Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My life as a Democrat

I wasn't always a Republican; I began life as a Democrat. This was particularly useful in Albany, NY, where Republicans did not have potholes in their streets fixed or the snow removed (There was a lot of snow).

Albany had a notorious Democratic political machine, reaching back to Martin van Buren, I guess. We had a county boss--Irish--who pulled the strings behind the scenes. Our Mayor, Erastus Corning II or III or V--I don't remember, was the longest serving mayor in the United States. He came from a fine old family. He didn't live in Albany, of course, having a nice place in the suburbs, but had a fictitious domicile of record on South Lake Avenue, I remember.

The Dems hired a lot of the local citizens as elevator operators or gardeners or such--something that would be done by a machine elsewhere. Also supplied baskets at Christmas, I think. They would clean your street if you applied to the proper person, and were a Democrat.

When we first moved to Albany, we lived on the second floor of an old house with very high ceilings, and therefore a long of flight of stairs. You really had to be young or strongly motivated to drop in chez Charm.

A regular visitor was our district leader, a little old man with a bad smoking habit. He would ring our doorbell, then climb the stairs, wheezing continually. He would take a few minutes to catch his breath, and then tell us who to vote for in a tremulous voice. We said okay and voted for whom we pleased.

We then bought a house. When we acquired it, it was assessed at a low figure, say $10,000. As soon as the property changed hands, the assessment went up to three times that. We were told that we had to call our Committeeman and ask him to represent us in lowering the assessment. Every time I called the guy he was going to a wake or funeral. (He was also Irish. And a politician.)Or a meeting. Or a wedding. Mr Charm prevailed upon someone in the know to talk to him, and he filed our assessment request. The cost immediately dropped back to $10,000.

Well, one thing led to another, and we moved to NJ. I took a notion to vote in the Republican primary; I knew one of the candidates. So I registered as a Republican. I tried to go back once or twice, but was too indolent. After a while I started to act like a Republican, and think like one. It was too late.

One of my friends, who had been an ardent and active Democrat, moved from the city to the suburbs. She called up someone in the Dem Party and offered to volunteer. They told her they didn't need any volunteers.

So she volunteered for the Republican Party. They were happy to have her. She was an indefatigable worker and knew everybody. She became a staunch Republican activist and rose to be County Republican Chair.

It's the first step that counts.

No comments: