In 1928, when Al Smith and Herbert Hoover were candidates for president, I was 8 years old, but I already had a strong single interest in the outcome of the election. Smith was a “wet” who wanted to repeal the 18th amendment and restore the legal sale of alcohol. I had seen my father creeping steadily into alcoholism, and I thought legal drinking would hasten his journey to a full alcoholic. Both my parents were strong supporters of Smith, so I kept my thoughts to myself. But I was never quite in agreement with my parent’s political choices.
When I was first old enough to vote, I was overseas and had no opportunity to cast a ballot. When Franklin Roosevelt died and Harry Truman became president, my company commander gave me materials to read and assigned to me the task of a non-political presentation of the biography of Truman to our company of troops. When I returned from the war, my first presidential vote was for Truman. I next voted for Eisenhower, but not because I disliked Stevenson.
I went with Richard Nixon over John Kennedy, probably because of some prejudice against Kennedy’s father’s anti-British stand and his father’s opposition to World War II.
I voted for Johnson over Barry Goldwater because the press had led me to believe that Goldwater was a madman ready to start World War III. Lyndon B. Johnson did almost exactly what Goldwater had promised to do.
I greatly respected Gerald Ford, but I accepted the media evaluation of him as somewhat slow witted and voted for Jimmy Carter, to the bewilderment of all my family.
Ford was clearly given a hatchet job by the press. I chose Ronald Reagan in the next election. I voted one time for Bill Clinton and one time against him. I voted for both the Bushes. I voted once for John McCain and then for Barack Obama.
In looking back, I do not yet know whether my choices were good or bad. By today’s standards, Truman would clearly be a racist from the context of his remarks that blackbirds and bluebirds do not mix, and Johnson would qualify as a racist by his “Martin Luther Coon” comments.
Looking back over the slate, I can see why we have learned to hate while being very careful to hide the hate. I do not see Obama as a bad president but I do see him as a man little inclined to compromise and much inclined to have his own way. All of our presidents have been flawed in some way, and that is why I am very concerned that we seem to be drifting more and more into imperial presidency on both sides of the barricade. I want to keep the three branches of our government strong, and I hope to see a survival of the two-party system, but even in retrospect, I do not know how I should have voted.
TOBY HIGHTOWER is a retired educator and former Hopkinsville High School teacher. His email address is email@example.com. Write to him at 222 S. 25th St., Apartment 434, Terre Haute, IN 47803.