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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 Write to him at 222 S. 25th St., Apartment 434, Terre Haute, IN 47803.

(1) comment


No matter what the outcome there will be extremists on the opposite side of the fence exclaiming either Socialism or Theocracy. We are far too diverse to please everyone. I suppose that is why we live in a Democracy.

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