In "The Secret Knowledge" David Mamet, a very successful playwright and screenwriter, talked about how and why he became a conservative. Reading that book inspired me to share my own story. I call this post the preface because you, dear reader, cannot understand my conversion from a die hard Democrat who has once registered in the Peace and Freedom party to a Reagan Republican, unless you know how I got my political start.
I was raised by a single mother and had an older and a younger sister. Although we didn't have much money and lived with my grandparents from time to time to get through, I have many happy memories of my childhood. I grew up in what I still believe to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, Southern California. Back then it was more rural, and less crowded. The beautiful natural beaches with which Los Angeles is blessed and the majestic mountain backdrop that can be seen only when the sky is not smoggy, were a given when I was a kid. I thought everybody had that kind of beauty in their lives.
My mother was a liberal, perhaps in rebellion against her parents (my grandparents' ) conservative views. At any rate, one of my early memories was of being scolded by my mother for repeating the old sing songy rhyme, "eeny, meeny, money, moe, catch a ..... by the toe" the way I learned it was with a word my mother told me she would wash my mouth out if I ever used it again. I have used it since only to report on the use of it by others. You know, the "n" word. I was also told that, even in that period shortly after WWII when the bombing at Pearl Harbor was still as vivid to Americans as the memory of 9/11 is to this generation, I was never to refer to persons of Japanese American ancestry as Japs and that they were not responsible for the war. (meaning Japanese Americans as opposed to the Japanese government). So, long before it was really fashionable, I was indoctrinated to be accepting of people without regard to race or ethnicity. I was taught that Franklin Roosevelt (not Teddy) was the greatest American president and that we didn't like Ike.
I grew up content in this left wing belief system and, when I became interested in church and religion in my teens, I found myself believing that the Democrat party and Christ were pretty well aligned in their belief systems. In high school I got involved with a left wing group that was picketing the old Woolworth's store in downtown Los Angeles because their lunch counters were segregated in the south. I walked on peace marches calling for unilateral disarmament and listened to Linus Pauling. The greatest moment of my 17th year was meeting Adlai Stevenson, who lost the nomination to Jack Kennedy. Having just lost the nomination, Stevenson put his arm around me and consoled me in my disappointment. In college I saw Jack Kennedy speak at USC and was awed.
After I graduated from college in 1964, I became a social worker and became involved in starting and growing an SEIU local. I became ever more left wing, I think, mostly because it was fashionable back then. It was the 60's. I was what was called a weekend hippy flower child. I worked at a regular job but affected a sort of hippy life style after hours and on weekends. I lived in tiny apartments and drove foreign imports and, I think, really had a lot of fun.
Then I hit 25 and became more serious with life. Married, back to law school, became a mom. Graduated. Went to work for a firm that represented labor unions because that was my dream. Represented the Musician's Union. Went to work for the EEOC, moved to San Francisco and then to Washington D. C. I like to say that one of Jimmy Carter's great achievements was that he made me a Republican. In 1984, for the first time in my entire life up to then, I voted for a Republican, Ronald Reagan. The thought of doing that when I had the opportunity to vote for him as governor in the 60's would have been repugnant and totally rejected. But my views on politics had become transformed. Like Ronald Reagan, I believed that I had not left the Democratic party. It had left me.
Looking back I realize that there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of incidents and experiences that contributed to that change of view, and finally, they all crystallized in 1984. I changed my registration and have never gone back. I intend to share a few of those experiences in the hope that other people will experience a wake up moment as Governor of New Mexico Susanna Martinez did, and as I did, and say, "I'll be damned. I'm a Republican".