The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
Alert readers (ARs) of a certain age undoubtedly remember Vice President Spiro Agnew, who was renowned for his alliterative insults, such as “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.” In 1973 he became the first and only vice president in U.S. history to resign from office because of criminal charges. He had previously served as governor of Maryland and was succeeded in that office by Marvin Mandel, who was himself convicted of mail fraud and racketeering. It all goes to show that Illinois isn’t the only state in which corruption in the governor’s office is bipartisan.
What ARs may not recall, however, is that Agnew was elected governor of Maryland as a liberal. I am not making this up. Fifty years ago I was a freshman at Georgetown University in the fall of 1966 and heard radio ads for both Agnew and his Democratic opponent George Mahoney. I distinctly remember Mahoney’s campaign slogan, “Your home is your castle; protect it.” (A not too subtle endorsement of racial segregation.) The Republican Agnew, who was relatively liberal by comparison, captured 70% of the black vote and won the election. I should note that I was disqualified from voting for or against Spiro (aka Ted in those days) for two reasons. First, I didn’t live in Maryland. Second, at that time the minimum age for voting was 21.
I turned 18 a few days before the 1966 election, at which point I was required by federal law to register for the Selective Service System. The fact that my classmates and I were not allowed to vote for or against the government that was conscripting our generation was a source of significant discontent on campus. I should add that in the District of Columbia, among other jurisdictions, this discontent was ameliorated by more lenient liquor laws than are currently on the books. Thus, this coming October 28th will be an important anniversary for me: a half-century of drinking beer legally in the United States.
It was during this first semester of my freshman year that I started down the path that ultimately led to my majoring in English. I was in an honors English seminar and received a D+ on the first paper I handed in. I figured this wouldn’t happen again, and it didn’t. My second paper was returned with even more red ink and received an F. (I want to emphasize that the legal drinking age in Washington, DC had no impact whatsoever on these grades or on any other grades I received that semester. None whatsoever.) It’s worth noting that the professor who taught the class did not give a single A that semester. There were several students who would have had 4.0 averages but for this class. I was not one of them. Not even close. It’s also worth noting that two students in the class (about 10%) were convicted of felonies before we graduated. One was caught transporting a large quantity of marijuana in Iowa. (Why Iowa, I never figured out.) Another one became a serial killer. (Seriously.) When considered in this context, my F on a paper about Flannery O’Connor didn’t seem all that egregious
As a consequence of these torrents of red ink on my early papers, I learned to become more careful about what I wrote. The following year I found myself in a class taught by a professor who praised my writing as much as his predecessor had critiqued it and actually gave me an A++ on the first paper I turned in. So, if any ARs might be wondering why I persist in writing this column, the credit or blame should be shared more or less equally between Professor Thomas Walsh for making me think I couldn’t write and Professor Bernard Wagner for making me think I could.
One of the outlets for my writing has been The Courthouse Steps, who have performed at The Schlafly Tap Room on numerous occasions in the past 20 years. As some ARs probably know, this is a troupe of singing lawyers who have lampooned anyone and everyone across the political spectrum. As some ARs also know, the group is dissolving. With one of our singers now deceased and another one having moved to Texas, the consensus in the group was that it was time to move on. By the time this column is up on the brewery’s website, we will have had our final performance..
The timing of our dissolution means there will be no official Courthouse Steps commentary on the biggest corporate merger ever to affect St. Louis: the proposed acquisition of locally-based Monsanto by Bayer, which is based in Leverkusen, just outside Cologne, Germany. On that point, it’s worth noting that there is a precedent for this transaction. My wife, who is from Cologne, successfully merged with me on September 2nd, 1995. Twenty-one years later I’m still under German management and our headquarters is still in St. Louis.
In case any folks from Bayer are reading this, I want to say Willkommen in St. Louis. When you come to visit your affiliate that’s based here, please know that you can find beer at least as good as what you’re used to drinking at home.
Although the Courthouse Steps weren’t able to do a song about Monsanto and Bayer, there has been no shortage of fodder this political season. With both major presidential candidates receiving unprecedentedly high negative ratings in the polls; and with the antics of Anthony Weiner and Stan Kroenke; and with French laws against wearing too much clothing on the beach, it was easy to find enough material to fill a two-hour show. In fact, I had so much material that there wasn’t room for anything about the gubernatorial race in Missouri. For the benefit of ARs who have not been following the race closely, it’s very simple. The Democratic candidate used to be a Republican and the Republican candidate used to be a Democrat. It’s almost as bizarre as Spiro Agnew’s being elected as a liberal.