William Masters has decided to retire from writing his bi-weekly column. Beginning today, Cary Brunswick takes his place.
Back in the 1960s, a verse in a folk song by Barry McGuire proclaimed, “you’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’.’’ That’s because the voting age was 21, while you could join or be drafted into the military at 18.
We figured the high voting age had a lot to do with Richard Nixon being elected president in 1968 over Democrat Hubert Humphrey, and thus a guaranteed continuation of the Vietnam War.
But it was the draft for the Vietnam War that led to mounting pressure for lowering the voting age to 18, and the 26th Amendment to the Constitution doing just that was finally ratified in 1971.
As a result, many other baby-boomers and I were able to vote for the first time in a presidential election 40 years ago, in the 1972 race between Nixon and Democratic challenger Sen. George McGovern, who died at 90 on Oct. 21. Apparently the “youth vote’’ didn’t hurt Nixon, however, as he was re-elected in the biggest landslide in U.S. history.
After learning of McGovern’s recent death, I couldn’t help recalling the privilege I had of voting for him twice, though he would have needed millions more voters to cast two ballots to turn the outcome around.
My first job after earning my bachelor’s degree in August 1972 was on a New Hampshire apple farm, living in a bunkhouse with several other young people seeking a variety of life experiences. Knowing I would be out-of-state, I arranged to vote through absentee ballot in my hometown, and gladly filed my ballot by mail with a vote for McGovern.
Then came Election Day, and after a gray day in the orchards and another dinner of rice and steamed vegetables, we were sitting around talking and wondering whether we would be able to vote if we drove down to the polling place at the town hall. Since not one of us had ever voted before, we decided to give it a shot.