A polarizing Republican, both loved and reviled for his views and his record, widely suspected of dark misdeeds. A game but weakened Democrat, lacking the passion and charisma of other Democrats and struggling to overcome campaign blunders. A young voter unhappy with those choices.
I know this sounds too familiar. But I’m not talking about Trump and Clinton in 2016. “Young voter” means me, and no one except a kindly 90-year-old would call me young anymore. This was another election year, when I made a decision that I regret to this day – which I hope with all my heart that no one who reads this will repeat in November.
It happened the first time I was eligible to vote. I had no intention of going Republican because of peer pressure from college friends and classmates, and because the candidate repelled me as he did millions of others. For reasons I can’t fathom now, the Democrat seemed flat, unimpressive, unlikely to deliver on campaign promises, and not worth my support. The nominees’ gaping differences – in policy, demeanor, integrity, and fitness for office – just didn’t register.
In a moment of 18-year-old smugness and blindness, I decided not to cast a ballot for either side. Though people I knew worked to register Democrats and get them to the polls, I didn’t join them. On Election Day I stayed home.
The year was 1972. The Republican was Richard Nixon and the Democrat was George McGovern. My one vote would’ve been buried by the 49-state tsunami that handed Nixon his abbreviated second term. But McGovern, rest his soul, was definitely the better man and despite his failings as a candidate would have been a far better president.
If you weren’t around back then, the legendary Hunter S. Thompson summed up the situation pretty well: “McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for. Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?”
I’m still embarrassed that I couldn’t figure this out. I wish I could say I stood for something and used my precious voting power to help my country. I can’t.
But I haven’t missed an election since. And I can say this: Whether you’re 18, 98, or somewhere in between, please, please, put down your phone and VOTE. Help us avoid a disaster worse than anything Nixon wrought.
Don’t be a self-righteous schmuck like I was in ’72. Be a mensch instead.
I’m David Swan and I approved this message.