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The Book of the Week is “The Way It Was With Me, A personal and political memoir, told with relish and laced with dire truth” (sic) by Senator Glen H. Taylor, published in 1979.
Born in 1904 in rural Idaho, Taylor quit high school to financially support his family. In the backs of bars, he was a singer of “illustrated songs” (good old American classics, accompanied by a slide show, a piano and a three-piece orchestra). He appeared onstage as the last act after showgirls and burlesque in Western states. Later, thanks to his older brother, he traveled with an acting troupe, competing with movies that featured sound.
Taylor first ran for office in 1938, on a shoestring budget as an Idaho Democrat for the U.S. Congress. He wasn’t the first choice of the local political machine. He lost. American politics has hardly changed in centuries (never mind eighty years ago), in terms of dirty tricks and backroom deals.
Because he was a showman, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1942, Taylor adopted the shtick of riding a horse to campaign stops; a total distance of five hundred miles. He was doing his rationing bit for the war effort. He handed out postcard-sized campaign cards with his picture and name. The newspapers knew that human-interest articles (translation: tabloid stories) sold more papers than discussion of the issues by the candidates, and they all behaved accordingly. Taylor lost again.
When Taylor finally won an election, he was shown around Congress by a megalomaniacal alpha male who abused his power. Taylor, on the other hand, committed political suicide for his principles, defending Henry Wallace (about whom president Truman made an unfortunate remark that gave rise to vicious red-baiters such as Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon to do their things). In campaigning for Wallace, Taylor refused to bow to the rules of segregation at a church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1946. Bull Connor had thugs haul Taylor off to jail for being a “radical integrationist Commie.”
Read the book to learn many additional details about Taylor’s life– how it contained the kinds of characters who: would appear in a Mae West movie, populated Vaudeville and politics; how he made a small contribution to electoral politics in Idaho (hint: he went door-to-door to verify a vote count because Idaho election law was silent on voting-recounts), and how he satisfied his entrepreneurial bent, finally striking it rich.