Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Who would you have voted for?

Here's a little game my students like to play--they ask as we go through the various elections in class, "who would you have voted for if you had been 18 (or 21) at the time?" While it's tempting to just cheat and pick all the winners, or all the Republicans, or to say "I never would have voted for tricky Dick Nixon," or similar stuff, It's a lot more fun to try to place yourself in the position of the voter at the time, knowing only what they would have known, and try to be honest with it.

I've already admitted to the following actual votes cast:
  • 2004 and 2000: Bush 43 (actually votes against Kerry & Gore, which even in spite of Bush's numerous failings, I have never regretted thanks to the two excellent Supreme Court judges I got in the bargain)

  • 1996: Dole (I knew it was a lost cause, and I supported Lamar! in the primary, but I couldn't in good conscience vote for Clinton. And the impeachment in 1998 only solidified my belief in that.

  • 1992: Bush 41 (again, something about Clinton I didn't trust. Wisely.)

  • 1988: Bush (this time was after supporting a younger Dole in the primaries, but was more a vote against Dukakis, but again, that was easy for a conservative.)

Following are my most honest answers, going back to before the Great Depression:

  • 1980 and 1984: Reagan. That one's the easiest pick of all.

  • 1976: Carter. Despite the fact that my parents were for Ford in '76, I think if I were an adult then, Carter's faith and integrity, combined with the bad taste of Watergate and the fact that Ford was far more a country-club Republican than a cultural conservative (after all, the Reagan Revolution hadn't happened yet), would have led me to vote for the man from Plains. There was no way of knowing at the time how incompetent he would be. But he's the reason I'm not falling for Huckabee now.

  • 1972: Nixon. This one is hard to admit. But on election day of '72, less than half of Americans had even heard of Watergate. And Nixon carried 49 states. And there's zero chance I would have voted for McGovern.

  • 1968: Probably Nixon. Let's not forget that Hubert Humphrey was the last hawk to run as a Democrat, so he wouldn't have carried the same stigma in my mind as later liberals did. But I think the events of the Chicago '68 Democrat convention would have convinced me that Nixon was a better chance to restore the social order so badly fractured in that year. And also, this is pre-Watergate Nixon, so I wouldn't have had that to hold against him.

  • 1964: I want to say Goldwater, as he's the early philosophical incarnation of Reagan. But again, he wasn't running following the 1970s malaise like Reagan, either. I'll bet I would have been part of the 61% who pulled the lever for LBJ, partly out of loyalty to JFK, who had only been dead for a year. Once again, this is back when Democrats actually favored National Security, and Roe v. Wade was 9 years in the future.

  • 1960: JFK. Pretty easy one, I think. Despite the closeness of the overall election, I think JFK was definitely the better candidate that year.

  • 1956 and 1952: Ike. Easy. Everybody liked Ike.

  • 1948: Truman. My favorite Democrat of all time.

  • 1944: Dewey. Yes, FDR was awesome. And yes, he had pretty much won WWII by this time. But it was a run for a FOURTH term, and he was on death's door (as evidenced by the fact that he didn't make it past April of '45).

  • 1940: This one's hard. I think if I had been around, I wouldn't have wanted to break Washington's 2-term tradition, and I would have been a little down on FDR for the 1937-38 recession and the court-packing plan. But Willkie was a real lightweight, and the war was on the horizon. I'm really not sure.

  • 1936 & 1932: FDR. I may be conservative today, but I doubt very seriously I would have been on the other side of these two landslides.

That's far enough back. Probably nobody besides Matthew even cares who was running back in the 20's or before. But I should point out that there was a time when the social liberals were Republicans and all the evangelicals in the south were Democrats. Either way, the issues get funky as you get further back--it's harder and harder to put yourself in the shoes of someone back then and try to decide if I would have been "wet" or "dry" on prohibition, for example.

Anyway, some winners, some losers, some Democrats, some Republicans, a few I'd have been proud of and a few I would have likely regretted. Anybody else want to play?


C. S. Fox said...

I agree on everyon except Carter.
I did like him back then I think it was the hillbilly-ness of him....

bekster said...

This would be really fun to do if I knew enough to actually make informed choices.

About the evolution of the Democratic and Republican parties, I asked my grandmother one time what party she belonged to, and she said, unswervingly, "Democrat!" as if it were ludicrous to be anything else. Keep in mind, she is a very faithful Christian and very conservative. She also doesn't pay very much attention to what is currently happening in the world. I believe that if she were forming her political opinion for the first time now without any baggage, she would say she was a Republican. I wonder how many elderly people there are like her who will go and vote for a Democrat when really a Republican would fit their ideals better. I wonder if we could tap into this demographic and educate them on what is really going on if it would actually make a difference.

MichaelPolutta said...

I remember a "poll" taken in my 6th grade class at Harbor View Middle School. Our class was overwhelmingly Republican (well, our parents were, I suppose).

So I don't think I would have voted for Carter.

The FDR thing is too tough for me to call, but from Truman forward, except for Carter, my picks would be the same as yours. I, too, have a hard time shifting myself back to the LBJ time frame, so that one is a wash for me. What I know of Kennedy would have meant that I would have voted for him (especially his fiscal conservatism). That said, though Carter was the most inept president of my lifetime, I think LBJ did more to hurt this country long-term than just about anyone else. (meaning entitlements) I did and do support the Civil Rights amendment. It is hard for me to fathom holding any of the Jim Crow stuff in my heart.

Coach Sal said...

Mike, you have a point (or several). But I/we wouldn't have known about the after-effects of either Carter or LBJ on election day. That's what makes the game interesting. I think only a pretty devoted partisan Democrat would, knowing what they know now, go back and pull the lever for Carter anyway. But I would have been swayed by his "born-again" Christianity and his pro-life position, plus his outsider image. And I would have been wrong. Likewise with LBJ. There's a reason why the winner of the largest landslide in popular-vote history in '64 drops out as a sure loser in '68. But people couldn't see that coming--and the alternative was GOLDWATER, who ran perhaps the worst campign of this century.

Goode Design said...

JC Watts '08 anybody?