A Little Story about Voting – But Is It True?

Kathy voted

Yesterday I decided to commit to writing/posting something every day and I got busy and whipped out a little something. But is it true? 

The election results are in and I am not a happy camper, so now you can guess how I voted. Today is a chilly, rainy day and I’m not going anywhere. I’m just going to nurse my wounds and do as I please, which will include eating as much chocolate as my tummy will tolerate. I even cancelled my physical therapy appointment. I’ve been hurt enough.

I have a vague memory of learning about the voting process as a Girl Scout and eagerly looking forward to the day when I could cast my first ballot. My first voting experience wasn’t the joyful event I anticipated.

The presidential candidates that year were Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. I liked Humphrey as he seemed to embody values and ideas in line with mine. I was a Social Work student at Baylor University, a private Baptist college in Texas. It’s a great school and I have many wonderful memories, a good education, and my husband to show for it. But let’s say it like it was, and is – it’s a conservative institution populated by conservative-leaning people. For the most part.

As a freshman and sophomore at Baylor, you were required to attend Chapel every week. It was not always religious in nature. In fact, I don’t really remember it as being primarily a time of worship or religious activity. Before the election, two students spoke on behalf of the presidential candidates during Chapel. As I remember it, everyone listened attentively and clapped enthusiastically for the student who spoke on behalf of Nixon. The student body didn’t show the same respect (there were a few boos) and enthusiasm for the student who spoke on behalf of Humphrey. Instead of standing tall and proud as he exited, his posture was slumped and he seemed to hurry off the stage when he finished his speech.

I knew in my family that my dad would vote for Nixon. I heard my mom say a couple of things that made me think she kind of liked Humphrey, but I assumed that, in the end, she would also vote for Nixon.

So all the people who were important in my life didn’t agree with me. All of the people that I loved or liked or whom I wanted to like me (because I’m a dyed-in-the-wool people-pleaser) were of opposing opinions. Being a people-pleaser, I kept my opinions to myself so as not to rock the boat.

And then I found myself in the voting booth for the first time. I wanted to do my part, to be a good citizen, to participate in the democratic process. I looked over the ballot and marked it for …. Nixon.

I regretted my vote as soon as I slid my ballot into the box.

I regretted it because I was not true to myself. I allowed myself to be pressured by my environment and the opinions of my peers to vote against my conscience and my judgement.

Nixon won, of course, and we all know how that turned out.

And so I have always looked back at my first experience at the polls with regret. But I have never made that mistake again. I try to do my due diligence to be informed about the candidates and then I vote for the candidate that I think is best. I am usually at odds with my family and I am often in the opposite camp from many of my friends and neighbors, but I am never at odds with myself.

Ok – there you have my nice little story about voting. There’s just one problem. It isn’t true. Let me put it this way – it is based in truth, but I got a few things wrong.

This is the story that I have told myself for at least a couple of decades, but just as I was about to click “publish,” I decided to fact-check myself and – oops! – there are some problems with my memory.

Yes – Humphrey did run against Nixon, but that was in 1968 and I wasn’t old enough to vote. In 1972 (the election in which I did vote), the presidential candidates on the ballot were Richard Nixon and George McGovern. How had I gotten this part of the story so wrong?

The best answer I can come up with is that Humphrey was a candidate in the primaries and that, although he won the popular vote, he fell short of delegates at the Democratic National Convention. Perhaps I had placed my hopes on Humphrey being the nominee and my inability to vote for him added to my feelings of regret about my first voting experience…. and because of his significance to me, he became the candidate in my memory.

And what of the speakers in Chapel? I have a vague but definite visual memory of sitting in the auditorium and feeling bad for the student speaking on behalf of McGovern. My fellow students may or may not remember it the same way, but I think my memory is fairly accurate on that point.

So is my story true? Well, it isn’t factually accurate, so you could say that it is not true. But does the story contain a truth? Yes – the truth being that I voted for a candidate based on the opinions of those around me rather than my own best judgement and I regretted that vote.

I’ve always known that I don’t have the best memory for facts. And now, having just proved how bad my memory can be, I hope my relatives and friends will help me out by sharing what they remember. So if I ask for your memories while I’m working on something, I hope you’ll respond. And if you read something I wrote, but you remember it differently or know that I am wrong, leave a comment and help me out! I’d like to be as accurate as possible.

Please share a story about the first time you voted, or some other election-related memory.

Or your experiences of having a “false” memory.

6 thoughts on “A Little Story about Voting – But Is It True?

  1. Oh I have many “false” memories. I just blame them on my age. The first election I could vote in was Carter v Ford and I had moved to Kansas just before that time to live with my dad plus I turned 18 approximately 1 week prior to voting day. I was in my last year of high school so the school paper or yearbook wanted to run a picture if me going to the voting booth, but unfortunately I had not registered. I remember being embarrassed about not considering the issue earlier. I have voted in every presidential election since. I have definitely looked back on some of my votes with regret.

    • Oh no! I’m sure you were embarrassed! We both learned a lesson from the first time we were eligible to vote.
      I’ve come to an age where I remember having a very specific memory about something for many years and now I can’t remember what it was! I hate that!

  2. I grew up when Texas was solidly Democrat and Nixon had disgraced the Republican Party so that I don’t know a soul at that time who voted for Ford over Carter (at least among my friends). So young people today might think my memory was faltering, but I know it was really like that. The pendulum swings, doesn’t it?

    • I’m waiting for that pendulum to swing back! It seems like there is still a small remnant of the time in Texas when there were lots of unopposed Democrats on the ballot as there were still several unopposed Democrat judicial positions this time. It surprised me.

  3. I wrote a poem about a conversation with the elementary school custodian after the death of some Kansas kinfolk. Then I discovered that their deaths had not taken place during the school year. I’m pretty sure the conversation took place, but it had to do with a different family loss. I had combined two memories. Scientists who study memory say that each time we remember something, we re-member it, reconstruct it in some way. Dorinda and I have distinctly different memories of at least one incident from our childhood – I think I figured out a reasonable explanation for the discrepancy.

    • Memory and how our brains work is so interesting. I always blame my lack of many childhood memories on the fact that I moved fairly frequently and I was quite a bit older than my sisters. I missed hearing the repeated family stories from the family we moved away from; I didn’t stick around my childhood-high school friends for us to reminisce; and my sisters were so much younger that they don’t have a memory of most of my younger years.

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