In July 1981 I warily plodded down to my local post office (Kihei, Maui) to register for the draft. As a non-citizen green card holder I was required to do so just like every other kid I knew because of the bill the Reagan Administration had passed earlier that year. Since that day I was never sure that the paper work was ever completed -that the post office hadn't lost it: the whole process seemed completely ad hoc. Nevertheless, no less than 25 years later I was sitting in an immigration hearing answering questions for my citizenship application and there sure enough was the notation regarding my registration for the draft on July 10th, 1981.
So, in the intervening years I could drink legally, work, be arrested (I wasn't) deported, pay my taxes, go to war as a draftee but I couldn't vote for the candidate of my choice. Up until today I have never voted anywhere. Having gone through the byzantine citizen process - which is another story - I am finally enfranchised and just at the right time. In retrospect, I should have done this sooner, but my silly notion that I would be somehow giving up my Englishness if I became a US citizen is wholly selfish and irresponsible and I wish that I had done this sooner.
It is interesting to contrast 1980 with 2006 because the current President believes himself to be the successor to Ronny. Ron Reagan the President's son was on The Colbert Report recently and couldn't control is disdain for this idea and pointedly poked fun at the idea even suggesting that he had learned to ride a horse any by a ranch to emulate The Great Communicator. Ronald Reagan was the right choice for America in 1980 as much as George Bush is the wrong choice today. Regrettably, as Neil Young said "... we had our chance to change our mind... but we went with what we knew..." I think if voters could do the 2004 election over they would think differently. Today the electorate gets to exhibit their dissatisfaction with the state of events over the past six years and will present the democrats with a chance to define themselves while in the leadership in the run up to 2008. Do I think the Democrats will blow it? All evidence today seems to indicate they haven't won this election as much as the Republicans have lost it and that should be very worrisome to the dems.
This election today appears to be the most widely voted mid-term election since 1946 with an expected 48% of voters participating. I am finally happy and proud to be one of them. If anyone doubts the true state of affairs I recommend reading Frank Rich's piece in the NYT from this weekend.