One of my first memories of a presidential election came on November 8, 1960. The radio announced the election of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States. My mother broke into inconsolable tears, "The Pope will rule the United States; we will all have to be Catholics."
So, my earliest experience of an election was the impact of disinformation that led my mother to believe something that could never have come to fruition, something that shook her very foundation as a Christian.
My mother was a dyed in the wool Republican. Her parents, particularly her immigrant father who came to this country from Germany in the 1890s, believed that the Republican party, which takes its name from the view of the country as a republic, was the party of the working class. That's not to say that they approved of everything that came from Republicans. Certainly, they did not approve of ending slavery, but in the 1960 election, they held to the idea that the GOP was protection from those darn Democrats who will make us all bow down to the Pope. They were, in that year, single issue voters. Where did they get their information? From their churches, from their friends, from their preferred radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. We didn't have a TV or internet, but radio was as much a source of information and disinformation as TV and the internet are today.
Some 60 years later, partially because of John F. Kennedy and more because of Lyndon Johnson, and the programs and policies they promoted (Vietnam not withstanding), I am a Democrat. And, I am watching legal proceedings I never imagined could happen as the former President of the United States is arraigned on four criminal counts for actions while he was in the White House, after being arraigned on forty some counts from misuse of documents after leaving the White House.
Later in my youth, the candidate who lost to President Kennedy got his chance in the White House. Aside from Vietnam, the other scandal of my college and grad school days was Watergate. First, Vice-President Spiro Agnew resigned his position because the Department of Justice had uncovered widespread evidence of political corruption and accepting bribes. That was totally unrelated to the Watergate scandal, but it set up a rather unique Presidential cycle that ended a President never elected to that office. That was a time we truly had to appreciate the framers of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, because not only did Vice-President Agnew resign, but President Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment and possibly an arraignment of his own.
So, I'm old enough to have a personal and first-hand memory of some significant events that, I believe, set a stage for our current events. And those memories and the history I have lived made me a person who researches the candidates before I vote.
Donald Trump has quite a history. He and his father got in trouble for discriminating based on color in to whom they rented apartments. He's had amazing luck agreeing to a price for items ordered, but finagling ways to avoid paying for goods delivered. I forget how many small businesses have been closed because of his resistance to paying his employees and suppliers. He has a long history of filing bankruptcy to avoid financial obligations. There are multiple cases of his company "cooking the books," misstating the valuations of his assets and his tax obligations. I'd say he has a history of being a bad actor in his business dealings. But, while I have seen documentation of these things, I am removed from these actions.
But, once he became the President of the United States, his actions impacted me. He did not play straight with us regarding COVID, he misled us about immigrants from Middle Eastern countries and from Latin and South American countries. He lied to us, all of us. And, as was said in his latest indictment, some of his lying was legal, lying, but not cause for legal action. But when he used those lies to deny our right to a fair election, when he lied to stay in an office he did not win the right to hold, when he lied to some of his supporters so they would serve as false electors who knew he did not win the vote in their state, he did break the law. When he kept secret documents that belonged to the government, not to him, he broke the law. It makes me exceedingly concerned that he might claim the presidency to hold himself above the law.
How does he have so many supporters? It's not unlike that election in 1960. There's a much broader range of ways to spread his messages. There are at least three national television networks who specializes in what one of his former staffers called "alternative facts." There are countless ways to spread his message on various social media sites. And there are the same means used in the 1960 election that led to my mother's certainty of the Pope's involvement in our government.