Republicans were few—you could count them on one hand—in our Chicago neighborhood. The one on our block, Bob O’Rourke, was the Republican counterpart to Ann W. O’Brien, the Democratic precinct captain and my aunt. O’Rourke, always dressed in suit and tie (even on the hottest days), had an office job. He was invariably polite and genial, though a bit reticent around my father and his fierce Democratic loyalties. O’Rourke had the duty, as did my aunt, to get his voters to the polls—few though they were. This was more time-consuming for her than for him; even so, she never failed to help him out on other precinct-captain duties, negotiating the repair of potholes, arranging garbage pick-ups, and removing fallen tree branches. Now and again, my aunt may have turned one of his voters to her own purposes by offering a very special favor (a city job). As far as we know, he never turned one of hers. He was too upright: a model Republican, full of probity and gravitas—the Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Taft of Carmen Avenue.
That probity and gravitas long served as a counterweight to the transgressions and rowdiness of the Democrats. But today there are few Republican exemplars of either probity or gravitas: only Richard Lugar of Indiana comes immediately to mind. Most of his congressional colleagues are not serious about governing; too many are just, well, clownish.
P.S. Don’t miss Kurt Orzeck’s take on California’s looming elections, “Midterm Exam,” also posted to the homepage, which, in case you haven’t noticed, is updated regularly with new articles. Visit early and often.