Interview with Seth Taft
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

Okay, so after the primary--

SETH TAFT:

You want to get back to the primary. I don't think I can tell you about the primary until I tell you about the, what happened beforehand. So, uh, we had an elephant and we went around and said, "Remember Seth Taft in November." Then the primary came along and Carl Stokes won the democratic primary. Frankly I was, I was very surprised. Ah, and, uh, he did and uh, that obviously, uh, changed things. Suddenly there I was, uh, uh, running against Carl Stokes, a person whom I had, uh, he and I had worked together on lots of, lots of project and, uh, that was not a comfortable situation to be in. Ah, all the people in the--Cleveland you must understand, perhaps other, other parts of the country people wouldn't understand--Cleveland is a community that grew up primarily around the turn of the century when the major immigration to the United States was from eastern Europe. So Cleveland is a city full of nationality groups, primarily from eastern Europe. When I arrived in Cleveland, if you can believe it, there were three or four daily newspapers in eastern European languages. There's one in Polish. There's one in German. There was one in, uh, Hungarian. Ah. There were probably fifteen or twenty weekly newspapers written in foreign languages. Ah, and what, they tended to group in areas so that you'd be a, there was a Hungarian neighborhood and there was a Polish neighborhood and there was an Italian neighborhood. Ah, now these people had come over, had scratched their way up the ladder and finally made it. And they were, uh, they were now, uh, happy with their, their lot. They'd work hard themselves to make their way. They're all Democrats. Ah, I guess, uh, used to be said that's because Franklin Roosevelt saved our homes from the, uh, foreclosure in the depression. But these people were Democrats but they were not comfortable with the newest wave of immigrants which were from the South--Black. Ah. And, uh, consequently their attitude was, "Hey, we made it by crawling up the ladder. Why can't these new people make it by crawling up the ladder?" So there was, there was a lot of feeling, uh, within the community, within this, this nationality-oriented community that, uh, somehow the newest group weren't making it on their own. And that somehow or other that therefore they were not enthusiastic about Carl Stokes. That's where it amounts to. So right after the primary we just had thousands of people marching into our headquarters saying, "We want to campaign for you. We think you're the great guy." They'd never heard of me before. But, uh, so we had a, it made a very uncomfortable situation, I can assure you, when a whole batch of people rush into your headquarters and want to work in your campaign when you don't like their motive. Ah, on the other hand, if you were running for office and somebody said, "I'll vote for you," and you don't like the reason he's going to vote for you, do you turn him down? Do you say, "Don't vote for me because I don't like why you're going to vote for me?" So, uh, uncomfortable as it was, uh, we, I couldn't see any alternative but to accept those supporters. We fired a whole batch of them that went out and campaigned saying "Hey you wouldn't want a Black mayor of this city, would you?" And, uh, uh, we got rid of everybody we could of that sort. Ah, frankly both of us ran a, I think, a very much an affirmative, uh, nonracially oriented campaign. But the racial issue was like, uh, one postage stamp thickness below the surface**. Ah, it was sort of there all the time. You couldn't, it was very hard to get away from. Partly because there wasn't much difference between the two of us except color.