The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6: Twitterdreams.
Like just about everyone I knew growing up, I was raised by good, solid, middle-class Democrats. My stepfather worked for the U.S. Postal Service (for a while in the union, but later in management), and my mother typed letters and made appointments for salesmen at the Wm. Wrigley, Jr. Company’s regional office. The first meant that weekends were odd, since my stepfather had a revolving work schedule that included every Sunday off along with one other rotating weekday, and the second meant that we had a lot of gum and candy in the house, all of it free. My dentist, Dr. Welcome W. Adamson, was none too pleased. I loved it. (Great name, isn’t it? But given that he was a dentist and I was a kid, I generally felt anything but welcomed….)
My first political memory rose from the black-and-white graininess emanating from a nineteen-inch Zenith on November 25, 1963, the first ever broadcast of a president’s funeral. It was a Monday morning. My stepfather’s introduction to my mother was still three years off, and she, post-divorce, had moved in with my grandparents out of necessity.
On the morning of the funeral, I remember lying on the carpet in front of the television with my legs waving behind me and my chin cupped in my hands. The rough carpet chafed both elbows. Through the living room window I could see a half-masted flag. I was five years old and mostly frustrated because the funeral was on every channel; daytime shows I had come to count on for amusement, like Sheriff John and Captain Kangaroo, were nowhere to be found. We only had eight channels back then—2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 28—and the last of these occupied a wavelength up in the UHF range where no amount of rabbit-ear twisting could bring in a decent signal. Yes, this was the dark ages. Our phones had cords, too, if you can believe that, and rotary dials.
Words like “Camelot” and “widow” meant nothing to me; I’m not even sure why I was home on that weekday morning unless, perhaps, school had closed because of the tragedy. My mother was at work; my grandparents kept watch over me and my sister.
My mother had voted for Kennedy, as had her parents, both working class Jews who had migrated west from the Bronx. My grandparents had lived their entire lives in rented apartments, had stretched a pound of hamburger to feed five, and had never owned more than one car. My mother, to this day, doesn’t know why she was a Democrat; she just was. When Lyndon Johnson ran for re-election in 1964 she never gave her allegiance a second’s thought. (In talking to her recently I discovered that she barely remembered Barry Goldwater’s name.) When 1968 came around she robotically punched her ballot for Hubert Humphrey, Alan Cranston, and Al Bellard. But there were too many people tired of LBJ’s war and they believed that hope could only come with change; the majority populations in thirty-two of the fifty states disagreed with my mother, and Nixon eked into the White House.
Nixon changed everything….