My father’s votes and my mother’s apostasy
When my parents married, he was 40, she was 20. As far as he was concerned, she was worth waiting for and could do no wrong.
My father was a Republican. In fact, that’s an understatement. He began voting in 1912 (the year my mother was born), voted in 12 presidential elections, and never crossed over to the “D” column. Back then you could save time by putting an “X” in one box, known in our house as the “straight Republican ticket.”
First it was Taft in 1912, and last it was Eisenhower in 1956. In between, 10 presidential elections, he voted for Hughes, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover (twice), Landon, Wilkie, Dewey (also twice), and Eisenhower. My dad had a pretty good run in the 1920s, then went into a slump in the ‘30s and ‘40s, but emerged a winner his last two times at the ballot box.
How do I know this? He told me so in a conversation I initiated when I was around 16.
“Dad, you’re a Republican, right?”
“Yes, I sure am,” he replied.
“You have friends who are Democrats,” I said.
“Of course,” my father answered, without saying just how many or whom they were.
“Would you ever vote for a Democrat?” I wondered aloud.
“Yes I would,” he said.
“Have you ever done so?” I asked him.
He paused, as if trying to remember, then said, “No, not that I can recall.”
“Well Dad,” I pressed on, “you’ve been voting since when, 1912?”
“That’s right, I turned 21 that year,” he told me.
I did a quick calculation. “So, you’ve voted in 11 elections and you’ve never voted for a Democrat. How do you explain that?”
Without hesitation my father answered my question: “Because there’s never been a good Democrat.”
The voters of New Hampshire didn’t always see it that way. Twice they supported Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, but then they got in line with my father and favored Republicans Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. History hasn’t treated those three too favorably, although I remember my father’s close friend and fly-fishing buddy, a dentist in Claremont named “Doc” Hodgkins, telling me that Calvin Coolidge was “the best President we ever had.”
In 1932, New Hampshire was one of the few states to follow my father’s lead and support Harding (Roosevelt swamped him). Four years later the tide shifted, and the Granite State went for FDR the next three times -- to my father’s great consternation.
I never discussed politics with my mother when I was young, although I’m sure she considered herself a Republican. I do know that in her later years, after transplanting herself from Claremont to Boston, she became a registered Democrat. She voted for Bill Clinton and thought he was perfect, even when he wasn’t.
I also know that at least once she did do wrong and voted for Roosevelt. My father never forgave her.
“Looking Back” columnist Joseph D. Steinfield is a partner in the Boston law firm, Prince Lobel Tye LLP. He lives in Boston and Jaffrey. He may be reached at email@example.com.