My first time to vote in a presidential election was 1976. The 26th Amendment had been adopted five years before, toward the end of the Vietnam War, so people were allowed to vote at 18. I turned 18 in mid-September, which was plenty of time to register and sign up for an absentee ballot (since I was a college student).
I voted for Jimmy Carter. Ever since learning about FDR in my 11th grade U.S. history class, I had known I preferred the philosophy of the Democratic Party. But more than that, I passionately believed in Jimmy Carter. I began following the campaign in the spring and made my choice as early as April. (For months, my mother went around telling people that I had "predicted" the outcome of the election.)
Even though the economy was in bad shape, I didn't stop supporting Carter in 1980. I loathed the very idea of trickle-down economics. (BTW, does anyone even remember anymore that Bush the elder called it "voodoo economics" when he was running against Reagan in the primaries? I guess he changed his mind when he had the chance to be Veep.)
Elections were so different in those days. News stations weren't publishing polls every other day. The Internet hadn't yet been invented. The press and the two campaigns knew full well that Carter was going to lose the election, but the general public didn't know that.
I voted in the morning, and then I went to teach school. After the school day was over, I stayed late because I was directing the fall play. Rehearsal finished a little after 8:30. I waited until the students left, locked up the school, and got in my car for the half hour drive home. As soon as I turned on the radio, I heard Jimmy Carter giving his concession speech. It was quite a scandal at the time because a television announcer had called the election before the last polls closed on the West Coast, and Carter then conceded immediately.
I was devastated and cried all the way home.
And because of that experience, I'm skipping my pastor's Bible study tonight to stay home and watch the returns. I can't bear the thought of getting in the car at 9:00 and finding out that it has already been decided . . . one way or the other. Michael and I will be glued to our television from 6:00 pm on.
What are you doing this evening?
P.S. Here is one of those very weird "small world" coincidences. I looked up an account of the 1980 election online just to make sure my memory was accurate. The search took me to the blog of a media critic. I read the story and then I looked up at the author of the blog. It's someone I used to attend church with in the 1980s. I worked with his wife, and I even went to their wedding. I'm feeling weirded out. Cue Twilight Zone music here.