Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting and Waiting

The first time was 1948. I was 24 and had fought in a war, but the voting age was 21 then, and I cast my first ballot for Harry Truman, a centrist choice between Republican Thomas E. Dewey ("the little man on the wedding cake," Teddy Roosevelt's daughter Alice had dubbed him) and the liberal Henry Wallace, who had been Truman's vice president before being dumped from the ticket.

Clare Boothe Luce had pronounced Truman a "gone goose," but the man from Missouri ran a "Give 'em hell, Harry" campaign and won the White House after serving more than three years there in the wake of FDR's death in 1945.

All this ancient history comes back to mind today after my sixteenth vote for a president (more often for a loser than not, thanks to the Bushes) and recalls the range of emotions on Election Days for someone who believes politics really matters.

The two Eisenhower victories were days of resignation, even though I had been a volunteer speech writer for Adlai Stevenson in 1956. In the next decade, to my surprise, I learned to "like Ike" very much.

In the nail-biter between JFK and Nixon in 1960, I went to an afternoon movie to make the time pass but, even so, had to stay up all night to get the final result. It was worth it.

But in 1968, after working for Eugene McCarthy to try to end the war in Vietnam and being tear-gassed at the Democratic convention, I voted but refused to campaign for Hubert Humphrey and regretted my "purism" when Nixon won by less than one percent and went on to give us Watergate.

Since then, Election Days and Nights blur together except for 2000, and the less said and thought about that the better.

Today will be long and hard, but age has taught me to be patient, even in the face of an historic moment I never believed I would live to see. But, as in 1960, the waiting will be worth it.

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