In two weeks I will have been at the Standard for (illegible) years, and in all that time I have never seen a presidential election so hotly and fiercely — and sometimes nastily – debated by our readers. This week, once again, we are running two pages of letters, mostly about the election.
Of course, when I first came to the paper, sometime in the Dark Ages, there was no such thing as e-mail, which seems to let the dogs of havoc loose. People don’t seem to reflect and rewrite as much as they did when they used to put their thoughts on paper.
I decided to look in back issues for letters appearing, during my tenure as editor, during the run-up to a presidential election.
In 1988, there was a handful of letters in support of George (41) Bush and Michael Dukakis, in more or less equal numbers (it was hard to tell, from one letter, just whom the writer supported). Interestingly, on Oct. 21 of that year, readers from Paramus and Fort Lee decried what one called Jews’ “obsession with Jesse Jackson.” Some are still “obsessed” with the black leader, or at any rate concerned about him, judging from the reaction to remarks he claims were distorted in the New York Post. (See our story in Friday’s paper, page 31.)
I could find only three letters about the 1992 presidential campaign in the three weeks before the election – one pro-Bush 41, one pro-Bill Clinton. The third seemed – it is hard to tell – to support Ross Perot.
The Clinton-Bob Dole contest of 1996 drew only two letters pro and con (and I had to go early into October to find one). Readers that year seemed more interested in the senatorial race between then-Reps. Dick Zimmer and Robert Torricelli. Zimmer, by the way, is vying for Frank Lautenberg’s Senate seat.
In 2000, readers were far more interested in the second intifada than they were in the contest between the second George Bush and Al Gore. I could not find a single letter relating to the election, except for a few post-election letters.
Four years later, eight letters were pro-John Kerry, two pro-Bush 43, and one warned against “divisiveness,” maintaining that “[t]here is no U.S. administration that would disrupt this [the U.S.-Israel] alliance….”
I think that’s true.
Meanwhile, we’re putting together a feature on “the dream team” – asking people whom they would nominate for president and vice president if they could choose anyone who ever lived – and who never lived. Four years ago we ran a similar feature called “The ideal president.” Nominees included Moses, Ben Franklin, Golda Meir, and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise. One person nominated his wife.
Want to contribute? It’s going to be fun – and, I hope, illuminating. Write your nominations in the space provided for comments, or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us the reasons for your choices. And include a daytime telephone number.
Looking forward to hearing from you.