I am proud to be an American and yesterday I exercised one of my most valuable rights. I voted in the Republican presidential preference primary — and was appalled by the sparse crowd that joined me at the polls.
Now I realize that the winner of the Georgia primary was a foregone conclusion by the time the first ballot was cast Tuesday morning -- and I realize that the mass media has assured the nation that the winner of the Georgia primary has no chance of winning the party nomination. I also know that about 6 percent of the folks in my county had voted early and that a lot of Rockdale residents don't vote in the Republican primary. I know all that stuff.
I am still appalled. When there is an election people should vote. Period. It is political ignorance and political apathy that have brought our once great nation to the place it now sits -- teetering on the edge of disaster. But that's just me and I guess the right not to care is just as precious to some people as any other right.
Now me, I've always been interested in politics. In 1964 -- at the age of 12 -- presidential politics cost me one of the most severe paddlings ever administered in Jordy Tanner's office. Jordy Tanner was the principal of Porterdale School, where I was a seventh-grade student. Lyndon B. Johnson was running for re-election -- against Barry "Nuke 'em 'til they glow" Goldwater.
Most Georgians still thought they were Democrats in 1964 so I thought I wanted Johnson to win. Boy, was I ever dumb!
Our social studies teacher, Mrs. Carter Robertson, assigned each of us to write a 30-second speech in support of the candidate of our choice, which we would give in front of the entire class. I chose a poem, which may or may not have been plagiarized. Who can remember after all these years?
But I do remember the poem and I remember the ensuing spanking.
"You're for Goldwater; I'm for LBJ. We can't fight it; it's the American way.
Let's shake hands and forget the past. I'll hug your elephant and you can kiss my ass."
Hey -- it's gray with long ears and eats grass. My teacher didn't see it that way, however.
I learned my lesson and stayed apolitical during high school. Besides, I was a lot more interested in Kim Puckett's legs than Richard Nixon's domestic policies. Lee Piper did almost get me killed in Greenville, S.C., the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and I got in a knock-down-drag-out with Jim Peay when Nixon decided to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia, but other than that, I minded my own business.
The first election I got to vote in was 1970. It wasn't a presidential election year, but I voted for Jimmy Carter to succeed Lester Maddox as governor of Georgia -- but only because Lester wasn't eligible to run again. I would compound that mistake by voting for Carter for president in 1976. Jimmy Earl single-handedly broke me of ever voting Democrat again.
1972 was my first presidential election. For a long time I thought that George Wallace would be the Democratic nominee. Apparently so did other people, much higher on the food chain than me. Wallace was shot in Maryland on May 15, effectively ending his campaign.
In November I caught a ride home from Athens, where I was attending the University of Georgia, hallowed be thy name, and proudly walked into the Porterdale gym to cast my first presidential ballot. I voted for Richard Nixon and felt guilty about voting for a Republican my very first time out until my daddy admitted that he had voted for Nixon, too. In fact, so had 75 percent of the state. Four years later only 66 percent of Georgia voters would cast ballots for the state's aforementioned favorite son.
In 1980, lesson learned, I voted for Ronald Reagan -- twice. I'm not sure I should admit this, but I was living in deep South Georgia at the time -- way below the gnat line -- and had moved my voter's registration to Thomas County. (I told you I was way below the gnat line.)
But there was a hotly contested mayoral election in Porterdale that year -- or maybe it was important seats on the city council. My mama begged me to drive home and vote for the local people. She was certain that the ladies that ran the polls in Porterdale wouldn't turn Tommie Huckaby's boy away. So after I voted in Meigs that morning I drove "home" and voted for my mama's slate of officers that evening. And she was right. Nobody even questioned me or asked to see an ID.
Honesty compels me to admit that although I told myself I would only vote for the local people, Reagan's name was right there on the ballot and interest rates were at 18.5 percent and inflation was in double digits and gas was way high -- I went ahead and voted for Ronnie again. And before you cast stones, remember -- Jesus turned water into wine to make his mama happy.
I promise I only voted once yesterday -- but come November -- well, if I thought I could talk somebody into letting me vote twice, I just might give it a try.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.