Tuesday will be my third time voting in a presidential election, but my first time going into Voting Day feeling so prepared.
I have spent the last four years following politics like I never have before. I read the politics page in the paper and spend my free time reading long-form political diatribes in magazines. I listen to talk radio shows with a political focus and watch Sunday morning media blitzes.
In college, I wrote the occasional email to representatives calling for more vague environmental regulations, but I didn’t feel like I was making a difference or being heard. Nor did I give it much thought.
I still don’t feel like I’m being heard in Washington, D.C., but now when I talk to representatives, they give me a little more time. It’s probably the press credentials that get their attention (and put them on their best behavior), but I feel like the time is well spent. Not only I am learning about local politics — which I believe to be more important than national politics — but I get to share what I learn with readers.
I was born during the Reagan administration, but I don’t remember any of it. George H. W. Bush had a similar non-effect on my preschool day-to-day life.
Clinton-the-early-years came when I was starting to learn American history. There was a large book in my second-grade classroom about U.S. presidents. I was obsessed with it. But, to be honest, I spent most of my time pretending I was a delegate in the 2nd Continental Congress, sweating over the Declaration of Independence and swatting away imaginary flies.
I was enthralled with the men who had dropped their former lives with England and decided to make themselves a whole new country. And I was young enough not to notice there were no women involved.
Once I flipped past Lincoln, however, I lost interest in the lives, wives and deaths of our presidents. Those young guys had it easy with their electricity and indoor plumbing and cars. And, at the end of the book, the presidents weren’t even dead yet! Snooze. I wanted to pretend I lived in a time gone by, not relive what I already saw everyday.
My first memory of a presidential election was in second grade. As a class, we voted in the Clinton versus Dole race. Honestly, I can’t remember who my class voted in. But I raised my hand for Clinton.
When George W. Bush was elected, I was a freshman in high school. I was taking a current events class at the time, so we followed the election for a couple of months. I don’t remember having strong feelings about it.
About a year later, my school, like every other in the country, stood still when we watched the footage of two planes hitting the World Trade Center towers in New York. Students were quietly pulled from class to get phone calls from their parents about loved ones. It was a mess.
About a year and a half after that, my physics class stood still again, to watch Operation Shock and Awe footage in Iraq. I remember that feeling like a bad idea.
I was one of the few in my senior class who was old enough to vote in the Bush v. Gore election. I went with my parents, who were excited to share the Constitutional right with me. I would like to say that I felt Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton standing behind me in that voting both. But really I just felt confused and unprepared to take on what felt like such an adult responsibility.
What I remember from the Bush V. Kerry election was a long line. Ohio wasn’t prepared for 2004. For weeks afterward, people were talking — and mostly complaining — about those lines.
During the 2008 election, I was a college graduate working in a local gear store saving for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and applying for grad schools. Richard and I didn’t have a television in our apartment, so we went over the neighbors to watch for the results. I remember thinking that something powerful had happened.
Now I’m living in a different state. I have a steady job. I own property and pay taxes. And the nation is different, too. Wars begun and ended. A recession we’re still digging out of. An oil spill that could have changed our energy policy, but didn’t has passed. Hurricane season is still swirling around us even as we’re still recovering from the most recent landfall. The economy is the topic of the election.
Come Tuesday, I will be excited to see how I remember 2012.