I couldn’t get a good shot. The light was terrible and the Plexiglas case kept giving off reflections. It’s a handbill for a 1972 rally in Journal Square with George McGovern and Edward Kennedy. The mind reels. Nixon – the Moloch of my childhood – won pretty handily that year, but what optimism must have been felt. City political machines invoke corruption and government ineffectiveness, especially as Great Society policies became unfairly maligned as contributing to the economic troubles of the 1970s. But 1972 one imagines as being a last gasp, at least here Jersey City, unions were strong, major civil right battles had been ended, the flight to the suburbs had yet to be completed. It was also Halloween no less; think about that, less than week from Election Day. This was a major rally; A Kennedy was coming to Jersey City. It was the first election where 18 year olds could vote.The handbill is part of an exhibit at the main branch of the Jersey City Library, my favorite place to hangout. The display is in the corner of the stairase between the 3rd and 4th floors. Robert Kennedy, Shirley Chisolm, JesseJackson, LBJ. Elections always seem to inspire sports metaphors, but I won’t use one here, just stating the notion to set up a sports analogy, how baseball for example is summed up by the world series, who won the world series; 162 games and we wind up with one president. Like or not, the President dominates how we view history. The relationship with the supreme leader can be politically all-defining of an era, at least a decade, especially as the executive branch has gained so much in power.
Seeing these buttons and bumper stickers and various political paraphernalia reminds one though of choices not taken, idealism that couldn’t reach enough people, or slogans like Compassionate Conservative or Morning in America that seemed to appeal to deeply held beliefs and value only to turn out to be lies that made the rich richer and strengthened injustice.
My father always took me when he went to vote. I love tovote. I do, really. We should care about all election but we don’t care as much as when it’s the presidential election.Every four years the circus comes to town; but that’s not right either because it seems the presidential race is constant. There’s at least a year of primaries for the non-incumbent party and a year before then where we get the declarations of who will be running. Right after the election, the speculation begins for the next one immediately and as a kind of dress rehearsal we get the mid-term elections of congressional freaks. There’s too much damn election attention; it’s not the entirety of history, who wins the white office even if you think the be all and end all of the baseball season is the last week in October.Well, even with the election cycle being so extended, there is the final heat at the end of summer, with the conventions, the debates. Let the polls and prognosticators begin anew, begin again. This exhibit reminds us of what came to pass; and what might have been.