Political History Uncovered in Red Storage Tub
There they were. Underneath journals, diaries and other notebooks inside the red tub containing my written history. Lugged to eight states and gently protected, the over-sized container now sits on a basement storage room shelf. I was inspired to browse the tub’s contents yesterday. It’s political convention week-a period that in decades past was both remarkable and memorable to me.
I pulled out time-worn, yellowed stenographer notebook pages with faded ink and curled edges. I paused, smiled and flipped back the hardened notebook cover, eager to recall simpler, more civil summer political conventions. Warm memories of Grandpa Pius M. Reis (1900-1985) discussing political issues overtook me as I instantly recognized the cursive writing and smiley faces doodled on page margins. These were my notes. Notes taken while lying on the green carpet of my parent’s living room floor, soaking in the words and atmosphere of the 1970’s political conventions. As the second oldest of nine children, to this day, I’m amazed my parents allowed me to devote two weeks to watching political conventions and note taking. TV time was a luxury in our farm household where endless chore lists existed.
Yes, I was a bit unusual for my age. As a pre-teen I was infatuated with Robert’s Rules of Order and everything about the political process. In fact, shortly before graduating from Napoleon High School (NHS), I announced in the student newspaper my aspiration to be a political leader. That is the one thing on my high school bucket list left undone. Sure, I’ve skirted the area by volunteering for a gubernatorial candidate, working for a US Senator and being a registered lobbyist on Capitol Hill and in various states. But, to date, I’ve never undertaken a campaign to be an elected official.
Well, that’s not true! I ran for NHS’s Student Body President and lost, big time. I was beat before I self-nominated. Greg Becker, my opponent, was a popular, rising football star, and a year younger than me. Even though supporters pinned construction paper campaign buttons to their shirts and hung posters throughout the school with my campaign slogan, “VOTE Linda Leier (pronounced Liar) She’s on Fire,” I lost. Bad.
I recently re-read the speech I delivered to the student assembly in the gymnasium the day before the voting. Much of the content I’d repeat today, surely in a more polished way. But the bones of it were strong and the values represented within are consistent with mine today. It was a bit serious and academic, but so was I, and so am I. Greg was way more charismatic than I was. It was a lesson I know today, but didn’t know then. Personality matters. Charisma wins elections.
The historical notebooks from that red tub reveal convention candidate appearances from Richard M. Nixon, Spiro Agnew, George McGovern and others. There are lists of who endorsed the candidates on stage. There are also plenty of notes about the process of winning the nomination and record of my giddiness about roll calls where state spokespeople announced the number of votes cast per candidate. Currently, most of the process of the convention or the business of party nomination is relegated to higher numbered cable channels during the day or withheld from the public eye. What a shame!
Instead, for an hour each evening in prime-time, well-rehearsed speakers march to the podium and deliver rousing endorsement speeches for the presumptive presidential candidate. They’re as polished as smooth river rocks, but not as durable. Some speakers have been beaten in the primaries by the presumed nominee, making their words from stage contrived and far-fetched. Not too long ago the endorser was belittling the nominee’s credibility and now he’s speaking of his strengths. It doesn’t ring true or sincere. Call it what it is. It’s a test run for a possible cabinet or ambassador appointment. It’s another form of reality TV or what I call, “the dumbing down of Americans.”
Flipping through the musty pages of the accumulated stenographer notebooks, I was overwhelmed with the significant changes to our nation’s political process, especially the presidential election. Notably, the media seems to have become the fourth branch of government, behind the executive, legislative and judicial. Like many things, I long for the simpler more genteel ways. I understand they’re extinct, but I still crave them.
It remains uncertain if I will fulfill my late 70’s proclamation to run for political office. It seems highly unlikely. My tolerance for the process is greatly reduced, though my desire to connect with and serve the people remains at an all-time high. I don’t play games well. I’m not a millionaire. I have Midwestern values. I speak the truth as I see and know it. I understood the nomination and election process at a young age and despise its current form. None of these make me an ideal candidate today.
I’ve dusted off the stenographer notebooks and placed them back inside the red tub on the basement shelf. I will deal with my restlessness of the political conventions and the upcoming election, though I know I will never be happy or content with the outcome. What I can guarantee I will do is VOTE, and hope you are not so disenfranchised that you will stay away from the polls. You need to exercise your right to VOTE, even if you’ve never accumulated notes from political conventions, attended one or watched one on TV. It’s your right. Please VOTE.
Let me know if you’re watching either, or both, political conventions and what your thoughts are about them. This is not the place to lobby for either candidate. Rather, it’s a forum to discuss the election process and recall the favored processes of yesteryear.
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©Copyright. July 2016. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.