I was born in 1959 in Binghamton, during the last wave of the “baby boom,” which most historians agree took place between 1946 and 1964. I currently have one sister born in 1955. My father, born in 1923, grew up very poor. He was the youngest of 5 siblings born to parents who immigrated to the USA from what is now Slovakia in 1916, during World War I. His father was a raging alcoholic who moved from job to job, and after attempting to kill my grandmother he was removed from the household by court order in 1930 (both of my grandparents were Byzantine Catholics, so divorce was out of the question). My grandmother spoke very little English, but the family managed to earn money from her taking in boarders, and before Prohibition ended in 1933, from her making liquor for the Binghamton Police Department from the still in her attic! My father’s 2 teenage brothers also went to work, before completing high school, at the local A&P grocery store, to earn money for the family. Eventually enough money was earned to purchase the ramshackle tenement apartment building on the property behind the main house.
After living from ages 6-18 through the Great Depression, my father became a staunch New Deal Democrat. He fought in World War II in Okinawa, then participated in the occupation of Japan. When he returned to the US he took advantage of FDR and Truman’s “GI Bill” and went to college for free. He didn’t finish though, because a high-paying job with great benefits opened up at IBM Endicott, for which he didn’t need a college degree. His Depression experience fostered in him a “bird in the hand attitude” – he was afraid if he turned down the job and finished college, then he might have trouble finding as good a job after he graduated.
My mother, born in 1926 in Newport, Rhode Island, had only one sibling and grew up comfortably on her father’s single income, as an electrical engineer working for Western Electric. To this day she insists her family had no need for New Deal programs, but she ignores the fact that it was the New Deal’s Rural Electrification Project that kept my grandfather comfortably employed. She was the salutatorian of her high school class and went to Cornell on a full scholarship. She became a staunch Republican. So I guess you could say I’m the product of a very mixed marriage – I’m the son of a middle class, Republican, Protestant mother and a poor, Liberal Democrat, Catholic father.
I remember growing up in the 1960s – it seemed that all of America was booming, including New York State. The State wanted to make the Binghamton city portion of state highway 17 into an expressway without traffic lights, but this would mean building right through our house. Rather than just telling us to move, the state gave us 2 options: 1) It would pay us way more than the market value of our house or 2) It would pay to have the house moved to the street on the hill above us. My mother jumped at option #1, and we moved to upper middle class Vestal, known as “IBM’s Bedroom,” which also had the reputation of having the best schools in the area. Another memory that stands out from those years is that our governor, Nelson Rockefeller, was considered a “liberal Republican.” In those days “liberal” didn’t automatically mean Democrat, and “conservative” didn’t automatically mean Republican. Both parties had “liberal,” “moderate,” and “conservative” factions.
Then my comfortable world crashed in 1968 when my older brother was killed in Vietnam, and the Democratic Party started coming apart. I watched my first Democratic National Convention with my father late that summer, with the riots both in the convention and especially outside, and my father became thoroughly disgusted (as an ACOA, he hated struggles, fights, protests, or arguments of any kind). He yelled at the TV: “Those damn over-privileged college kids don’t understand how good their life is!”, and he converted to Republican overnight. He was especially swayed by Nixon’s “law and order” campaign theme, and he voted Republican the rest of his life. (It would be decades before I would discover that the war was almost single-handedly started by President Lyndon Johnson, with his skillful manipulation of the so-called “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” (which never actually occurred) into the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave him the power to wage war without congressional consent.
When I turned 18 in 1977, and despite having lived through Nixon continuing and further escalating the Vietnam War, the resulting Recession, the first Arab Oil Embargo, and Watergate, I registered as a Republican, because my parents were, and because Vestal/Broome county politics were ( I figured if I wanted to vote in a any primaries that mattered, I should register Republican). I graduated from a SUNY College that had been tuition-free 6 years earlier, but to which my parents paid $700 per semester due to cuts in state aid. I got a tuition and fee waiver in my first year, and a teaching assistantship in my second year of my 2-year Masters Degree Program at the public University of Illinois. I started my now 33 years of public school teaching in 1985 during the Reagan administration, when many social programs were cut but the military budget was drastically increased. This resulted in the Great Recession following the first Gulf War in 1991, and I saw many of my teacher colleagues get their jobs cut. Then I had an epiphany: what was I doing? I belonged to 2 labor unions! I depended on state aid and local property taxes for my job! So I switched my registration to Democrat in 1992 and have voted Democrat ever since.
In 2008 I was a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter. (What could be better than a president who would be living with a former president? I even tried to promote the idea of Bill running with her as her vice president!) In 2012 my then 85-year-old mother, during her daily 4-mile walk, was hit in a crosswalk by a big construction company pickup truck and thrown 40 feet. She suffered brain damage, a crushed ankle, and shoulder rotator cuff torn beyond repair. Her Medicare and private health insurance only covered the 9-week hospital stay and 90 days in a rehab center. What was I to do – the personal injury lawsuit wouldn’t even get started before her coverage ran out, and she received too much retirement income to qualify for Medicaid. To pay out of pocket would have cost $27,000 a month! Luckily our attorneys connected me with one of the best elder-care attorneys in the country, Tara Anne Pleat. She worked with me to get my mother’s assets paid down and re-titled so she would qualify for Medicaid. She spent 2 and a half years living at the Northeast Center for Brain Injury and Rehabilitation, and now lives next door in a private apartment under Medicaid’s “Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Waiver” program, which provides her with “personal care assistants” for 11 hours a day (she could have 24 hrs. if she wanted). This will very likely be the first program to go if cuts are made to Medicaid to help pay for the Trump Tax Cuts.
In the 2015-2016 Democratic Primaries for president, Bernie Sanders helped expose rampant corruption within, and corporate control of, the Democratic Party. He also seemed to be the first “honest” politician I had ever seen in my lifetime. Just before that I had also cut the cable cord and got all my news from my Roku box channels and the internet in general. These news sites were reporting something MUCH different than the Mainstream Media was reporting ( or not reporting) including enormous election fraud in Ohio, Brooklyn, California, and New Jersey (go to trustvote.org) The lawsuits for these are still stuck in the courts. Now in 2018, Bernie’s policies are no longer considered “fringe,” and Democratic candidates for Congress nationwide are falling all over themselves to claim the mantle of “Most Progressive.” Who knows, maybe even “liberal” will stop being a dirty word, as Reagan made it in the 1980’s! Bernie’s 2016 campaign and the unreported election fraud ignited in me an obsession for research and finding, and hopefully exposing, as much truth about American politics as possible, starting with my party.