Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My First Broken (Political) Heart

Joe Biden's 1988, er '87 campaign button, fair use/public domain claimed, full cite below.

Greetings All:

If you're living in America and unless you're in a cave (without wi-fi), you are aware that the 2016 presidential campaign is in full gear.  This week, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin exited the race for the Republican nomination.  This was, even by political standards, a rapid fall from grace.  He had been a front-runner just a few months ago.  Yet he could not raise the interest (or money) to stay in the race.

I did not support him and I highly, highly doubt I would have voted for him in the general election.  Still, I respect his decision to leave the race and do so in an honorable, even magnanimous manner.

I have a friend from college who was a strong supporter of him in Iowa.  I connected with him on Facebook and expressed my condolences (might not be the right word, but the best one I can come up with) for the end of his candidate's campaign.

For some reason, I thought about the first time I had my political heart broken when a candidate I was supporting exited a race.  That would be the then Senator from Delaware, Joe Biden.

Then, this morning, I see in the paper that it was on this very date in 1987 that Biden did, in fact, exit the race.  Ladies and gentlemen, a blog post idea was born.

I was between my freshman and sophomore years in college when the Biden campaign took off in Iowa.  I will freely admit it:  I was swept up in the excitement, the energy.  Many people saw Biden as JFK 2.0.  He had a compelling story of a wife and daughter killed by a drunk driver and how he found a way to stay in the U.S. Senate and still put his kids first.  He had a message the resonated and he could appeal to all stripes of the Democratic party.  And if you think his smile is something now, you should have seen it back then.

That was the formal, serious, aspect of the campaign.  Then there was all the fun.  In an era before smart phones, posts and instant feedback, campaigns were different.  It was more personal.  You had the opportunity to see the candidate up close and personal.  You got to hang out with the staffers and fellow supporters.  Simply put, it was a grand time.

Then, it was over.  Biden withdrew over charges of plagiarism.  I have a link below to his 1988 campaign and you can read about it if you would like.  In a nutshell, Biden, in a moment of oratorical flair (and he has had many) failed to cite to a source.  I am not sure whether to laugh or cry at what is the going rate for a political scandal these days.  I feel safe saying this would not make the cut, not even close.

When I think back on it, I do recall the hurt, the loss.  I also can laugh in a way at how how much this was, in the words of my friend Dave, "A first-world problem."  Sad, sure, for me, and his supporters.  Yet at the end of the day, it all worked out and Senator Biden went on to have a remarkable and honorable career in public service, including being a heartbeat away from the Presidency.  I have no doubt he'd trade it all, ALL of it to have his son Beau back.  (Beau Biden, his eldest son, died of brain cancer earlier this year.)

So here's to those supporters of Gov. Walker, especially the college kids.  You saw in him what I saw in Joe Biden.  You were inspired, motivated to change the world, or this country, or just win the Iowa Caucuses.  Now, that shall not be.  You will wonder, agonize even, over,what could have been.  My advice:  let it go.  (and please, do NOT cue the Frozen song, thank you.)  Let go of the pain and recall the good times, the rallies, the speeches, the moments when you said to yourself:  "I'm part of something bigger than myself."

And one more thing.  Hold onto the buttons, the posters, all that stuff.  Pull it out someday and recall with both warmth and pride your role in that endeavor.  I used to have the poster that is shown below, yet I fear it has been lost to time and multiple moves.   

The Biden '88 campaign poster.  I had one of these in my fraternity room.  Fair use/public domain claimed, please see the full cite in the credits at the end of this blog post.

Such is life.  I suppose for those of us who have been involved in campaigns, losses are like broken hearts.  It stings, yet you get over it.  Hopefully, you can remember the good times and the bad memories fade.  At the end of the day, elections are important.  Yet the reason for elections, the preservation of our beloved Republic goes on, for perpetuity.  And that is something, God willing, that we shall never suffer the loss of, or feel the grieving thereof, in our hearts.
Be well my friends,


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