Cynthia Tidwell – Why I am a Democrat
I grew up in a hard-shell Republican family. When we settled in Glenview, (a Chicago suburb), when I was in high school, my dad always made a point of declaring that it was our sacred duty to pull the Republican lever for all candidates, as a protest against the elder Daley Democratic machine. It didn’t matter who we were voting for as long as they were Republicans.
Fast forward a half dozen years, I was a young mother with three pre-schoolers, one of whom is bi-racial and adopted. We had recently moved from the Twin Cities to Clearwater, Fl., and to my dismay, a dual school system still functioned. The state defied federal law regarding integration by refusing to dismantle the Jim Crow system and integrate the schools. In 1972 my sons were set to attend kindergarten at a white elementary school. But the following year, under the segregated system, my daughter would have to enroll at a Black school.
We attended a UCC church, and one Sunday it was announced that Dem. Gov. Reuben Askew was going to speak at the junior college nearby regarding the integration of schools. I decided to see what he had to say that afternoon, so I found a place to stand in the grassy space on campus. Gov. Askew waded into the center of the hundreds of people gathered there, and gave one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard. He announced that the State of Florida would integrate peacefully, without violence in any form, when schools opened in the coming week. Black students would be bused to white schools, and whites to black schools. Teachers would be divided up too. The Jim Crow school system was dead and about to be buried.
As he spoke, I looked around me. Heavily armed highway patrolmen and other police officers were everywhere around the gathering — there was credible reason to believe Askew would be assassinated. To my right there appeared to be the local Rep. Party stalwarts, with signs opposing integration, and the usual vitriol. And next to and around them were men in brown shirts.
Click! It dawned on me these men were the American Nazi Party, or some such name. Their uniforms looked menacing, and their faces contorted in anger and hatred. It was a chilling revelation. I quickly moved away from them, ending up close to the governor.
When he began shaking hands, I grasped his, thanked him for his remarks, and announced that I’d just become a Democrat. I have never looked back. I continue to think of Gov. Askew as a courageous and righteous man.
Norris and I have participated with many social justice organizations and anti-poverty programs over the years. In the past 50 years, Democratic policies and candidates have most closely represented our point of view. We’ve been active at the precinct, ward, and state levels in Minnesota, to a lesser degree here in New Mexico. Ours has been a life of service and advocacy, believing that those of us who are strong should stand beside those who are struggling, regardless of issue.
So, that’s it. True Blue, not new blue. All the way.
Cynthia Tidwell is a resident of Corrales.