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Election Day is Only 261 Days Away

February 20, 2016

“I ain’t never been to Vegas but I gambled up my life
Building newsprint boats I race to sewer mains
Was trying to find me something but I wasn’t sure just what
Funny how they say that some things never change

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home”

– Ryan Adams, from Oh My Sweet Carolina

I have voted in nine presidential elections, just three times for the person who won.

For the primaries, my record is even worse. I have a long history of picking the wrong dark horse political candidates. To my dismay, none of these 20160220_141630 (2)people have ever been able to capitalize on my view of their strengths and vindicate my fanciful outcomes. In fact, I am having a difficult time remembering even one primary vote for the eventual nominee.

Fritz Hollings, was the first of these underdogs to capture my imagination. Hollings was elected South Carolina Governor in 1959 and then that state’s U.S. Senator in 1966. I became aware of him in 1983. Most everyone my age and in my income group and profession strongly supported Ronald Reagan.They weren’t alone. Most of the country wanted four more years with their Gipper. I never bought into it and was young and dreamy enough to think that there was a better way.


Hollings was one of the earliest and strongest voices who warned about the looming trouble with Reagan’s budgets, claiming that the country would regret going along with them when the bills came due. This point of view wasn’t very popular at the time, certainly not with my demographic, those referred to at the time as Yuppies. As we can see in this graph, fiscal responsibility with the country’s budget wasn’t much of a priority during those years.

I liked the things Hollings worked on and talked about, such as national security and a strong defense, a robust industrial base, a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility, Social Security and Medicare finances, and public health and poverty.

Part of the fun was listening to Hollings talk about these things. First of all, there was his deep and rich Southern accent that made me listen more carefully. Outside the movies, I hadn’t heard many people talk like him. My Midwestern ears weren’t tuned to that tone, so I had to pay attention if I had any interest at all. I also liked the way that he addressed the issues in a matter-of-fact way with logic that appealed to me. He gave me the sense that we had were hearing things from him that were important. And there was always the chance he’d make us chuckle. Then, as now, he was feisty and witty and was never shy about showing his dry sense of humor.20160220_141338 (2)

Hollings was never going to get close to his party’s nomination. I remember thinking this was likely the case. However, I also thought that since Jimmy Carter had beat all the odds in 1976, perhaps Hollings could pull off his own miracle. This is the joy and hope that comes with  youthful inspiration without the tatters that come from experience.

Hollings barely registered in both of the vote counts in Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina didn’t declare their delegates until the convention that year. So as would be the case today, the Hollings campaign didn’t have the benefit of getting some momentum in his home state after the two early crushing losses. The Democratic Party was never going to let it happen anyway. They had changed the rules to set aside fourteen percent of the delegates for the party’s insiders. They weren’t going to support anyone from the outside, as Gary Hart so painfully learned that year. Walter Mondale was their choice and others would just have to go along with it.¹

I worked in San Francisco’s Financial District and through my low-level political activities, met others in the City who supported Hollings. There weren’t many of us – no reservations necessary, I assure you. It was a very underwhelming enterprise. (I met the Senator and he was as impressive in person as I imagined he would be.) I lost touch with those that I met from the campaign decades ago.

Hollings retired from the U.S. Senate in 2005 and moved back to the Charleston, where he was born in 1922. At ninety-four years-old, Hollings remains active, but naturally, is not as influential as he once was. I have no idea where he stands on this year’s election. Maybe he’s identified a favorite candidate, maybe he hasn’t. It doesn’t really matter and I suspect he’s the first to say so. Neither Sanders nor Clinton needs support from a retired U.S. Senator to make their case in South Carolina.

South Carolina Republicans are voting right now. In an unexpected way, I’ll be unplugged during most of the “results coming in” phase of today’s primary election. No cable news. No twitter. It’s just as well perhaps. My youthful aspirations about these things feel a little gauzy these days. In my wildest dreams, I don’t see anything good coming out of South Carolina today.


¹ Bernie Sanders is battling these party rules this year. In spite of a decisive win in New Hampshire and a push in Iowa, Sanders is significantly behind Hillary Clinton in the delegate count. This is because the so-called super delegates are supporting Clinton. They can change their allegiances all the way up to the convention floor. For the moment however, these seem to be the endorsements that matter and Sanders has an uphill struggle to overcome this significant disadvantage. I suppose the young voters who support Sanders think now, as I did when I wanted Hollings to advance, that these rules temper this thing we call democracy. On the other hand, I can imagine that the Republicans wish this year that they too had a way to protect their party’s nomination results from the voters. Maybe Donald Trump weighed these two sets of party conditions before he decided to run as a Republican and not as a Democrat.



  1. As always, very good. Trump has won South Carolina and Hillary has squeaked out a win in Nevada. We are marching on toward whatever will be…


  2. I remember Fritz Hollings fondly. He was on a couple of the committees I followed in Congress in the 1980s. A good man, well spoken, reasonable. Of course, that’s why he lost.

    I don’t think voting for good people is a waste (except my vote for John Anderson in 1980 which was responsible for Ronald Reagan’s presidency. That one vote. I’m sure of it…)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Elyse, After all these years, the search is over. We’ve found the one single vote that put Ronald Reagan in the White House.

      Anderson was an interesting candidate and now, just one more phenomenon that puts our current situation in perspective. He was a very worthy voice in American politics with his political views, temperament and life experience. In many ways, an archetype mid-20th Century politician. For me personally, although I was so young and (so much younger than him) and therefore could not relate entirely to his positions, he was a familiar person. I was raised a few counties east of his Congressional District and his and his common sense point of view was comfortable to me. I was not pleased with his timing however, as I did not want his third-party campaign to help Reagan’s effort.

      I tried to tell you this at the time, but you would not answer my phone calls. I was calling long-distance and probably couldn’t have afforded the AT&T bill had you picked up. I should have stamped my post card messages to you to cut you off at the pass to the voting booth.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I too, watched many of my candidates lose, Bruce. But at least we were free to present our minority view.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It can so easily feel that our votes are ‘wasted’ when our chosen candidate looses. I have traditionally voted for the Liberals (Democrats) in the UK even though in most peoples eyes they ‘didn’t stand a hope in hell’ and in the Euro elections I vote for the Green Party. Only once did I vote tactically – in 1997 to oust the Conservatives in favour of Tony Blair. As Shimon says I think it is wonderful that we have the choice to present our own view even if it differs from the ‘majority’. I always follow the US primaries and election with interest (and occasional amusement!) – I studied American and British politics way back in the late 70’s – just as we entered the Thatcher/Regan era – I think I’m one of the few UK people who can just about fathom the system !


    • This time around, voters by the thousands have wasted their votes on the delusional conclusion that some of these current day favorites have good answers to the issues,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I voted for Jesse Jackson in the primaries in 1984 and 1988. I loved his speeches at the Conventions. The way he talked about things and the things he talked about. I knew he was never going to win, but there was no way I was voting for Mondale and Dukakis at the primary stage. It’s similar to how I feel about Sanders this year. I love the things he is talking about and will vote for him in the primary.

    I also have only voted three times for somebody I wanted to vote for in the general. Clinton in 1996 (I wasn’t all that sure about him in 1992) and then Obama in 2008 and 2012. It’s a shame that this process leaves us with such undesirable options.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Undesirable options is right. I’m left wondering who would do the least irreparable harm, rather than who might have our countries best interests in mind.


      • That really is the only option unfortunately. Or … I live in California, which will go for the Dem no matter who it is in November. As a result, my vote doesn’t matter. I’ll vote for everything else on the ballot but I will not vote for Hillary.


      • Crystal, it’s true that when you see what’s in front of us this year, a “damage control” logic starts to form.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I think Jackson was at his peak in 1984. Had he not been so effective, perhaps Hart would have figured out a way to get the nomination that year. Impossible to know how he would have fared against Reagan, but I have a feeling that nothing was going to interrupt things there. Reagan had the country convinced.


  6. Sadly, I have to admit I share the same blame for Reagan as Elyse. I gravitated to good ‘ol John Anderson early in the process. A conservative Republican that was not so conservative any more – especially compared to Reagan. It was a tough call, coming from parents that were life long Democrats, but a call I made nonetheless. Jimmy Carter was a good, good man…but the whole *malaise* speech and posture was not what I wanted to hear. That was apparently true for the country as well, as they gravitated to the pull of the “shining city on a hill” imagery. That guy could sure spin a yarn.

    As far as the blame thingy, Mr. Anderson debated admirably throughout the campaign and gave me a young man’s confidence in the system. He also created a 2-on-1 against Carter that drew blood and resistance to his re-election. He also drew 7% of the vote in an election Reagan won by 9%. I rue my decision to this day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I worked in DC when Reagan was elected. His election also started the downhill slide of Congress. It really used to be an institution filled with honorable men (yeah, it was mostly men). Sigh.


    • These type of votes can make a person start wondering about the “every vote counts” lesson we learn early on. Of course, your single vote didn’t turn things towards eight years of Ronald Reagan and then the blind faith and yada yada that the R’s turn to decades later. Still… we start to think about the “what ifs.” Anderson had something important to add and certainly the country was looking for a new way forward. He muddled things when the country was on its heels, however. Reagan played it perfectly.


    • You recollections of the Anderson independent campaign (and I remember liking a number of the things he talked about) raises interesting questions for this year. Seems this year could be tailor made for a third party or independent campaign that would roil things up even further. Certainly seems it fits the pattern of lunacy that has occurred so far.


  7. I learned to dislike Reagan early on in California politics, Bruce. And I still look back on some of his actions as President with dismay. On the environmental front, it took 20 years to recover. Wasn’t that aware of Hollings. As for present Republican politics, I can only look on in absolute wonder, jaw dropped down to my toes. –Curt


    • Ah yes, I’m sure you were beside yourself with James Watt over at Interior Department.


      • I don’t have enough bad words in my vocabulary to describe the man, Bruce, and I’ve got a bunch. Sell off the National Parks, indeed. Stop supporting solar energy and other options, right. Etc. –Curt


  8. Bruce, as I write, we of course know the results of both SC and Nevada, and I find myself almost sick with the thought of any of the top 3 making it to the White House.
    But enough of that.
    It makes me happy to see your I Voted stickers. The child in me loves to get my sticker each election day, and I wear it all day, encouraging my patients to vote, too.


    • Laurie’s “Get out and vote” project at the clinic!

      It’s a silly nothing, but I have started to accept and then gather the stickers for the refrigerator. Wallace and Gromit approve.


  9. kdk permalink

    Like you I haven’t voted for many of the winners. The idea that one vote can make a difference almost seems a little quaint, especially in this primary season where it’s pretty easy to feel cynical about the whole thing. But I was watching the last hour of the Nevada caucuses and there were a few minutes of TV coverage listening-in on two people making their respective cases inside one of the groups, trying to persuade the other to switch sides. Their conviction for each of the candidates was a Norman Rockwell-esque moment that gave me pause and, for a minute, a little hope about the whole thing.


    • kdk, I watched a bit of the cable TV companies’ coverage of the R’s caucus in Nevada last night. Tables of three counting pieces of paper with the votes and then marking those counts in full view of each other and observers. Norman Rockwell off to the side, putting it all on his canvas.

      But of course, this was all theater. A few minutes before the first caucus count was complete, they gave us the last set of commercials hawking pharmaceutical drugs with gentle and heart-warming brand names, Buicks nobody wants and BMWs nobody can really afford. Then there was ONE MORE reminder about the next BIG THING we can watch on their cable TV stations if we will only stay around another hour. And finally, with the results at hand, we learned again how things are going to heck in a hand basket.


      • kdk permalink

        well, as I also watched a bit last night I recalled my comments here and did have second thoughts about the Rockwell-esque nature of it all, taking place there in the odd lighting of the casinos and in between the messages you mention. But who can’t get behind a Golden Retriever driving a Subaru?


        • Every Golden Retriever deserves a new Subaru.

          Every voter deserves the right we’ve given to the people in Iowa and New Hampshire.


  10. Dang … I know I read and commented on this post … oh all, it’s either in your Spam folder, in the WP abyss, or hiding in a secret place by the WP gnomes. Yes, the Dems establishment uses Superdelegates as a firewall … did you know the GOP has them, too? They are called Uncommitted, plus there are fewer of them.


  11. I can’t even remember all my votes through the years as my persuasions shifted. This year I liked Jim Webb. I’ve always voted, but this year I wonder.Thanks for the likes.


    • Jim Webb had some things to say, but never ever had a chance for the nomination. But I suppose I should give him credit for trying when everyone in the party knew it was Hillary’s year and nobody else need apply.


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