With the presidential elections coming up, and the plethora of political ads bombarding us every waking moment, I’ve been doing some reminiscing.
My ex husband Charles ran for state senate ( and lost) before we met, which was actually a good thing because anyone at knows me understands that I would have been an epic fail as a politicians wife. We met while working together in an issue campaign to change the 10% interest rate cap which was defeated in the 1980 election. He had been involved with Mo Udall’s presidential campaign, and then Jimmy Carter’s. He knew every politician in the state of Arkansas and many on a national level. Politics were his hobby and passion. They were not mine, but I knew when we got married that politics was part of the deal.
We had dinner one evening with Senator Dale Bumpers. Dale was considered one of the great statesmen of the senate and was in his last term. .
In the home of mutual friends around the dinner table he talked very frankly. The thing that made a huge impression on me was the discussion about how polarized the two parties had become. Dale said that he used to be friends with politicians from the other side, and that they would work together to do what was best for their states and the country. But that had changed, and the vitriol and backstabbing, lying and pandering had become overwhelming.
His name was being bandied about as a strong contender for the democratic presidential nomination. At that time he had not decided if he would run.
We were restoring a house across the street from the governors mansion. The historical Quapaw Quarter in downtown Little Rock was in a state of transition. There were whore houses, drug houses and slum lord houses on the same block as lovingly restored victorian and craftsman homes. One afternoon I went to the local grocery store to pick up some supplies. I was wearing grungy paint clothes and had a bandanna on my head. I am a very messy painter and usually had various samples of paint in my hair. Needless to say I bore very little resemblance to the person Dale Bumpers had met in other venues.
Senator Bumpers was in line in front of me at the checkout. I did not say a word, hoping he would not notice me because I really looked like sh&#. Not only did he notice me ( he is a politician and a very good one) but he knew who I was and remembered my name. Dale was famous for being able to remember names and faces. BTW Bill Clinton has the same talent but that is another story.
By now he had announced that he was not running for president. I told him I was disappointed.
He said “Michelle, I thought long and hard about it. But I couldn’t do that to my family. Our lives would never be the same. I would never be able to stand in line in a grocery store and buy cigars and a carton a milk.”
I think he made the right decision.
Two years later my friend Bill Clinton threw his hat in to the race.