by Joe Shea
March 1, 2016
THE DAWN OF TRUMP
BRADENTON, Fla., March 1, 2016, 2:56 A.M. ET -- I awaken today on what will be the most momentous Tuesday of my lifetime. Although the outcome in Texas is indicated to be in doubt, I believe Donald J. Trump of New York is going to win a convincing victory in all l1 States of the Union that have GOP primary elections today (American Samoa has one for Democrats only), cementing victory for his run for the nomination of the Republican Party for President.
As I have opined elsewhere in these pages, I believe he will easily defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 to become our 46th President, and will thereupon embark on of the most controversial, historic and successful presidencies in the long history of our beloved democracy.
My first thought today is on the future of my "native" party - the one I was born into. I am indefatigably proud of my family's Republican heritage, which began as my 15-year-old great-grandfather, Patrick Shea (misspelled "Shay" in the records of his Petersburg, Va., Confederate unit), lay bleeding from five bullet holes, all in the face, delivered to him on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pa., by the horse pistol of a Union calvary officer whom as a young scout he had been bravely stalking when he was discovered and shot.
In the hours that followed, as he lay dying and the battle raged around him, he must have wondered what cruel twist of fate had carried him, a few years earlier, from the green and lovely shores of his native Ireland, the son of a purported "Fenian bomb-thrower," to this barren field; afterwards, all that would grow there would be gravestones, marking the place where "these honored dead," as Lincoln was soon to call them, would come to be interred in a celebrated and final resting place.
Perhaps he knew in his young heart that 15 was too young to die, and he refused to do so despite the expectations of orderlies and soldiers that bore him on a rough gurney to a Union field hospital. In those days, before triage became a protocol for emergency medicine, he defied the Union doctors' belief that he was a goner; he was a stayer.
With the kind of courage and determination that has persisted in the genes of his descendants, he survived. The Union learned he had relatives in New York, and when he recovered from his wounds, at least the gravest ones, they sent him there. It's unlikely he heard even a word of the famous address of President Abraham Lincoln, but it is a certainty he felt the impact of President Lincoln's compassion.
It was said about Patrick, with all those bullet holes in his face, that he grew was the ugliest man in New York. The records say he lost his musket and his lantern in the fight, but he did not lose his way. He became a Republican early in his life, and throughout it he was a fierce devotee of Abraham Lincoln, the master of eloquence whose compassion and gallantry were so critical to Patrick's survival. You can't know how generous a human spirit is until it touches you, dying on a battlefield, as an enemy in the victor's camp.
His relative was an upholsterer, an art apparently brought from Ireland and a business that prospered in New York. There were two miracles in Patrick's life; the first, that he survived; the second, that despite his monstrous appearance and equally ugly temperament, he found a woman willing to marry him and bear him children. The family has no record of her name, unless it is buried somewhere in the scrapbook of an unknown ancestor we had that also contains an original clipping from an 1881 newspaper reporting the assassination of President James Garfield.
What is known is that with his volcanic temper and passion for life, he fought once nother war under the command of President-to-be Theodore Roosevelt, and again for the election of President William McKinley. That latter fight, with a gang of Democrats in a building in Lower Manhattan, was his last: in one of the common election riots of those days, he was unceremoniously tossed down a flight of stairs and died of a broken neck.
Perhaps you've seen the movie, "Gangs of New York." At the end, amid a street filled with corpses of men who had been fighting for the election of two rivals for the office of Sheriff of New York, an apparent widow wanders among the dead, keening "Shea... Shea...." But her Shea was not to awaken.
What did awaken was a preternatural fire in the heart of her son, John. then the paymaster of the U.S. Customs House in New York City, a sinecure he likely won through the influence of his father. As unlikely as it seemed, the son of a dying Confederate scout, an accomplished accountant, would join the "reform Republican" campaign of Mayor Seth Low as a candidate in 1909 for Sheriff of New York.
In a day and age when there were no income taxes, and a hearty dinner in Union Squarebeside Diamond Jim Brady at Luchow's, their favorite restaurant would set him b,ack a dollar, he fought to win election as Sheriff to the second highest-paying job in America after the presidency itself. Paid $25,000 in cash and $25,000 in marshal's fees each of his two years in office, it was supposed be the crowning glory of the undisputed head of the institution known as Tammany Hall, Christy Sullivan.
It was Sullivan who famously remarked when asked about political graft in those days that there were two kinds: "Crooked graft," in which a politician was bribed to do something that he did not do, and "honest graft," when a politician did what he was bribed to do. Graft was so common in those days of Tammany's rule that such definitions were just common sense; Sullivan. of course, performed honest graft. My grandfather had no use for graft at all, and upon taking office he fired every Democratic deputy on his staff, an event noted by The New York Times, then as now a partisan of Sullivan's Democrats, if not Tammany Hall.
I suspect that even the reform Republicans of Mayor Seth Low expected party emoluments that flowed from the old system, but they did not get them. My grandfather was a man of such honest character that when income taxes became the law, he declined to take the legal deductions for his two children, believing that since they used the roads and the schools he was obligated to pay for them. Unsurprisingly, he lasted only one term, from 1909 to 1911, and after a failed bid for the State Assembly (where I later worked as an aide to the Republican minority lead of the Assembly, Perry Belmont Duryea), was then appointed supervisor of accounts of the State Racing Cmmission. Although he held many posts, from Acting Collector of federal taxes for the Western District of New York under Fiorella LaGuardia to Commissioner of Public Works to Chairman of the Board of Elections, and was a Republican district leader for 45 years, history remembers him only as a delegate to the 1912 Republican National Convention that nominated a like-minded man, Theodore Roosevelt of New York, for President of the United States.
Before the days of Mayors John Vliet Lindsay and Rudolph Giuliani, John S. Shea was the only Republican elected to any citywide office in Manhattan. The next, 45 years later, was his son, Judge William Shea, who won election to the city's Municipal Court in 1954 by 64 votes. A graduate of Notre Dame and Fordham Law, he was later appointed to state courts by Governors Dewey, Rockefeller and Wilson, and to New York City civil courts by Mayors Lindsay and, if I'm not mistaken, Democrat Abe Beame.
I and my brothers and sister (who recently graduated from law school at the age of 75) are the proud inheritors of that legacy. I grew up determined to become President, and got distracted by journalism along the way. Nonetheless, I was chairman of the Republican County Committee in the 46th Assembky District South when I worked for the State Assembly, and turned down the opportunity to run for the New York State Senate in my home district in upstate New York in the district where my grandfather had purchased a 50-acre farm to raise prize bulls and dairy cattle in 1909, and where I grew up (107 years later, my brother Patrick and his family still live there).
Today, my personal history confronts the candidacy of Donald Trump, whom I have rooted for in these pages despite the fact that I am an elected Democratic committeeman in Manatee County. I should explain that Watergate and the exposed corruption of the GOP, and my decision to start a national draft committee for Sen. John F. Kerry in 1986 - hoping to get him into the 1968 presidential race, where he would have been the Marco Rubio of his day - led to my joining the Democratic Party.
I was proud to vote for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and a little less so to vote for President Bill Clinton in 1996 and 2000. It now appears I will vote for Donald Treump in 2016, although I have donated to the campaigns iof both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and to several Democratic congressional campaigns, and to Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina and to Trump.
When I was still in high school, my Dad - then the chief of internal audit at the U.S. Customs House in New York City - enlightened me about America's balance of trade, particularly with Japan and China. He made it seem very important not only to our economy but to our place in the world; at that time, I think, we had a positive balance of trade with both of those nations and our trade with Mexico was barely a blip on the screen. Today, as American jobs and businesses have flowed to those places, we are some $600 billion dollars behind the 8-ball and deeply in debt to China. Our national debt is nearing $20 trillion, and our standing in the world - by many standards, from education to health care - is much diminished.
Please forgive yet another anecdote. When I was a Village Voice war and foreign correspondent in The Philippines, I got invited to interview President Ferdinand Marcos live on national television. Thinking about it that morning, I decided to ask my waiter at the small hotel where I was staying what he would ask his President.
Accordingly, I asked Marcos a few hours later, the waiter's question: "When will The Philippines be great again?" President Marcos gave me the predictable answer, I suppose, but I guess the question still has resonance today. Many Americans, myself included, would never suggest that America is not great now and always has been, but we might all agree, also, that it could be greater.
We believe that our trade deficit must be reduced, along with our national debt, and that manufacturing - and high-paying factory jobs - must again flourish in the United States. Donald Trump appears to believe all of that can be accomplished through the methods that he has learned as a businessman.
But many of us know that we gave away jobs to China, in particular, not because they were paid less or better workers and manufacturers, but out of sympathy - yes, sympathy - for what was once the spectre of hundreds of millions of Chinese men, women, and (unfortunately) children, who often lacked the basic necessities of life, and appeared to need those jobs more than we did.
Protected by unemployment compensation, pension buyouts, food stamps, Obamacare and Social Security, our workers were and are far better off than their Chinese counterparts, and if our Judeo-Christian moral fundament says we have or we had an obligation to help them survive, then so be it. They have survived - and prospered.
One of the great social engineering feats of history, the diversification of American ethnicity, has occurred in the past half-century. What was then a majority Caucasian population will become a majority Hispanic population in the next few decades. Those immigrants from South America, Central America and Mexico have as much right to join and prosper in American society as my Irish grandparents did.
Regrettably, relatively few of them come here with the same level of academic achievement, although those of our Caucasian forebears were none too high. But almost all of them do come with the same Judeo-Christian moral foundation and social norms.
Is the kind of population growth that Hispanics enjoy what we want for an immigrant Muslim population, whose mores and social norms are far different than ours? Or would that be an experiment in social engineering doomed to failure? And, in the current atmosphere, dare we ask that question? Not at Harvard, Princeton and Yale, perhaps, but here in Bradenton we can.
And we can answer: No, it is not what we want, and to the extent that our refusal is rigid, we will not accept it. But resisting Muslim immigration, for Donald Trump in particular, is not stated as an ethnic homogeneity issue; it is a security question. Why is it, we ask, that so many of the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Syrian and Iraqi Muslim immigrants to Europe are young men, and so many of those we see left behind in Raqqa, Damascus and Baghdad are women, children, and the elderly?
The answer is by no means obvious. I would guess that no more than 100 in every 100,000 of these young men are dangerous from a security standpoint. As proved on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Germany, though, when some 500 such young men allegedly attacked dozens of unattached young German women, they can be to society in general. In their eyes, the German women flouted Islamic law by being out without men in tow, and wearing what to a young Muslim male was provocative clothing, justifying their attacks as "morally" acceptable.
In truth, it was a clash of two great civilizations that nature originally located in separate geographies, where they may have been intended to remain. It is difficult to imagine them coming to America, and I think that is another point on which Trump's supporters would agree.
I cannot be sanguine about Donald Trump's desire to build a high, 1,000-mile wall betwen the U.S. and Mexico. My fear, believe it or not, is that in this day of runaway gene splicing and bioengineering we might one day create by accident a fast-moving, deadly virus that millions want to escape by going south. At the Mexican border, though, we would be stopped not by Mexican border guards but by a huge, towering wall that stretched for a thousand miles to the Gulf of Mexico. It is not beyond the realm of possibility.
I lived in Los Angeles and became familiar with many people of Mexican and Hispanic origin; I find myself comfortable and friendly with them. Having studied Spanish, French and Russian in high school, and having married a Peruvian, I speak their language, and as a Christian and a Catholic, I share their religious and many of their values.
The world will change a great deal while Donald Trump is President. Many of those changes will probably work to our benefit. Deportation of 11 million undocumented Hispanics will not. And it is even possible, if millions of manufacturing and other jobs do return to the United States in a Trump Administration - along with the corporate trillions parked abroad to avoid repatriation taxes - that the impact of illegal workers may not be so grievously felt.
For now, that seems unlikely, but I'm willing to give Donald Trump an opportunity to make it happen. Consistent with many if not most of my own beliefs and my personal legacy, I will be voting for Donald Trump if, come November, he is the nominee of the party of Lincoln. I expect we will know the answer later tonight. Yet in doing so, I do not abandon my fondness for much of the Democratic platform, and especially for President Obama.
I just want to try something new.
Note: An earlier version of this story misstated the first name of President William McKinley. We regret the error
Joe Shea is founder and Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter, the first blog and the oldest online daily newspaper in the world.