Saturday, March 10, 2012

Memo from NYC

As another presidential election year grinds on, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some presidential elections from years past.

Specifically, 1972. Forty years ago.

This is best known as the Watergate election when President Richard Nixon won an historic 49 state victory in the shadow of what became the greatest scandal in American history -- prompting the president's resignation (the first and only ever) less than two years later.

The below clip, from ABC TV on election night 1972, is fascinating. 

It's around 9:30 PM. When the clips begins, they announce that Nixon has been re-elected and that he has carried an important state -- New York. This would be only one of three times in the last forty years that New York state has gone Republican in presidential elections. The only other times are when Reagan won our state in 1980 and 1984. Otherwise New York state has gone Democratic in every other presidential election since then.

Shortly after that they announce that the Democratic candidate is currently leading in the Delaware Senate race. His name is Joseph Biden, and he's only 29 years old. Joe Biden would go on to serve in the Senate for the next 36 years and is currently the Vice-President of the United States. He'll be on the ballot again this year, in what'll probably be his last election, right below the name of President Barack Obama who was only 11 years old in 1972 (and who yours truly will proudly vote for again this year).

At about fifteen minutes into this clip, they interview John Ehrlichman, President Nixon's domestic policy advisor and one of his chief henchmen. Ehrlichman was, by this time, deeply involved in the Watergate scandal and had overseen a number of illegal activities in the Nixon White House. Of course, on this night, none of that is known to the public yet and the Watergate burglary is just a blip on the media and political radar. But soon the scandal will unfold. Nixon will fire Ehrlichman in April, 1973 and he will eventually go to jail.

In this clip, however, on this night, Ehrlichman is triumphant, declaring that this election represents a "new American majority." And when asked about Watergate, Ehrlichman says that the burglars will stand trial and that "will probably be the end of the story." 

Not exactly.

Finally, if you watch enough of this clip, you might be wondering, Where's the big board of the country lighting up in either blue or red when a candidate carries a state? Well, there is no board. Believe it or not, those big election night red state/blue state boards of the country weren't used until 1976, four years later.

So watch this clip and enjoy seeing an important moment in American history -- where a President who won his first election in 1946 (for congress) wins his final election for president 26 years later, and where a future Vice-President who will (hopefully) win his final election for Vice-President this year wins his first election forty years earlier. Two men from two political parties, whose careers together span almost 70 years of our history, having their fates meet at what turns out to be a fateful moment in the history of our country.

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