Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trailblazing

While one certainly cannot blame her for those who have followed - or who contemplate following - in her path, it is likely not a stretch to say that without Geraldine Ferraro having started to clear that path a quarter century ago, a certain former Governor from Alaska would not have been able to walk as far along it as she did in 2008. Ditto for a certain former First Lady and Senator from New York. I fear that sooner rather than later we shall be adding the name of a certain Congresswoman from Minnesota to that list as well. Perhaps it will seem as if the circle has been completed if Congresswoman Michelle Bachman from Minnesota opts in to the 2012 race for the Republican nomination for President. After all, Geraldine Ferraro's spot as the #2 on the Democrat's Presidential ticket in 1984 was the complement to the #1 spot held by Minnesota's own Walter "Fritz" Mondale. It likely says all that needs to be said about the state of the Democratic Party in the mid-1980's that its candidate to run against the incumbent Republican Ronald Reagan in '84 was the guy who four years earlier had been the incumbent Democrat Vice-President who became unemployed following the voting that occurred on the first Tuesday following the first Monday that November courtesy of an almost-historic ass-kicking that Reagan administered to Jimmy Carter. Having been walloped by Reagan in '80, Mondale worked hard to put himself in a position where he could be the Democrat best suited to absorb another beat down in '84. I was a senior in high school during the '84 campaign. It was clear well in advance of Election Day that President Reagan was going to be re-elected - and by a comfortable margin. 1984 was the year that Los Angeles played host to the Summer Olympics. As payback for President Carter's decision to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow as our protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, in 1984 the Soviets and most of their comrades from the Soviet Bloc kept their athletes home. Their absence opened the door for American domination of the Games. Their absence actually helped Reagan. Lots of people watched the Olympics on TV that summer and just about every time you turned on the coverage you saw an American doing something extraordinary. Americans began to feel better about being Americans. It is good to be the incumbent preparing for re-election when an outbreak of good feeling starts sweeping your citizenry. I recall there being a bit of a bump for the Democrats immediately following Mondale's announcement at their convention in San Francisco of Ferraro, a Congresswoman from Queens, New York, as his running mate. The bump did not last. While Ferraro ran hard - as did Mondale - the media reported on a nightly basis that by early October, Democratic candidates on local and state levels nationwide were doing all they could to avoid being seen with the party's national candidate. In furtherance of that goal, local politicians stayed away from campaign stops in their neck of the woods in droves. On Election Day, Mondale captured Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Reagan captured every other state. Geraldine Ferraro never held national office again after 1984. She and her family had their struggles - including some of a legal nature - in the years that followed, which makes them pretty much the typical American family as far as I can tell. I did not realize until I read it in an article yesterday that reported her death that more than ten years ago - when she was only in her early 60's - she was diagnosed with myeloma (blood cancer). Yesterday, at age 75, the disease took her life. Success is something that is subject to measurement both by subjective and objective means. One whose run for national office falls short of capturing the competed-for position cannot - applying objective means - consider that run successful. However if that run changes everything for those who come after you and makes possible the achievement of certain positions that prior to your trip around the track were at best improbable if not impossible for others to ever realize, then a compelling case can be made for the success of your campaign - irrespective of the outcome. There is an old line from sports, "You miss 100% of the shots you fail to take." Geraldine Ferraro went down firing. At day's end, not a hell of a bad way to go. -AK

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