Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Election Reflections 1960 vs 2016

11/16/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Election reflections

On October 28, 2016 I signed, sealed and delivered my 14th presidential election ballot for the next president of the United States.  It was a relief to have made my decision(s) and know it would be counted along with millions of others. Unfortunately, I had to wait a few days before I knew the results.

From the beginning, I honestly had no idea how this election was going to shake out. On a national level the race between Donald J. Trump and Hillary R. Clinton was too close for the pollsters to call. Watching it was a seesaw of emotions as facts, lies and hostility were interspersed. Hillary was up one day and Donald the next.

I certainly had no sense of which way the nation would vote. On the one hand I thought that Hillary was the most experienced candidate but the country was not ready to elect a female president. On the other hand, I thought that Trump had some good ideas but his personality was too obnoxious to get him elected.

I was both right and wrong. Hillary won the popular vote but lost the election. Surprise! Donald won the Electoral College vote and thus the election. He is the president elect. The people have spoken. It is now our duty to respect the majority vote and move on. Wisdom dictates that we expect the best from the nominee and be prepared for a few bumps along the road as he settles in.

But after listening to Trump on the campaign trail, and considering his often wild rhetoric, I wonder: Will he unite or divide the population? Will he act as president of a democracy or CEO of a business? Will he fly off the handle, insult and call people names as he did in debates? I hope not. I hope that he will be gracious, use good judgment in all things and make us proud.

There is an old proverb that says, “Without counsel plans fail but with many advisers they succeed.” I hope that he will surround himself with seasoned, reasonable and experienced advisors. That he will not be an egomaniac but will respect and seek counsel from former presidents…and always put the country first.

I can’t help but compare this election with the first presidential election that I voted in. The year was 1960 and I was 21 years old. That year, on November 8, Democrat John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican Richard M. Nixon, VP to President Dwight Eisenhower. Kennedy became the country’s first Roman Catholic president and the youngest elected president.

Many of the issues the candidates discussed were similar to 2016. Kennedy said that the U.S. was falling behind the Soviet Union in world supremacy and that the United States must “do better.” He talked about the need to increase economic growth and deal with unemployment in depressed areas. Nixon’s basic premise was to simply carry on and improve the popular programs of the Eisenhower administration.

Thanks to television the campaign reached the largest audiences ever. It was intense but not nasty. I vividly remember the subject of Kennedy’s religion dominating the campaign. Protestant Americans worried that if Kennedy, a Catholic, was in the White House he would be under the direction of the Vatican and the Pope. The separation of church and state was repeatedly stressed in every interview.

Kennedy was able to finally put the subject to rest when he spoke before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston on Sept. 12. He said, “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National council of Churches…where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

In the end, Kennedy won both the Electoral College and the popular vote but by a very narrow margin. Kennedy won the election 49.7 to Nixon’s 49.5! Rumors of voting irregularities in Illinois and Texas were said to be the reason Kennedy won. Nixon was urged to contest the votes but chose not to. He said:

I could think of no worse example for nations abroad, who for the first time were trying to put free electoral procedures into effect, than that of the United States wrangling over the results of our presidential election, and even suggesting that the presidency itself could be stolen by thievery at the ballot box.”

The campaign was a class act by both candidates. Sadly, President Kennedy was assassinated and never got to carry out his dreams for the country “to be better.” Instead, Vice President Lyndon Johnson seamlessly moved into the presidency after his death. After a long period of mourning, Johnson’s “Great Society” reform began.

Thanks to our founding fathers our government has checks and balances. They made sure that one person didn’t have too much control as they wisely divided separation of governmental powers into three parts— Legislative (makes laws), Executive (carries out laws) and Judicial (evaluates laws). It was and is a great plan!

Presidents and their agendas come and go but our foundation remains the same—the Constitution of the United States of America is firm. Looking back over a lifetime of presidential campaigns, the winners and losers, I can confidently say that our system works—even when our favorite candidate doesn’t win.

So…Congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump. Thank you Hillary Clinton for being gracious and encouraging in your loss. Best wishes to outgoing President Barack Obama and his family. And God bless America!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.


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