clever summation:
“…I will leave you with the definitive answer of whom I will vote for, by saying that my unblemished voting record has always been such that I’ve constantly voted for the winning candidate. And so you will know exactly who my choice was, when the winner is announced!”
As I walked to my seat there were laughs, groans, applause and approving compliments for my amusingly diplomatic response. Amusing? … yes. Truthful?...no!
I did not vote for Obama in 2008. I felt that his lack of committed voting in Congress (“present” as opposed to a “yes” or “no”) was not anything I could see as a leader with decision-making capabilities, especially when compared to a war hero like John McCain (Sarah Palin is altogether another story). I also did not vote for George W. Bush when he ran against Al Gore. I couldn’t justify voting for a man who ran a failed baseball team and was a mediocre governor for Texas when compared with an established Vice President looking to continue the Bill Clinton-architected debt-free economy. But the majority (and the electorate college) and ultimately Florida, outvoted me. His second run against John Kerry was also a close race. At the time we were in the middle of a war against terror. The Arab terrorists of 9/11 in 2001 had interrupted our lives. Bin Laden and his followers were being hunted and Kerry wasn’t showing any backbone. Bush was fighting back with an international consensus and it was clear that Osama had inadvertently forced us to re-elect George W.
I’ve voted in every major election and even in the off-year elections. I came of voting age when Lyndon B. Johnson came into office – I did not vote for him because he was initially fueling the Viet Nam War. When Richard Nixon ran against Hubert H. (“proud as punch”) Humphrey, it was all about “who was best at keeping the Russians in check”! Myself having been an escaped refugee from the Russian Iron Curtain, it was a clear choice: Nixon (and his experience as a Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower). I voted for him twice. Unfortunately Nixon’s greed for re-election against George McGovern did him in and Nixon had to resign in disgrace after the Watergate scandal. Gerald R. Ford completed the Nixon years as president –but that’s as far as he went. Jimmy Carter ran against the press-created image of Ford as a clumsy contender. Ford was repeatedly photographed while tripping, getting hit by a golf ball, bumping his head… nonetheless, I thought that he showed courage in responding to the Mayaguez Incident (unfortunately this was also another messy debacle). In light of deciding between an incumbent governor (who was also a peanut farmer) Jimmy Carter, and a seasoned Vice President steeped in international intrigue… I voted for Ford!
Then came Ronald Reagan… the actor (albeit with credible governing credentials in California) vs. Jimmy Carter and his failed Iranian-hostage “rescue”. While Carter may have brokered “peace in the Middle-East”, we all knew that it would only be temporary. I voted for “The Ronald”! As it turned out, this was a good thing both for “bringing an end to the Iron Curtain” (“Mr. Gorbachov, tear down that wall!”) as well as for stabilizing the economy. For me, Carter turned out to be a traitor of sorts. In his later years he patronized the Middle-East terrorists (laying a wreath at Arafat’s grave) and lambasted Israel (a country under constant terrorist attacks and threats of ultimate annihilation from its Arab neighbors) in his many post-presidency writings. I will never understand why Carter undermines the very peace he once sought to permeate. When Reagan ran again, I voted along with the rest of the 49 states. Mondale was Carter’s vice president and consequently seen as an extension of the Carter debacle. Only his home state voted for Mondale. It was a landslide victory for Reagan.
Next up was George H. W. Bush (the senior Bush) against the weak candidates of the Democratic party. I wanted to vote the Democrat’s ticket but the buffoonery of Gary Hart (he dared the press to catch him having an affair –and of course they did), and the unemotional responses of Michael Dukakis was too much of a distraction to notice that I had voted for a CIA director. I actually voted for a spy-director to be the President of the United States!?!
Oh well… I always wanted a Big Brother.
When Bill Clinton was debating his opponents in 1991, I noted his intelligence as well as his moniker of “Slick Willy”. Both were apropos. He was a womanizer then but an ardent admirer of John F. Kennedy. I favored those qualities above Bush’s eventual “out-of-touch-with-the general-public” persona. Clinton got my vote –and the presidency. When he ran against the pencil-clutching Bob Dole whose droning tone put me to sleep, I continued my support of the Clinton clan (even though I was disappointed at his wife’s failure to bring about the badly needed health reforms). The economy hummed along under Slick Willy’s guidance but he just couldn’t keep his libido in check. He would have entered the annals of history as one of the greatest leaders –unfortunately he was more interested in entering Monica’s mouth in the Oval Office and getting impeached for lying to Congress (“I did not have sex with that woman…”).
And I might as well fess up about 2012. I did not vote for Obama… again. His first term was mired in excessive spending and high unemployment that was complemented by an ambiguous attempt at revamping health care. I voted for Mitt Romney because of his history as a successful businessman and someone who could work both sides of the harshly divided Congress. Romney lost and I began to do some soul searching to ask myself if I was a “racist” -since that’s the simplified tag you get from some of those who did vote for Obama. Would I vote for a multi-racial person to be president of the United States? I remembered when Colin Powell was urged to run for president in 1992 (against Bill Clinton) and I was extremely enthused to want him to win –he definitely had my vote. I was very disappointed when he cited a “lack of passion for politics” as the excuse. Gossip circles cited his wife’s insistence that he should not run. Powell was a true leader in every sense of the word. He had both parties rooting for him. I wouldn’t mind seeing him help Obama with his upcoming second term.
I have to say that I like to vote. It is an inalienable right for which I love the USA. It has shown me that although at times I was unable to be instrumental in steering the future of our government and the consequent world-history, there were times when my involvement did make a difference. I accept the results of the “majority rule” and make my peace by living in accordance with it… Toastmaster predictions notwithstanding.