Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

I haven't said much about the 2016 election, but ...


... today I'm going to.

My dad and mom were I-Like-Ike Republicans when I was growing up. Dad had met Gen. Eisenhower in France during WW II. Early morning. Mess tent. Rain. Dad seated. Sound of a Jeep approaching. Stopping. Ike strolled in. Asked for coffee. Dad walked over and shook his hand.

My parents were moderate Republicans. Their best friend was a Democrat. As a kid I didn't think about politics. I just parroted what my parents said, certain that whatever they said was, well, Gospel.

They were horrified when JFK defeated Nixon in 1960. I was, too, of course (I was a junior in high school)—though I really had no reason to think that way. I followed the Tribe and the Browns, not the campaign. Dad said the election result was bad—so I figured it must be true.

In later years, Mom became a Democrat and told me that she'd voted for JFK in 1960 but had kept quiet about it to maintain amity in the house. I've subsequently read that lots of women did that in 1960. In later years, Mom became more openly a Democrat, and my dad just had to live with it. They subscribed to different magazines—Mom to Newsweek (more Lefty at the time), Dad to US News & World Report (more Righty). They would tease each other, make snarky comments.

Mom loved it when Nixon, disgraced, whirled away in his helicopter; Dad loved Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. Ah, marriage!

And Mom, now 97, remains a Democrat ...

I became a Democrat in college—and have stayed that way. Throughout my life that party has (mostly) supported things I believe in: civil rights, women's rights, minority rights, equal pay, labor unions, fair housing, voting rights, public education, public health care, and on and on. The GOP has fought all/most of those.

My first presidential election was 1968. I had been a big supporter of Sen. Eugene McCarthy (saw him speak at CWRU, though I believe it was just Western Reserve University then; Case was separate). He was anti-Vietnam, was highly literate, articulate. As I saw Bernie Sanders' campaign swell this year, I was reminded of McCarthy. A lot of the same passion among those young Bernie supporters.

I was upset when Robert Kennedy entered the race after McCarthy had challenged and weakened LBJ; RFK quickly drew away lots of McCarthy's support. But then ... the RFK assassination. And the Democrats came up with Hubert Humphrey. I wasn't crazy about him—not at all. But I voted for him over the eventual winner ... Richard Nixon.

Over the years my candidates have won, have lost. My "morning-after" experiences have ranged from ecstasy to deep disappointment—even depression. In other words, my experiences are just like those of everyone else who votes.

And, sure, I've never been perfectly thrilled with the candidates I've voted for. All have been flawed. (But I recall some admonition about "throwing the first stone"?)

But part of living in a democracy is coming to realizations, now and then, that you are in a minority. And ... majority rules. So things go the GOP way for a while (policies, judges, laws, regulations); then the Dems win, and things, for a while, go more "my" way. It's just part of living in a country where everyone gets a say-so. Compromise makes progress possible.

And—if you really believe in democracy—then you accept the judgments on election day, and you move on. If you aren't happy about those outcomes, well, you go to work to try to sway public opinion back the other way. You work within the system, win or lose. That's been my conviction. That's why this whole system works. And keeps us being who and what we are.

But if you lose, and you decide that the whole thing is illegitimate (why? because you lost!), and you refuse to participate in the process in a responsible way, well, are you really a believer in democracy? Or only when the results go your way?

I am alarmed when GOP Senators say they will not consider a Supreme Court nominee by the currently sitting President—when they promise to block all future Court nominees by a Democrat in the White House—when they say that if they lose, well, it must be because the other side cheated. Wouldn't the GOP be crying Treason! if the Democrats were doing this?

I do understand the bitterness of losing—how numbing it can be to discover that most people believe things that you don't. I've experienced this any number of times in my decades of voting.

But even when Al Gore lost in 2000—when the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount that could have given him the victory—even then, I believed so much in this country that I realized there was nothing to do but to '"get 'em next time." That's the way it is in America, in a democracy. You win; you lose. But part of the social and political contract of democracy is that you continue to believe in the system—and operate by its rules and traditions and its essential hopefulness.

Because, you see, that's the way that we all win.

**An afterword. I have many friends on Facebook (and in "real life") who are supporting Donald Trump. Many of those FB supporters are former students of mine—from the mid-1960s (when I began) to 2011 (when I retired). I have no wish to lose those contacts. They mean a lot to me—especially as I age and—like 2016 itself—tumble toward the darkness.

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