Readers have a right to know where on the political spectrum we exist. A little background.
The Midwest. Republican country. Our father was quietly staunch. Our mother was even more quietly revolutionary. Their votes cancelled each other’s.
Our own first vote went to John Kennedy. Young people in droves lined up. Regardless of the ups and downs of his brief administration, when he was killed it hurt. A lot.
Of course we stuck with Lyndon to see the job through.
Besides, Goldwater scared too many.
But Viet Nam nearly did us all in. We were sympathetic to Mr. Johnson and the road seemed booby trapped from D.C. to Saigon. Hubert Humphrey was an honorable man, and loyal, but weak.
We did not like Mr. Nixon. We did not vote for him. There was no clear, inspiring Republican leader. We became acquainted with Spiro T. Agnew (remember him?)
Four years later, we knew Nixon had no secret plan to end the war in the Far East. We agonized: Eugene McCarthy pulled some of us along. Then Robert Kennedy, before his death. Dispirited and feeling hopeless, we saw George McGovern beckoning in the distance. And that was as close as we got to him. He was crushed by the Nixon/Kissinger axis.
Watergate cheered us up. And we mean cheered.
When Roger Mudd intoned, as the White House helicopter pulled up and away and Nixon was seen to be waving happily- why is this man smiling? – “Of course, no one wanted to see this,” we screamed back at our screens. “We did! We did!”
We liked the decency of Gerald Ford. He could have been our first Welcome Home vote in the Republican column. And he persuaded (easily) Nelson Rockefeller to join him. This was a lot closer to home. But then Mr. Ford hired Bob Dole, and we shrank. Dole seemed mean-spirited and sarcastic.
Mr. Carter was a nuclear submarine commander, a governor, and a businessman (peanuts, you’ll recall). Clearly he was intelligent. And successful. That was a lot of varied experience to wave before our eyes.
Then knowing we were voting futilely, we watched a second-rank movie star and television pitchman ascend.
We loved Walter Mondale. And Joan.
Hah! George H.W. really had paid his dues and knew his way around D.C. and the world. And he had good manners. Bill Clinton had none at all. But he was fresh(-er, anyway) and seemed to grasp the idea that the nation needed diversity. Sorry George.
At the end of Clinton’s first term, we were ready to shove him overboard, ride him out on a rail, swamp him like a sickly cat. But who did the Republicans present? Mr. Dole (whom we now liked and admired) and Mr. Kemp (whom we also liked but who was a little nervous-making economically.) On the theory that if one doesn’t vote, one can’t complain, we voted. We stuck with Willie. (A mistake. Four years later we couldn’t wait to see the back of him and his wife.)
When George H.W. picked Dan Quayle, that path was blocked. Dukakis seemed alert and competent. Until he told us he wouldn’t be rabid if his wife were raped. We voted for him anyway.
We are now facing a long line of losing efforts. Though we wanted to think of ourselves as moderately Republican, there were no moderate Republicans nominated.
George W. surfaced. Cheney seemed a good choice. But the idea of on-the-job training for a president, almost any president, put us in Al Gore’s column.
George W. was a disaster, and we had by that time already suffered 9/11. The idea of a pre-emptive war was horrifying to us. The evidence against Iraq was bogus. Mr. Kerry had long been a comer. He had experience and gravitas and vision. John Edwards was young and eager. We threw our support their way. (Remember friends in Europe asking how we could elect George W. twice? And by this time Cheney had turned into a werewolf.)
Barack Obama arrived fresh and clean and bright and tall and smart. His choice of Joe Biden was inspired. We stayed up election night, wanting to see and vicariously take part in this stupendous moment. (John McCain had Sarah P. at his side, who could see Russia from her back yard.) We felt lucky and forward-thinking, eager to see the new guy do his stuff.
Obama was the attendant who followed the elephants, and he had a load of shit to sweep up. The “Great Recession,” TARP, General Motors et al, AIG, and too many banks to name. The cards were by that time stacked. Senator Mitch McConnell had vowed Obama would never see a second term. The Republicans, embarrassed and angry to be given orders now from a black man sabotaged as much as they could of the recovery and of Obama’s plans for the future.
They had help from Obama himself, cool, laid back, thoughtful, cautious. So cautious that he was said to ”lead from behind.” He was struggling. When he drew that red line in the sand over Syria’s treatment of its population, and then failed to do anything when Assad poisoned his own thousands, irredeemable damage was done. What had seemed cool and detached and wise now was seen as craven, insecure, tentative. We got off the Obama boat.
But earlier, facing Romney and Paul Ryan, we hung onto the lines dangling from the becalmed ship of state. Then we got off.
During all these years, Americans came to understand the depth of corruption in the USA. We had never even imagined the scope of selfishness and greed we could see so clearly now. Not only banks and big oil, but the VA, governors by the handful, crumbled voting and civil rights. The forward-thinkers embraced social change while managing to overlook the mud and slime in which those changes happened. Pipe-lines leaked, Michigan disenfranchised thousands and poisoned their water, and it was NOT the voice of the turtle heard throughout the land, it was the voices of “exceptional Americans” who came to believe that it was time for all of them to get what should be theirs, regardless who suffered.
We would have been happy to champion John Kasich. But well-meaning and adult though he was, he had no chance against the force and fortune of Donald Trump whom the media allowed to blossom and grow. And while Trump (and Ted Cruz) were simple embryonic fascists, learning from history was not a democratic strong point. Many of us recognized the Germany from between WWI and WWII. But apparently fully half the country did not.
Bernie Sanders had a moment in the sun, dimmed finally by repetition and economics. (The questions for Trump, Sanders, and Clinton are astonishingly simple, and should be asked every day until November: How, When, and With What?)
Mrs. Clinton’s behavior re email servers and secrecy have shakened her supporters. And what are we to do with her husband? Tim seems like a swell guy, but with Trump bellowing lies and nonsense 24/7 at Hillary, he’s unlikely to be able to protect her sufficiently.
For years we believed that the Democrats out-numbered Republicans almost 2 to 1. This appears finally not to be true. The depth and spread of anger and poverty and unhappiness has reached near tsunami proportions.
We don’t know what’s going to happen, and worse, we don’t know what we’re going to do in November, either. We’re trying to hold onto flotsam and jetsam in the middle of a roiling sea, desperate to find pieces of wood from the past that can carry us to shore safely. Every so often we reach out towards a passing piece of wreckage – the Libertarians? the Greens? – which is then overcome by the tides of Trump and Clinton.
Consider this a memoir by a willing moderate Republican searching for a willing moderate Republican nominee for almost any office.
Meanwhile, we have to call ’em as we see ‘em….