Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In Memory of My Favorite Republican

I have been involved in Delaware Democratic Party politics since the 1970s and am currently married to an elected official who is a member of the Democratic Party,but I am not one who is unwilling to concede there may some good people on the other side of the ballot from time to time.

During the Senate Watergate hearings in the 1970s I admired the tough questioning by then-Republican US Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut. Locally, I admired the work State Sen.Andy Knox did on the Coastal Zone Act and State Sen. Dan Weiss did in raising the concerns of migrant farm workers in the 1970s. But if all is politics is local, it does not get more local than the dinner table and I shared one with my favorite Republican, Zelda M "Peg" Tobin, my mother who died 9-27-2009.

She grew up in a Republican family in Western Sussex where her father, Harry Speicher, was politically active for decades in Republican politics and her youngest brother David "Everett" Speicher served one term as a Republican state representative in the 1950s .Her natural interests lay outside politics. She loved music, playing the accordion and piano by ear, and worked as a registered nurse for over four decades. She was not predisposed to participate in partisan politics beyond voting.

I think she could be described as an "Eisenhower Republican", moderate on social issues and not opposed to supporting needed infrastructure like schools and highways, but she was no free-wheeling liberal when it came to public spending. In the weeks before she died , she repeatedly asked how President Obama could expect to pay for the expansion of health care. My recollection is she did not wish the US to seek foreign entanglements whether LBJ's War in Vietnam or George W Bush's Iraq War, although she believed in enough military to keep us safe and had married a World War II veteran.

At one point I probably wanted us to embrace my political philosophy,but now see that her tolerance of my political activity might have been the embrace I did not realize I had gotten.

During the 1972 election I volunteered in Sussex County for the McGovern for President campaign and the initial senatorial campaign for Joe Biden. The McGovern campaign in Sussex County did not have phone banks. It had volunteers who made calls from their homes. While my mother did not especially like politics and I doubt she voted for McGovern, she did not stand in the way when I turned our kitchen into a one person phone bank for a couple hours a night 3-4 nights a week for 6-8 weeks in the fall of 1972.

In a community that was still majorly impacted by the agricultural economy and was not particularly sympathetic to labor unions, she did not dissuade me from leafleting for the United Farm Workers Lettuce boycott .

As I continued my involvement in the Young Democrats, in student government at the University of Delaware and partisan election campaigns, she would occasionally remind me her impression that "politics is a dirty business" , but she always saved newspaper clippings of the times my political activity made the newspaper.

Looking back the embrace would not be for my politics,but for me doing something that was important to me and getting some occasional notoriety for it --even though politics was probably something she might have wished I had not invested my energy in so deeply.

Thanks , Mom.

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