Monday, February 13, 2012

For you Kelli M

I've often thought about posting "When I became a Democrat." My mother ran a great series on her own blog about her conversion to the blue party. The reason I've held back, is simply because I do not know the answer. I think I can narrow it down to three separate stages of my life. I suppose I'd choose the college stage as my final answer -- the moment I became cemented in -- but the two prior stages obviously led up to that experience.

So let's begin with the first-in-three moments. Yes, you've sensed it right, this will be a three part series. I assure you the next one should be short.

For this first-in-three I'd have to take you all the way back to 1992, yup I was just ten-years-old when my earliest political memory took shape. It was election season, and there was a student teacher running my fourth grade class. She prepped us well for the school wide mock elections. I knew there was an R-box I could mark if I wanted to vote for all Republicans or a D-box I could mark if I wanted to vote solely for Democrats. My other option was to decide which candidate I preferred in each category and mark them accordingly down the sheet.

The biggest race was for President. I'm sure I had my candidate picked in June of that year. My parents both spoke highly of a Mr Bill Clinton, but what I remember shaping my opinion most was a class discussion about the two Presidential candidates. Details of how this discussion formed are a bit blurry, but I will never forget when my dear friend, who suffered from Cerebral Palsy, proudly declared her whole family would be voting for Bill Clinton, because in his four years as President, George Bush had cut funds that helped her family manage her ailments. I figured everyone in our class must have decided right then and there to vote for Bill Clinton.

I remember trying to learn about the elections outside of school as well; to me the responsibility of picking my other candidates was as serious as class homework.  My family dinner table was always somewhere you could find political discussions; as a kid these were some of my favorite dinner time conversations. They were a chance for my little kid brain to try and understand adult talk. The other time we knew our parents were clearly speaking in adult terms was when they spoke French -- and that code was too hard to crack. Their political discourse was simple enough I could ask questions but challenging enough to feel really exciting.

I also remember watching some of the candidates commercials on TV and trying to decide if I liked what they had to say. If I did, I tried my best to remember their name so that come election time I could check their box. I really wasn't interested in taking the easy way out and just marking an R or a D. Our student teacher had told us we could find more information about each candidate in the newspaper. Commercials only showed us 30 seconds of their dialogue, the newspaper would cover each issue and compare candidates side by side. I vaguely remember thumbing through that newspaper, and I'm certain I gave up when comprehension got the best of me. Still, I felt confident that I knew which candidates I was going to vote for.

I was so proud that day. And I assure you, I am exaggerating none of this. Heavenly Father gave me a soul that is motivated by history and politics. I have a very clear memory of walking into that library, marching to my private booth, and behind a drawn curtain I marked each candidate carefully, making sure I had chosen the right name. I remember being a little embarrassed that I had taken longer than most the students in my class. But my pride in exercising my American freedom far out weighed that embarrassment.

That night at the dinner table, my father asked me why I had voted for So and So. I was appalled, my vote had been private; how did my father, the school principal, know who I had voted for?  He chuckled politely at my innocence. "Sweety, all but two of the ballots from your class marked the R box. One of the ballots marked Bill Clinton and the rest of the R candidates. That must have been (Dear Friend's) ballot. Which means the ballot that voted for So and So, but all the other Democrats must have been yours."

I sensed his disapproval. If my father had wanted me to just mark the D box, why had he encouraged me to research the candidates so independently?  I tried to explain myself with something intelligent like, "He was so nice in his TV commercials."

"Well, his name was a lot like So and Sos, maybe you were confused."  And my father was right, two of the candidates did have very similar names, which was why I was sure to vote for both of them.  They were not squaring up against each other, so voting for them both was my safest bet to make sure I'd voted for the man on the commercial who had seemed so nice.

Sensing my apparent distress, my father reassured me that "When you get older, you'll be able to make your decision based on more than the TV commercials."

I swore never to let TV commercials confuse me again.

1 comment:

Kelli said...

Thanks for the post! I am honored. I really enjoy reading your thoughts about politics, so it's fun to see a glimpse into your history.

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