Politics

KEN SHERRILL

I watched in horror as a mob ransacked Congress yesterday. My stomach churned. I could not pull myself away from the television. Emotionally, I went through many of the symptoms associated with grief and experiencing severe trauma. Intellectually, I realized that I was going through those symptoms but I also wondered whether my reactions were shared widely by my fellow Americans. My mind flashed back to November of 1963.

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

I was in an international relations seminar in my first term in graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill when the department secretary rushed into the seminar room and announced that President Kennedy had been shot. …


Election 2020

In 1972, I was deeply involved in the George McGovern presidential campaign. I was assigned to the McManus Club in Hell’s Kitchen for the last few hours of Election Day.

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Photo by Timo Wagner on Unsplash

At the time, Hell’s Kitchen was a pretty rough neighborhood and Jimmy McManus was the last of the old-fashioned machine politicians on the West Side of Manhattan. He had his people stationed at the polling places who kept track of who had voted and who hadn’t, reporting this information back to Jimmy.

At 8 PM, Jimmy gave me a list of apartments in the old-law tenements near the docks. He told me to go to those apartments and to say, “Mr. …


Politics

KEN SHERRILL

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Photo by Juan Ordonez on Unsplash

I was elected a District Leader in New York’s 69th Assembly District in 1977, my first electoral victory, and a rare tenured faculty member in office. I also was New York’s first openly gay elected official. This is what I did as a local party boss to make life a little easier for our constituents.

The 69th was a rambling district, running from West 97th Street down to 78th. The district had about 40,000 people, and was incredibly diverse: about 40% of the district was Jewish and about 40% was Black and Latinx. …


ELECTION 2020

Trump, COVID, and Flying Saucers

President Trump often said that COVID-19 was a hoax, that it would go away, and that people should just go about their lives. Many people, most notably his supporters, believed him.

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Photo by Harry Shelton on Unsplash

Republicans, for example were less likely to wear masks. Then President Trump became infected, was hospitalized, and was given heroic, often experimental, treatments. Many people, including members of the U.S. Senate and of his administration, also became infected as a result of attending a White House ceremony at which they did not wear masks (and to which no Democrats were invited). …


Election 2020

By: KEN SHERRILL

Today is National Voter Registration Day.

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Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

This reminds me of my first experience as an expert witness at a trial. In the spring of 1969 — my second year at Hunter College in New York City — my colleague Blanche Blank came up to me in the hallway outside the department office and asked me if I did the kind of statistical analysis that could be useful in a voter registration case. I replied that Profs. Don Matthews and Jim Prothro, my University of North Carolina dissertation advisors, had testified in many voter registration cases, usually about barriers to Black registration in the South, and that I thought that I could do the same sort of work. …


Politics

DISCOVERING MY ACADEMIC FUTURE, AND THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT

KEN SHERRILL

When I was an undergrad, I decided to organize a Brooklyn College chapter of Students for Kennedy at the start of the fall 1960 semester. We were warmly welcomed by the Kennedy campaign but the Dean of Students’ office was very wary of any sort of political organizing on campus in the wake of the Red Scare that had recently enveloped the campus. Anyway, I became President of our small but hardy group.

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Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

I spent a lot of my time at Kennedy headquarters, a single floor in a Park Avenue building that was part of the Kennedy family real estate domain. It was a large open space with a string of offices around the perimeter of the floor, and I did a lot of the scutwork assigned to student volunteers. …


Politics

Part 2

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Photo by Amogh Manjunath on Unsplash

After winning the primary, I had some flirtations with real political power. Mondale’s delegate hunter met me for coffee. He asked me what I thought of Geraldine Ferraro. I said, “What can I tell you? She’s out of the Queens machine.” He said, “Well, she’s the only one who gives us another 2% in the polling.” I don’t know if he got my message but I certainly got his.

The second was more interesting. We had gotten word that Mondale was having second thoughts about having a platform plank supporting gays in the military and we engaged in a furious lobbying campaign, totally unable to get through to the young Andrew Cuomo, who was managing Mondale’s campaign. …


Politics

Most political science only happens in publications and conferences. For me, being a political scientist has also meant experiencing politics up close. As we approach the presidential conventions, this is my story about how I landed at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, where, before the pandemic, I hoped to attend the APSA meeting this year. Get ready for a party hosted by Willie Brown where Jefferson Starship dueled with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus for our attention.

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Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Part 1

Wanting to be a delegate to the Democratic National Convention

I was raised by very political grandparents in Brooklyn. We all read the daily papers — the Post, News, and Times as well as the Brooklyn Eagle and Mirror — from front to end, listened to news and special events on the radio, and as soon as we were able to afford a television, watched the nightly news. I remember watching the 1952 Republican Convention, featuring competing demonstrations by Eisenhower and Taft delegates. …

About

Kenneth Sherrill

Professor Emeritus of political science at Hunter College, CUNY and Graduate School, CUNY. American politics, New York politics, elections, LGBTQ politics.

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