Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published July 9, 2004

Click your Ruby Slippers


There it was on the second page of the Tribune. It was an insignificant six column inch story announcing the start of the most dangerous two-week period I face every year. The filings had opened for the fall election and a few early birds were already signed up. If I had been a werewolf it would have been just like looking at a full moon.


It wasnít always this way. When I was a kid I didnít want to be the President of the United States. I didnít even want to be a fireman, a fighter pilot, or a major league baseball player. I wanted to be a beachcomber! I wanted to collect sea shells. This was my dream until ninth grade when the Kuder Aptitude Test and my Civicsí teacher forced me to choose Landscape Architecture for the report on my future occupation. (Some other kid got my first choice - forest ranger.) Itís probably just as well. Nowadays shell hunters poison coral reefs with cyanide to supply the sea shell trade.


Even before Kuder I was unwittingly gravitating towards politics. Maybe it was my Grandfatherís study of the Civil War, or my Dadís political button collection, or my Motherís assurance that I wasnít really ugly, just Lincolnesque. Whatever it was, my ambitions began to change.


Debate helped. I joined the team in high school after I was stopped cold during an oral book report by a panic attack. I was so desperate to avoid another bout of humiliation that I asked my Dad how I could overcome this disability. He suggested Debate. When my Grandfather Robb, heard this he gave me the only compliment I ever heard him give a person who was still living. He thought it a valuable skill.


Eventually I managed to get up in front of people again. I was even nominated to represent my homeroom on the Student Council. As the only candidate to joke during his campaign speech I won - hands down. The following year I didnít joke around so Mary Wildason won the seat back.


I should have abandoned politics while I was ahead but getting votes is like winning an occasional slot machine payout. Random victories fuel addiction.


Today I'm the Harold Stassen of Duluth politics. Few, local pols have filed for public office more often than I have. Oh, the old war-horses in the legislature are a little ahead of me but they donít count. They always win. The charming difference between us is that, like Stassen, I rarely win. After eleven elections my record is two victories to nine losses.*


One of my Dadís pleasantest memories was sitting beside Harold Stassen on a cross country flight during the old manís twilight years. Harold wasnít always a byword for political futility. He came close to catching the brass ring and my Dad followed his early campaigns with intense interest. In 1948 Stassen narrowly lost the Republican Presidential nomination to New Yorkís Governor Thomas Dewey. The only Minnesotans to get closer to the Oval Office than Stassen were Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.


Stassen was the ďBoy WonderĒ of Minnesota politics. He was elected Governor in 1938 at the improbably young age of 31. He was immensely popular but he gave up the honor to join the military after Pearl Harbor .


When the war was over Harry Truman asked the Internationalist Stassen to help draft the Charter for the new United Nations. Truman wasnít going to make the same mistake Woodrow Wilson had made when he denied Republicans some say in the formation of the League of Nations.


Wilson wanted a League to keep the world safe for democracy. Ironically, todayís Republicans still want to save the world for democracy, but theyíd prefer to do it without the United Nations.


After coming so close to the nomination Harold Stassen just couldnít quit. He kept running every four years until 1992 when he was 85 years old. That gives me the willies.


OK! For the next two weeks I must remember Harold Stassen and stay far away from the County Auditorís office. I must remain content with writing my mildly annoying, bi-weekly column in the Northland Reader. I will not abandon my seven loyal readers.


I want all seven of you to close your eyes and click your ruby slippers together while repeating after me: ďDonít file for office, Harry!Ē ďDonít file for office!Ē


Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com


P.S. I was wrong two weeks ago when I complained that Kansas never got a President. I forgot about Ike. Dwight D. Eisenhower (although a Texan by birth) grew up in Abilene , Kansas . The city is the site of his Presidential Library. Ike might not have won the Republican nomination in 1952 had it not been for Harold Stassen who stepped aside and released his delegates to the General. I guess you donít have to get elected in order to make a difference.


*Heck, I've lost so many its hard to keep track of them all. Originally I wrote that I'd run in nine elections not eleven.