August 13, 2004

Answer revealed: the Republican Presidential candidate I voted for.

Here's the final count in the blogpoll asking which Republican Presidential candidate I voted for. I had said that I've been voting in presidential elections since 1972 and have only once voted for the Republican candidate. Seventy-seven people voted and the clear favorite was Reagan:
Ronald Reagan--48.1%--37

Bob Dole--18.2%--14

Gerald Ford--13%--10

George H.W. Bush--13%--10

Richard Nixon--7.8%--6

Now what was the thinking there? Why did Reagan come out on top by such a wide margin? Reagan ran twice, and I could only have voted for him one of those times, so the fact that he's the only one who ran twice in the stated time period should not have caused you to pick him. I guess there was a trend of Democrats switching over to Reagan, and just on sheer numbers, the chances of a Democrat voting for Reagan in 1984 are high, given the abysmal numbers for Mondale. But, in fact, I voted for Mondale. Up until Bill Clinton, I had never voted for the winner in a Presidential election. So now, you have enough information to reach the correct answer: Gerald Ford! Why on earth did I vote for Ford—especially when I voted for every other loser up until Clinton? It means that I voted against Carter when he won and for him when he lost! Who does that?

I was all set to vote for Carter in 1976. I had voted for Carter in the New York primary, and actually set out on Election Day in November intending to vote for Carter. I was walking to the poll with another person with whom I'd been talking about the election throughout the campaign. Both of us had been struck by a statement Carter made the day before the election. Carter was asked what he would do if he lost, and he answered that he would just go back to his peanut farm. That statement undermined my support for Carter overnight, strangely enough. He seemed thin and weak to me after that. Here was this man who'd only been the governor of Georgia, and he thought he could be President, yet he had no other vision of a role in the world for himself than to stay in Georgia and be a peanut farmer. Peanut farm, Presidency—what's the difference? We sat down on a bench on the way to the polling place and talked about it and both decided to vote for Ford! What was there in Ford's favor? He was already President so there was no issue of elevating an inadequate man to the Presidency. He may have been inadequate, but he was already President. And I found something reassuring in the fact that he, uniquely, had not sought the Presidency.

But let me say something about Nixon. I didn't support him in 1972, the first year I voted, or in 1968 (when I was a senior in high school), but I absolutely loved Nixon in 1960, the first election I was old enough to have an opinion about. I was nine. I wore a huge Nixon button to school in those days, and all the kids I knew loved Nixon. I vividly remember a schoolmate observing, "If kids could vote, it would be a landslide for Nixon." As I noted above, I have voted for every loser from the time I started voting until Clinton came along. But if you go back to 1960, the first year I started having an opinion, I supported every loser except Clinton. Not only did I support Nixon in 1960, but I supported Goldwater in 1964, and then Humphrey in 1968. My record of supporting losers, in fact, is so extraordinary—remember I supported Carter when he lost, but opposed him when he won—that my support ought to be dreaded as the kiss of death.

Here's a new poll to test your understanding of my political predilections. I was walking on State Street today, when a young man with a clipboard asked me to sign a petition to get Ralph Nader on the ballot. I'm in Wisconsin, which is an important swing state, as you probably know.

1 comment:

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