Abstract

The booing of quarterback Jack Kemp got so ugly by 1966 that a Buffalo newspaper issued a tardy rebuke. Reminding fans of the national television audience, the editors warned that deriding Kemp made the city look second-rate. The admonishment had no effect, however. A cross section of fans—ethnic, Catholic, working class, and, overwhelmingly, Democrat—coalesced around backup quarterback Daryle Lamonica against the WASPish, conservative Kemp. “We want Lamonica” pulsed through Memorial Stadium like never before. Besides revealing an assertion of ethnic and political loyalties, the quarterback controversy anticipated and shaped the quarterback-turned-candidate's populist persona. Key to Kemp's political ambitions were Lamonica fans, disaffected Democrats who were also the core element of Richard Nixon's strategy to realign American politics. But the bidding for the silent majority differed in local and national races. Seeking to overcome his WASPish reputation, Kemp's brand of ethnic populism was more activist in nature than Nixon's token gestures.

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