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A Howdy Deenie Christmas (and Racehorse Voting)

A Howdy Deenie Christmas (and Racehorse Voting)
by Frank Ellsworth Lockwood
December 7, 2018

His fist slammed down. Hard. It seemed the table must surely have cracked, and our company’s faces turned pale: For them, it must have opened a window into the daily lives of my mom, myself, my siblings, and extended family: I believe our holiday guests had suddenly lost their appetites for turkey, dressing and all the fixings. What they really wanted, I think, was out of the room, but they remained, as if frozen to their seats.

My family’s politics was driven by the force of my father’s Republicanism. The rule was: “Whatever Dad says, that’s what goes.” Later on, he greatly despised John Kennedy because of the Cuban Crisis. He could not say any Democratic President's name without curling up his lips as if he had tased a sour lemon. He was native to the point of ignorance: He once told me, “If the (Republican) President of the United States says something is true, you can bet your life on it.” Of course this was before the Watergate Scandal rocked many Americans from their slumber. It shocked me as a teenager to learn that my mother had joined in a Martin Luther King protest, against his wishes.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since our Christmases in the fifties. We have gone through a lifetime of Presidents, Republicans, Democrats … and did we ever have an independent President? If so I don’t remember. What I do remember is my great aunt Doris, and her husband,

Howard. Doris was a quiet, frail thing, who had had one lung removed due to some disease, the name of which I was never informed. Howard was sometimes given to drink, which made the adults despise him but made the children laugh with glee when he came to visit. I know that drinking turns some people become belligerent and violent, but not Uncle Howard. When he was soused, Uncle Howard became more like a child again, to the delight of us kids. My aunt Joanna, the same age as I (She was more like a sister than an aunt.). Joanna was playful with words, and she had dubbed Uncle Howard “Uncle Howdy Deenie.” Howdy Deenie, like my great grandfather, always wore a drab, colorless sport coat, and when he had been drinking he would raise it up over his head so that he looked like a giant bat, and then we kids would scream and he would chase us all over the place. We were living in Paradise Masonic Park at the time. My family were mostly all Masons.

Later on we moved down out of the forest, near to the ocean, and Uncle Howdy Deenie and Doris lived in a two bedroom home just off Mission Street in Santa Cruz, California. He was a retired draftsman from the railroad at the time. I was addicted to the beach in those days, but Uncle Howdy Deenie was, I guess, addicted to tobacco, he never smoked cigarettes to my knowledge. My iconic memory was of Doris and Howdy sitting in their tiny living room in front of their ailing, color TV. The room was always full of either cigar or pipe smoke. My dad always said that Howdy’s smoking was what killed Aunt Doris, which seems likely, seeing as she had lung disease. But for many years they lived quietly and, I suppose, contentedly in their little home by the sea.

Doris and Howdy were not the violent types. Rather timid, in fact. In contrast, my father was given to raising his voice, if not his hand, to emphasize the correctness of his views. I remember on particular year, when the relatives, including Doris and Howdy, had come over for Christmas dinner. We were seated pleasantly around our long table, squeezed in close so that our six kids and extended family plus guests would all fit at the table. Somehow a topic came up, I forget what the topic was, but it was one that my father felt strongly abouracet, because his voice raised. I don’t think the unsuspecting Doris and Howdy saw his very big and calloused hand raised up, but they heard it when it came down and slammed into the table. It was his among the best of his displays of Republicanism.

At any rate, his fist slammed onto the table so hard that the plates and silverware jumped about an inch and clattered back to their resting places. But what I remember most was the horrified expressions on Doris and Howard’s faces. They turned white and looked petrified for a brief few seconds. After that, I remember no discussions of controversial topics at family gatherings, but when election time rolled around I remember asking Doris and Howdy who they planned to vote for, and the answer was always the same: “We don’t know yet. We are waiting to see who is winning. We don’t want to bet on a losing horse!”

Doris and Howdy were not taking any chances on “wasting their votes” on a loser. That was in the late fifties or early sixties, but it brings me up to date, because in 2016, my announcement -- that I was going to support Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate for President -- caused great consternation among some of my friends in the Democratic Party. I got repeated warnings that I was “wasting my vote” because, they believed, Jill Stein had little if any chance of winning the bid for the Presidency. Their reasoning reminds me of Aunt Doris and Uncle Howdy’s decisions to wait until the last minute to cast their votes. They were waiting to vote for the candidate who had the greatest chance of winning, the least chance of losing. Perhaps they were just avoiding the mention of a controversial topic, but when that approach is taken seriously by millions of people, it takes on, in my view at least, the appearance of what I call, “Racehorse Voting.”

We are doomed when most Americans believe they must vote, not for the candidates with the best ideas, but only for the candidates with the most corporate backing, the biggest ads, the richest lobbyists. Unless we get beyond Racehorse Voting, American politics is doomed. People may not think of it this way, but somehow we have gotten hoodwinked into believing that what the corporate money wants is always going to be the best choice, and so long as we think this way, we will always be stuck with the least hated candidate. I think Americans have come to think of the elections as something like a horse race in which they must cast their votes for the two most favored horses, just so they have “a chance of winning.” But winning what? At least in a horse race, one might have a chance, however small, of winning some money. But with Racehorse Voting the public will always be stuck with one of two tired old nags. If he were alive, perhaps Howdy Deenie would feel right at home in the Democratic Party.
As for me, I will vote for the candidate that I want at the helm of this great nation. No more of Howdy’s Racehorse Voting for me.

#politics #greenparty #winnertakesall #voting #votingforathirdparty


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