Fact or Fiction
It may sound like a fairy tale but once upon a time the GOP really were…well, pretty Grand!
Today when the phrase “moderate Republican” is fast becoming an oxymoron, it seems like fiction to imagine a time when there really were progressive, liberal Republicans who roamed the political landscape and were actually in the vanguard of the civil rights movement.
Such as liberal Republicans from the northeast like Jacob Javits who by all rights should have been a democrat.
Having watched his father work N.Y.’s Tammany Hall and saw the corruption and graft associated with that N.Y. Machine, Javits joined the Republicans in the 1930’s supporting the Progressive Republicans for Mayor Fiorella La Guardia. After a stint in the House of Representatives, and then as N.Y. Attorney General, he ran for senator in 1956.
The longtime senator from New York was a leader of Progressive Republicanism for more than 3 decades, and was one of the most liberal voices in the senate.
His was also my second kiss from a politician.
The politician and the bald-headed baby were made for one another.
A baby’s first kiss from a politician is always remembered…and mine in 1955 was no exception.
A Campaign Kiss
On my first Independence Day in the summer of 1955, my parents believed it was time for its littlest citizen to be introduced to her Uncle Sam and “My America.” And what better place to be inculcated with truth, justice and the American way than at an honest to goodness fourth of July campaign rally.
July fourth was the official campaign kickoff , which seemed natural enough since the right to vote was as American as the hot dog.
The hot weather seemed to have little effect on the swarm of soggy seersucker suited town-clerk-district-court-judge-town-supervisor-hopefuls buzzing and circulating around the rally in suburban Long Island. Displaying high beam campaign poster smiles with their Arthur Murray-toned wives in tow, they glad-handled handing out emery boards and plastic rain bonnets with their names emblazoned on them, scanning the crowd for a baby to kiss.
Nothing said the America Way of Life more than that age-old kiss from a politicians and it didn’t take long before some Nassau county comptroller-wannabee’s radar had me in his sights.
Mopping his brow, and peeling off his jacket, a well upholstered Sicilian-American with a melting pot belly and unruly eyebrows waddled over towards us, clumsily clutching a hot dog in one hand.
He savored fully the juices that trickled down his chin, licked a spot of mustard off his cheek, and bent over to kiss me on the top of my head while with a greasy hand, presented Mom with a wink and a green plastic comb with his name emblazoned on it, hoping to win her vote.
The tangy residue of French’s yellow mustard and the sandpaper sensation of the heavy stubble on his chin lingered on my forehead longer than his name lingered with my parents.
A Javit’s Republican Puckers Up
But when a balding gentleman, the charismatic N.Y.State Attorney General, who despite the heat was crisp and cheerful in a brown suit and purple hued tie, chose my own bald little head to kiss, Mom was ecstatic.
“That should be good for a few dozen votes when he runs for the senate next year,” Dad chuckled.
There was talk of the Attorney General running for senate next year, which explained why Jacob Javits was out in full force helping local campaigns in our small suburban town.
The Jews claimed Jack Javits as one of their own which was why he was the first and only Republican my Roosevelt-nik-New Deal Democrat mother every voted for. The fact that Javits had run against FDR Jr made the choice even more agonizing for Mom, but being Jewish trumped everything.
As Javits bent down to kiss me, his breath fruity from a constant consumption of cough suppressing cherry flavored cough drops, a skinny young photographer from The Long Island Press fortuitously captured the moment forever.
The yellowing photo from the newspaper would lay pressed in my baby book pages for the next 50 years, right next to my inoculations records
I shudder to think what Jake Javits would think of the racist and xenephobic virus that has now infected his once grand party.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.