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The Wasatch Behind: Americans vote their future

Sun Advocate columnist

Today is election day. Thank goodness. I don't think I could take many more sleazy attack ads, shameless political posturing and endless TV analysis. By tonight it will all be history and the sails on our ship of state will be set for another two years. Will the current captain and crew prevail, or will the rudder change hands?

Voting is a right, a privilege and an obligation. Everyone legally eligible should do it. Voting is the fuel that propels our republic. If you don't participate in the process you have no business complaining about the direction your future is heading.

The people who win elections shape our future and our fate. Have you ever considered what might have happened if the other guy had won in elections past? How different would things be?

In 1792 George Washington was elected to be our first president. His generals had offered to make him King. How different our country would be if a man of lesser character had won the Revolutionary War and won the presidency that first time we were able to vote.

In 1844 Democrat James Polk defeated Whig candidate Henry Clay. Clay was against the annexation of Texas. Polk admitted Texas into the union and that started the Mexican War. Polk forced Mexico to give up the land that became New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, Nevada and most of Colorado. For the first time, United States territory extended from sea to shining sea and the doctrine of manifest destiny was implemented like a holy crusade.

In 1864 the American civil war was in its fourth year and the north had just about had enough. Union general George McClellan ran as a Democrat against Republican Abraham Lincoln. The Democrat platform called for a cease-fire and McClellan was against freeing the slaves. How different would our country - or countries - be if McClellan had won and we negotiated an end to the war?

In 1912 former president Teddy Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate in an effort to better steer our country into socialism. His handpicked Republican successor, Howard Taft, just wasn't getting the job done. Teddy was a Progressive who advocated a new nationalism, social welfare and direct democracy - as opposed to the republic we have today. He also wanted federal regulation of business. Thank goodness his Bull Moose candidacy didn't survive a single political hunting season.

In 1916 Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected on a ticket promising American neutrality in World War I. Republican candidate Charles Hughes promised to stay out of the war, too. Hughes might have kept his pledge. Wilson didn't.

In 1964 Democrat Lyndon Johnson won over Republican Barry Goldwater. Johnson started the Vietnam War and then resigned in disgrace when the war became a quagmire. Goldwater might have avoided the conflict entirely. If not, he might have been more able and willing to win it.

In 1972 Republican Richard Nixon won a second term over Democrat George McGovern. In spite of what he said, Nixon was a crook and he put our country in a constitutional crisis that took more than two years to resolve.

In 1980 Republican Ronald Reagan won over Democrat Jimmy Carter who was hoping for a second term. Reagan became arguably the best president in modern times. Our country, or at least our economy, might not have survived another term of Jimmy Carter's malaise.

In 2000 Republican George Bush beat Democrat Al Gore. George Bush was a mediocre President, but eco-warrior Al Gore might have sacrificed the country on the altar of global warming. That was his expressed intent.

In 2004 Republican George Bush beat Democrat John Kerry who served in Vietnam. George Bush continued to be a mediocre president, but we might have been lucky. Some people think John Kerry blew a head-gasket while campaigning as a tough liberal anti-war war hero who voted for the war in Iraq before he voted against it.

In 2008 Democrat Barrack Obama beat Republican John McCain. The jury is still out, but the teapot is boiling over. Today we might get the verdict.

True, today's election is not a presidential contest, but congress and our local elected officials do set the stage for our future.

If you haven't done it yet, get to the polls and do your civic duty.

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