Originally Published in HWFmag
As the 2008 presidential election gains momentum voters are connecting with the political process in a way not seen in decades.
After seven years of Curious George in the Oval Office the 2008 presidential election process to find his successor has taken off in earnest. This presidential election is different from any that has taken place in my lifetime. The first that I remember was when John F. Kennedy ran in 1960. I remember standing along a road with my parents, aged 7, as John F. Kennedy rode by in a motorcade on the way to a rally. President Kennedy represented hope for many in my parents’ generation who grew up during the Great Depression and then fought alongside Britain during World War II. John F. Kennedy was the first president from their generation.
The first presidential campaign that I got involved with was in 1968 when, because of the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for re-election. At the age of fifteen I became a volunteer for Senator Eugene McCarthy who ran as an anti-war candidate for the Democratic nomination. Robert Kennedy also entered the race as an anti-war candidate seeking the nomination and was assassinated on the night he won the California Democratic Primary in June 1968.
Since that time presidential elections have been hard fought but none with the same degree of passion felt in 1968. George W. Bush’s 2000 election (or rather his appointment by the US Supreme Court) created outrage amongst Democrats, that hasn’t subsided for many, the entire time he has been in office. Since Bush entered office there has been a giant rift in the U.S. with the wealthy, religious fundamentalists and social conservatives on one side. Those of us against the Iraqi War, Bush’s foreign polity, the huge erosion of civil rights protections enacted by a Republican controlled Congress that Bush requested soon after 9/11, as well as our outrage at hateful domestic policy brought on by social conservatives and Bush’s appointments to the US Supreme Court make up the other side.
The 2008 presidential election got off to an early start nearly a year ago. It is now in full swing as the primary season began in early January. State primaries will continue through late spring and each will award delegates to candidates based on their votes. Delegates attend the Democratic and Republican conventions over the summer to select the presidential and vice presidential candidates. Usually the presidential nominees are known well in advance of the conventions as one candidate emerges with enough votes to carry the convention.
I have noticed three strong trends this year.
First, Americans are angry and are passionate about this election (not only the Democrats and Republicans but also the Independents not aligned with either party). All want change in our government. The Democrats are each trying to position themselves as the best at changing the disastrous direction that Bush has taken this country. Even the Republicans are distancing themselves from Bush and saying that they are going to change government (however not in any direction that I want).
Secondly, young people have been involved in this election in record numbers for the candidates of their choice. Historically people under the age of thirty just don’t get involved in politics and they don’t vote. Barack Obama’s victory in the Iowa Caucus on January 3rd was largely because of a record youth turnout. Youth have remained important in Obama’s wins in so many of the states since then.
Thirdly, Americans are voting in record numbers. The United States has an embarrassingly small percentage of citizens who vote. Though not in 2008. People are voting in droves! Some of the Iowa Caucus locations reported three times as many participants than they experienced four years ago and polls in New Hampshire during their primary on January 8th were so busy that many ran out of ballots and election officials scrambled for more. The news media have continued to report strong voter turnout, especially in the Democrats primaries.
It appears that John McCain will be the Republican Party’s candidate for President even though Christian fundamentalist Mike Huckabee is still putting on a strong fight. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are locked in a tight race that may not be decided until the convention in late August.
There is real concern over election fraud happening again during this election. The British journalist Greg Palast unearthed much of the fraud that took place in Florida benefiting Bush on election Day in 2000 as well as voter fraud in New Mexico and Ohio benefiting Bush in 2004. It is likely that Al Gore was elected President in 2000 and should have been sworn into office in January 2001. I am sickened that a country that extols the importance of democracy in the rest of the world (Bush’s current excuse for being in Iraq) no longer seems capable of holding fair elections at home.
There is concern over new electronic voting machines being used. Diebold Inc. run by Walden O’Dell, a huge supporter of the Republican Party, manufactures one of the two major machines being used. Those wishing to rig an election can easily hack into the machines via computer.
There is an anger this year that I haven’t seen since 1968. Democrats, most Independents and even some moderate Republicans are fed up with the war in Iraq and the socially repulsive policies of the Bush Badministration. We are disgusted with what Bush has done to our country and how he has destroyed our reputation globally. The base of the Republican Party still supports the war and wants to diminish the separation of church and state further. Governor Mike Huckabee was a Baptist minister and appeals to the social conservatives in the Republican Party. At a recent campaign rally Huckabee said, “Let’s amend the Constitution to bring it into line with God’s standards.” Such comments scare those of us who are not Christian Fundamentalists, especially those of us who are gay.
With the election process in full swing passions are at a heightened level in America. Watch for strong youth involvement and record voter turnouts overall. And beware of voter fraud both during the remainder of the state primaries and the general election in November. The Democrat National Convention taking place in Denver August 25-28 should be full of fireworks if either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama hasn’t sealed the nomination beforehand. The Republican National Convention will take place in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul September 1-4 and will likely be tamer as John McCain should have the nomination locked by late spring if not earlier.
Hopefully our next president will bring an end to this senseless war in Iraq, restore civil rights that were stripped away in the Patriot Act, repair America’s relations with the rest of the world and do something about global warming.
But if another Republican gets into the White House my husband and I will likely be knocking on your door looking for a place to live, some job leads, and legal assistance to obtain permanent residency!
© 2008 John R. Selig. All rights reserved.