Ron Sylvester Shares his Election Thoughts
November 4, 2008
While working at WBUR Boston tonight, I spoke via email with Ron Sylvester about his remembrances of past elections. Follow him on Twitter if you’re so inclined. And read here some of his thoughts about the voting process in the United States and his experiences. Enjoy.
I’ve always been interested in presidential elections, probably because my father was a broadcast journalist. I remember getting to stay up late to watch the returns of Humphrey/Nixon. It went into the wee hours, and I had to go to bed before the election was decided. I woke up and Nixon was president. I was like in the fourth grade then.
Nixon won re-election in a landslide. Not every exciting, and after Watergate Carter’s election was predictable.
Carter/Reagan was the first election I got to vote in. Voted for Carter. Cable was new then and me and college buddies sat and drank beer all night and watched TBS show a Reagan marathon after he won. That’s what I remember about that night.
We expected an exciting election in ’92 and friends were ready for an exciting night, keeping track of the states as they came in. We were all supporting Clinton and were sure he was going to change the country, as the first president of the rock ‘n’ roll generation. That didn’t last very long: Clinton began winning states and it was evident early that he was going to roll. But the lead-up to that night, the anticipation that the leadership of the country was ready to be handed to a new generation, was very close to this one.
Of course, 2000, was the most exciting, with the Florida goes to Gore, no, to Bush, wait, who voted, now it goes to the Supreme Court. It doesn’t get more dramatic than that. People went to bed that night thinking Gore had won and woke up not knowing who was going to be president.
But I think the excitement of tonight goes beyond the race, the numbers, the margin of victory, as we look toward an historic election.
I grew up remembering vividly the days Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. Those were moments that defined my generation and changed our country. I often wonder what might have happened if RFK had gone on to be president. We might have avoided Watergate, and all the damage that did to the faith in the country. On the other hand, in hindsight, we have seen the Kennedys can also contribute to their own scandals. But I like to think things would have been different. Obama offers that same kind of hope Bobby gave in those stirring speeches, which I can still remember, despite being so young.
There are some key issues that define this election. I believe we are going to see big crowds of people, who have never voted before, who have felt disenfranchised in previous elections, getting out to vote. And I believe that could point to a more decisive victory for Obama. I also wonder what might happen if McCain pulls an upset, and what this might say about our country.
The reason this is such an exciting election for me is the promise that, after all these years, Martin Luther King’s dream might be realized: today, a man will be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.