“Westchester County’s Presidential Ties”
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL — NOVEMBER 2013 — Video demonstrating connections between Westchester County and U.S. Presidents from decades ago was informative, but it is equally interesting to note that Westchester County in the 1970’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s was a regular stopping off place for Republicans campaigning for the White House. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. In 1972, when President Richard Nixon conducted a bus tour with a stop in Yonkers, I was there as an aide to the Carl Vergari for Congress campaign in the old 24th Congressional District. The black Cadillac limo used by President Nixon on his visit was, until recently, still in use by a local limousine company.
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, who lived in Westchester and for whom I had the pleasure of serving as Assistant Director for Youth on his 1970 gubernatorial campaign, and who later became vice president, had presidential aspirations dating back to the Republican convention in 1964 when he was booed by the Goldwater crowd as too liberal for the party. Goldwater of course was crushed in the general election, but Rocky continued to harbor presidential
ambitions until he was asked to step down by President Ford so he could put Bob Dole on the ticket to appeal to the growing base of the party in the South and West.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan appeared in Westchester County for a fundraiser at the home of John L. Loeb Jr. in Purchase. As a senior adviser to Ambassador Loeb, I attended. Reagan understood that Westchester County was still capable of supporting a Republican Presidential candidate. The same can be said for George H.W. Bush who, as a sitting vice president came to the county seeking the presidency in 1988. I was asked to be master of ceremonies for the event in White Plains.
The then-vice president and future president, who had roots in nearby Greenwich, CT, understood as well that Westchester County was an important pivotal suburban county and that an appearance in the county was a must.
Unfortunately, those days are now gone. Subsequent Republican candidates have skipped over Westchester. Neither Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, nor Mitt Romney gave Westchester County a thought. No media was bought, no campaign effort was spent and no time was given to what once was a swing suburban county.
And, that has been the story for the Republican Party, nationally. As it has veered further and further to the right, incorporating positions on social issues that were and are so far out of traditional Republican mainstream thinking that they are a disqualifier for most moderate Republican voters all over the nation. When coupled with the isolationist wing of the national party represented by Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, not to mention the Tea Party caucus of the House, moderate Republicans have nowhere to go. I doubt Ronald Reagan today could still get his own party’s nomination. Look at the positions enunciated by the Tea Party branch of the party – attempting to shut down government to spite the president’s health care plan, threatening a default on the nation’s debt and advocating the dismantling of many of the same programs supported by Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford and Reagan simply to pander to those who think of the nation as the makers vs. the takers or, as Mitt Romney put it, the 47 percent who he could never “convince to take responsibility for themselves.”
Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox. Updates on how the coronavirus is affecting your community and the nation. Delivery: Varies with respect to you Email. This new breed of elected official has careened out of control and is able to influence, and overwhelm the House of Representatives, largely because their home districts have been gerrymandered, making them a protected and irresponsible species who believes that compromise is a dirty word, and whose only worry is a primary from an even more conservative right wing candidate funded by Heritage, the Club for Growth or the Koch Brothers.
What Ronald Reagan and other Republicans recognized was that the function of elected members of the U.S. Congress was to do the people’s business, to get things done and to work across the aisle. This is now considered “surrender” by the Tea Party, but if a democracy is to succeed there must be compromise. The dysfunction we are witnessing is compounded on a daily basis by
misinformation and false premises constantly spewed by talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others who on a daily and continuing basis pound a fringe ideology, which is factually challenged, into the heads of those who either won’t take the time to think for themselves, or simply don’t have the ability to separate rational political discussion from entertainment.
So, it is after being a Republican for over 40 years that I reject the Tea Party brand as being undemocratic and anything but conservative. I call them “radical reactionaries.” And for that reason I have this year changed my registration to become a member of the fastest growing party in the nation – no party at all.
Michael Edelman Esq., is a a writer, a national political consultant, analyst, commentator, and pundit.