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Politics. The word alone evokes a vast array of emotions. In the context of our lives, politics conjures up imagery, memories, opinions, and heated debates, and the word 'politics'in and of itselfcan't help but be extremely personal.
For many, making a party affiliation (no matter the party) can be one of the most defining and memorable moments of one's life. Your own political beliefs are a testament to your character, igniting your passions, strengthening your convictions, and exemplifying what you hold most dear and true in your heart. In Democrat's Soul, we set out on a journey to explore the personal significance that being a Democrat has on one's own history, development, ideologies, relationships, and so much more.
Democrat's Soul is not only an exploration, but a commemoration of the nostalgia and pride each party member has for its founders, its fighters, and its future. And what you'll find throughout these pages encapsulates good old Democrat zeal with compelling first-person stories from fellow Democrats, wit and wisdom from some of your favorite leaders, historical tidbits, and photos that illustrate the pivotal moments in Democrat history. Along the way, you'll laugh at clever cartoons, reminisce while reading excerpts from inspiring Democrat speeches, and test your political knowledge with trivia and must-know facts.
All in all, this political pick-me-up will entertain, educate, inspire, and give you a tried-and-true view of everything blue.
He was honest.
He cared about the community.
He had good ideas.
Tony was my neighbor, and he was running for town council. It was 1975. I was in high school, Richard Nixon had just resigned, and the Vietnam War was coming to a close. America was changing, and my neighbor Tony was going to help make things better.
Tony was in his early thirties. He lived in the split-level ranch next door with his wife and their two small children. One of my sisters babysat for the kids. I raked their yard. Tony was excited about becoming a member of the town council. He was running against a longtime incumbent, and he wasn't supposed to have a chance. Everyone but Tony knew that he couldn't win.
I remember the night Tony announced his candidacy to my parents. We sat on my parents' back porch as Tony pleaded his case. 'This town needs change,' he told them. 'We need to be represented.' And he was right. We lived in a small, new development in rural northeastern Connecticut. The development and its residents were markedly different from the farms and Yankee farmers surrounding it. The needs of the commuting suburbanites were very different from those of the more entrenched farmers. The suburbanites required more services from the town, and the political landscape was changing.
'Do I have your vote?' Tony finally asked my mom and dad.
Without hesitation, my father answered him: 'We don't vote.'
Tony was flabbergasted. 'Never?' he asked. 'You've never voted?' They hadn't, and my dad made it clear that they weren't about to start now. Tony looked to my mother for help. She shook her head.
Over and over, Tony asked my parents why they didn't vote, and the answer was always the same: it didn't matter. They didn't believe their votes would make a difference.
Tony spent the next half-hour trying to convince my parents to register to vote. He talked about civic duty, about responsibility to the community, and about making the town better for their children. Tony talked until my parents were out of polite patience. Finally, Tony made a personal appeal.
'Will you do it for me? Will you do it just to help your neighbor?'
They politely refused. Tony finally gave up.
Tony ran a great grassroots campaign. He walked door to door and talked to everyone who would listen. He was honest, he cared about the community, and he had good ideas. With each passing day, Tony closed the gap on the longtime incumbent.
In the final days before the election, Tony tried repeatedly to convince my parents to vote. I remember him telling them, 'This is going to be a very close election. I'm going to need every vote.' Mom and Dad were unmoved.
You've probably figured out the end of this story. After all, it is pretty predictable. Tony lost by a single vote. Had my parents voted for him, he would have won by a single vote. Things were never the same between Tony and my parents. I never saw them speak again. About six months after the election, Tony put his house up for sale. It sold quickly, and Tony and his family moved away less than a year after the election.
My parents never considered Tony's defeat their fault. They often discussed it, but only with each other. It always seemed to me that they just couldn't admit, even to themselves, that they were wrong about their votes not counting. My parents never did register to vote. My mother passed several years ago; she lived her whole life without ever casting a vote. Dad is nearly eighty, and also has no intention of ever voting.
The incident had a lasting effect on me. I registered to vote the day I was eligible, and I've voted in every electionmajor and minorsince then. Even when I was in the service and far from home, I voted in every election. My sisters mailed information to me about the issues and candidates, and I cast absentee ballots. I voted in several presidential elections this way. Both of my sisters were similarly affected. They, too, vote in every election.
And the best part is that my children have learned the lesson, too. All three of my daughters votein every election. We live in Florida, and we were here for the Florida 2000 election debacle. My entire familyexcept for my youngest daughter, who was too young to vote thenvoted in that election. We watched the election night results together until the wee hours of the morning. Like many others, we were greeted that Wednesday morning, after very little sleep, with the news that the election had not been decided.
I was thrilled when my youngest daughter told me: 'You're right, Dad. Every vote does count!' Even though she was too young to vote in that election, she learned the same lesson I had learned twenty-five years before: even if it is cliché, every vote does count, and we all have a responsibility to vote.
By their example, my parents taught me that every vote counts, and their refusal to vote actually determined the outcome of an election. I learned by watching my parents do the wrong thing. I wanted my daughters to learn by the right example, and so I took at least one of them to the polling place every time I voted. Not only did I create fond memories of holding one of my daughters' hands while casting my vote, I also feel I helped them understand the responsibility we all have as citizens. By sharing the story of Tony's heartbreaking run for office, I gave them a real-life example of the truth in the statement that 'every vote counts.'
C. A. Verno
My first political confrontation happened in 1960 when I was in third grade. I wore a John F. Kennedy campaign button to school, and a sixth-grader called me a liberal and tried to rip it off my Howdy Doody/Clarabell T-shirt. The button had a picture of JFK in the middle and the words 'Students for Kennedy.' I didn't know I was a liberal. I don't think I even knew I was a student. Well, the worm turned, and at seven years old, I could no longer afford to be apolitical.
Before this incident, most of my quarrels had to do with the great Yankee/Bosox wars that broke out every summer like poison ivy. If you lived in Connecticut, you were a New York Yankee fan, a Boston Red Sox fan, or a commie. The Yankee/Bosox wars tore apart more families than the Civil War and no-fault divorces combinedincluding mine. I lived and died with the Yankees, and my dad, a Sox fan, knew all he had to do to see me tear up with anger was declare, 'Mickey Mantle's a bum' or 'Roger Maris is a Republican.'
I don't know why Roger Maris being a Republican upset me. I wasn't even sure what a Republican was, but I knew I hated them worse than the times tables. The 1960 presidential campaign made me and most other third-graders in Plantsville's South End Elementary School put aside previously significant things like baseball and penmanship. This was playground politics at its most repugnant. Every recess, insults were hurled ('Nanny-nanny-nanny goat, Kennedy's a billy goat'), Mighty Mouse lunch boxes were stomped, and Twinkies were lobbed. Personally, I never wasted a Twinkiean apple, maybe; a carrot, certainlybut not a Twinkie. My youthful brain couldn't understand why anyone would choose Nixon over Kennedy. Nixon was from Californiathe weirdo statewhile Kennedy was one of usa New Englander. Kennedy was a Democrat, while Nixon was a stinkin' Republican. Why, just saying the word 'Republican' would make my mouth scrunch up like I had a mouthful of turnips.
If Richard Nixon played baseball, I thought, he'd play for the Red Soxthen I'd spit. I always spit after I said 'Red Sox,' so I had to be careful not to utter those words at the dinner table or in church. I made no secret of the reason I backed Kennedy. It wasn't his foreign policy, his economic strategy, or his dodge ball abilities. It was because I had a wicked crush on his wife, Jackie. My father and I may have disagreed about baseball, but we agreed on Jackiehubba, hubba. I also supported Kennedy because he was Catholic, as was I.
Actually, until that election, I thought everybody was Catholic. I'd heard of Jewish people, but I thought they were Jewish Catholics. One night Walter Cronkite reported that Kennedy might lose votes because he was Catholic. It was then that my mother explained to me that not everyone was Catholicin fact, she wasn't Catholic. First, no Easter Bunny, then no Tooth Fairy, and now my mother wasn't Catholic! What next, no Santa? That wasn't the worst of it. Not only was Mom not Catholicshe was Mormon! I didn't know a Mormon from a Republican, but I'd seen pictures of them in covered wagons, and they all had beardseven the women.
After a stiff drink of Ovaltine, I managed to put the Mormon thing on the back burner and ask why some people wouldn't vote for a Catholic. Mom told me that people were afraid that if a Catholic were elected, the Pope would run the country. I wasn't sure I wanted the Pope running the country either, and this information almost put me in the Nixon camp. I mean, I was a Catholic, sure, but not to a fault. I figured if the Pope ran the country, he might make us learn Latin, and I was having a hard enough time passing third-grade English. The following year I'd be ready to give up Catholicism completely after discovering that only Catholics couldn't eat meat on Friday. I hated fish, and vegetarians weren't invented yet. I tried to talk my parents into letting me join the Methodists, at least on Fridays.
My mother, 'The Mormon,' as I now regarded her, might've gone for it, but my Irish Catholic father would have none of it. I outsmarted them, thoughI gave up fish for Lent every year. So, thanks to Catholicism, baseball, and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the die was cast: I was a lifelong Democrat. I've only voted for a Republican presidential candidate once. That was in 1972 when I voted for . . . you guessed it, Richard Nixon. I also now live in Californiathe weirdo stateand I hate the Yankees more than the times tables. I even enjoy a nice swordfish steak now and again. Life has a way of doing thatthrowing you an occasional curveball.
©2008. C. A. Verno and James Alexander. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Democrat's Soul. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.