Thursday, May 15, 2008

Women In Politics

My aunt Dixie was the longest-serving elected official in the history of Elkhart, Indiana, having served for eons as the City Clerk. My cousin Sue -- Dixie’s daughter -- is now the City Clerk.

My grandmother was a Massachusetts Republican back when there was almost no such thing. She worked on the senate campaign of Ed Brooke* and the gubernatorial campaigns of John Volpe. She was a delegate to the 1960 Republican National Convention in Chicago. So was aunt Dixie. Nixon was the nominee, although aunt Dixie really preferred a young actor named Ronald Reagan and Grandma was pledged to Nelson Rockefeller. She never liked Nixon.

These two were pioneers of a sort, both pretty fierce in their beliefs about advancing women’s rights and activism and all that. I guess Republicans were a little different in those days.

My mom went to the convention as a visitor and somehow got onto the main convention floor. We have a wonderful picture of my mom and aunt Dixie and some of the Indiana delegates with then-Senator Homer Capehart. Homer looked as though he’d been up all night drinking and eating pancakes, complete with rumpled coat and stained necktie. (I’ve always wondered if Homer Simpson were modeled after the portly senator from Indiana.)

That convention featured a last-minute, behind-closed-doors deal between Nixon and Rockefeller, his chief rival for the nomination. The deal assured Nixon’s nomination but, according to most accounts, Nixon had it sewn up anyway. His need for such a deal is now seen as evidence of Nixon’s raging insecurities.

I hope Senators Obama and Clinton can reach some kind of accord before the convention, although it might be the highest form of political theatre if the nomination isn’t won on the first ballot.

It will be interesting to see if Michelle Bachmann can keep from hurling herself at John McCain when he comes to this year’s convention in St. Paul.

* Brooke has been in the news lately because Barbara Walters claims she had an affair with him long, long ago. Commendably, he’s maintained his silence on the matter.

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