It was the autumn of 1960, a monumental election year that has not been equalled for 60 years. I was in the sixth grade at Ben Franklin Elementary in Pueblo. I decided to run for Student Body Vice President. You had to prepare a speech and make some posters. The entire student body then heard your speech and voted for their choice back in their rooms. I gave what I thought was a pretty good speech, where I promised to have two field days a year. One in the Fall and the usual one in May. I lost by one vote. It was pretty devastating, as my opponent, mainly just said, “I will do a good job, please vote for me”. The next day I asked Jimmy, a fifth grader, who lived on my block, who he voted for. “I voted for her because her posters had sparkly glitter”—100% true.
Well, that defeat was followed by Kennedy/Nixon debates, and election night, which was on November 8, 1960. We were Republicans in Pueblo, a rarity as it was a labor steel town. As with most kids I followed my parents lead. I stayed up until 10 and headed to bed not knowing who won. I woke up the next morning to find out JFK had won. I said at the breakfast table, “He probably had glitter on his posters”. Three years later I found myself crying in the cafeteria on November 22, 1963.
My next election was my sophomore year at Pueblo East. It was Johnson vs. Goldwater. I had joined the Young Republicans at East. In a student body of 1600 there were about 25 of us. I suffered a lot of ridicule for my support of Goldwater— “He is going to blow the world up”. Today Barry Goldwater would be a refreshing voice in a party that seems to have been hijacked by QAnon.
Next came 1968 and like a lot of 19-year olds I began to think for myself. I already had two friends come home from Nam in body bags. I was working a summer job at a piston plant in Pueblo and I had a Eugene MacCarthy. (Anti-War guy) bumper sticker on my 1956 Oldsmobile. One evening at dinner break about 10 members of Local 294 surrounded me and simply said, “College boy, take that bumper sticker off”. I said, “None of you have to worry about Viet Nam, I do. I won’t take it off”. They left me alone.
In the subsequent years I have never missed a vote. I now describe myself as a “political homeless person”, an image I borrowed from my buddy Arnie, a pastor in Oklahoma.
I don’t recognize the Republican Party. My dad Bill, one of the smartest and best read men I have ever known, said in 1994, “Mark-this marriage between right wing Christianity and the Republican Party will be the undoing of the both of them”. It has only gotten worse. I am not saying you can’t be a Christian and a Republican. One does not equal the other.
I have a host of concerns about the Democrats too-at the top of the list “There is no such thing as FREE anything”. So I bounce back and forth voting for who I think will do the best for the most. Integrity and telling the truth matter.
Today we have a new President Elect. I am remembering an interview by Walter Cronkite with a farmer in Iowa over, 50 years ago. “I see you have a picture of President Nixon over your dining room table. You must be a Republican”? “No sir, I am not but that is our President”.
Thank you President Trump for the work you have done. Blessings to you President Elect Joe Biden for all you have ahead of you. I still wonder how my life would have been different had I put some glitter into my campaign.
Onward and Upward, Mark