Thursday, October 23, 2008

Politics Can Be Thankless

It seems like going through the last month of a campaign is somewhat akin to walking into torture chamber with the same amount of angry negative commercials playing ad nausea, e-mails from groups you didn't know existed and of course, the ever present robo-dialer on your answering machine.
This story is a little on the lighter side, but it shows how being a political volunteer can be a thankless job where no good deed ever goes unpunished.
Let's back up to my hometown of Walla Walla, back in the 60s as it is today, a very conservative Republican town. It did have a visible Democratic party, seemingly a small coalition of Italian, Southern,Irish, in our case Jewish businessmen, union people and farmers. Not exactly people who were sympathetic to the activists that would come to define the decade. Their hero, who in fact had an appeal that crossed party lines, was the late Washington Junior Senator Scoop Jackson. Jackson was a "straight arrow" representing everything American. He was an established cold warrior and die hard supporter of the Viet Nam War.
In 1970, the Viet Nam protests were growing louder and an African American Spokane attorney named Carl Maxey threw his hat in the ring to challenge Senator Jackson. In the spring, Maxey spoke at Walla Walla's Whitman College campus and was well received. Anti War activism was brewing amongst the students and faculty. Later in the summer, Carl Maxey was scheduled to appear at the Walla Walla County Democratic Picnic.
So the county democratic party has their picnic, it looks like a good year for the area Democrats as sitting Republican Congresswoman Catherine May was facing a very strong opponent in Mike McCormack. There was one problem, Carl Maxey was scheduled to speak. The man picked to Emcee the get-together had no desire to introduce an anti-war activist who was attempting to replace Scoop Jackson, a man whom the Republican party would only send token opposition against. My Dad was the good soldier and volunteered. He has always been loyal to the party and willing to step up in any situation.
So the picnic is taking place in Rooks Park, a very popular place at the time on the East outskirts of town. My Dad is toastmaster and introducing various local candidates who get up to make their speeches. Finally, it is Mr. Maxey's turn. My Dad says something like..."you got to hand it to this man for running against a state Icon." Mr Maxey (an outstanding boxer in school) did not take that well. He gave my Dad a glare that was unmistakable. Then he went on with his speech.


steve said...

Hello Michael

I enjoyed reading the story on Carl Maxey's life despite the sad ending.

Danny Barer said...

Thanks for the story. It brings back memories of when, as a little kid in the early '70's, I sat next to Mike McCormack in the Democrats' booth at the Southeastern Washington Fair.