Friday, March 28, 2008

Politics in Your DNA?

Oddly enough, Hillary Clinton and I have something in common: we both were raised in conservative GOP households but, later in life, we saw the light. The BBC recently ran a story entitled, The search for the 'political' gene. It begins:

Activists sometimes say "politics is in my DNA" - but there may be more truth in that than they realize. Research now suggests some of our voting habits may be hard-wired into us from birth.
When Liberal Democrat MP Matthew Taylor set out to trace his birth parents at the age of 35, nothing prepared him for what he describes as a "stunning" discovery.

Along with the news that his biological mother was alive and well and living in New Zealand with a family of her own, came another revelation - that his great-grandfather had been, like himself, a Liberal MP.

Taylor says, "If I were to guess I would say that I have inherited the characteristics of wanting to get up and argue my case. Also, the belief in the individual as prime and a willingness to buck the trend. As far as I know, these were also the characteristics of my biological great-grandfather."


Hillary Clinton left the political party of her parents for some reason which I have not yet learned. I left the party of my parents because something inside of me moved me much more strongly toward the social aspect of politics. Perhaps it was the Civil Rights Movement or JFK himself who inspired me to seek another path. Or, as this article suggests, maybe it was hard-wired into my DNA.

My father had voted for FDR , but could not abide his 4th term in office. Additionally, the war raged on the European continent and my father's German ancestry raised red flags as FDR began preparing for war. Thereafter, he was a staunch Republican and convinced my long-time Democrat mother to join the GOP.

My grandfather and his brother who emigrated to America during the Bismarck era, were extreme socially conscious men who spoke out against what they saw as the big business interests power at the expense of the working man. My great uncle, I recently discovered, became a socialist and linked himself to Eugene Victor Debs, 5-time Socialist Party of America candidate for president. Letters of my grandfather, written in hard-to-read Deutsche Suetterlin script, assail this country for not taking care of its citizens, especially during and after the Depression.

Coincidentally, and unknown to me for many years, one of my oldest male cousins, now 85, was a university professor of political science in Florida. Recent conversations with him reveal that he, like our grandfather and great uncle, taught a liberal socialist form of political science to his students. He still writes and publishes books promoting the social welfare of a society. No doubt, he was on J. Edgar Hoover's list of suspicious Americans.

Did we all inherit a more liberal gene? Who is to say, but apparently I have passed it down on my Y-chromosome to my son. Perhaps it is in my grandsons as well.

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