Oct. 30, 2009
Last year, I voted. I joined the 125,225,900 other Americans (at least, I hope they were all Americans) who voted for President. It was the 40th anniversary of my first vote in a Presidential election. My vote is worth, correspondingly, less now than it was worth then. In 1968, I was one of only 72,054,692 citizens who exercised the suffrage--that old-fashioned word for the right to vote.
Now, I take my vote very seriously. I have never missed once voting in an election in which I was eligible. Im still not sure if I was eligible to vote in Connecticut by absentee ballot in 1984, since we moved to Maryland just one month before election day. I was afraid of missing the voter registration deadline in the Free State (Maryland), so I thought I should take no chances and cast my absentee ballot early in the Constitution State (Connecticut).
If that gets me in trouble, so be it. I was determined to vote for Ronald Reagans re-election. I was also under consideration for a post in the Reagan administration and it would not have served to have missed voting for the Gipper one last time.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol also voted in that 1984 election. A student at Harvards Kennedy School, he cast one of the Ivy Leagues precious few ballots for the Great Communicator. (Good thing the ballots are secret.) Kristol also voted for House Speaker Tip ONeills opponent in that election. The morning after, when Reagans Electoral Vote total looked like an elephant stampede, Kristol asked his wife how many votes the Republican running against the powerful Democrat ONeill had gotten. There was a Communist running against ONeill, but no Republican candidate, Mrs. Kristol informed her stunned hubby.
Bill Kristol was then a candidate for a top slot at Bill Bennetts Department of Education. Kristol was telling the story around Washington to general merriment: Oh my, he exclaimed, I voted inadvertently for a Communist!
When Kristol showed up at the Office of Presidential Personnel, he told the story to an unsmiling Director, Becky Norton Dunlop. Mr. Kristol, she sternly advised the Harvard man, we in the Reagan administration do not think its funny to vote for Communists. Amen to that. Bill Kristol and his excellent magazine have more than made up for that one youthful indiscretion.
Ive just returned from a three-day family vacation in Virginia. The Old Dominion most thoughtfully schedules her gubernatorial elections for one year after the Presidential contests.
It provides a wonderful fix for political junkies like me. I was able to combine dandling my grandson with hunting for votes in the crisp fall air. This year, Virginia and New Jersey are joined by New Yorks 23rd Congressional District as the centers of attention for political trend watchers. These three contests are thought to be bellwethers for next years crucial congressional races.
These three contests are also important because they could provide a boost--or a brake--to President Obamas ambitious legislative agenda. Members of Congress who may be straddling the fence, wondering whether to back ObamaCare or not, will be analyzing next Tuesdays results with the keenest interest.
My Virginia experience of pitching in for my candidates was a joy. The Williamsburg campaign office was efficiently run and brightly lighted. I was welcomed and made to feel right at home. Volunteer telephone callers were busily going through their lists, carefully marking down their responses. In forty-three years, Ive walked precincts, attended rallies, and called in phone banks in New York, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington state, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Louisiana. Ive only rarely had anyone be rude to me. Most of the time, Americans when you show them the courtesy of asking for their vote, are the friendliest people you could meet.
Because this was near Colonial Williamsburg, you could expect to see red-white-and-blue throughout the campaign headquarters. It reminded me of that less happy time, back in 1972, when George McGovern ran against Richard Nixon. One of the young McGovernites came into the headquarters where I was the candidate for state legislature. He spied a big American flag on the wall. Whats that doing there, he demanded to know. Im a candidate for office. This is the United States. What would you prefer, a Vietcong Flag, I replied testily.
There was one incongruous sight at the Williamsburg campaign headquarters, however. The faux parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence was proudly on display--but in the bathroom. I thought maybe even that made a point. If we dont take our right of suffrage seriously--and vote--we may find all our inalienable rights, along with our precious independence, flushed away!