The very first presidential election I voted in was in 1968. I was 23 years old and had only voted once before, in a local election. That was before the twenty-sixth amendment to the Constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. I was chomping at the bit to exercise my right to vote, and I made sure I would get an absentee ballot, since the Army was sending me to Vietnam.
Prior to having to report to Fort Lewis, and board our flight to Southeast Asia, we were given a month’s leave — our last chance to spend time with family and friends until … well, we just didn’t know. During that time I did my best to become an informed voter. I watched the news, read magazines and newspapers and talked to everyone I could. I even read about the history of Vietnam, because I wanted to know what I was getting myself into.
On June 5th I voted in the California Primary, registered as a Republican. That evening we were watching the TV coverage of the election results and saw the Democrat winner, Bobby Kennedy, give his victory speech. Moments later, I sat stunned as they reported that Bobby Kennedy had been shot.
It’s one thing to read about this in the history books. It’s quite another to live through it. The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. was still fresh in everyone’s memory. It had only been two months. I was in Advanced Infantry Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana when it happened. All weekend passes were cancelled for fear of riots, and inter-racial relations were strained.
As a nation, we were still recovering from the JFK assassination, five years earlier. Nationally, tensions were running high, and most people desperately hoped that civil stability would prevail. I was all the more determined to take my citizenship seriously and make sure my vote counted, because the very fabric of society seemed to be tearing apart.
Maybe despite that fact, or maybe because of that fact, there was a depth in our political choices. When I compare the choices we had in June of 1968 with the choices we have in 2012, I have to laugh at the insincere, hypocritical and ignorant claim that we are a nation of diversity.
It’s not even June yet, and what are my choices? Obama and Romney? The media flat-out ignores the third-party candidates, who though they lack big money and a powerful machine pushing them, they actually make principled stands for their beliefs. Other than the third parties, all we get from either Democrats or Republicans is pabulum and an avoidance of the biggest issues facing us. You certainly didn’t hear much about illegal aliens in the Republican debates.
Way back in 1968, the political diversity was substantially broader. Major candidates included Nixon, Kennedy, Humphrey, McCarthy, Rockefeller, Wallace, and Romney (the elder). These candidates represented something more than differences in style or personality. They actually had political philosophies that could be differentiated from one other, and they all had political records to stand on. Their “diversity” gave voters a real choice.
Less than two weeks after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, I arrived in Vietnam. In the months that followed, I was pretty busy just trying to survive. Then one day a supply helicopter brought us the mail, and there, in the middle of the jungles of Vietnam, I looked at my sample ballot. We had set up what they call a ‘day logger’, so I had time to fill out my ballot, put it in the envelope and get it in the mail bag before the chopper made its return trip. I felt genuine pride — proud to be an American — glad to be free.
Also in my ballot packet were five extra ballots. The cover letter said that since many servicemen in wartime situations aren’t able to vote, that they try to make it as easy as possible, so they included these extra ballots, just in case there were others in my unit who would like to vote, but hadn’t arranged for absentee ballots. So, I took the ballots and went around to all the men in my Company (about 100 men). I went from squad to squad and platoon to platoon, offering the ballots to anyone who was interested.
It gave me one of the biggest shocks of my life. No one — officer or enlisted man — wanted to vote. In fact, I can’t recall that anyone in the Company, other than me, voted at all. Surely someone else shared my commitment to citizenship. But if so, I didn’t know who they were. The most common response I got was, “It won’t make any difference who’s elected. They’re all the same.” They weren’t fazed in the least when I described Wallace as ‘different’.
I didn’t get it back then and I don’t get it now. So many people, even those whose lives are on the line, don’t understand how vitally important it is for every qualified citizen to vote. Without the participation of an informed and responsible electorate, no republic can stay free. Too many regular citizens have shirked their duty and opted out of voting, allowing scum to rise to the political surface.
That’s not politics as usual. It’s irresponsible citizenship. Politics with insufficient citizen input has given us the problem we have now. Where is the accountability to the American voter? Where is the representation of ‘We The People’? And where are ‘We’? Are we the ‘99%’? Are we the Occupiers? Or are we so caught up in our own personal worlds that we don’t give a hang for the rest of America? For our nation? For our heritage? For our Constitution?
When you think of the current election, do you just think it’s politics as usual? If you do, you probably look to the Republicans to save us from what the Democrats have done. And if that’s the case, you are sadly caught up in the suspension of your disbelief. If you would just stop for a moment, you might realize, just like watching a movie that requires one ‘suspend his disbelief’ in order to appreciate the fictional representation, you are suspending your disbelief when it comes to accepting the fiction dished out by our national leadership.
For most of my voting life, I was a Republican. After the Watergate scandal, out of shame, I registered as a Democrat. I confess that I voted for Carter, and for his re-election. But after Reagan showed America and the world what being a great president is all about, I changed back to being a Republican. That is, until ‘W’.
For many years, I believed that if we could just have both a Republican President and a Republican Congress, then most of our political woes would be solved. When that finally happened in George W. Bush’s first term, I was ecstatic. I began to hope that the big government and big spending that happened under Clinton might be reversed, that we would begin to see sanity in government. Boy, was I wrong.
After a lifetime of hoping and waiting, I saw conservatism betrayed by Bush and his Republican government. Soon, it was clear that this man, who called himself a ‘compassionate conservative’ supported bigger government than his predecessors, as he set new records for spending. But, aside from the fact that this Republican, along with his administration and the Congress, was more socialist than conservative, at least he seemed to take seriously the threat of terrorism.
Then one day during the first Bush term, there was a special news alert. Remember during the war in Iraq the military used a deck of cards to identify the main leaders of the enemy who they targeted to kill? One of the top bad guys from that deck of cards had been identified riding in a vehicle. On the TV screen you could see the truck driving along a desert road. The public had gotten used to such coverage, particularly videos showing ‘smart bombs’ striking their targets from great distances.
The news people, as well as the viewers, expected at any moment to see a rocket blow up the truck. But this time, nothing happened. We had the enemy in our sights but let him escape. The reporters said that the military pilots were waiting to get permission to fire from the CIA command post located in the United States! This is when I first discovered that our military was encumbered with ‘rules of engagement’. The men in combat could not make the decision to attack the enemy, as would normally be the case, if the military were in charge. But it seemed the CIA was running the war.
I wrote the President, asking him who’s in charge. Of course, I never got the courtesy of a response. I’m just a nobody. I’m supposed to simply pay my taxes and shut up. It’s politics as usual. Our military fights wars, but not for our own national interests. Our soldiers die, we amass a huge debt. Why? Politics as usual.
Our current President campaigned on the idea of change. He said that Bush and the Republicans were so bad to get us into wars in the middle east. But Obama (OWHNI) has even outdone Bush. Over twice as many soldiers have died in Afghanistan under Obama than under Bush.
The United States of America can’t do much worse than Obama. That said, whether you vote Democrat or Republican, you are voting for politics as usual. Win or lose, I will vote independently — for the Constitution Party, if it is given ballot access in California. Back when Bush was President, I opted out of the ‘lesser of two evils’ mentality, not because I thought I could win, but because I can’t in good conscience support any political party that is so caught up in a one-world philosophy that it no longer fights for individual liberty, national sovereignty or constitutional government.
What we’ve been getting for a long, long time is lip service, empty words, just plain lies; thinking we can save the whole world, spending irresponsibly beyond our means; no accountability to ethics, the law or the Constitution; government intrusion into every aspect of our private lives… politics as usual. Politics as usual will be the death of America.
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