This is not just another election

Full disclosure here: I am a Democrat, a Dorchester Democrat; which is a redundancy, really, since in my old Dorchester neighborhood a Republican was as rare as a Woolly Mammoth.

Before World War II, in much simpler times, Election Day in the neighborhood was an eagerly awaited event. After weeks of campaigning - lawn signs on front yards, candidates stickers in windows, roof signs on top of cars (bumper stickers hadn't appeared yet), and candidates cruising the streets with blaring sound trucks - the neighborhood was ready to vote. The night before election day we went to raucous rallies at the Old Dorchester American Legion post on Adams Street alongside the Eire Pub and at the G&G Deli on Blue Hill Avenue.

On election day itself, after school at St. Gregory's, a gang of us would head up to the Charles Taylor School on Morton Street where the game was to collect as many candidate post cards and buttons as you could fit into your jacket. And then we were off to the Gilbert Stuart School on Richmond Street ("the Gilby") to collect more from that precinct.

I don't remember what we did with all these candidate cards with their pictures and a listings of their often limited qualifications. If I had saved them over all these years it would be a treasure trove of Boston Politicana.

But that was then; what of now? Well, arguably this is probably the most important election since 1932 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a blue-blood, patrician Democrat from New York transformed the American Presidency - and America itself - for generations to come.

It was a time of economic turmoil such as we are witnessing now. Roosevelt took on the Great Depression, which was engulfing the country, and spearheaded sweeping reform and reconstruction programs - a minimum wage, child labor laws, a conservation corps, the WPA that re-built the nation's infrastructure and provided massive employment, food and drug laws, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Social Security. (Remember when this Bush Administration lobbied vigorously to privatize Social Security? That cynical notion would have proven disastrous in the current Wall Street melt-down).

The dramatic reforms of FDR were carried on by Harry Truman, in the New Frontier of Jack Kennedy and in the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson. They had as their core goals the protection of the working man and woman, the impoverished, our old and our young, and they gave us Medicare and Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, Affirmative Action, Public Housing, a Peace Corps and a Jobs Corps.

These were just some of the revolutionary programs that changed America for the better, and for good. They would be labeled today, and sneeringly, by the talk show hosts of the righteous right as "liberal," as though "liberal" were a communicable disease.

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of American political history would recognize that all the sweeping changes that have taken place since the founding fathers devised a Constitution and a Bill of Rights - two largely "liberal" documents - are at odds with today's bloviating broadcasters. The founding fathers, history shows, were more than just "liberals"; they were rebels. They were revolutionaries. It's why we call their struggle for freedom "The Revolutionary War."

This election of 2008 sees the nation poised again on the brink of dramatic changes as did that November election 76 years ago. The direction we choose will change America for generations to come. On Nov. 4, I will eagerly and proudly vote for that change as a Dorchester Democrat.

Jack Hynes was a reporter and news anchor at three of Boston's television stations - WCVB (32 years), WBZ, (a year), and WLVI (22 years) - during his more than 50 years as a local broadcaster.