Tag Archives: Democrat

Every Woman Should Run For Public Office Once Or Twice

Votes for Women - Suffrage“There’s never been a colored, a Jew, a Democrat, a Yankee, a queer, or a woman as Mayor of this town and there never will be!”

I glanced up from my notes to study the odd little man in his Oshkosh overalls, Penny’s plaid shirt, knee-high Frye boots and Tom Mix hat.

His cohorts called him Red. I don’t know if he was christened that, or nicknamed for the color of his neck — but it certainly didn’t stem from embarrassment by him, or any of the men at that district Republican Committee meeting rewarding him with whistles and a rousing applause as I sat alone in the far, back corner of the small auditorium, recording the  forum as a favor to the (absent) president of our local Republican club.

And, all I could think was —  what luck!

No, not because I was a committee member and could object. I wasn’t.

But I was born in the small town that hosted the first Republican convention, “Here, under the oaks, July 6, 1854” where an obscure granite rock with a bruised bronze plague once sat on a tiny patch of treeless grass, three short blocks from where I spent my most misinformative years.

Back then, the rites of passage included adopting both the religion and political party affiliation of your parents. My parents were protestant and Republican. I’m neither, but during my juvenescence, I feigned being both.

The reality is, religion and politics have never been roadblocks for me. I tend to accept that we’re all going to believe what we need to believe in order to survive our slippery slope slide from here into hereafter.

However, the pretense of politics alarms me, and is the reason I encourage every woman to run for public office.

I have.

It’s easier than you think, and more satisfying than you dare imagine.

The Suffragette

After filling out the simple forms with the Americanized spelling of my last name and paying a nominal filing fee, I learned you aren’t required to raise money, put up signs, hand out cards, take out ads, stand on street corners in inclement weather inhaling exhaust while  waving to commuters — or even to serve if elected.

Which I did not do.

Instead, I entered the citywide race for Mayor because I could.

And, because the Mayor of our town is in charge of the police force that was alleged to have created computer software profiling every resident according to age, gender, race, religion, political affiliation, marital status and coded lifestyle.

I ran because the Mayor had the power to veto city council legislation.

I ran because the personal voting records of all residents, their addresses, and phone numbers are made available to campaign camps via their candidate.

I ran because it’s possible for local elected officials to access sensitive census information about their neighbors.

I ran because I’d be invited to all candidate gatherings, lunches, forums, debates, and media interviews with equal time to speak, followed by unlimited time to answer questions. Places where I could tell the people about the alleged profiling, the veto capability, the reality of records, and the potential for both discrimination and profiteering to the detriment of the electorate should the (professed private) census information be misused by unscrupulous officials with a personal agenda to advance.

But primarily, I ran because I was told:
“You cannot.”
“And yet, I can.”
“You can’t run as a Republican.”
“Unless I’m registered as a Republican. Then I can.”
“It’s a nonpartisan race, so no one will know.”
“Unless it’s leaked.”
“You won’t have the backing of the Republican Party.”

Aye, there’s the sub rosa.

Most of us like to think we’re supporting a candidate who shares our convictions and has our best interests in mind.

Go.

Run for office.

That’s when you learn it’s the RNC (Republican National Committee), the DNC (Democratic National Committee), and corporate funding that dictates the conversation, feeds the media, and virtually runs this country in a Charlie-McCarthy-meet-Jerry-Mahoney-manner, where those connected contingents funnel all the money solicited from donors into the war chests of the candidates they’ve preselected to win.

I kid you not.

The nominees of both the RNC and DNC sign a Party platform pledge to toe the Party line, in order to receive the financial clout of the RNC, or DNC, because the chances of winning an election for those who don’t sign — even on a local level — are zip, zero.

And, get this: Those war chests can be used to funnel funds for phone banks to robo-call citizens who have a voting history of going to the polls on odd, even, and ‘off’ years.

They can funnel ‘independent’ surveys with contrived questions for the ostensible purpose of suggesting nonexistent improprieties practiced by the opposing party.

They can funnel for spamming newspapers with testimonial templates to praise one candidate, or deride the other, or push an agenda, or create confusion, or imply majority support, with each letter signed and sent by a party faithful — so it appears to the public as an original thought and legitimate concern rather than a parroted message.

They can funnel for business owners to be visited by party members offering recommendations on which candidates to support, along with a friendly suggestion of how valuable it is to have a customer base of political party members.

They can funnel for whisper campaigns, leaked to small presses, controlled by deep pocket party pleasers, linked to online sites willing to post the disinformation.

I Love My Husband But Oh You Vote - Suffragette Series 12

And, get this, too: The strategies for beating your opponent are all recorded (or was when I ran) in an instruction manual detailing how to sway an election to a preferred candidate with news stories clouded by opinion. Where the media inserts the words “could, might, alleged, contend, claim, may and if” for “is, are and will” to report a possible truth. Where newspaper corrections to falsehoods are buried in places no one reads. Where editorials aren’t required to be factual.

This old maxim still holds true: The most dangerous woman in the world is the one who can’t be bought.

That’s where running for political office serves as the American dream. Because running to lose by telling the unmitigated truth assures that your voice will be heard.

And isn’t that what we all want? To be heard?

When I ran for office, my words were so well heard — by the time election day rolled around they’d been stolen and used to further the campaigns of others running for even higher offices.

So, ladies, that’s how you make change happen. Not by sitting behind a safe screen, typing out rhetoric about what’s wrong with the country and who’s to blame. And, not by writing a check, convinced your donation will contribute to making this nation better and stronger.

Instead, run for office.

Attend every avenue available for you to get up and speak. Recognize freedom of speech for the priceless gift it is. Say what’s in your heart. Ignore naysayers. Concentrate on connecting with real people. And experience the exhilaration that comes from putting your mouth where your mind is.

In the final analysis, the financial reports required to be filed by all candidates indicated the incumbent spent around one hundred and twenty-five dollars per ballot cast in favor of him to wage his campaign against me.

I spent zero, zip, and nada + nil.

I lost by 67 votes.

No, not once.

Twice. I also ran for school board. I lost by 56 votes.

And for both losses I am truly grateful.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine, October 8, 2015


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IMMORTAL KISS

Birthday Greetings - Woman in White Dress, Flowers

Eighty days after Bobby Kennedy kissed me he was killed. I don’t know why it happened — either the kiss, or the killing. Each time, he was caught up in the joy of the moment. Both times, he got whisked away.

As happenstance had it, Kennedy was frolicking with friends in the back seat of an inconspicuous car crawling down Fifth Avenue when he spotted me — a young, vibrant, redheaded Breck-replica in a Kelly green, worsted wool coat, weaving through revelers lining Fifth Avenue for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

I was pugnacious. The flock in front of the 666 building was so sardined, it turned my two-minute sprint to the Primeburger into a twenty-minute tussle.

Hearing the crowds crescendo as a car of paraders slowed to a stop behind me, I poised myself to push through an advancing pocket of people.

Suddenly, someone grabbed my elbow and pivoted me into his arms, gently tilting my chin upwards before planting a quick kiss. His thicket of hair reflected like flax in the midday sun veiling two hazel, sleep stripped eyes conferring a dilatory blink – not unlike that of a tomcat purring thanks.

Then, just as instantaneously, he was hustled back to his locus in that long procession trekking towards his untoward future.

“You’re never going to guess what happened to me,” I nudged my friend, Marion, during the elevator ride up to our offices at Fuller & Smith & Ross the next morning. “Bobby Kennedy kissed me.”

“Ohmigod, you gotta be kidding!” Marion gasped. “What’d’ya do?”

“Do? What could I do? I was stunned. That’s all.”

“Did anyone see?”

“Well, yes. I guess. How could they not?”

“I mean, anyone here. Because it might not set well. Him being in the running now and all.”

That hadn’t occurred to me. “It was just a kiss,” I dismissed.

“Yeah,” Marion nodded. “But Bobby Kennedy for cripes sake. Who gets kissed by a Kennedy?”

“Who doesn’t?” I scoffed.

Fuller & Smith & Ross is an advertising agency footnoted in history. As Manager of Purchasing & In-House Printing I’d been privy to a confidential meeting detailing departmental procedures for handling the 21 million dollar account we’d secured two months earlier. My first assignment was to have business cards engraved for our new client. The inscription: Richard Nixon, 577 Chestnut Ridge Road, Wood Cliff Lake, New Jersey 07675.

Upon completion and delivery to his Park Avenue address, Nixon graciously sent me an autographed card. Seeing his inked signature on that ivory colored Bristol board proved pretty heady stuff to me — a small town transplant and political novitiate.

I was young, eager, and altruistic back then; a cookie cutter copy of that last generation of Americans who hadn’t a true clue as to what went on inside our nation’s governing bodies or outside our autonomous lives.

So, while I excelled at my job of vetting vendors, overseeing offset runs, getting offices decorated, equipment updated, carpets cleaned, prototypes printed, supplies stocked, and locks on doors changed whenever a colleague left — it wasn’t until I was entrusted with the billing of telephone lines linked to a network of chameleon operatives that I started to sink with the sinking-in.

“Cause and effect, people,” was the daily drill. “Never has so much money been amassed to elect a candidate. Our targeted buyouts of principal advertising airtime will efficaciously shut the Democrats out. Cause and effect.”

Try to remember, or imagine: In 1968, PBS was still in the proposal stage, there were just three major networks, prime time was essentially over by 10 p.m., a 30 second spot in the top rated markets cost about ten grand, and a million dollars was an unimaginable sum to most. But 21 million? That was whew!

By day, Nixon commandeered Town Hall meetings answering random questions in primary states while being filmed at three angles — front, back, and side. By night, our media technicians removed audio from side and back-shot tapes, replacing it with Nixon voiceovers of perfected responses. These were the videos offered to the media for viewing and airing. This was the foundation for creating many of the 15, 30, 45 and 60-second spots and news feeds.

Apparently, audience participants were so elated at seeing themselves on television that they failed to notice Nixon’s edited answers. At least, I heard no rumors of suspicion outside the office. I saw no evidence of complaint.

But within our ranks, long hours involving similar scenarios (and the disillusionment such capers caused) was taking its toll.

Perhaps that’s why Kennedy’s assassination registered as an amplified aghast to us. Because, by the time he announced his candidacy, we’d already been entrenched in a predetermined campaign victory for 10 weeks, believing everyone working on the inside of both political parties concurred from the get-go. Our jobs seemed only a matter of proper execution.

Sure, Bobby Kennedy added glamour and excitement to the illusion being painted for an impressionable public. Sensational headlines and endless editorials promised he could change things. And would.

But factuality was, by the time Kennedy won the California primary, every projection we’d been made privy to in January had confirmed itself by June. Ad copy, speeches, rebuttals, and press releases were written and delivered verbatim, leading a nation of primary voters to the polls and persuading them to push the Republican button. We knew if the Democrats had been wealthier in ’68, only the names would have changed to protect the process.

It’s no wonder a spate of shame beset our rank and file the day Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. His was an incomprehensible loss for no comprehendible reason. Arguments erupted. A mutiny ravaged the art department. Secretiveness ensued. Most of us continued to carry on until the battle was won in November, but long before then we were lost.

So, it’s little wonder I and others resigned within weeks of Nixon’s victory without revealing the true reason for our departures — that suffocating feeling of complicity and defenselessness when slapped in the face with reality. Relentlessly.

As a souvenir I kept the screen-printed Peanuts prototype of Snoopy endorsing the Nixon/Agnew ticket that was spurned as a possible campaign poster by our California office after Charles Schultz threatened suit. Saving it seemed somehow fitting. I put Nixon’s business card in my pocket. I surrendered my two tickets to an Inaugural Ball and left my 18kt. gold, RN lapel pin in an ashtray on the desk. I signed the purchase order to change the locks on my office door.

Marion and I were alone on an elevator going down when she asked, “Did you ever think yours was his kiss of death?”

Angst kept me from answering.

“You know,” she nudged. “Cause and effect. It’s all we’ve heard for eleven months.”

“So?”

“Well, go figure. If he hadn’t stopped to kiss you, he’d have been five minutes faster for the rest of his life. He’d have finished his speech and left the hotel, alive. Maybe you were put on earth to slow him down. So he could meet his destiny on time. D’ya think?”

“Gee, Mare. Thanks for that,” I groaned. “And, no. I don’t think.”

But, yes, I have. And, yes, I do. Occasionally, while maneuvering crowds. Crossing streets. Riding elevators. Hearing cars slow. On some March mornings and one June afternoon. Whenever wearing Kelly green.

And ever since.

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Did you have a brush with history that remains vivid in your memory? What are your feelings about the assassination of Robert Kennedy?

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(This freshly edited, updated essay was first published in The Antiquarian Magazine © 1985, More © 1995, and in Venus Magazine © 2011 by Marguerite Quantaine © 1985, 1995, 2011 & 2013.)
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
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