Twenty years ago I made the most life-altering change a boy of 17 can make; I left my parents’ home, put Western New York in my rearview mirror and moved to Ohio to attend school.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that was 20 years ago. It seems like the fear and excitement of being dependent upon myself was just yesterday. And sometimes it’s hard to imagine it was only 20 years ago. I’ve done at least 100 years worth of stuff between then and now.
I spent the summer of 1992 watching political ads and reading every story I could find about the candidates. I knew I would be voting in November and I wanted to know as much as I could about the candidates.
I knew I didn’t like George H. W. Bush. He ruined my trip to Italy. Well, not really, but the planned Latin Club trip to Rome in 1991 got nixed on account of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait when we ran to the defense of the poor brutal dictators there.
Bill Clinton wasn’t really on my radar too much. He was governor of Arkansas, played the saxaphone and had smoked pot. None of those feats sounded all that impressive, honestly. I was looking for someone capable of more.
Then there was this guy with big ears, a funny voice and an incredible affinity to charts.
I fell in love with H. Ross Perot early on. Then he dropped out of the race and lost me. Then he came back. I was a little leary after that, as I think many people were.
I arrived at college in late August, 1992. Like every other teenage boy moving away from his parents’ house, I had one thing on my mind — registering to vote.
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t like every other teenage boy. While many of my schoolmates were focused on parties and social activities, I kept a keen watch on the presidential election. To be fair here, I’m not saying I didn’t drink my share of really cheap and tasteless beer my freshman year of college. But I interspersed it with discussions about the two-party system and the ballooning deficit.
In the end, Perot’s dropping out had lost him my vote. I voted for Clinton in 1992 … and again in 1996. I liked Clinton, but I’ve always kind of regretted not sticking with Perot. I haven’t voted for a major-party candidate since 1996 and I don’t plan to this year. I just wish I had a candidate that inspired me — and had a chance to sway the election — this year.
In truth, I wish Ross Perot would come out of retirement and run again. I don’t think that either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney have a clue how to (or a real desire to) fix what’s ailing us. And it would appear that the things that are wrong with America today are things that Perot discussed some 20 years ago.
I’m not saying that Perot is our only hope. But he’s a better candidate than the two we have now.