Polonia’s choice: Clinton, Obama, McCain?

At this stage, can anyone answer the question contained in the headline above? Is there even such a thing as a “Polonian electorate” or a “Polish-American vote”? Around the mid-20th century the answer would have been obvious. Starting more or less with FDR’s New Deal, Polish immigrants and their American-born offspring usually voted a straight Democratic. That was also true of other immigrant communities, Afro-Americans (formerly called colored people or Negroes), southerners and union members regardless of their ethnic background.

That began changing during the violent 1960s and ‘70s which were marked by assassinations, the emerging drug culture and anti-war protests which were seen by many as simply anti-American. In the 1968 presidential race, Republican Richard Nixon Democrat Hubert Humphrey by only a narrow margin, But by 1972 the Democratic Party was being increasingly associated with radical celebrities (such as pro-Vietnamese Jane Fonda), flag-burners, pro-abortionists and violent fringe groups such as the Black Panthers, Black Muslims and Weathermen.

Had Polish-American Edmund Muskie (Marciszewski) secured his party’s nomination, that would have undoubtedly helped keep many Polonian voters in the Democratic fold. But the choice of leftist George McGovern turned off a great many Polish Americans who cast their backlash vote for Nixon. Polonia’s pro-Republican stance became more firmly grounded during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr, both of whom were seen as aiding the cause of Poland’s independence.

But now it is 2008, and Blacks, Jews, Latinos, trade-unionists and most Hollywood types have by and large remained Democratic sympathizers. With Polish Americans and voters with other East, Central and Southern European roots, political loyalties are more diversified. Some say that most Polish Americans have made the transition into the middle class and do not perceive themselves as a separate electorate with specific needs. The fact remains, however, that groups with a political agenda that pressure candidates over their issues and concerns are the ones that get listened and catered to by the political establishment.

Issues of potential interest to Polish-American voters might include the following:

– Immigration-law reform enabling Polish immigrants to obtain legal status – permanent residence or US citizenship;

Ensuring more Federal Government appointments, including cabinet posts, for Polish Americans;

Vigorous prosecution of anti-Polonism through the creation of a special Polish anti-defamation unit at the US State Department similar to that which now monitors anti-Semitism;

More student, academic and cultural exchange programs with Poland;

Increased US military aid for Poland in exchange for its agreement to host parts of the anti-missile shield on Polish territory.

Increasing business opportunities for Polish companies in the United States;

Making good on the F-16 offset program, whereby the US pledged to promote investments in Poland in exchange for Poland’s purchase of F-16 jet fighter planes;

Inclusion of Poland in the visa-waiver program, enabling Poles to visit the US without having to apply for an American visa; the US is now the only NATO country that still discriminates Poles in this way.

Polish-American voters still have time to make up their minds whom to vote for. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both expected to conduct a leftist liberal policy, favored by the pro-homosexual and abortion-rights lobbies and are competing as to which of them will end America’s military involvement in Iraq sooner. Conservative John McCain, 70, is more likely to provide military aid to Poland and carry out immigration reform, but a major strike against him is his age.

To demonstrate that Polish Americans constitute a bloc of politically aware and responsible voters, a group of young Polonian based in the Boston area have launched an interesting nationwide campaign called PoloniaVotes2008. Its purpose is to secure at least one million declarations from eligible Pol-Am voters which will greatly enhance our community’s political clout vis-à-vis the three main presidential contenders. To take part without having to declare your political preference, complete the brief declaration found at www.poloniavotes2008.com. Additional information may be obtained by e-mailing [email protected] or phoning 1-(800) 668-9667.

Do you know what your Polish name means?

Have you ever wondered how your Old World ancestors acquired the Polish surname they brought over with them to America? Many started out as nicknames indicating someone’s occupation including Kowal (blacksmith), Piekarz (Baker) and Kołodziej (wheelwright). Others were based on someone’s characteristic: Garbaty (hunchbacked), Chudy (thin), Paluch (big-fingered) and Głowacki (big-headed).

Typical peasant names were derived from common household objects, farmyard tools, foods, and animals including Łopata (garden spade), Wróbel (sparrow) and Słoma (straw). A great many people were named on the basis of who their father’s were. Kowlaczyk was the blacksmith’s son, Stasiak was Stan’s boy and Pawlak was Paul’s kid.

The majority of Polish names ending in “-owski” are of toponymic origin, meaning that they described people on the basis of where they lived. Wiśniewski came from Wiśniewo (Cherryville), Dąbrowski was a native of Dąbrowo (Oakville), Zaleski lived on the other side of the forest and Mazur hailed from the forested, lake-studded Mazury region.

If you would like a custom-researched analysis of the meaning and derivation of your Polish surname, how many people share it, where they live and whether the name is accompanied by a noble coat-of-arms, please airmail a $15 check (adding $5 for each additional surname) to:

Robert Strybel
ulica Kaniowska 24
01-529 Warsaw, Poland