I was 14 on the evening on November 3, 1992.
In the backseat of the car, Dad was driving, Mom in the passenger seat, 600 WMT on the radio, and the sun well below the horizon on a cold, fall night.
We had made the odd, Tuesday night run into Cedar Rapids to hit Sam’s Club, loading up the trunk with all sorts of bulk goods. Looking back on it now, maybe it was to get their minds off of what was going on that day. Usually these trips were a weekend event.
I can still remember not being very far from leaving the outskirts of the “big city” and going through the darkness of the country. We had been listening to the results come in on the radio the whole way there, but on the way home, the special bulletin hit.
Bill Clinton had been declared the winner and would become the next president.
In that backseat, I felt fear. Staring out into the darkness, I felt dread. My mind spiraled to the point where I felt like the world was going to end. The announcement scared me to my core.
I can’t remember what my parents said to each other about it, but they weren’t happy.
And then I just remember being cold.
I think about that night quite often. I think about those times quite often.
We listened to WMT all the time growing up. It was almost a part of the vocabulary in my family, and it was always tuned in down at the office of the family business, even when everyone had left for the day, the radio was always on, always tuned to AM 600.
During the summer, I worked for the family business full time, and this was my white noise.
From the morning to locking the doors at the end of the day, the daily program schedule of WMT rolled on, and at some point in the afternoon, Rush Limbaugh came on.
And during those days, I think I liked listening to that show. I found it funny and entertaining. The spoof songs and bits would catch my attention from time to time, but most of the time, it was just there in the background.
And those years after that night of the election, the world didn’t end. The Gulf War became a distant memory, and more wars never happened. Having had a brother who served in that war, I remember that being a very positive thing to me.
I would think about all of the things that Rush said were going to happen if Clinton were to ever become president, which I don’t recall what they were now. I had just turned 14. I cared more about watching Beavis & Butthead and hanging out with my friends, not politics.
And by the time I became 16, I began to hate politics with every ounce of my being. I wanted nothing to do with it and did everything I could to avoid the topic, especially with my parents.
I hadn’t figured it out yet, but the lights were starting to come on in my head.
I had spent so many years with that single outlet that it influenced me more than I was able to comprehend.
I didn’t know what it meant when Limbaugh would slyly or mockingly talk about “liberal” this or that, jingles making fun of someone for having too much of a “bleeding heart”. “They”, whoever that was, wanted to take something away or destroy that because of whatever.
The bottom line that my 14 year old mind comprehended was Republicans and the things they did were good, and everyone else sucked.
But Bill Clinton was one of those people that he chided on about and was a part of those groups that were “determined to destroy America”.
It still took years for me to realize it, but that feeling in that backseat started to make sense.
All I knew about politics at that point in my life was what I heard from my family and Rush Limbaugh. Even though I’d read a newspaper or watch the news, my exposure to political ideology was a very small, concentrated echo chamber.
And what had always just been always on in the background and got my occasional attention influenced me more than I had understood to be possible.
Even though I consciously didn’t care about politics, something subconsciously cared enough that it freightened me.
And not long after that election night, the Internet came into my life.
My horizons became very broad, very quickly, and I never looked back. It gave me a glimpse of a world outside my own, and I became very, very interested in finding out more.