The formation of political allegiance
I shall discuss, in random fashion, some of the influences that have formed my current political thinking.
While growing up in Brooklyn, the relatives I saw most frequently were Irish/Catholic/Democrats. Individuals falling outside this category were said to be "not one of our kind." The great majority of my ancestors were working folk --- none to my knowledge had ever attended college. My father was a voracious reader of such papers as the Broklyn Eagle, the Herald Tribune and the Daily News. However, I do not believe the small book shelf in our living room contained more that ten or so hard covered volumes.
While in the National Guard, my father had served on the military staffs of two Democrat governors, Alfred E. Smith and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. At sometime or other he had obtained their autographed photos which he had framed and hung on a wall in our living room. When Smith and Roosevelt split as the result of their conflicting political ambitions, my father took down Al Smith's picture and relegated it to the closet. When it came to political choices, relgion did not rule the day.
In the course of attending Holy Innocents grammar school, my brother and I were persuaded to join the Catholic Boys Brigade. We were outfitted in militaristic khaki uniforms festooned with purple velvet epaulets and gold buttons.
A regiment was formed that met in the basement of the church. The Brigade was presumably an attempt by the Catholic authorities to offer an alternative to the Boy Scouts, which was widely believed to be under the conspiratorial thumb of Protestants. Our meetings largely consisted of marching up and down in lock step not unlike the young fascists appearing in the newsreels of the day. Fortunately, the organization's life was brief.
In 1939 our family moved to Allendale, New Jersey. In this rural area, nearly everyone, including my mother's parents and six brothers, were Republicans. Nevertheless, my early political imprint caused me to speak out on behalf of F.D.R. when he ran against Wendell Willkie. (Willkie was an internationalist who would most likely be scorned by the Republican party of today.)
In Allendale I joined the Boy Scouts and met a number of agreeable Republican/Protestants. I was elevated to the rank of Life Scout, and was chosen to be leader of the Wolf Patrol. How sweet it was. In those uncomplicated days, politics were hardly ever discussed.
Upon turning 18, I cast my first vote in the Presidential election pitting Harry Truman against Tom Dewey. I remember entering the voting booth in a total state of confusion. I knew little of the issues. Impulsively, I put aside my Democratic heritage and voted for Governor Dewey, the only Republican Presidential candidate who has ever received my vote. Later, I would have voted for Dwight Eisenhower, were it not for the marvellous eloquence of Adlai Stevenson.
Now that I have revealed my persistent Democratic voting pattern, I suppose the reader could call me intransigent or liberal or hopelessly biased. Perhaps I fall in one or more of these categories. However, at some point in the future it is not at all out of the question that I shall vote for someone other than a Democrat for the nation's highest office. It will not happen this year.