Back in 1972, I was a junior at Troy High School, driving around town in my Volkswagen Beetle, pretty much feeling like I owned the world.
It was right around this time of the year when I found a George McGovern for president sticker and put it in my back window.
You have to understand, putting a George McGovern sticker on your car in Miami County in 1972 was not exactly the way to win friends and influence people. Why did I do it? Why do you do anything when you’re 16 years old? Besides, McGovern was all about ending the war in Vietnam and that sounded pretty good to a junior in high school.
As things turned out, McGovern ran a lousy campaign and lost in one of the biggest landslides in American history. Richard Nixon won almost 60 percent of the vote in Miami County and won every state except for Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. It was a huge victory for Nixon, who looked forward to a historic four more years in office (well, I guess we all know how that turned out).
I took the sticker out of the window the day after the election. I’m not sure anyone ever actually noticed, to tell you the truth.
I bring this up not to point out my lack of political success in the first presidential election I cared about. I bring it up because it feels like it was yesterday. But to other people, it might as well have been in Medieval times. Somewhere around 65 percent of the people in the United States weren’t even born in 1972, many others were too young to remember 1972 and quite a few people of my age have only vague drug and alcohol related memories of that year. Nixon and McGovern have gone to that big voting booth in the sky as have their running mates, Spiro Agnew and Sargent Shriver. A lot of people today probably couldn’t even tell you who Agnew and Shriver were.
This really was brought home to me the other day.
Back in 1972, someone created what became a famous McGovern campaign button that pictured Carole King, Barbra Streisand and James Taylor. It was made for a concert held to support McGovern and urged 18-year-olds to register and vote. It was the first election in which 18-year-olds could vote for president. It turns out Nixon got all the votes but McGovern had the best concerts, another thing that appealed to a 16-year-old.
This year, there is a Joe Biden campaign button that is modeled after that famous McGovern pin. It pictures King, Streisand and Taylor, only as they look today. And it was made to convince senior citizens to get out and vote!
Man, that’s just not right. It was only yesterday that we were driving around town, stopping at Ording’s on Friday night for a sandwich, going to parties or playing basketball in the park and, yes, listening to James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” on our transistor radios and to Carole King’s “Tapestry” on our record players. Now we’re all senior citizens and probably pretty much irrelevant to most 16-year-olds. There have been 11 presidential elections since 1972 and we’re getting ready for the 12th in a few weeks. Where have all those years gone?
As turned out, there was no good choice in the 1972 election. McGovern very well could have brought chaos to government, and Nixon actually did, for different reasons. It was a bad year for politics.
On the other hand, it was a good year for driving around in the VW with my girlfriend and for listening to James Taylor and Carole King (I never was much of a Barbra Streisand fan). And you know what? Almost 50 years later, it’s still a good year to drive around town with that same girlfriend, listen to old songs and be thankful for what we have.
Don’t expect me to put any political stickers on my car, though. I’ve learned a few things over the last 50 years.