My "political career," such as it is, began when I was in grammar school. A candidate for some local office hired kids to distribute campaign literature door to door. My mother went with me and I remember that we went into apartment buildings and left campaign materials on the door of each apartment. I think I earned the whopping salary of $8.
When Eisenhower was running for office in 1956, I remember watching the democratic convention on TV. That may have been the very first televised convention. I'm not sure. But I really wanted that cute Senator from Massachusets to win the VP slot and so I watched the proceedings intently. It was more exciting in those days because there was still a sense of mystery about it. The winner was not a foregone conclusion and sometimes you had to go to two or three ballots before a winner was announced. And so I watched, with fingers firmly crossed in hope, only to ultimately see Estes Kefauver take the #2 slot on the ticket, leaving John F. Kennedy to aspire to bigger and better things a few years down the road.
It was a lively campaign and I was a real outsider in school, being perhaps the only student who did not have an "I Like Ike" button, since my family was staunch Democrat and thus were voting for Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson, of course, lost to Eisenhower (twice), setting me up for a lifetime of backing losing candidates, with an occasional winner thrown in to keep me going to the voting booth.
I remember that my parents voted at our corner grocery store. There was a big electric voting booth that looked so complicated that for years I was afraid that when I was finally allowed to vote, I would somehow screw it up.
When Kennedy ran for office, I was too young to vote -- 18 year olds didn't get the vote until years later. But I was thrilled when he won, though I passed up an opportunity to hear him speek at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre,not that long before November 22, 1963. Instead I was in the parking lot of the Newman Center when the Kennedy entourage drove up Hearst Ave. on its way to the Theatre. You certainly wouldn't see a thing like that today. He rode in the back of a convertible, like he did in Dallas on that fateful day, and I got to wave at him, and see him wave back.
The next election that came around was my first experience at activism. I was working for the Physics Department at UC Berkeley at the time and all the faculty were terrified that Barry Goldwater would be elected, so they formed Scientists and Engineers for Johnson. We worked for weeks campaigning for Johnson, sending out materials, calling people, having meetings that I barely remember now, but I remember that I was up to my eyeballs working for LBJ, mostly because my boss was so involved.
According to Wikipedia, this is the description of the group:
Scientists and Engineers for Johnson-Humphrey was a group of prominent scientists consisting of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's second adviser George Kistiakowsky, Kennedy adviser Jerome Wiesner and many scientists that took part in the Manhattan project. This group's sole purpose was to make sure that Barry Goldwater, whom Nobel Laureate Harold Urey called a "blustery, threatening man", was not elected president.
Ultimately, of course, Goldwater was defeated and I felt good about myself for having helped bring about Johnson's victory.
I never really got involved on the national level like that before. I supported a number of winning and losing candidates and don't ever remember being as emotional about any win as I was about Obama's win.
I have, however, done a little bit for local elections and local issues. I worked on the campaigns of a few friends running for office, held signs for some politically charged issues, and always display the "proper" signs on our front lawn (since we are in a fairly high--for Davis--traffice area, so we are a desirable place for candidates to place their campaign signs.
I don't think I've ever not voted in an election. I even got an absentee ballot when I went to Australia so I could vote against Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ultimately, he wasn't as horrible a governor as I thought he would be, not as good as he thought he could be, but when he ran for reelection, with nobody decent running against him, I actually voted for him, possibly the very first vote I ever cast for a Republican.
I have manned tables for gay rights issues and even had discussions with people vehemently against equality for all people. This is a position I am definitely not comfortable with. Confrontation is not my strong point and I prefer to express my opinion via the Letters to the Editor rather than face to face, but I did it, even though we lost.
So today, I was back at the polling place to cast my vote yet again. This was anticipated to be a very low voter turnout election, since it was a primary election, but I did my best to send Barbara Boxer back to Congress again and push Gavin Newsom closer to the Lieutenant Governor slot.I was going to post a picture of my "I voted" sticker, until one of the puppies chewed it off of my shirt. But I did, in fact, vote. Again. The whole election process is not something as huge in my life, as it is for, say, Ellen and Shelly, but I've always been involved on some level, even if it's only showing up at the voting booth.