This week, I’m writing about politics, which I normally do NOT write about in this column. So let me start with a disclaimer: I am a sometimes-Republican.
Being a sometimes-Republican is very convenient. It’s a win-win. Because I am a sometimes-Republican --as opposed to an all-the-time Republican -- they (the Republicans) don’t have to always accept responsibility for anything I may say or do… which they appreciate, I’m sure… and I don’t have to own-up to everything THEY do… which is increasingly convenient for ME!
When I last wrote about the process of choosing our next President, it was way back in January, in the weeks before the South Carolina Presidential Primaries.
At that time, you may recall, there were still more than a dozen candidates – six or eight for each party – and I took an unusual approach to writing about them. I tried to give good, solid reasons to vote for each -- reasons that each might make a good President -- as opposed to the negativity which most media-types tend to inject into political campaigns. (If you missed those columns in January, you can, of course, still find them on my blog: www.doingthefirst.blogspot.com)
Now it’s time to take another look at the 2008 Presidential Election.
We are now two months away from the November 4th election. The next nine weeks will be an exciting time in American history.
The primaries have come and gone, we’ve made it to the National Conventions, and both parties have officially chosen their slates.
We now know for sure that 2008 will be an historic election: a barrier will be broken. America will either elect an African-American or a female to one of the top-two offices, President and Vice-President.
Both campaigns kick off their dash to the finish line with their National Conventions: week-long TV productions which allow them to say anything they want to about themselves or their opponents.
National conventions weren’t always just big shows. Just three decades ago, they were actually un-scripted events, designed to choose the party nominee. Delegates were free to vote for the candidate of their choice, and we actually did not know who the nominee would be until the votes were cast at the convention.
During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, however, most states started holding primary elections, to let voters give delegates instructions on casting their votes at the conventions. Nowadays, thanks to that string of primaries, the nominee has been decided long before the convention gets here, and the entire event is used to promote the nominee, rather than to determine the nominee.
Twice, I served as one of those delegates. The second time, in 1988, I was there with instructions from the voters to cast my vote for George H. W. Bush. The first time, in 1984, we were there to nominate Ronald Reagan for a second term, so there was no other Republican candidate. “There”, incidentally, was Dallas in 1984, and New Orleans in 1988.
(At the 1984 convention, I also served as a member of the national Rules Committee, a position I used to stop a rules change which would have decreased the voting strength of all Southern states… but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I also, those days, was the chairman of the STATE rules committee of the GOP, a position I used to create our state’s Presidential Primary as a permanent fixture. But that’s a ‘nother ‘nother story. And, it was back before I became a sometimes-Republican.)
My biggest and best memory from those two conventions was this: On the final night of the Reagan convention, Ray Charles closed the evening with his version of “America”… with about 20,000 Republicans singing back-up…to this day, one of the highlight moments of my life. It was a great show. Even back in 1988, the National Parties had already started turning the conventions into Bigtime TV Productions.
There were other great memories, also. The conventions were always week-long opportunities to develop lasting friendships with a hundred or so fellow Palmetto-Staters… which is always a good thing. But, at the end of the day, they are mostly just well-produced shows: a four-night TV commercial.
Still, they’re probably a better source of information about the candidates, the parties, and the issues than our other leading sources of information: paid 30-second ads, the nightly news, and the internet.
I’m not sure many voters care about the two candidates’ records or real positions on the issues. Also, I suspect most voters have already determined how they will vote this year.
Still, during the next few weeks, I’m going through the same exercise I tried back in January. I’m going to try to give you good solid reasons to vote for BOTH tickets. I’m going to try to say good things about both candidates and their running mates, just as I did when there were more than a dozen candidates in the race.
I am predicting an all-time record-breaking voter turn-out for the November 4th Presidential Election: more people going to the polls to vote than ever before. I just want to do my small part to make sure they know what they’re doing when they get there. Stay tuned.