Dancing, Bridge, and Republicans
In July 1934, my father was living in Virginia where he worked for the Wrigley Company. He returned to Chicago to visit his mother when friends fixed him up on a blind date with Laurene Koenig. She was lovely, quiet, and practical. He was suave, outgoing, and daring. In the case of my parents-to-be, opposites attracted.
They did share three interests. They loved dancing to Big Band Music. I knew that, but I was absolutely surprised to discover that they had a secret, special song, “I’m in the Mood for Love.” Both of them played Bridge. Mother was a student of the game while Dad went with his gut. So, they were excellent partners, indeed. Finally, even at their young ages (Dad was 24, Mother was 21) , they were interested in Republican Party politics.
Before they were married, my parents agreed that Franklin Roosevelt was awful, and they hated every single part of the New Deal. They also shared a growing concern about the danger of Communism.
Hating Democrats and Communists
By the time I was five, I knew that my parents and their friends hated Communists and Democrats in equal measure. If anyone said Democrat, Roosevelt or Truman, they got an angry dose of “Pinko,” and “fellow traveler.” I didn’t know what those words meant, but I understood swearing when I heard it.
In early 1959, Mother and Dad found their permanent political home in the John Birch Society, a brand-new anti-Communist, anti-government organization dedicated to “taking back the country.”
Anti-Communist was the first thing that attracted my parents to the Society, but the emphasis quickly shifted to internal threats to the country. The John Birch Society focused on the federal government and all of the “socialism” being passed in Congress. As my dad said: “Communism and its evil twin Socialism are taking over the joint.”
Stopping Socialism and Communism
For the John Birch Society and my parents, the only cure for evil socialism was to end every government program not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.
They gleefully anticipated the end of Social Security, the demise of all welfare programs and the elimination of federal funding for anything. They insisted that regulation was such a threat to business that it all had to be done away with, even nuclear regulation, all environmental regulation and anything that could, in any way, limit free enterprise.
All progressive policies passed after the Great Depression had to be undone along with that pesky Sixteenth Amendment (allowing for income tax), and that scary Seventeenth (allowing for the direct election of Senators).
What John Birch Ideas Really Mean.
Here are some of the federal programs and departments that would vanish if the John Birch Society had its way. Say good-bye to:
- Social Security
- Unemployment compensation
- Food Stamps
- Anything labeled “welfare”
- Aid to Education and the Education Department
- Labor protections defined by federal law and enforced by the Labor Department
- FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
- FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
- OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
- Department of Commerce
- Energy Department (which handles the Nuclear programs)
- Grants for medical research
- Highway programs
- Federal infrastructure programs
- Healthcare and any other programs of the Health and Human Services department
Most Americans cannot begin to grasp the revolutionary nature of these ideas. But, according to the John Birch Society and my parents, these changes would create a utopia where business and individuals would be free to do anything unrestrained by regulation. In this place, there would be no labor unions, no safety net, no corporate taxes or personal taxes.
One day I asked my mother about this kind of America. I told the story of this conversation during an interview with Jen Senko when she was interviewing me for her new film, “The Brainwashing of My Dad.” (Premiering March 18, 2016)
Click on the link below to hear the story.