Thursday, May 02, 2013

Creating a voter

My parents made me a left-of-centre voter. I don’t think they set out to do that, but then again, yes they did. Obviously there’s a story in that.

This post topic came about because of my friend Kit’s comment on Facebook about yesterday’s post, “May Day and me”, which got me thinking about the specific influence my parents had on my political development and growth. This post expands on what I said in reply to her. Kit explained how her parents were left of centre, but mine certainly weren’t.

My parents were staunch Republicans. As I’ve mentioned before, one of my earliest memories is of a mock presidential election in my Kindergarten, and I said on my podcast that I “voted” for Barry Goldwater—because my parents did. Four years later, my parents backed Nixon, then Nixon again and then Ford.

One day, when I was still pretty young, my dad was getting ready for the day and his jewellery box was open after he’d gotten some cufflinks out. In it, I saw a red, white and blue Nixon/Lodge campaign button. He often talked about that election and complained that Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley had “stolen” it for John F. Kennedy. Something about voting machines tossed into the Chicago River (I didn’t pay much attention…).

So with a clearly Republican family, it seemed I was destined to be one, too—but things didn’t work out that way.

As far back as I can remember, my parents talked about the issues of the day. Although much of it was from a more or less right of centre perspective (and the voting machine conspiracy theory wouldn’t be out of place among modern Republicans…), they also valued facts, evidence and the free exchange of ideas.

As I grew older, we discussed the issues as equals. What I wrote back in 2011 in a post for my mother’s birthday sums it up:
“…neither my mother nor father ever dismissed what I had to say, or told me to be quiet, even though I had far less life experience than they did, and very little of my own. If they ever thought that I was naive or immature or my views simplistic, they never said so, even though some of my views had to be one or all of those things at least sometimes.”
I also said in that post that “by encouraging me to think, to discuss and to debate, [my parents] nurtured my growing interest in all things political.” I could have added that this led to my steady move leftward.

I know for certain that my parents voted in Democratic primaries at least twice: 1974 and 1978. In 1974, our local police chief, E.J. "Chick" LaMagdeleine, was running for sheriff of our county against the incumbent, Republican Pat Clavey, who was widely regarded as corrupt (he was later convicted of income tax evasion and perjury and served time in prison). LaMagdeleine won that election, but the county was very Republican and in 1978 the Republican candidate defeated him. LaMagdeleine died in 1998 and Clavey died last year.

My parents were both dead before the 1980 election, so I have no idea who they’d have voted for. I like to think it wouldn’t have been Reagan, but I really don’t know. However, they were pretty centrist overall—conservative-ish at most—and would be appalled by the extremism of the modern Republican Party, so I’m convinced that, like me, they’d be voting for Democrats now.

What my parents taught me through our discussions and their own behaviour was that it’s okay to grow and evolve. So, while my parents didn’t set out specifically to make me a left of centre voter, they did try to guide me into being a good voter and responsible citizen. Were they still alive, I’m sure we wouldn’t agree on every issue—we never did—but we’d be in a similar place on most political issues.

All of which is more evidence for why I think my parents were pretty damn awesome.

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