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.
Balpreet Kaur says
It takes courage to do what you are doing. Having been at some of the family parties, everything always turned to politics and a few members were in control of the propaganda. I remember being appalled at some of the rhetoric, so scathing and superior.
Claire Conner says
Thanks, Balpreet. Your support and encouragement are appreciated.
Brent Wambold says
While I agree that extremes in either direction can be dangerous… there is nothing wrong in fearing the current administration or any group who wants to take more and more from the working class to give to those who “can’t seem to find anything to do”.
I resigned my teaching position 13 years ago to move home to care for my mother, after dad died. I found a position in my hometown high school. The liberal establishment drove me nuts….finally mother needed me more and I resigned that position. Mother died two years later. I have been out of work for almost six years. Because I saved and received a small enheritance, I qualify for no government safety net programs. Soon I will lose my home and be on the street.
Somehow many of the illegal aliens and most of those in the social safety programs, haven’t lost homes, cars, college educations, food stamps, voting, etc. Because I was taught to be conservative and live on less than $15k a year, I cannot get health care, cheaper utilities, free cell phones… Somehow the ones that spend everything can.
Do not throw out all your parents taught you…Much of the foundation is worth… yes, some of the rooms of such a house can be frought with hatred…but many can be safe havens in the storm that we are currently experiencing.
Claire Conner says
Brent: Thanks for the comment. I can hear the pain in your words. Obviously, you’ve walked a rough road and I can appreciate your anger. I hope you’ll continue to look at the roots of the far right and consider that a house built on anger and hatred is a house that can not stand.
Cece Smith says
Brent, you are assuming illegals get government handouts and they don’t. The do not qualify for food stamps or cash benefits. Also when welfare reform took place under Clinton, they set a lifetime max. for benefits of 5 years for those with small children and 90 days for those with out. Also, when someone has another child while on cash assistance, the benefit does not increase. The phone program you mentioned is run by a private FOR PROFIT company. I am responding because there is so much BS out there that leads people to believe that all there money is going to lazy people who don’t want to work, Paul Ryan just said it. BUT, that’s not where our taxes are going. They are going to the rich who have the bully pulpit to convince you it’s going to the poor. Wise up and realize you are being snowed.
Thinking part fo the reason so many fringe participants are so fearful is their inability to be fully responsible for themselves on multiple levels .. your mother’s very self referenced comment just wreeks of compassion, eh?! This all sounds so similar to what I heard from the alcoholics at my dinner table! And by God, they had their beer and whisky!
Kokua Guy says
I just found out about you through a friend who shared your Koch Empire video on Facebook along with a link to this post. Keep doing what you’re doing — the truth will set us free.
Claire Conner says
Thanks for the support, Kokua Guy. All of us have to work together to stop the radical right. Great to have you on the team.
Patsy Robertson says
I read your book in a day. It was well written and held my interest. I came from the era of the depression and segregation. I was raised to believe because a person’s skin was black they were second class citizens. We could not drink from the same fountains or have them eat in the same places we ate. But, my grandfather had a 100 acre farm and had a black woman which ran the house for him. We 6 kids loved that woman for she was so good and kind to us and she dipped snuff from the cutest box we ever saw. We thought that was so cool. As I grew older and saw how the blacks were treated I knew it was wrong. I was a southern girl, but became a southern woman who believed in the racist movement and voting rights. I picked the Democratic party because they were the party that was progressive. so glad you wrote this book informing the people of the John Birch Society and believe the tea party and libertarians have embraced their agenda. Our social programs have made us a great country and we must open more eyes so people can be more informed about voting. Thank you for all you are doing.
Norman Gadoury says
Give’em Hell, Claire Conner!
I’m sharing your blog with everyone I know.
Louise Afanasiw says
Claire I’ve ordered extra copies of your book to send one of my states senators, Elizabeth Warren, and perhaps the other to Bernie Sanders. I don’t know what good it will do, but you never know.
Keep it up! We need your voice!
cynthia curran says
Well, for years the political right said they would take care of illegal immigration. in fact under George W Bush the foreign born population that worked illegality peak in 2007 and is still down from that peak. Bush allow more employers to hire people here illegality to drive down wages its not just Democratic but also Republicans that want cheaper labor costs for business. In fact there are some right wingers mad that prop 187 was not enforced, basically it was to cut social benefits and schooling, no penalty for companies that hired illegal immigrants. This is one issue that drove me from the political right since they had a double standard. The State of California in there eyes was an illegal immigrant state while Texas which has the next largest population is not. The political right is more interested in having a state with no income tax rather than enforce laws against companies that hire workers here illegality. The Cursed California Praise Texas pushed me from the political right. A double standard.