Remembering Past United States Presidential Elections
On November 8, 2016, American citizens will be voting in another Presidential election. The choice this year for many people seems to be the lesser of two evils: Donald Trump and Hilliary Clinton.
Since 1956, I can remember following a lot of elections, but voting in only a handful of them. In this article, I begin by recollecting the 1956 Presidential election and conclude with my thoughts on the 2016 election.
Election of 1956
In August of 1956, I had just turned 12 and was starting to take a little interest in national news. During the Presidential election campaign of 1956, I remember that President Dwight Eisenhower was running for reelection against the Democratic Party candidate Adlai Stevenson from Illinois. My dad had recently started farming but was still working full-time as a millwright with Allis Chalmers in West Allis, Wisconsin. As a member of the AFL-CIO, dad's loyalty was with the Democrats and Stevenson. I recall my father referring to Eisenhower as "Eisen-Hoover," because he compared Ike's economic policies with those of former President Herbert Hoover.
The Election of 1960
In the autumn of 1960, I was a high school junior and can recall participating in a classroom political debate. I supported the Democratic Party candidate John F. Kennedy because my parents were Democrats. My math teacher gave me some good advice when I asked who he was voting for. Mr. Geiken replied that he would be voting for the lesser of the two evils. Up until that point, I thought that all politics was black and white.
The Election of 1964
By the election of 1964, I still wasn't old enough to vote in a Presidential election. At that time, I was a junior at the University of Wisconsin and a member of the Young Democrats. I was all-in for LBJ's Great Society Program plans and against the right-wing extremism of Senator Barry Goldwater. On at least one Saturday in the fall of 1964, I can remember putting LBJ stickers on cars. Two years later, my political hero escalated the war in Vietnam and by November of 1966 I had received my draft induction notice.
The Elections of 1968, 1972, and 1976
I did not vote in the elections of 1968, 1972, and 1976 because I was moving around a great deal of the time. On election day in 1968, I was preparing to ship out for an overseas assignment on Taiwan. I could have voted in the election of 1972 when I was a student again at the University of Wisconsin, but apathy took over. When the election of 1976 came around, I was living on Taiwan as a civilian and neglected to vote by absentee ballot.
The Election of 1980
By the time of the election of 1980, I was back in the United States and living in Toledo, Ohio. Having returned a year earlier from Taiwan, I was following national and international news with great interest. Sensing that President Carter was letting the United States get pushed around as evidenced by the Iran hostage situation, I was attracted to Ronald Reagan as a candidate. I felt that he could lead the United States in standing up to the Soviet Union and terrorists and improve the U.S. economic situation. After voting for Reagan in November of 1980, I received a job offer from the United States government one week later.
The Elections of 1984 and 1988
Once again I did not participate in the elections of 1984 and 1988. In 1984 I was in Taiwan again for one year of language training with the government but neglected to vote by absentee ballot. I did, however, help a Taiwanese TV station transcribe a debate between the vice-presidential candidates, George Bush and Geraldine Ferraro. I didn't vote in the election of 1988 because I was confident the Republicans would win and that my vote wasn't needed.
The Elections of 1992 and 1996
Unfortunately, I did not vote in the elections of 1992 and 1996 and Bill Clinton was elected President. 1992 was a hectic year because I was going through a divorce and perhaps that is why I didn't vote. There was no excuse, however, for me not voting in 1996.
The Election of 2000
I made sure that I was registered to vote in the election of 2000. What stimulated me was anger against the Democrats and President Bill Clinton. I had followed the Monica Lewinsky scandal with great interest and was very disappointed that Clinton was not found guilty of impeachment charges in the Senate. Since 1996, I had also been listening every day to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. If enough citizens felt the same as me, I was confident that George W. Bush could defeat Al Gore in the election of 2000. I cast my ballot for Bush and the rest is history.
The Elections of 2004, 2008, and 2012
I did not vote in the past three elections of 2004, 2008, and 2012, because of having lived overseas in Thailand and neglecting to cast absentee ballots. My actions were definitely due to apathy and dissatisfaction with the Iraq War.
The Election of 2016
Once again I did not participate in the Presidential election in 2016. Although I strongly supported the Republican candidate Donald Trump and despised the policies and character of Hilliary Clinton, I still did not cast an absentee ballot. Since Wisconsin was almost certain to be a "blue state," I thought my vote wouldn't matter anyway. I was elated in learning that Trump had been elected President.
President John F. Kennedy
President Lyndon Johnson
President Ronald Reagan
President Donald Trump
Throughout my life, my political views have changed from being socially and fiscally liberal to becoming conservative. I am afraid that the United States will be on a steep path of decline if there are any more future assaults on its conservative traditions.
© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn