A Slice of My Life–Me and a Political Convention

Vera Marie Badertscher

Vera Marie Badertscher sitting in the Presidential Box at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans 1988.

Little did I know when I was nine that forty years later I would sit in the Presidential Box at a National Political Convention!

It started like this:

“Because the other party has been in the White House for too long. It isn’t fair.”

My sense of fair play said that after 12 1/2 years of one Democrat, and 3 1/2 years of another in the White House, the Republicans should get a turn.

I expressed my first political opinion, expressed by my 9-year-old self to my fourth grade teacher in the heat of the 1948 campaign pitting Democrat Harry Truman against Republican Thomas Dewey.  You remember that campaign and how it turned out? Everyone KNEW that Thomas Dewey was going to win.  The newspapers even printed headlines to go out the morning after the election. As you can clearly tell by the smile on his face–it was Truman who won.

Harry Truman - Thomas Dewey

President Harry Truman holds up a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune declaring his defeat to Thomas Dewey in the presidential election. St. Louis, MIssouri: November, 1948.
(Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)

I had been right about one thing, the Republicans had been wandering in the wilderness for many, many years.

The election held a harsh set of lessons for a 9-year-old.

  1. You can’t always believe what you read in the newspaper.
  2. You can’t make assumptions about who is going to win an election.
  3. Politics isn’t always about what is “fair.”

But the election of 1948 also lit a fire in me because the election was exciting, people got very involved, and I could see (although my thinking was not very sophisticated!) that it involved some very important principles of Democracy.

Thanks to the introduction four years prior by My Weekly Reader, the newspaper for elementary school kids,I took an interest in current affairs and started reading the newspaper. Thanks to my teacher asking her students to give a speech in favor of their favorite candidate in 1948, I was ready by 1952 to absorb some of the more subtle aspects of politics .

I Like Ike Button

1952 button for the Eisenhower button.

I remember being glued to the radio until late at night, in 1952, listening to the Republican convention that nominated war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. My interest waned when I was a teenager, but was ignited again in 1960 when, for the first time, I was able to vote in a presidential election.

As the years rolled on, I got involved in community activities, and that led to working in political campaigns, which led to several years as a professional campaign manager and strategist. Working for a Congressman, I was fortunate to be able to attend a political convention in 1988.

As much as technology has changed, the basics of a political convention are the same, I learned when I attended the 1988 Republican Nominating Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Parties and Entertainment

Political Convention Pin

New Orleans Political Convention Pin 1988

Funny Clothes, from Cowboy hats for Texans to lobster hats for Maine’s delegates, and this vest that was the official garb of the delegates from Arizona in 1988.

Political Convention vest

Back of Arizona delegates vest, 1988 Republican Convention.

And, of course–Buttons. In this picture, you can see a few I wore on my vest (borrowed, since I was not an official delegate, but rather  there as an assistant to a Congressman.)

Republican Political Convention 1988

The Buttons I wore on my vest at the 1988 Republican Political Convention

Sellers of various keepsakes and paraphernalia…and buttons… line the halls and the sidewalks.  This is a sampling of the various styles on sale in 1988 at the Republican Political Convention.

George Bush buttons

George Bush Campaign buttons and New Orleans mementos from the 1988 political convention.

And of course the place swarms with Press. Here is an interview in 1988 with my boss, Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona.

John Kolbe and Rep. Jim Kolbe

John Kolbe (dec.), reporter for the Arizona Republic, interviews his brother Congressman Jim Kolbe at Republican Convention 1988.

The excitement always runs high.  Here is the crowd listening to an address by the nominee, then Vice-President George H. W. Bush. (You can see him in the top left on a video monitor.)

George H. W. Bush

Top left hand corner shows the nominee, then Vice President Bush speaking to the convention.

The big event of the speech of the candidate is followed by the equally big event of the BALLOON DROP.

1988 Republican Convention

The balloon drop that signals the end.

All parties come to an end–for some with new friends and warm feelings, for some with a headache that will take four years to heal.

The end of the convention.

After the ball is over…

Note: This has been one of a monthly series I am doing on family and ancestors in politics. Not only did my nine-year old self not suspect that I would be so deeply involved in politics as an adult, I did not realize what depth of political involvement there was in my family history.

Politics in the Family

You can read past posts about my mother and father, Paul and Harriette Kaser and the losingest Presidential campaign ever.

Sardine Stone, an office holder and supporter of James Madison.

William Cochran, who worked for the election of William Henry Harrison.

And before the present series, I wrote about two other polticially active ancestors.

Even Civil War fighter Erasmus Anderson exercised his political opinions in a letter home. (Hint: he disliked one of our most revered presidents.

My uncle Keith Kaser ran for office himself, in one party as my father was working for the opposing party at the same timel


The buttons and vest and poster of New Orleans, and the political convention photos are part of my own collection of Political Convention Memorabilia. I found the image on line of a happy Truman with the mistaken headline. That makes this post partly about Heirlooms.

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