Last week we brought you the profile of Democratic delegate Reverend Marvin McMickle. This week, we talk with republican delegate Jim Brady. He’s a Shaker Heights councilman and works at an international security company. ideastream®’s Dan Bobkoff has his story.
Politics tends to stereotype voters. Remember this ad from a few elections back?
AD: Latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving….
Republican delegate Jim Brady doesn’t easily fit a particular mold. He was in the military for years, and today is well-dressed and carries an iPhone. He’s come a long way. An African American, he grew up in the shadow of the steel mills in Warren, Ohio. His mother was only 15 when she had him. When he was starting kindergarten, a blue-collar worker married his mother and adopted him.
BRADY: I just saw my dad go through so many struggles in a steel mill town. I saw him work at Packard Electric and Packard Electric laid him off. Prior to that, he was at Republic Steel, and I just thought, watching this as a young kid, there has to be a better way.
That, in part, is what led him to the Republican Party. His was a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of family.
BRADY: Even when my dad got laid off, my mother refused to use food stamps. She would make my dad go to the store and use food stamps because she had a lot of pride and rightly so.
Brady says he learned early not to rely on the government for support. He paid his own way through school—joining the Army reserves out of high school and then ROTC at the University of Toledo. While there, he was sent to serve in the first Gulf War.
The experience stuck with him.
BRADY: My son’s name is Colin. I mean, I served in the military under Colin Powell.
After finishing school, he became a lieutenant in the infantry. His military experience helped form his views as a hawk on national defense.
A bit cynical having seen the decline of Warren, he believes change happens at the local level. When not working for a company that provides support to workers in dangerous parts of the world, Brady serves as a Shaker Heights councilman. So, while he’s excited to head to St. Paul, he’s less enthused about the presidential race.
BRADY: I think it’ll be exciting to see the process in play, but again, being the cynic, I’m kind of cynical about national level politics in general.
Brady was initially a Rudy Giuliani delegate—a fan of the former New York mayor’s centrism. Now, he backs McCain. He says there are more African American conservatives in Cuyahoga County than many people think, but it can still be a lonely distinction.
BRADY: Blacks who are conservatives or republicans, they take it on the chin from people—from democrats because it’s seen as being a sell-out, it’s seen as being disloyal.
Brady is 39—born right at the end of the Civil Rights movement. He says if he were a generation older, there’s no question he’d be a democrat.
BRADY: Great strides by democrats because of the Civil Rights movement that allow me to have these opinions that I have right now. I mean, I know that.
Brady says the rise of Barack Obama to become the first African American major party presidential candidate is a powerful message for the young, but he says, that doesn’t mean he needs to change the views he’s developed over his lifetime. He says his father has no idea how he raised a republican, but next week in St. Paul, he’ll be voting for McCain.