Monday, June 09, 2008

Yellow Dog

Here is a simple definition of Yellow Dog Democrats: If the only candidate on the Democratic ticket is an old cur yellow dog running against a highly regarded Republican, we would vote for the yellow dog. Period. A handful of Yellow Dogs may actually like some Republicans, but hardly any of us trust Republicans to run government, especially the federal government. We are, according to Just Politics, "unswerving" party loyalists.
Joe Bell, St. Petersburg Times
The first time I recall hearing the term was in a conversation between venerable Jersey newspaper writer Elias Holtzman & Arkansas poet Miller Williams at a cocktail reception in Metuchen in the 90's. Both said they were Yellow Dogs. They liked each other; poets & journalists often do, having been the same occupation in many ancient cultures. I wanted to meet Williams, not because he was pals with Bill Clinton but because he had translated Chilean poet Nicanor Parra & was the father of singer Jessica Williams.

I'm not sure when I became in effect a Yellow Dog. Definitely by the end of Reagan's second term. In the prior decade I had voted for at least two Repugs, both in Linden, & both not really Repugs but environmental activists running on that line against Mayor John Gregorio's machine. Gregorio was pushing for a waste transfer station in the city. I'd taken an instant dislike to Gregorio years earlier, when he suggested an explosion at the refinery had been the act of leftist terrorists dropping a bomb from a small plane. The blast shattered windows for miles & sent up a huge mushroom cloud that supposedly caused Kean College students to fall their knees & pray. I thought Gregorio was a smart politician but a jerk all the same. I didn't associate him with "principles" because I don't think he had many except to make certain that his friends & allies got what they had coming, & his opponents got what they had coming, & he got what he had coming before deductions.

My dad was a lifelong Repug, 5 years on town council & longer than that on the Committee. I never doubted that he was honest & ethical, more than local Dems, & more than most of his own party. Through him, I experienced door-t0-door canvassing & election nights at the storefront headquarters, & ran the soda machine at the annual party picnic. He remained a bit naive about the bipartisanship of shenanigans, perhaps deliberately. His votes on council didn't fall into a simple left/right pattern, they rarely do in town politics. The GOP had more wiggle room in that era anyway. He went on to council with an agenda, accomplished his goals, left office & moved on, which included moving out of the 3rd Ward he represented. He was completely free of the game by 1970, but if he had run for anything higher than Freeholder by the time I could vote, I would not have voted for him. By then I had a bunch of button issues, all "liberal." & there were plenty of Democrats I didn't like either. I've always been strongly opinionated. But I'm not a political animal. *

To this day, I have a problem with a certain type of Democratic legislator who does stuff that doesn't need doing while avoiding progressive stuff that needs doing. My conservative side is of the Leave it the hell alone variety. I don't find much of this sentiment in the Repugs since they were taken over by religious armageddonists & former Trotskyites. I didn't like the former Trotskyites when they were young Trotskyites & pestering everyone in the college snack bar with long, single-spaced, mimeograph manifestoes. So I aways think the worse of Repugs now, that there's a much better than even chance that a Repug is a bigot, a war monger, & a compulsive liar. I have limited patience for libertarian flavored views from a Repug. If you're a libertarian, support the party that actually represents you. I have no interest in a gay Repug or a feminist Repug or an atheist Repug or even an antiwar Repug. I have no respect at all for militaristic civilian Repugs young enough to join the National Guard or old enough to encourage their own kids to risk their asses in armored Humvees. They're content to tap their wireless laptops & sip micro beer while poor & working class people serve as their mercenaries. They see military service in the ranks as a character-building gateway to the middle class. If one is already middle class or higher & sufficiently patriotic in verbal expression, one is excused from fighting the wars one promotes. This attitude is confirmed & encouraged by the president & vice president, two men just as unwilling to spend a year in Vietnam as I was. I won't even argue with Repugs. I have one vote & I use it as I see fit, same as them.

Which doesn't make me exactly a Yellow Dog. I had to declare myself a Democrat to vote in the presidential primary. In recent years, I have abstained from voting for a few Democrats in local races, although my dislike of those candidates could not induce me to vote for their opponents. To vote for a Repug at any level was to approve of George W. Bush. Bush slimed every Repug, & every Repug no matter how honorable - Tom Kean, Colin Powell - was glad to be slimed, glad to associate themselves with bigots & crackpots & the New Manifest Destiny, formerly known as Project for the New American Century - but now they're looking for another phrase for the next phase to be implemented by John McCain.

* I could & should write more about this. Later in his life dad expressed some regrets about not being as involved with me as he had been with my two older brothers, but I was a moody kid not seriously engaged by "organized" activities like Boy Scouts & youth baseball, & we both had forgotten, as if it hadn't counted for anything, that for about three years I often shadowed him around through his local political activities.

A friend of mine whose grandfather was the Chief of Staff to the late Hon. Frank Hague (and whose mom was a Jersey City Councilwoman), used to tell me "I may have been baptized Catholic, but I was born a Democrat."
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