Texas Liberal

All People Matter

An Absence Of Political Memory

A recent New York Times story about the Rhode Island primary started off this way–

“For the first time anyone can remember, this small state is relishing its role in the presidential primary cycle.”

I’m not certain how many people reporter Abby Goodnough interviewed to reach this conclusion, but the Rhode Island primary was a big deal in relatively recent memory.

In 1976 Democrats Jimmy Carter of Georgia, Jerry Brown of California and Frank Church of Idaho campaigned hard in Rhode Island.

(Photo is of Senator Church.)

Coming into Rhode Island, Governor Carter had the clear lead in the nomination fight. Governor Brown and Senator Church entered the race late to see if they could catch up with Mr. Carter.

The 1976 Rhode Island primary was held on June 1. 

While winning after starting late not seem likely in today’s nominating process, Hubert Humphrey had won the 1968 Democratic nomination despite ignoring most primaries. A victory after a late entry seemed possible in 1976.  

Rhode Island was one of the first primary involving Carter, Brown and Church.

All three candidates came to Rhode Island. I shook hands with all three and had brief conversations with Mr. Brown and Mr. Church. I was 8. I remember meeting the candidates as if it were last week. I recall Walter Cronkite discussing how little Rhode Island was playing such a large role in the process.   

Governor Brown won Rhode Island in 1976. It was not enough. Governor Carter had a lead that could not be overcome.

Ms. Goodnough could not find anybody in Rhode Island who recalls the 1976 Democratic primary? No political science professor or Democratic party official? It was a big deal at the time. 

Or maybe it’s true that nobody does remember.

No matter–The past has relevance. 

The past is context for the present. It gives our lives meaning to know that something came before and that we are part of something larger than just the present moment.

The past is alive. It is always open to new interpretations and it is with us when we consider why things are as they are in our lives.     

I read Ms. Goodnough’s article and for just a moment I wondered if my own memories were correct.

They are.

The past exists if even people can’t be bothered to recall it, or even if they won’t do the work required to remind us that more exists than just the story of the day.

Please click here for other Texas Liberal political history posts.  

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Campaign 2008, History, Political History, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments