Saturday, October 18, 2008

My First Foray into Political Debate

My undergraduate degree was in Political Science. Looking back, it wasn't the most practical option, but it was a whole lot of fun to study. My parents took me to my first political rally before I was even born, so I suppose it should be no surprise that I grew up to be fascinated in all things political.

My first political memory is from the 1980 campaign, when I was an 8-year-old third-grader. I was in the school bathroom with a classmate and we were washing our hands. Looking back as an adult, I've no idea how we ever got onto the topic, but at the time, it was the most natural thing to discuss.

The classmate told me that she was for Ronald Reagan and so were her parents. I shrugged and said that I was for Jimmy Carter and so were my parents. The classmate's mouth dropped open and she looked at me with a combination of horror and pity. "But you can't be for Jimmy Carter! My parents told me that Jimmy Carter kills babies."

This revelation puzzled me. "How does Jimmy Carter kill babies?" Her response was a curt "I don't know. He just does." So I tried to figure it out myself. Was it like a Bible story, like when the Pharaoh decreed all the boy babies would be killed? Did he creep into nurseries and smother babies himself?

The thought of it, of Jimmy Carter killing babies, just didn't square up with what I knew of him from the television. He seemed like a nice man, a gentle guy. He had a daughter of his own, after all, who wasn't that much older than we were. He couldn't be so against kids that he would kill babies.

Maybe in this day and age, I would go on the Internet to fact check my classmate's claim. But back in the day, there was only one arbiter of fact at my disposal - my dad.

I know that I asked him, but I can't remember what he told me. I asked my dad today what he told me. He remembered my reporting the story to him that day, but he couldn't remember what he'd said either. Today, he said "I probably just told you that was absolute nonsense and that she didn't know anything and that you shouldn't listen to her."

I don't know what this classmate is doing these days. Her parents and my parents used to be friendly, but I think the last time I asked after her was at least 10 years ago. I think my mom told me that she was moving to Nashville to try to be a country singer. Looking at the election this year, I think her talents would probably be better spent as a maker of negative ads.

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At 18 October 2008 at 20:11, Blogger Irene said...

Sh e probably heard that bit of misinformation at home. It's surprising your parents were friends with her parents, but I do understand how those friendships happen. Some of my friends in the States are Republicans, believe it or not.

At 18 October 2008 at 20:36, Blogger laurie said...

fascinating what kids pick up on, isn't it?

my first political foray was in 8th grade, when i worked for george mcgovern. a friend and i went canvassing and helped stuff envelopes.

we also leafletted for earl craig, a black man who was running for the state senate. we got earfuls, doorknocking for a black man in very white minnesota.

At 18 October 2008 at 22:42, Blogger Kaycie said...

My first political memories are from the election before the one you mention, when Carter was running against Ford. I remember being all about Jimmy Carter and drawing pictures to hang on the walls of the elementary school. Oddly enough, I can't remember anyone I knew pulling for Ford. In my state, where we're currently polling 64% for McCain, that has to be some sort of memory trick.

At 20 October 2008 at 02:24, Blogger Career Guy said...

I am constitutionally incapable of voting for a Republican, even as bad as some weirdo Democrats can be. I hope I passed that on to my children. John McCain is an honorable man, but he makes really bad choices.

At 20 October 2008 at 07:25, Blogger -Ann said...

Irene - I think her parents probably weren't exactly Republicans, but were more single-issue voters than anything else.

Laurie - Going door-to-door in 8th grade - that's pretty brave!

Kaycie - I love the Internet. I looked at and it seems that the race was very close in Oklahoma. Ford got 49.96% and Carter got 48.75%, so maybe you just lived in a very pro-Carter neighbourhood.

Dad - I think you're safe on that front. Although Patrick and I both voted for Pat Buchanan in the 1996 primary, but only because Clinton had the Democratic nomination and we hoped to cause a little mischief. If Buchanan got enough votes, then he'd have to be taken seriously at the convention and the more time that man spent talking, the more everyone could see that he was ridiculous. That was our philosophy, anyway.

At 26 October 2008 at 16:15, Blogger stwidgie said...

Now I'm remembering the election that fell during seventh grade, when it was Jimmy Carter (whom my parents liked) versus Gerald Ford and Bob Dole. It was the first election since Watergate had shaken everyone up, and even kids were aware and interested on some level. I remember Sarah Dickey, whose parents were real estate agents, having a Dole banana sticker on her book cover because she (and they) supported the Republican candidates. I remember thinking that a) she was wrong, and b) that was lame. But I'm sure I never said anything. You couldn't afford to alienate people in a small town, and she wasn't a bad kid.

Your mention of the prenatal rally reminds me of the interest I took in Watergate. Although I was only nine, I read Newsweek, and I can remember one cover that used an architect's model of the White House cut away to reveal a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I would read the transcripts of the tapes as they came to light, and I remember wondering what "ex-PLEE-tive dee-LEE-ted" meant. :^)

We'll be in Cork during the election (yes, we've turned in our absentee ballots) so it'll be interesting to have this unfold while we're away from home. I expect the coverage will be more bearable than here. (It was certainly the case when we were in Ireland for the Oscars one time. The condensed version of the awards show was just the ticket!)

At 26 October 2008 at 18:41, Blogger -Ann said...

Stwidge- Great memories. :) I've taken 5 November off work so I can stay up all night on 4 November to watch the results come in. This will be my first Presidential election outside the US.

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