Saturday, November 5, 2011

Promise Fulfilled

My mother was a Democrat.

I have written here before of her death in a flash flood in 1995 — and I mention it now only because I have been thinking of a conversation I had with her the last time I saw her.

It was mid–April of 1995. I was living in Oklahoma at the time, and I had come to Dallas to spend Easter weekend with my parents. Through the course of that weekend, I had several conversations with my mother on a range of topics.

One of the topics was the new Republican Congress that seized power in the 1994 midterms. Mom was worried that Clinton, like the previous Democratic president, would be defeated when he sought a second term.

"Don't worry, Mom," I told her. "Clinton will win."

To this day, I'm not sure why I said that to her. Clinton's job approval ratings were in the mid–40s at the time — hardly encouraging.

I guess I was speaking from the perspective of having watched Clinton's rise, fall and subsequent rise again in Arkansas politics. (I watched it up close as a young reporter. I covered his runoff campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination when he sought the office after being voted out in the previous election.) Maybe I wanted to reassure Mom that Clinton would not be another Jimmy Carter.

Deep down, though, I guess I must have believed it.

We never spoke about it again. She died a few weeks later — on May 5, 1995.

But I thought of that conversation often in the next year and a half.

I thought of it exactly 18 months later — on Nov. 5, 1996, the day Clinton was re–elected over Bob Dole. He didn't receive 50% of the vote, but he won as many electoral votes as he did four years earlier against the first President Bush.

There really wasn't any suspense to speak of that night. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, as I recall.

There was simply no compelling reason to change presidents. Some troubling issues were raised during the campaign, most notably concerning Democratic fund–raising practices, but the economy was sound and foreign relations were relatively stable.

It was a different kind of relation that sidetracked the Clinton administration during its second term.

After Clinton won re–election, he returned to Washington following a victory celebration in Little Rock and was greeted on the White House lawn by his staff.

Among those who lined up to greet him was a then–unknown intern named Monica Lewinsky. She embraced the president as he made his way along the line of well wishers, an embrace that was seen by millions on TV although practically no one knew who she was.

That would change in the years ahead. So would the economic and international stability — after Clinton left office.

I still miss Mom, but I am glad she missed all that.

Nevertheless ...

The day Clinton returned to Washington and embraced Monica on the White House lawn, I went to the cemetery and stood next to Mom's grave for a few minutes.

"We won," I said, probably to no one in particular. I just felt a need to do that.

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