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Am I Blue!

When Hillary Clinton was growing up in Park Ridge, the town—like most of suburban Chicago—was emphatically Republican. Her youthful slide from right to left previewed by three decades a similar, remarkable shift among Illinois voters.

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Park Ridge has gone from Republican red to Democrat blue, just like its favorite daughter, Hillary Clinton


In the fall of 1964, two high-school girls from Park Ridge—Hillary Rodham and her best friend, Betsy Johnson—developed a crush on the same man. His name was Barry Goldwater, and he was the Republican nominee for president.

Today, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Republican Party have little use for each other. But that campaign season, it was hard to find anyone more devoted to Goldwater’s hopeless cause, even in conservative Park Ridge. Hillary chaired Young Republican meetings in Betsy’s basement, and dressed as a Goldwater Girl, wearing a cowboy outfit and a ten-gallon hat adorned with the candidate’s catchphrase—AuH2O. “We actually set up the Youth for Goldwater headquarters in Park Ridge,” recalls Betsy Johnson, now Betsy Ebeling. “It was right downtown. I remember my sister brought in her sewing machine and sewed red, white, and blue bunting.”

Hillary had been turned on to Goldwater by one of her first political mentors, a conservative-leaning history teacher who encouraged her to read The Conscience of a Conservative, the Arizona senator’s campaign biography. Her youthful infatuation with the Republican Party was reinforced by her father, a crusty, fiscally conservative draper who was so tight with money he paid for the family house in cash and refused to give his children an allowance. In 1960, Hugh Rodham supported Richard M. Nixon for president, and so did his 13-year-old daughter.

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