Boomers Continue to Witness Political History

This week this country elects a new president. While for the first time a woman is the nominee for a major political party, Secretary Clinton was not the first woman to be listed on a ballot for a presidential election, and is one of five women vying for the office of president who appear on the ballot this year (Jill Stein, Green Party; Mindy Finn, Independent; Angela Nicole Walker, Socialist Party USA; and Hannah Walsh, United States Peace Party). California businesswoman Carly Fiorina sought the Republican nomination this election as well, but lost her bid during the primaries. In fact, dozens of women have run for president over the past 150 years, though they did not represent the two major political parties of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Until this year, these women ran in the name of secondary and tertiary political parties.

Victoria Woodhall was the first woman candidate for president listed on the official ballot of the majority of states in the election of 1872. As a suffragette, she ran under the banner of the Equal Rights Party. She was nominated by the National Woman Suffrage Association, which also named Frederick Douglass as her running mate for vice president. Ultimately she did receive a very minor percentage of votes, but gained no electoral votes. Technically, she was not Constitutionally able to run for the office — not because she was a woman (there was no law preventing that), but because she had not reached the age of 35. President Ulysses Grant won re-election that year.

Boomers have voted for female candidates for local, state and federal offices since the earliest boomers reached voting age — just not for president. Yet it is hard to imagine that the Nineteenth Amendment — giving women the right to vote — was only ratified in 1920, a short twenty-five years before the beginning of the Boomer Era. Since the voting age across the country was 21 at the time, the first presidential election in which boomer-aged men and women could legally vote was 1968. We all know how that turned out. Boomers had a war they wanted to stop on their minds, not female presidential candidates. With the battle cry of You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting from the song Eve of Destruction, boomers’ protests of the Vietnam War helped to change the voting age to 18.

Throughout the Boomer Years, women attempted to run for president. In 1952, three women tried: Ellen Linea W. Jensen for the Washington Peace Party; Mary Kennery for the American Party; and Agnes Waters for the American Woman’s Party. Each received zero percent of the national vote. In 1964, Margaret Chase Smith, the then Republican Senator from Maine, ran for her party’s nomination, but ultimately lost out to Barry Goldwater. Since she had received 25 percent of the votes in the Illinois primary, her name was on the ballot at the national convention as the first woman nominated by a major party.

1972 saw two women attempt to run. Linda Jenness would appear on the ballot in 25 states under the Socialist Workers Party. Democrat Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress in 1968. She served seven terms as a representative from the state of New York. In 1972, she sought the Democratic nomination for president as a champion of minority education and employment opportunities, and vocal opponent to the Draft. Her candidacy ran all the way to the Democratic National Convention that year, where she became the first African-American woman to have her name placed in nomination for the office of President of the United States.

Despite the plethora of women candidates on various party platforms throughout the decades for both president and vice president, it wasn’t until 1980 that Geraldine Ferraro became the first vice presidential nominee for a major political party. Running mate to Walter Mondale, the pair lost the election to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Mister Boomer does not recall the first female candidate he voted for; it may very well have been for a judicial or congressional position. The point is, Mister B didn’t think much about the gender of the candidates, and he believes many boomers thought like he did. After all, we wanted to change the world, rearrange the world as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had sung. Surely today’s candidates owe a debt of gratitude to those who came before them. Nonetheless, Mister B wonders how the female candidates of days past would have fared in today’s political and social environment. How would Victoria Woodhall, as an outspoken suffragette activist and three-time divorced woman, be treated by the press or in social media? There is one common thread that runs though these candidates that spans their 140+ years: each was willing to put everything on the line to oppose the white-male dominated political machine.

Viable female candidates for the highest office in the land is the ultimate prize so many boomers fought for through the age of Feminism. We can only hope that boomers will live long enough to see the day when the country lives up to its promise set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men — and women — are created equal…

Boomers Embraced Voting for Write-In Candidates

The tumultuous presidential election of 1968 was the first in which any Baby Boomer was old enough to vote. Many saw, in that election, a system that did not coincide with their vision of a better and more peaceful planet. Therefore, many first-time boomer voters decided that their vote would not go to support the same political parties that mired the country in the social unrest and foreign wars of the day. They wanted to change the world, man! For them, and thousands of other voters from coast to coast, only a write-in candidate would do.

Write-in candidates were not new to the election process in 1968. Every four years, there is always a group of people dissatisfied with the candidates from the two major parties. So, people have been taking advantage of their right to write-ins since the 1800s. Rules for write-ins, however, differ greatly from state to state. In fact, five states — Hawaii, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota — have never allowed write-in candidates. Louisiana joined the five in 1975, favoring instead a system in which anyone can get on the regular ballot, regardless of their party affiliation. Through the years stipulations have changed as well. In some states, a candidate must declare him or herself a write-in candidate before the election and in most, pay a fee. These “official” write-in candidates will not be on the ballot, per se, but are on a list that is required to be posted at polling stations.

Of course, people have been writing in all sorts of names over the years, real and fictional. In states that require registering, any name written in that is not on the list is discarded and the vote not counted. If there are votes for names on the official list, they must be sorted by hand, which is why election workers have perennially complained about write-in candidates. In some elections, the write-ins have kept workers going late into the night. For individual voters, however, write-ins have been their own personal protest.

As such, people have chosen all sorts of write-in names. Some come up in every election, while others are tied to a particular era. “Mickey Mouse” has probably received the most write-in votes of any fictional non-candidate. Reports indicate the Disney character has received votes in every presidential election since Mickey appeared in Steamboat Willie in 1928. Election officials in Georgia fought this trend by attempting to remind voters that a candidate had to be real, and follow the Constitutional requirements for running for president. Consequently, since 1987, no one has been allowed to vote for Mickey Mouse in that state.

Other common write-in votes of the Boomer Era that were cast in appreciable numbers included:

Donald Duck: in some states he was as popular as Mickey Mouse
Bozo the Clown: many people figured if they were putting a clown in the White House, it might as well be Bozo
Johnny Carson: the late night talk show host got votes throughout the 1960s and ’70s
Frank Zappa: the Mother of Invention was inspiration for several early-to-mid-era boomer voters
Miss Piggy: the beloved Muppet character from Jim Henson received the vote of many late-age boomers in the 1970s
Zippy the Pinhead: Bill Griffith’s quintessential 1970s underground comic character turned syndicated comic character captured many boomers’ humor and satire, and their vote

State election boards list a host of votes for other “candidates,” including the names of sports stars, spouses and even, “Me.” In the 1960 election, “Bacon” received votes in Georgia, and “Seymour Butts” was making the rounds in the 1960s.

Pigasus Pig
One of the more infamous write-in candidates of the Boomer Era was Pigasus Pig. Just before the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the Youth International Party (YIPPIES) decided to name their own write-in candidate, and “he” would be a real pig — a 145 pound animal that was purchased from a farmer for the occasion. YIPPIES leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin demanded that the government treat the pig’s candidacy the same as other candidates, and afford Pigasus White House briefings and Secret Service protection. Instead, at a rally in Grant Park to announce the candidacy, Pigasus Pig was confiscated by the Chicago police on the grounds that an old city ordinance against bringing livestock into the city had been violated. YIPPIES leaders were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct but were later released when they posted $25 bail.

Pigasus became the property of The Anti-Cruelty Society, according to the Chicago Tribune, and lived out his days on a farm along with Mrs. Pigasus and a piglet that the YIPPIES had also purchased for the theatrical candidacy. Despite the party’s failure to get Pigasus a declared candidate, his name became a write-in for some sympathetic boomers.

While voting for a write-in candidate may seem like a good idea at the time, ultimately, when it comes to a presidential election, the vote is wasted. There have been documented incidents of write-in candidates winning state office, and even Congressional seats, but the president is actually elected by the Electoral College. As such, it is highly unlikely a presidential write-in will ever win.

How about it, boomers? Did you cast your first vote for president — or subsequent votes —  for a write-in candidate?