It’s finally over!

Published 5:32 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

I have just returned home from voting. This is the 11th presidential election in which I could cast a ballot. I cannot remember if I have missed any of those opportunities, but I probably have. I would not have missed it intentionally because I take the responsibility to vote seriously.

I was born in 1949, so the first presidential election of my lifetime would have been the 1952 election, which pitted Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson against World War II hero Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the Republican Party’s nominee and won by a landslide.

Since I was only 3 years old at the time, I can’t say I remember that election. Nor do I remember the next one, which was a rematch of 1952 with Eisenhower and his running mate, future president Richard Nixon, winning even more easily than they did in ’52.

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The first presidential election that I truly remember was in 1960. There were many similarities between 1960 and this year’s election.

The Democratic Party nominated a charismatic, young senator. He was a Roman Catholic, controversial at that time, and was considered too inexperienced in the arena of world affairs.

The Republican Party, on the other hand, went with a seasoned politician named Richard Nixon. He had been Ike’s vice president for eight years and could be expected to be a steady hand at the tiller. He would also be tied undeniably to the policies of an eight-year administration.

Kennedy was gifted with a great sense of humor and possessed superior oratorical skills. He looked good, spoke well and seemed to embody a new and exciting spirit. It also didn’t hurt him that his family’s pockets were deep and his wife was pretty and classy.

Although our country’s perception of Richard Nixon has ended up in the negative realm, he was not an unattractive candidate in 1960 and the election was very close. More than 68 million votes were cast in the 1960 presidential election and neither candidate won 50 percent of the vote.

Kennedy won the popular vote by 112,827 votes. Percentage-wise, the popular vote was 49.7 percent for Kennedy and 49.6 percent for Nixon. Of course we don’t elect our presidents by popular vote. We use what is known as an Electoral College and that vote was not so close. Kennedy garnered 303 electoral votes to Nixon’s 219.

Since our 2008 election count has not begun as I write this, there looms the possibility of another similarity. In 1960 there were very serious charges of voter fraud. We have already heard a little of that and if it is a close race, we might hear even more.

Other presidential elections that stand out in my mind were 1972’s landslide victory of Nixon over McGovern. I was a college student then and my head was turned by the liberal policies of McGovern. Nixon swamped McGovern by carrying 49 out of the 50 states (McGovern carried Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.). So much for my idealism.

Then, as a Georgian, I was a voter for Jimmy Carter in the 1976 election. He might not be remembered as a good president, but my vote was cast out of the emotion that I wanted my home state to have a president. That might not be a good reason in some minds, but it was good enough for me in 1976!

By 1980, though, the state of the union was not good. Inflation and unemployment were high, while gasoline shortages had begun to appear in California. Plus, the international stage was shaky for the United States as Iran had taken 52 U.S. diplomats. Whether deserved or not, President Carter was blamed and he limped into the presidential campaign against a Republican candidate straight from a Hollywood Casting Directory.

Ronald Wilson Reagan had been governor of California and the premiere spokesman for the American conservative movement for many years when he won the Republican nomination in 1980. He was another candidate who looked good and communicated better than his opponent. Carter was beaten soundly.

It was the persona and politics of Ronald Reagan that would win the election of 1980. It would also enable his vice president, George H.W. Bush, to win in 1988. The problem for the Republicans, though, would be that George H.W. Bush was no Reagan Republican.

That deficiency and a very talented Arkansas governor named William Jefferson Clinton would lead the Democratic Party to victory in 1992 and 1996. Not only was Clinton a very gifted politician, there was also the very positive economic circumstances of the 1990s that kept the presidency in the hands of the Democrats.

As we moved into the 21st century, we had the famous election of 2000. This one is close enough for many of us to remember and for some very interesting occurrences.

First of all there was the fact that Al Gore, the Democratic Party nominee actually won the popular vote by over a half million votes. But he lost the Electoral College vote 271-266. Our sister state, Florida, was the center of election controversy, too long a story to recount here. Suffice it to say, the Republican Secretary of State and co-chair of the Bush campaign in Florida proclaimed him victor and George W. became president.

Today, as you read this, we will have finished the presidential campaign of 2008. It’s been interesting but far too long. I liked it better when the campaigns were sprints and not marathons.

Unless there is some controversy, we will have a winner. And a loser.

If your candidate won, congratulations, but please, no gloating.

If your candidate lost, sorry, but just remember, “this too will pass.”