That's Jim, on the right. He was my father-in-law. There are things I learned from Jim, and from his family that confirmed much of what I learned in my life before I came here.
I think they are important lessons. They are important to me and I wanted to share them lest I be accused of keeping too much good stuff a secret!
Jim, and the many millions of Americans who shared his values, represent the electorate that we have to reach. His values were family, home, security and work. Jim was a proud American, a man, like so many, who served his country in his military life, his professional life and his personal life.
My father-in-law was born and raised in Oklahoma. He graduated High School in Tulsa and lived most of his adult life in a small town just south of that city. He married a local girl and between them they raised three daughters. Mrs Twigg is the middle one.
They lived in the same small town for about forty years, and all three girls graduated from the local High School around the late eighties.
He was successful in his professional life, rising to CFO of the town's largest employer. In his spare time he coached the local girls softball team. The "Smith girls" were well known and well liked, as was their Dad.
Jim retired early due to ill health. Sadly, at age sixty seven he succumbed to the cumulative effects of various ailments, and the world grew a little dimmer.
I relate this brief, potted history simply that you might understand where this man was coming from, and how typical he is of those voters who we struggle most to entice to our side.
Jim was an Oklahoman, a father and husband. A man who was socially fairly liberal, fiscally conservative with a quiet demeanour that masked a fierce pride in his family and country. Jim had views that I would never have agreed with, because he was that generation, from the south. Jim's mother-in-law is still alive. She lives in the same small town and she well remembers when the town was segregated. These folk did not see Brown v. Board of Education as progress, yet many are more prejudiced than racist. What racism there is is not the pointed "nigga" kind .... just a birth condition that is only slowly being erased. Yes, the other type exists here too, but not in Jim, and not in many like him. He would occasionally make a comment that grated on my wife, but I generally gave him a pass. We are all products of our upbringing.
It is probably fair to observe that Jim didn't understand me at all. I am English, so I talk funny. I hold views on society and politics that would have been an anathema to him. Partly because he would have disagreed, but also because the people here don't actually think about politics all the time, so their actual understanding of what is being said and done in Washington is, at best, sketchy. They just know that they don't agree with liberals. It's almost a genetic condition. Ask them about individual policies and they will frequently agree. Typical would be Social Security and Medicare. The GI Bill that so many of them took advantage of. Point out that any of the policies they agree with are Liberal, or Democratic policies, and they will vote for the other guy. It is what they do. It is what Jim did.
For Jim I represented a problem. I would not have been his first choice of husband for his daughter. Yet she was clearly happy and that mattered more to him than anything, so I got a pass. He loved NASCAR yet he developed an interest in Formula One, because I watched it .... and partly because any car going very fast was completely irresistible to him.
Here though, is the crux of this matter. Jim was a Republican voter in the way so many are Democratic voters. It's in the blood. What is remarkable though is that what Jim wanted, his hopes and ambitions were the same as everyone else's. The same as the proud Democrat living in Chicago, the same too as my father and grandfather living many thousands of miles away, in another land.
The desire to provide for one's family. A secure home, a decent income and a comfortable retirement. Not wanting to worry about our golden years, so tragically cut short in his case. The ability for a sick child, or spouse, or neighbor to be cured of sickness. Getting the kids through High School, then College whether they wanted it or not. The time and disposable income to enjoy a meal out, or an occasional vacation. Finally, a desire that our children will do a bit better than we managed, and maybe we can leave them a little something to help them on their way when we are gone.
These were Jim's values. They are not Republican values, or Democratic. They are not the ambition of Americans, or Brits, Germans ... the French for gawds sake! No, these are simple human values.
Where every we hail from, whatever the shade of our politics or the colour of our skin these are the things we all want for ourselves ... and we want our friends and neighbors to have this for their own families.
In America, they are the hopes and aspirations of ninety nine percent of the population. I say ninety nine percent but really have little way of knowing whether that figure is off by a few percentage points. Actually it is one hundred percent of all of the people I know, and I rather suspect it is the same proportion of all the people you know too.
What I am saying here is that for virtually everyone in the world our neighbors are ourselves. They may prefer Ford over Chevvy, indeed some may prefer to walk to work. Others are simply thankful they have a job, and the ones that do have gainful employment are quite keen that everyone else has that same opportunity.
Our neighbors may vote Republican, or Green, or not at all. They may be Atheist, Buddhist or Jain. Some might attend the local Baptist Church, and some like the quiet afforded them in Lowes or Homedepot, because everyone else is at the local Baptist .... You get the drift.
It would be reasonable to suppose that the vast majority could sit around a table, hammer out our differences and get to work simply governing, for all the people, by the people. That we apparently cannot is nothing to do with your Republican uncle, or cousin, and everything to do with the tiny minority who possess more than they need, and more than their share. They didn't build that, we did. Yet they are free to use it to set me against my kin and my community. They are able to make the white guy suspect that all of his problems are caused by the black guy. That my marriage is threatened by a couple of girls kissing in a bar, and their desire to have what I have.
In short, they are free to use the wealth we created, and that they possess, to slice and dice a homogenous community of people with identical aspirations, into a seething mass of hate and division. One that is almost completely incapable of recognising that the Emperor is stark-bollock naked and laughing at us ... All the way to the bank ... The bank that stole that re-possessed home next door to yours.
I don't know how much pain we have to suffer before we help everyone to see the wood for the trees. How many more will die through lack of healthcare. How many more will lose their homes, their jobs, their hope. At what point we will, if only gradually and haltingly come to realise that we are being enslaved by a sociopathic subset of humanity .... Indeed, the only subset of humanity that does not share our values.
Jim voted straight ticket Republican in the way that Jodie, his daughter and my wife votes straight ticket Democratic. The only difference between them is that Jodie became an informed voter, and switched her affiliation as her depth of knowledge increased.
I miss Jim, but watching the development of his daughter into a thinking, caring voter has been inspirational. Jodie made a transition, a road her sisters have yet to travel and the only difference between them is knowledge.
I strive to remember that Republican voters are an obstacle, but they are not our enemy.
That is reserved for the tiny few who manipulate us into believeing that we are different from each other.