Burt Prelutsky

People who are aware that I used to be a registered Democrat often ask me if I’ve lost many friends once I became such an ardent Conservative. The truth is I don’t think I lost any. I suspect that most of them, including the most liberal, feel that I’ve been a tad eccentric all along, and that my political conversion is just one more thing they have chosen to overlook.

I’m sure that some of my chums think I’m a reactionary boor when I suggest that Ted Kennedy is proof positive that the good die young or that the Dixie Chicks look and sound like the kids from “Village of the Damned” grown up. But they seem to understand and accept that nobody’s perfect.

The most serious breach took place with my middle-aged niece, Susan. We had always gotten along well until I began writing about politics. She simply couldn’t bear to read my stuff. I guess her concern was that my right-wing rants suggested to her the very real possibility that there might be insanity in the family.

A couple of years ago, my wife and I drove up from L.A. while my niece and her family drove down from the Bay area to spend a weekend together in Carmel. Even though the 2004 election was looming on the horizon, Susan and I vowed to avoid discussing politics.

Once, when just he and I were walking back from the tennis court, her 12-year-old son reported that they’d held a mock election in his sixth grade classroom. Even though I knew that they lived in one of those chi-chi white wine and Brie communities north of San Francisco, I was a bit surprised when he reported that Kerry had garnered 27 votes, Nader got two, and Bush got only one. The lad proudly announced that he’d voted for Kerry. Big surprise! I told him that, political preference aside, I predicted big things for the kid who’d gone for Bush. When he asked why, I told him it proved he was willing to buck peer pressure and to spit, figuratively of course, in the teacher’s eye. (Heck, these days, you can’t even expect that kind of moxie in a college student almost twice that kid’s age.)

In any case, Susan and I managed to get through the entire weekend, neatly sidestepping all sorts of potential landmines, until a few minutes before our departure. We were all having a last cup of complimentary coffee in the hotel lobby. Because the place was owned by Doris Day, the walls were decorated with her movie posters. The one directly in front of my wife was for “The Winning Team,” the movie bio of Grover Cleveland Alexander, which happened to co-star Ms. Day and Ronald Reagan.