I have had a checkered voting record when it comes to the Presidency of the United States of America, starting out as a Democrat, switching to the Republican Party, then finally registering as an “undeclared.”
When I first registered to vote at the age of 18 in 1970 I was a Democrat, mainly because my father was a Democrat. In 1960, I recall being a young seven-year-old, growing up in Southwest Los Angeles, California. The neighborhood was a mixture at that time of Japanese-American families and Black Americans. I vividly recall my first political discussion. My father had hired a house painter to paint the exterior and interior of our small stucco house on 10th Avenue. The house painter was a smiling man named Ellis, who was a jet-black man in his middle-age. I remember his dark skin, speckled with white paint spots, and his white overalls, also spotted with paint. He was fun to hang with, and I was intrigued with his skills in painting our house. As he worked, he would chat with me. He asked me who I wanted to be our next president of the United States. I told him I didn’t know, and he began to expound on the qualities of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He told me that Kennedy was for civil rights, and would do great things for his people and his family. Later that night, I asked my mother and father if they were both going to vote for John F. Kennedy. They laughed and said no, that they were going to vote for Vice-President Richard Nixon. (My father was a Democrat, but was going to vote cross-party). This really disappointed me. I began to repeat the things that Ellis had told me. They did not give any good reasons for their choice I was certain they were making the wrong choice. Later I was happy to learn that Ellis’s choice of John F. Kennedy had won the election and was now our President. That is my earliest memory of voting.
Much later, in 1972, as a college student, my first actual vote was for Republican, Richard M. Nixon. I voted across my party line like my Father, because Nixon promised “PEACE WITH HONOR” and an end to the war in Vietnam. I was against the war since my cousin, Andy Nishimoto was a veteran of the war and convinced me that war was senseless, but I felt Nixon would deal with the Communists with strength. His opponent, George McGovern said nothing about “honor.” It was important to me that we ended this war honorably. Nixon won by a landslide. I believed I had made the right choice. However the television was deluged with films and images of the war, confirming for me what my cousin had shared with me. Then came the bombing of Hanoi, the carpet-bombing of the neutral country of Cambodia, the harbor-mining, the massacres, the continuing protests against the Vietnam War in the streets, and finally the Paris Peace Talks of Henry Kissinger which brought an end to our involvement in the Vietnam War. Later, the exit of the U.S. military was so abrupt, that North Vietnam invaded years later and South Vietnam collapsed in 1975 as soon as our troops were removed. The scenes of the U.S. Embassy being evacuated by helicopter looked like a disgrace. Nixon was being called “Tricky Dick.” I saw no “honor” in any of this. Nixon was again re-elected, but then erupted The Watergate scandal. the television news was filled with bits and pieces of criminal activity sanctioned by the White House, the bribes, the dirty tricks, the denials, and then the cover-ups, the Congressional investigations, the arrests of his Staff, the resignations of his Vice-President and Attorney General, and the impeachment proceedings, and finally Nixon’s resignation in 1974. The label of “Tricky Dick” rang true. I then believed I had voted for the wrong man. Nixon appointed Gerald Ford as his successor. The late-night comedy show, Saturday Night Live, Chevy Chase and the Media portrayed President Ford so that he looked like a buffoon, a joke, so I refused to vote for him in 1976. The Republican Party seemed to be hopelessly corrupt and inept.
Instead in 1976 I voted for Democrat, Jimmy Carter. The former governor of Georgia. He seemed authentic, honest, a good man, except for his strange family members. He seemed to be honest, God-fearing, and a real trust-worthy candidate. He was elected, and it seemed like good, honest times were before us. The economy went int a recession. Gas shortages hit the USA and I remember the gas-rationing. Depending on the last number of your license plate you had to alternate which day you could gas up. Then in 1979 the Shah of Iran was overthrown and the Ayatollah Khomeini began a fundamentalist state in Iran. The U.S. Embassy in Iran was captured and the staff was held captive for over a year. Carter’s rescue attempt was a disaster and failure. He seemed totally inept in Foreign Affairs.
In 1980, of all the candidates, Republican, Ronald Reagan had been really successful with California’s ailing economy as governor, and when Reagan promised to “transform the economy” of the USA like he had in California, again I crossed party lines and voted for Ronald Reagan. Suddenly the Ayatollah released the US prisoners. Everyone felt the cowboy, Ronald Reagan, had scared the Iranian Revolutionaries into submission. It looked like I had made the right choice. In 1984 I re-registered as a Republican, mainly to campaign for my friend who was running for Congress on the Republican ticket. It was my first experience of canvassing, phone-banking, and campaigning for a hopeful politician. It was the Reagan Era, and the pride returned to being an American. Then came the labeling of Russia as the evil empire, and the Star Wars Initiative. The Russians invaded Afghanistan, Oliver North was prosecuted for the The Iran-Contra scandal where it was reported that weapons for the revolutionaries in Nicaragua were exchanged for releasing the hostages in Iran. Reagan busted the Air-Traffic Controller’s Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall, and dissolution of the Soviet Union. It looked like Reagan had succeeded. The Republicans loved him for his accomplishments, and “Reaganomics” with the “trickle down theory” where reducing the taxes, would allow businesses to prosper, and the wealth would trickle down to the workers and poor. It all made sense to me.
The mantle was passed on to Republican, George H. Bush, who I voted for in 1988. He won, and I now had a record of 4 for 4 in picking the winning president. Maybe, I was tapped into the pulse of America.
When Saddam Hussein of Iraq, invaded Kuwait in 1991, we needed to show our strength. I was glad we had a war veteran like President Bush in office. The billions Reagan had spent on our military now seemed totally worth it. His air-war on Saddam’s forces drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait with little loss of American lives. I watched the videos of the “smart” bombs, and the images of the “road of death” as Saddam’s forces hastily retreated from Kuwait. It looked like I had made the right choice with our President. The Persian Gulf War seemed to be a total success. However, in 1992 the nation again fell into a recession and business started to die off. When President G.W. Bush reneged on a campaign promise “READ MY LIPS, NO NEW TAXES.” he lost credibility in my eyes. So it looked like we needed a change. It looked like the Republican President was ignorant to the needs of the U.S. economy. My boss at work spoke about a candidate who he felt was what this country needed. A proven businessman.
I voted for Independent, Ross Perot. He was a successful businessman, his talks and pie-charts made sense. He was tough, no-nonsense, and in 1978 and gone into revolutionary Iran and freed two of his employees being held captive. He looked to me like the leader we needed. However, as a third party candidate, Ross Perot ended up splitting the vote for Bush, as he took away voters (like me) and a relatively unknown Democratic Governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton won and served the next two terms.
In 2000, I had an immense disgust with the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. The bold-faced, inexcusable lying; “I DID NOT HAVE SEXUAL RELATIONS WITH THAT WOMAN.” Then the appearance of the infamous blue, dress, stained with his semen. He was almost impeached, but slipped out of the noose. I had had enough of these liberals with their lack of “FAMILY VALUES.” So I went back to the Republican Party.
In 2000, I voted for George W. Bush. I liked his plain way of speaking. His running mate, Dick Cheney, had a lot of experience, having served with Ronald Reagan, and with George H.W. Bush. It looked like the perfect team. George W. Bush was elected under a promise that “no child would be left behind.” In 2000, I had an eight-year-old son, and a two-year-old daughter. Education was very important to me and for the future. Then, on September 11, 2001, the attacks on the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, and the foiled attack on Washington D.C. by Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban struck. This was shocking, with the loss of nearly 3,000 people, the seemingly helplessness of our military, and the unprovoked nature of the attack. The nation, pulled together in the greatest show of nationalism and solidarity I had ever seen in my life. With his Texas-swagger, George Bush seemed the perfect “War Time” President. However, hindsight is 20-20. The more I learned about the anger and frustration of the Middle East people, the more I learned about the importance of the oil reserves, and the way these countries had been sub-divided after World War I and World War II for control over fossil fuel. I learned of Dick Cheney’s questionable connections with the military-industrial complex through his former employer, Halliburton, how the invasion of Iraq was not merited, and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein yielded no weapons of mass destruction. The $1.7 trillion dollar price of the war, the thousands of lost American soldier’s lives, and 100,000’s of disabled returning veterans, began to make war to be the last resort. Not a viable solution.
In 2008, I voted for the war veteran, John McCain. He fought in the Vietnam War, he knew the cost of fighting. He would be more reluctant to send in more boots to the Middle East. He was a straight-talker, and politician who worked both-sides of the aisle. He could get things done. Then he picked a former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, and she opened her mouth, and it was all over. Barack Obama came from literal obscurity, and through a grass-roots movement was elected president in 2008.
Barack Obama’s first 4 years were stormy, fighting off a Republican majority in Congress, he still got some of his bills passed. In 2008 came the financial collapse of Wall Street and the “too-big-to-fail-bands” which led to the Global Financial Melt-down. Was this Obama’s fault? He was just elected. I wasn’t sure. Then under his watch, Osama Bin Ladin was finally caught and killed. It seemed like this President wasn’t a pushover. Then in 2010 the Arab Spring flared up, with the overthrow of the dictators in Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Egypt stunned the world. It seemed like his leadership, was what we needed. The Iraq War seemed to have been a big mistake, destabilizing the power balances in the Middle East. It looked like what was needed was obstaining from sending in more U.S. troops. Working through diplomacy seemed the proper direction. This is what was wanted and needed. So in 2012, I again crossed party-lines and voted Democrat, for Barack Obama’s 2nd term. My one turning point, was when that Mother Jones’ reporter published a hidden taping of Mitt Romney’s comments about how he didn’t care about that 48% of the have-not’s, I saw what the billionaire class was like. I saw the disdain they had for the common, working class and middle class. I voted for Barack Obama because he cared for all Americans. I was beginning to follow the sentiments of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, and the protesting of the 99% against the top 1% of billionaires.
That brings us to the upcoming election of 2016 and the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the Independent Senator from Vermont, and self proclaimed, “Democratic Socialist.” The more I studied his speeches, and platform, the more I have seen I have had enough of both the Republican Party AND the Democratic Party central leaderships. I never could understand why Congress seemed so dead-locked and ineffective. Bernie and his supporters opened my eyes to how the Supreme Court ruling “Citizens United” had opened the floodgates allowing corporations and billionaires to pour billions of dollars into the campaign coffers of their chosen candidates. I discovered who the oil mongols had close relations with, who the Big Banks had bank-rolled, who “Big Pharma” had paid off, who the Insurance Giants had patronized. I saw how our “elected” officials were no representing the people, or the common worker, but were voting for the interests of the Billionaire Class. I recall one of my favorite movies, Jimmy Stewart’s film MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON. I had thought that political corruption was a thing of the past. That in this current-day, post-Watergate era, such corruption would not be tolerated. Then I learned how the actual network media were also owned by major corporations, and that their board of directors had a say in what gets reported and what gets said. I discovered that we are living in an actual “Oligarchy,” where the power was in the hands of a few, and not the majority. Like the story “The Emperor Has No Clothes” no one was awake to the reality of the nightmare we were living in. No one was willing to state the obvious. The obvious was that Reaganomics, and “trickle down” economics had failed. The idea that the billionaires who ruled our economy and now our nation would generously allow the spoils of their victories trickle down to the masses. They did not. Instead, they used their influence on Congress to re-write the tax laws such that they could reduce their taxes, obtain billions in subsidies, and stash trillions of their earnings in off-shore, tax-exempt havens. They succeeded in turning our institutions of higher learning into profit centers, saddling our youth with suffocating loans at high interest rates. They ended up charging so much for medical care, medical insurance, and pharmaceuticals such that tens of thousands died each year, not being able to afford healthcare. The war against drugs ended up putting millions of Americans in prisons which were now contracted by profit-making industries, that actually bribed judges to fill them with with non-violent minorities guilty of possession of marijuana. The labor unions formed to protect and fight for the rights of the common workers were being broken up. Also, I was shocked to learn that 87% of the world’s scientists were warning that Climate Change and Global Warming were entering a dangerous level, yet the majority of the Republic Party denied this, and refused to recognize the scientific evidence, because of how it would negatively impact the fossil fuel industries. I was now outraged that the few in power could be so blind, so cold, so heartless, and so self-absorbed to have allowed all of the above to happen and to continue.
Everything I have learned in the past year has left me angry, outraged, and most important in action politically. I believe what is needed is as Bernie Sanders says, a “political revolution.” Unlike the French Revolution where the commoners rose up and over-threw the rich ruling class and beheaded them with guillotines, this political revolution would over-throw the ruling class, NOT with violence, NOT with beheading, but with information sharing, and with the ballot boxes. I vowed no longer to vote for political candidates who are funded by the political machinery controlled by the multi-national corporations.
Discouraged and disgusted with BOTH the Republican and the Democratic Parties I re-registered as an UNDECLARED in November of 2015. That is why I am putting my support behind and campaigning for the Independent Senator from Vermont, running as a Social Democrat, Bernie Sanders. Elaborating on the Bernie Sanders campaign will continue as a separate entry into this blog.