One last unedited political reverie…

… before the Duluth Shool Board election season kicks off

When I get back to Duluth from my Florida sojourn I’ll stick to school board business but that’s a few days off yet. Getting away from it all doesn’t really put it out of mind but does offer distance which can give one a healthy sense of perspective.

For some folks in Duluth my reputation as a Republican, freighted as that is with so many associations – the NRA, State’s Rights, Union busting, Moral Majority, Anti-choice, has always left me suspect even though my Republicanism was the polar opposite of these associations. That’s not true of all of them. Mike Jaros, who Republicans considered the next door neighbor of a commie when I arrived here in 1974, has become a fan. Today he laments that the GOP doesn’t have more folks like me in it despite the fact I ran against him twice in 1976 and 1978. Not that politics wasn’t rough and tumble then. It just wasn’t quite like recent years crusade mentality. It didn’t hurt that I called him up in 1976, told him was going to run against him, and then asked if we could have a cup of coffee together. I’ve never forgotten our conversation. He had roomed as a freshman legislator with my next door neighbor in Mankato, Dave Cummiskey. He probably didn’t know what to make of me when I told him that I’d gone door to door for Democrat Dave in 1972. That was also the year I declared myself a Republican. The Republican Dave ran against was growing senile but even back then that didn’t necessarily undermine party loyalty.

Since I filed as an independent candidate for Congress in 1992 I’ve pretty much been a man without a party although after that brief heresy I came back into the Republican fold. It helps me understand the ties that keeps today’s Democrats and Republicans from straying. Straying feels almost like family disloyalty.

So, today I read the Palm Beach Post’s scathing criticism of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s administration. Scott was a controversial nominee of the party after his company was given the biggest fine by the Federal Government for medicare fraud – $1.7 billion dollars.

Bear that in mind when you read today’s PBP editorial. The editorial gives a thumbnail sketch of 5 major Scott Administration appointees who resigned under “a cloud.” I kept thinking about how appalled my Republican Dad would have been to think this fellow was a Republican when I read it.

Dad got the political bug in junior high. I don’t know why. He made up lists of candidates for his parents to vote for at election time. He took particular umbrage to Boss Pendergast of St. Louis who’s corrupt administration lay just beyond Dad’s Independence Missouri doorstep. This was the late 1930’s when the GOP was still populated by small town progressives who decried corruption. To get a good sense of the era that produced such people I recommend Doris Kerns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit about Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. That was a generation before my Dad was born and it was interrupted by World War I, the Roaring Twenties and Prohibition but those events left a firm imprint on the Grand Old Party of my Father’s time.

My Dad’s father in law, George Robb was born two generations earlier. An escaped slave lived next door to his family home in Assaria, Kansas. When Larry Lapsley died George’s razor strapp Dad, Thomas Robb came back muttering darkly about the evils of slavery after having helped prepare the ex slave’s body for burial. Although my Grandfather never dared ask his father what affected him so he gave a speech about Lapsley to a bunch of business types in the 1940’s or 50’s in which he speculated that Lapsley might have been castrated which was a simple agricultural practice of the slave era when children were sold away from their mothers and their fathers were treated like steers. (Made eunuchs to control breeding) After the Civil War tens of thousands of freed slaves traveled the countryside searching out lost (sold) loved ones.

When my Grandfather Robb was a boy the GOP was very much the “Party of Lincoln.” It had calved into two portions one financed by the great plutocrats of the age and the other by small farmers and businessmen being bled dry by the depredations of monopolies like the Railroads. Sadly but not surprisingly neither of these interests much worried about the fate of freed slaves after Reconstruction came crashing to a halt in the aftermath of the 1876 election. Black interests were sold down the river again and the nail in the coffin followed with the big business Supreme Court’s 1896 ruling, two decades later, in Plessy vs. Fergusson.

I was born in 1950 four years before Plessy was overturned by the Supreme Court led by a liberal Republican Earl Warren whose picture I saw when I went to my swimming lessons. It was on an “Impeach Earl Warren” Billboard. My swimming teacher (and next door neighbor) built a pool in his backyard shortly after the Holiday Inn told him he couldn’t use their pool for Red Cross instruction anymore unless he barred black children from the lessons. That was the beginning of my era of Republicanism. It’s been several era’s actually as John Birchers’ and Dixiecrats flooded the party and then the “me” generation’s now aging cohort smoked doobies through the Vietnam War; latched onto the Moral Majority; then championed Reagan’s “big tent” Republicanism before the party was downsized by purging RINO’s like me in favor of the PTL Club of Pat Robertson and business leaders like Rick Scott who knew how to make a buck and spend them to win public office with all the official GOP talking points.

Even if the heirs of Mike Jaros look on me with suspicion I can’t help myself or my blog. I hate talking points whether they come from political operatives like Roger Ailes of Fox News or sore winners of the Red Plan who would rather assassinate the character of folks who question them rather than own up to the disappointments of their excessive spending. Remember that when you drive by one of our new temples to education over the crappiest streets in Minnesota.

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