Not a lifelong Democrat

In 1972 at the age of 12 and at my own behest, my mother drove me to a local gathering of Republicans so I could stuff envelopes for my personal hero--Richard M. Nixon.

Of course I was reflecting my family's choice of president, but I also saw him as the man most likely to end the Vietnam War.

If memory serves, media coverage of the Vietnam war was much grittier than today's embedded reports from Iraq. I remember news casts filled with explosions and images of jungle warfare, bloody faces and flag-draped coffins. I remember the relentless body count and the horrible waste of it all. At night, I laid awake, praying for the war to end. 

I was thrilled when Nixon visited China and when he cracked the ice of the Cold War by going to Russia. I saw him as a peacemaker. I thought Mr. Nixon was the man to get the job done.

Of course, now I know Mr. Nixon was a complicated man, visionary, but paranoid, socially magnanimous to some extent, but also imperious and controlling. Under his leadership there was the bombing of Cambodia and the tragedy of Kent State and the Watergate coverup. But I still have a soft spot for this difficult executive. Watergate was egregious, but I would contend that the Iran-Contra scandal under Reagan and this administration's outing of Valerie Plame and its abuses of the Geneva Convention are worse crimes. Nixon opened the world. He wanted to pass universal health care. During the energy crisis, he didn't pander to oil companies, he dropped the national speed limit.

Somewhere in the development of my political consciousness something changed. Me or the Republican Party or both. I have never voted for a Republican for president, though I did vote for John Anderson in 1980. I have also never voted for a presidential candidate I really liked (though I had high hopes for Gary Hart in 1988, darn it).

Last night, though, I felt proud of my party and prouder still of my city, all shiny and welcoming and emblematic of an independent West. When Jesse Jackson, Jr. invoked Martin Luther King, Jr., saying, "Forty-five years to the day after a young preacher called out, 'Let freedom ring,' let history show in this fourth week of August in this Mile-High City, freedom in America has never rung from a higher mountaintop than it does here today," I felt the spirit of possibility like never before; that this great nation, this wild, immature hybrid of people, cultures and faiths might shed the darkness of the last eight years and instead embrace a vision that acknowledges the needs of real people, not just the rich, and the need for real resources, not just Big Oil. That, finally, this horrible war that has taken so many lives might see its end. That we are about to elect a leader--one less scarred than Nixon--who looks like America, who can get the job done. 

Comments (1) -

August 26. 2008 04:23

Christie

Oh I wish I was home to have caught JJ,Jr's speech.  I think we recorded it, so I will definitely have to watch it now.

And it's interesting how time can give perspective on things...for the better and for the worse.  

Christie |

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