The year I turned 18 was the first time I voted for president of the United States. The year was 1996.
My love of presidential history started years early. I was born when a peanut farmer lived in the White House. As a child of the 1980s, I only knew of Ronald Reagan as the president and thought it natural that the man that was his vice president would go on to become president.
William Jefferson Clinton came into my life as a high school student and I thought he should remain president through my college years.
The 2000 election was the first election that I truly paid close attention to and I cast my vote for the incumbent vice president. And like most Americans I thought he should be the commander-in-chief. The governor of Texas showed he wasn't anything special other than a son of a president. In the end, Vice President Al Gore gave an amazing concession speech on December 13, 2000 ending the race and the post-election race. I remember Bush's acceptance speech, or more specifically where it was delivered and nothing more. But Gore's I remember so much more: "While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs, there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president." Why didn't this Gore win? The Gore the country would really come to love was just beginning I guess.
And so our country moved forward. We had a new president. For the second time in our history a son of a president became president. And for the first few months of his presidency I believed history would repeat itself and George W. Bush would be just like that other son of a president, John Quincy Adams, a one term president. Then came September 11, 2001.
By September 12, 2001, I knew that George W. Bush would break history and become a two term president. By breaking history I mean the only one of the father-son combo of presidents and minority presidents, that is to win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote, to go on and win a second term. A national tragedy had occurred and as Gore had told his supporters ten months prior, we had to rally behind our new president. And I did.
Bush amazed me with his address in the National Cathedral on September 14 and then before a joint session of Congress on September 20. He was going after those that attacked us and they would be punished.
Then at the start of 2002, the drum beats of war began and the unified country returned to its election 2000 divisiveness. The war of choice was on and his reelection was still certain. While his poll numbers plummeted from the highs of September 11, 2001 straight down toward the election of 2004, I still knew no one would be able to defeat him.
Bush survived to serve another term. He received 51% of the popular vote, the only president since his father in 1988 to break the 50% barrier. The president had the audacity to claim a mandate. But his second term proved he had no such thing and like other second term presidents his was nothing to brag about. From a failed attempt at revamping social security to mishandling the response to Hurricane Katrina, Bush's second term was not something Americans should be proud of.
What it did provide was fodder for late night comedians. Our troubles of living under another four years of the Bush administration provided many laughs and inspiration for comedy writers.
At the start of 2001 when the Clinton administration came to an end I remember hearing the late night hosts saddened by the loss of material as the Clinton administration left office. They knew they were getting something special in Bush, seeing him on the campaign trail the previous year. Little did they know that the next eight years would provide more material that would out match the eight years of Clinton.
The scare tactics, fear mongering, incompetence, and arrogance will not be missed.
The year I turned 30 was the fourth time I voted for president of the United States. The year was 2008.
We'll see how things turned out.