The first election I remember was in 1980. The Weekly Reader had pictures of Reagan and Carter, and our kindergarten class held our own election. I thought Reagan had a nicer smile and looked more friendly in his picture, so I voted for him. Several students in my Utah class were upset, because they wanted to vote for President Kimball and he wasn’t pictured. My teacher had to explain that “President” could refer to the President of the United States or the President of the LDS Church, and we weren’t trying to vote President Kimball out of office.
I only vaguely remember the elections of 1984 and 1988, except that I’d picked up that Republicans were Good and Democrats were Bad, so I was pleased to see the Good Guys win. By 1992, however, my stance had completely shifted. I was annoyed that I was a mere two months too young to vote, and I tried to make up for that by spending the night before Election Day making Clinton signs and putting them all over the house in an attempt to influence my parents.
The first election I voted in was 1994. I had become a bit of a political junkie by that point, and I was thrilled to get to participate in the process–even though it was Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America and the Republican Revolution that carried the day. I was a bit glum the next day, as I listened to my BYU roommates talk excitedly about the results.
What I remember most from 1996 was that Utah’s Third District was close enough that they didn’t declare a winner that night. I stayed up late watching the results, finally drifting off around 1 or 2 am. I woke early the next morning, turned on the television, and was quite disappointed to learn that Bill Orton had been defeated, and the remarkable spectacle of a Democrat representing one of the most Republican districts in the country was no more.
In the fall of 2000 I had recently moved, to begin a new graduate program, and I hadn’t quite settled in yet. I was feeling a bit depressed and lonely, and I spent a ridiculous amount of time that November and December distracting myself from brooding about my life by following every development of the Florida re-count.
By 2004 I had moved again, this time to my current residence in California. Though I knew many people who were gathering to watch the results, I wasn’t in the mood for social interaction, and I followed the returns on the internet alone in my room, until I was so depressed about the whole thing that I turned it off and went to bed. The post-election gloom which hung over the Bay Area the next day reminded me of the atmosphere in Utah County in 1992, after Clinton won, and I actually found myself in the bizarre (for me) position of defending Republicans to acquaintances whose disappointment about the election was being expressed in rather hyperbolic statements about the failings of political conservatives.
Election Day 2008 I think will always be particularly memorable for me–not just because of the excitement of seeing Obama win, but also because I was visiting my sister Eve that week, and she was in the early stages of labor. She decided to venture to the polls nonetheless, so I drove her to the local high school, where fortunately there was no line. I watched the results that night while Skyping enthusiastically with family members across the country. Eve and her husband woke me up the next morning around 4:30 am to say that they were on their way to the hospital, and my niece arrived about 18 hours later.
This is the first inauguration I’ve ever watched, I think. I’m back visiting my niece, who is sporting a “Babies for Obama” T-shirt in honor of the occasion. And I have no doubt that this will be a day I remember for a long time.
What are your political memories? Are there elections or other political occasions that you remember in particular?