Colorado Governor Ralph Carr - My Kind of Guy

Friday, March 14, 2008
This is from an article in the Denver Post by Sandra Dallas, entitled "Carr's Courage Lit a Fire in Author:"

"In early 1942, when he first read Executive Order 9066, which allowed the federal government to round up the Japanese living on the West Coast and force them into inland camps, Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr thundered, "Now, that's wrong! Some of these Japanese are citizens of the United States." Coloradans, already fearful of the Japanese who were living in this country, were stunned at their governor's response.

"Later, as other Western governors refused to allow relocation camps to be built in their states — Wyoming's governor threatened to hang from a pine tree any Japanese entering his state — Carr announced that Colorado would do its duty, and more.

"Colorado became the site of one of 10 World War II Japanese internment camps, Amache, near Granada. State residents were outraged at Carr's words, although they had no bearing on Amache's location, since the federal government didn't care whether the states wanted the camps. "We had the JAPS crammed down our throats whether we liked it or not," a writer signing herself "A Mother" wrote the governor. Another letter-writer insisted, "If it were left to a vote of every citizen of this State . . . you would find out that we don't want the yellow devils."

"Carr's fierce stand supporting constitutional rights for Japanese in this country ruined his political career.

"Once considered as Wendell Wilkie's vice presidential running mate and even touted as presidential material by The New York Times, the Colorado Republican governor never again was elected to public office.

"Carr "stood up when everybody else sat down," says Adam Schrager, author of "The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story." A political reporter at Channel 9, Schrager contends there are parallels between Carr's time and our own: "The Patriot Act, Guantanamo, calling out the National Guard are all issues Ralph Carr dealt with."

"What differs from today is the former governor's response. "Carr stood up for someone else and risked his career to do it. It's so rare when a politician faces (the kind of fear that existed in 1942) and not only doesn't back down but takes the fight to the people," says Schrager, who has an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Michigan.

""As a student of American history, I've tried to find a comparison." In fact, Schrager began the Carr book soon after reading John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage," and "even the stances those folks took did not compare."

"The Principled Politician" is an outstanding biography of a governor who is little known today, even in Colorado. Carr was a successful water-rights attorney when he was drafted to run for the state's highest office. He initially dealt with budget deficits and overspending, but when war was declared, he found himself enmeshed in human rights issues. No one should have been surprised at his position on the Japanese because it could have been deduced from his first days as governor in 1939, when he hired an African-American to work in his front office. Until that time, blacks had been employed only as valets.

"Carr was molded by three factors, Schrager says. "Politically, he was a fan of Lincoln. He believed the Constitution was the law of the land and the greatest document outside the Bible. He had a strong moral code. He thought it was offensive to look down on people because of where their grandparents were born. And culturally, he never understood why some people were treated better than others based on class or race."

"His belief that he was right helped Carr withstand the barrage of venom aimed at him. In addition to thousands of letters from citizens, Carr had to contend with the state's newspapers. The Denver Post called the Japanese "yellow devils" on its front page and opined, "Once a Jap, Always a Jap." The Rocky Mountain News called Carr a "neutral in anti-Jap row."

"The reaction to Carr was based in large part on fear. And it was "just how scared the country was" in the early 1940s that surprised Schrager, 38, when he researched the book. Because he wasn't born until long after the war, "The only thing I can relate it to is 9/11. Pearl Harbor was 9/11 times 10," says Schrager. "Instead of caving in (to that fear), Carr stood up, and he fought. At the end of the day, he was comfortable with his stand."

"The author believes Americans today want the kind of politician Carr was. "It's fair to ask people running at the presidential level, 'Do you walk away from principles?' It's fair to pose it to people seeking the highest office, and I think I'll ask it of the next city council candidate who comes knocking at the door," he says. "

No shit. The reason we never hear about politicians with principles is because the ones that have them walk away from politics on matters of principle before they become well known. It makes me wonder which principles our current crop of presidential candidates have compromised to get as far as they have.

10 comments:

Shawn Powers said...

Yep. You sum it up nicely. Horrifyingly, but spot on.

Politicians are perishable. They go bad really quick. :(

Cindi in CO said...

"Politicians are perishable. They go bad really quick."

That's why I always roll my eyes whenever they try to convince me that term limits are hurting this country.

Because MORE years in office would actually reduce corruption. (she said in a voice dripping with sarcasm)

Jim Wright said...

Politicians are perishable. They go bad really quick.

Heh, that sounds like something Heinlein would have said.

Janiece Murphy said...

Shawn, I love that.

Can I use it, if I credit you?

And Jim's Back! Yay!

Shawn Powers said...

JIM! Welcome back to 'net, buddy.

And Heinlein? I can handle sounding like Heinlein... ;)

Shawn Powers said...

SOLD -- you don't even have to credit me. :)

Tania said...

I should pass this on to my friend Susan - she grew up in Detroit because that's where her parents went as part of the relocation program.

I'm a believer in the need for compromise in any numbers of areas, except for integrity.

Janeice, thanks for sharing this!

Steve Buchheit said...

Most of us stay in local politics, because we care about our neighbors.

Janiece Murphy said...

Steve, if your motivation is to serve your neighbors rather than to feed your ambition, then it's unlikely you would rise to this level anyway.

At least that's the way I see it.

Carol Elaine said...

Wonderful post, Janiece. Thank you.

Shawn, good one!