My parents and my favorite uncle stopped in for a brief visit yesterday morning. We served brunch and had a lovely chat. I haven’t seen Uncle Ralph since my grandmother’s funeral. Sad, but true.
As breakfast wound down, my father turned to me and said, “So, how do you think the Dems are going to do now that the election is over?” Wow … a real grown up question. I must be a real grown up now.
I think the election was a vindication of Howard Dean’s leadership strategy. This is a strategy that Dean originated in his presidential campaign of 2004. The Democrats have been famous for extremely selectively spending their money. They have been putting all of their eggs in just a few baskets for years. That is, attempting to determine which races they have the most chance of winning and then putting all the money towards those. Howard Dean reversed that trend and leverage the funds by spreading them far and wide. His strategy (which the Republicans have been using for years) is, win by 1%, just win in a lot of places. I’d say it worked.
We went on to talk about the rot in the national system versus the new blood that is now pouring into the state and local systems as a result of this election. It was a grownup conversation with my dad, my uncle and me. I was an adult conversing with two other adults. A baton was passed. A piece of my soul relaxed, flourished and grew in that moment.
Then a surprise and shock. My dad and my uncle dropped a bomb on me. They were unaware it was a bomb. It was information they always knew. I had made assumptions about my grandparents (their parents) based on what I knew of their characters, but they were not Democrats. My beloved grandfather and grandmother were … Republicans. My mind stretched and cobbled and is still trying to bridge the tension between what I know of who they were and how they could have voted for Republicans. My uncle explained it this way, “When I was growing up all the Catholics voted Democrat and all the Protestants voted Republican. We were Protestant, so we were Republican.” He went on to recount the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was approximately LightBoy’s age. He recalled his parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents sitting around bewailing the communist/socialist tendencies of Roosevelt. That the country was coming to an end and that FDR was the equivalent of Hitler or Mussolini.
I tried to excuse this impolite transgression of my grandfather’s by revising the Republican history of the 20th century. Not so, my father reminded me. The Republicans of early to mid-century were happy to do business with the Nazi party in Germany, or the party in power in Italy (if I were a better historian I’d remember the name). What I can not come to terms with is how my grandfather, a stalwart union (Teamster) organizer and supporter, came to terms himself with the policies and politics of the Republican party … which was and is staunchly anti-union? And so, the mystery remains. It would seem that no one ever particularly talked politics with Grampy and I was never old enough.