Friday, September 12, 2008

We've Been Down This Road Before, Carrying the Same Gas Cans

As a fourth-grader, I was a devout fan of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And I remain so today. When Betty Ford made a cameo performance (she played herself) on MTM in January 1976, I wrote her a letter, commending her on her appearance, which I was certain would earn her an Emmy award. I went to school the next day and asked my teacher to proofread the letter before I mailed it. She made one correction: Change "comment" to "commend." I thought it was a fair criticism. I mailed the letter the next day. And I never heard from First Lady Betty Ford. But I loved her all the same. I was probably hoping to get a foot in the door and meet Mary Richards and hang out in her one-room apartment with her and Rhoda. I always thought we would get along well.

The following November, I voted for Gerald Ford in the fifth-grade mock election, despite the peer pressure to vote for Jimmy Carter, who had only a year earlier completed his term as governor of Georgia. And I was a Georgian attending a public school in Georgia, so you do the math. During the campaign phase, the Republican constituency in Mrs. Cook's class was clearly in the minority, but at 10 years old, we figured, you're either born a Republican or a Democrat, so there you go. A few months earlier, I had watched the 1976 Republican National Convention with my father, who pointed out former California Gov. Ronald Reagan and (I remember this like it was yesterday) said, "I don't know why they don't nominate him." The Republican influence was inescapable.

The 1976 Republican National Convention, Kemper Arena in Kansas City. I always wished Susan Ford (second from right, next to Betty) or Susan Dey was my older sister.

I helped craft a campaign poster with my friends Susan and Cindy. (Bet you can't name three '60s names more popular than Amy, Susan and Cindy.) The poster read: "Don't Vote For a Peanut Farmer. Vote For a Businessman." Susan was the artist and drew near-accurate portraits of both candidates -- Ford in a tailored black suit, Carter in a pair of overalls, holding a pitchfork, like the gentleman in Grant Wood's American Gothic. (I don't reveal any of this with pride; it's more of a confession. I was 10.)

A footnote: It was very hard to be red-haired, named "Amy" and living in Georgia during the Carter administration. The Amy Carter jokes were stupid.

All grown up now, I lean to the right, but classify myself as neither a Republican nor a Democrat. Just a voter. A voter who happens to have always voted Republican, has grown to adore Jimmy Carter, has read many of his books, and manages to keep a relatively open mind.

And your mind may open up a bit, too, if you take this little trip down Memory Lane ...

Sept. 12, 2008

June 15, 1979