Harry Welty is a Republican?
"Harry, why aren't you a Democrat?"
If I had a nickel.......
In 1971 I was a good, open minded, non partisan, independent, college kid. My folks were liberal, Rockefeller Republicans. When I was in junior high my Republican Dad used to bitch and swear at the television every time LBJ, the Democrat President, announced that he was sending more troops to Vietnam. Dad had voted for LBJ in 1964 because, like many Americans, he thought Barry Goldwater was too trigger happy with the A bomb. So, my Dad was suckered into voting for an anti-war Democrat who, after his election, just kept making the Vietnam war bigger and bigger. My Mom agreed with my Dad. When her father, George Robb, found out that she had voted for LBJ in preference to his hero Goldwater, it nearly broke his heart.
My Dad raised me to revere his father-in-law, perhaps because his own Dad was an alcoholic. So did my Mom. When I was little and got banged up she used to tell me, "Don't cry Harry. Your Grandfather was shot and he didn't cry." You see, George Robb had gone off to a war he thought was folly because he believed in "My country right or wrong." For his troubles he came back with a Congressional Medal of Honor. Its no wonder I admired my Grandfather.
Grandfather once told me never to vote for a Democrat because he had done it once and it had been the worst mistake of his life. He had voted for a presidential candidate who promised to keep America out of war but once elected, Woodrow Wilson did just the opposite.
George Robb was a single, thirty year old, school principal, with a master's degree in History from Columbia University when he enlisted. He served in the 369th Infantry, a unit composed of African-American, soldiers from Harlem.
As a war hero, an educated man, and a faithful Republican, it was natural for Governor Alf Landon to appoint my Grandfather to replace the Democrat State Auditor who unexpectedly died in office. A few weeks after taking his new office the Governor gave George Robb some marching orders. He was to replace the old Auditor's office staff because they were Democrats. My Grandfather told the Governor that the people in his office were honest, capable, workers and that he had no intention of replacing them with Republicans. Twenty-four years later when my Grandfather retired, having never lost an election for Auditor, some of those Democrats were still working with him.
Seven years after that darned Democrat LBJ had got us mired in Vietnam I was an independent minded, college kid who got a chance to apply for a summer internship in Washington D.C. with our local Congressman. Poor old Ancher Nelson used to rotate the internship between the two colleges in his District, Mankato State and Gustavus Adolphus. But the kids at Gustavus hadn't treated Ancher very well at his last appearance there. Ancher, a Republican, had defended the new President's foreign policy. The new President was Richard Nixon and he had taken up where the Democrat LBJ had left off. He let the war get bigger. Although the summer of 1971 was supposed to be the year for Gustavus kid to intern none of them applied. Mankato State got the honor for a second straight year and I was selected to go.
While in Washington I had the opportunity to listen to many famous lawmakers. Because I agreed with my parents I did not bother to attend the speech given by Barry Goldwater but I heard about it afterward. It seems that the liberal, anti-war, college, students hooted hollered and cat called all through his speech. I was offended for the Senator because I was a disciple of Voltaire who said: "I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
This self-righteous attitude condemned people like my Grandfather. It also condemned people like my anti-war parents because it stereotyped all Republicans as rich warmongers. I had already marched against the war and would again, but I couldn't abide the callow, self-righteousness which pervaded so many college campuses.
I had always been obstinate. Now I discovered just how contrary I could be. I became a Republican. Not a pure Republican like my Grandfather, but a Republican never the less. In 1972 I got a summer job working for the Republicans but I shunned an offer to work for Nixon's CREEP (The Committee to Reelect the President). In fact, after a long summer of working for local Republicans that fall I voted for George McGovern.
In subsequent years the image of Watergate was thrown at me on numerous occasions - Republicans were untrustworthy. It was a generalization not unlike my Grandfather's belief that, given an opportunity, all Democrats would start wars. That was an idea which I never paid much attention to despite Woodrow's and Lyndon's example.
My Grandfather may have had simplistic ideas about political parties, at least as he handed them down to his grandson, but he had a much more sophisticated view of people. He judged them on their merits.