Dems everywhere: Or so she thought...

It was one of those sweet moments when I get to feel like a genius– something that's only likely to happen when someone else is obviously a dope. It's all relative.

Earlier this month, I was listening to the news on the radio. It was an interview with a young Charlottesville man who was registering to vote at the DMV on Pantops. He'd just found out that he had shown up on the last possible day for registration. He declared that he would have been upset if he'd been too late to register. "They should have had something about this in the media," he said.

Upon hearing this, I let out a hoot that you probably heard at your house. Where has this guy been? Voter registration information has been everywhere: in newspapers, on the radio, TV, and websites. How could he have missed it?

Maybe his ears have been plugged up with his iPod earphones for the past few months. Maybe his mom wakes him up every morning and leaves notes for him to remember to take his lunch.

The news media don't do that. You have to pay attention: Read beyond the sports pages, watch something other than "Fear Factor," listen to a radio station that covers the news. (Such things do exist.)

Just as I was reveling in my obvious superiority to this young voter– wallowing in my wisdom– the memory of election night 1972 beckoned from the depths of my memory.

I remember staring at the TV, thinking there had to be some mistakeĀ­ this wasn't possible. I had just put down my highlighter and my biology textbook and slipped into the living room to check out the election returns on TV. I looked at the electoral map of the country and couldn't believe that what I was seeing was true: The entire US map was solid blue. In every state, the Republicans had won. Richard Nixon had just been re-elected president. (These were the olden days, when the Democratic states were red.)

"No honey, look," my mother said, "the little red blob is Massachusetts, and see that red dot? It's Washington, DC. They went for McGovern."

Oh, right. Well, that explained why I had been so sure Nixon didn't have a chance. I lived in Massachusetts; I went to school in Boston. I didn't know anyone who would dream of voting for Richard Nixon.

How had I been so clueless about the rest of the country? (And if the truth be told, I was also clueless about how the Electoral College works.)

Since it was my first opportunity to vote in a presidential election, you'd think I would've kept up with the news a little more closely. What I did know was that the Watergate break-in had happened several months before, and that people were dying in staggering numbers every day in Vietnam. Nixon was pursuing "peace with honor," and we no longer had a commitment to win the war– there was no reason to be there. Why would anyone vote for four more years of that?

So, without confusing the issue by actually keeping up with the pre-election polls, or bothering to read beyond my horoscope in The Boston Globe, I had extrapolated from the opinions of my college friends– my draft-card-burning, peace-rallying friends. I therefore assumed that the entire United States of America shared my loathing of Richard Nixon.

What a shame I had to remember that scene from my ignorant youth. For a moment there, with the sound of the Charlottesville guy's voice still bouncing around in my head, I could feel like a (relative) genius.

The author is a frequent radio essayist heard on Virginia NPR-station WVTF and nationally on PRI's "Marketplace" and NPR's "Day to Day."