We weren't political at my house when I was a kid. When I asked my mother if we were Republicans or Democrats, she thought for a second, then said, "Well, we're registered Republicans" in a tone that made it clear that she wasn't that into being a Republican. They sure as heck aren't Republicans now.
My memories of politics in general are pretty vague. I remember seeing Reagan on TV when I was six or so. Someone was asking him if he was firing anyone, and he said "No, I'm not firing anybody!" in a cheerful voice. I thought he seemed like a nice guy.
I remember that in 1988, in the run up to the caucus, we went downtown one day when a million people were handing out buttons. My parents were for Jesse Jackson at the time. I was confused when my mom explained that he was quitting the race and wanted everyone to vote for Dukakis now. Wasn't that who he was running against? My parents were for Dukakis that year.
The whole time I was a kid, Terry Branstad was governor of Iowa. When he came out at a minor league baseball game and was roundly booed, I felt like I ought to join in, but my parents told me I should boo if I didn't know what I was booing about. Good advice.
Meanwhile, when he was up for re-election when I was in fourth grade, I heard a kid say "Branstad wants to tax the poor and let the rich get off." This may be the first moment I had an opinion about politics - I thought that sounded stupid. I didn't believe it, though. This guy was the governor, not the Sheriff of Nottingham. Who was going to say that we should tax the poor and let the rich get off?
I was still only vaguely aware of politics in the mid 1990s, still formulating opinions. My parents stepped back and let me. I remember a few occasions when I expressed some political opinion and they told me why some people thought differently (in a way that made me think THEY must have thought differently, though I now know they certainly didn't).
Even at 14, I only had a general idea of what the difference was between a liberal and a conservative. It was right around this time that Newt Gingrich went on a program called "Newt: Raw" on MTV. In this program, he discussed politics with a small cross-section of people (most, if not all, young) and the usual MTV news anchors. MTV could get serious when it wanted to. I had just moved to Georgia, just a district or two away from Newt's stomping grounds.
Over the course of the program, I seem to recall Newt noting that he was against both abortion AND welfare. This did not compute with me.
Further, he seemed to be in favor of corporal punishment in schools. I believe he said something along the lines of "in my day, it was just a given that if you got out of line, you'd get a whipping."
"Wow," I thought. "This guy is a jackass." If he was a conservative, I was a liberal. A few years later, when he was up for re-election, Gingrich nearly lost to a guy who sold cookies at the mall. Then he resigned in disgrace and I thought we were rid of him.
Maybe I'm remembering it wrong, but I'd like to see how a clip of him saying he was in favor of corporal punishment would play today. This would have been right around the time he advocated bringing orphanages back. Together with his recent notion of getting rid of child labor laws and I'm starting to get the notion that we don't need to argue against this guy - you just have to read Nicholas Nickleby.
Newt: Raw is not readily available online. I can't find it on youtube, I can't find a place to download it, and I don't see any torrents - just a handful of vintage newspaper articles.
Meanwhile, Newt has opened a headquarters in my old hometown of Urbandale. The GOP nearly shut down the government and defaulted on our debts in order to keep from taxing the rich. Branstad is governor again, and in a book of mine that Flux published last month, the characters have a plan to plant a pressed ham on the window of his mansion. That'll show 'im.