The date was November 7, 1972. Election day. George McGovern vs Richard Nixon for the presidency of the United States of America. Sounds like a heavyweight title fight, doesn't it. Only if the boxers were Mike Tyson vs Michael Spinks. Both events were over in less than two minutes.
The reason I bring up that date is it was the first election in which I was eligible to vote. I was twenty years old. The voting age had been lowered to eighteen. I took advantage of the change and rushed off to the polls and cast my first vote.
The 60's-70's were trying times. The country was divided over the war in Viet Nam. McGovern was our hope for ending the war and bringing our soldiers home. He said, "I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."
Apparently that message didn't go over so well. Nixon won in a landslide. The electoral college totals were 520-17 for Nixon. McGovern's only victories were in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. He failed to win his own home state of South Dakota.
None of that mattered to me. I was proud and still am that I cast my vote in that manner. I would do it again. Plus, it just made me want to do it again. I couldn't wait to vote in the next election. I still feel that way.
Over the next four-plus decades, I've cast a lot of votes. Some of my candidates have won. More of them have lost. That's okay. That's the way democracy goes. None of it would ever stop me from voting. I've always felt it was an honor, a privilege and a duty to do it. It's the one real way you can enact change. More than marches, more than protests....voting works!
That's why I'm discouraged from what I've been hearing about our countries youth and their feelings about voting. A lot of them have no interest in voting or politics. They don't have the same feelings and enthusiasm that I had in 1972.
Last week I was watching a news program hosted by MSNBC's Katy Tur. She was on the campus of the University of Arizona, talking to students about the upcoming election. When she asked who would be voting, there were a few students that didn't raise their hands. One commented that he wasn't interested in politics. C'mon dude, if you aren't interested, why are you wasting your time at a political event? Trying for some tv face time?
The others felt that the election wouldn't change anything in their lives. This one scares me the most. These are kids who have barely started to live. They still have fifty years or more left in their lives. What is occurring now will have a direct affect on them for more than a half century....not to mention their future children and grandchildren. Yet they can't take a little time to get involved? They can't take a few minutes to go vote? Scary!!
I wish this was the only time I've heard this but it's not. Far from it. I've seen a few friends and acquaintances talk about their discussions with some of the young prospective voters in their lives. They hear the same things. The same reasons. The same excuses. They're scared, too.
The sad thing is we aren't scared for ourselves. We're scared for them.
Most of my contemporaries are in my age range...mid-60ish. We hate and are disgusted by what is going on in our country now. We want change. We want America to move back to being the country that we loved not that long ago. But, to be honest, if this election doesn't go our way, I can deal with it. I'll be unhappy but I'm pretty sure I can put up with a lot of political bullshit in the time I have left. I don't think I could have said the same thing back in 1972.
That's why I vote. That's why I always will vote. This time it will be for the ones who aren't interested in voting, as much as it will be for myself.
Widespread early election voting has started in Illinois. Tomorrow, I'm heading to the polls to cast my vote. To do my duty as a citizen of the United States of America. I hope to see some of our countries young people there with me.
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