Jerry Springer, The Bishop of Times Square and FDR

Jerry Springer's talk last night reminded me of an an essay I wrote in the run-up to the 2004 election. I wrote about Father Joe McCaffrey, a Catholic priest who befriended my mother's family during the Depression. I used my mixed feelings about him and how he was portrayed in the NYT to frame the attitude I wanted to have about the Republican vote-challengers we expected to see at the polls back then. Go ahead and read it before you go on. I'll wait here.

It's a little strange for me to be juxtaposing Jerry and Father Joe. I don't have to wonder what Father McCaffrey would have said about what Jerry does for a living.

Jerry Springer's talk last night made a point about appealing to independents who register as Republicans for social reasons. My essay was about acting neighborly and with civility towards those you are actively working against or not sure about.

If we're going to win this November and in 2008, we have to take both Jerry's and my points to heart. We also have to look to a giant of our history and the Democratic Party, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He provides the best example of how to build a majority for Democratic candidates out of the raw material of the electorate as we find it.

In 1910, Roosevelt ran successfully for a New York State Senate seat in conservative Dutchess County. Dutchess County at that time sounds a lot like certain Ohio counties we know and love: it hadn't elected a Democrat in over a quarter century. Later on, he successfully ran for Governor. Here's what FDR had to say about how to win over the "social Republicans":

There are thousands of people who call themselves Republicans who think as you and I do about government. They are enrolled as Republicans because their families have been Republicans for generations—that's the only reason; some of them think it is infra dig [beneath their dignity] to be called a Democrat; the Democrats in their village are not the socially "nice" people the enrolled Republicans are. So never attack the Republicans or the Republican party—only the Republican leaders. Then any Republican voter who hears it will say to himself: "Well, he doesn't mean me. I don't believe in the things that Machold and MicGinnies and Knight and the other reactionaries up in Albany believe in either."

—FDR to SI Rosenman, quoted in FDR: An Intimate History by Nathan Miller, p. 243, Doubleday and Co., 1983, ISBN 0819180610

Think about this next time you're bad-mouthing Republicans. You could be alienating someone who'll vote us in.

Keep your eye on the ball: incompetence and corruption created by the leadership under one-party rule. Nobody likes that.

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