Fox's supreme “Village Idiot”, Dick[head] Morris once smartly said that "an election", especially a Presidential election "is a national conversation". The post-Internet & social-media world often has conversations with “like minded” virtual friends or even total strangers. To many this might seem important and it is in the way to affirm that your own thoughts are not totally unique, possibly weird. But what is more important, during elections is NOT just having conversations with “like minded” persons, be they family, friends or new acquaintances, but with UNLIKE MINDED, that is more important to reach out of your comfort zone and have political conversations with undecided and especially competing or unlike minds.
As some of you might know I do talk to persons outside my comfort zone, in fact it seems to seek me out. Wednesday I published a conversation with a neighbor who was a competing mind reached out to me to connect over his angst that Romney had insulted him and his family by broad-brush labeling that he and his working daughter were now part of the “moocher” or “taker” segment of society. He would not have had a comforting ear if I had not reached out to him before and developed a reciprocal relationship that involved and transcended politics. Last month we I published a group conversation with friends.
Background: Back in 2006 when I was canvassing for Democrats in Colorado Springs I happened to strike a conversation with a retired, country-club type neighbor who told me that he blamed the local Democrats for deepening the craziness that had invaded Colorado's Republican Party. His reasoning was that because the Democrats were locally impotent that it has allowed the fringe in his party to take over. Back then I told him that his options were to either “step-aside” (meaning abstain) or “hold your nose” (secret ballot vote for a Democrat), he rebuffed either suggestion. Two years later I reached out to him again during the Obama Campaign recruiting him to be a Republican for Obama, he demurred, but we had a respectful long conversation on his front porch. However his wife officially a registered Unaffiliated voter did join the Obama Campaign where she made extraordinary cookies for a couple of Obama House Parties. Two years later, now 2010, Harold did eventually change his party status to Unaffiliated after the Republicans in total disarray in Colorado with the Governor's race where they nominated Ken Buck, a Tea Party proponent for US Senator, contributed to to the Bennet campaign. Bennet won by less than 2%.
Even though in 2009 we moved from that neighborhood we had coffee a couple times a year each election cycle. He always was insightful, as a professor even more so, and as it happened, a former GOP local party official. He is of my father's age, now approaching 86, though in good health, modestly middle class affluent (possibly more, though living modestly), having been a small businessman and local investor where he was part of Colorado Springs growth from a 50,000 person, small rural city, identified as a military outpost and cattle station, to now a 500,000 person secondary major media market. The other afternoon, he called again and wanted to meet for a late day coffee to discuss the upcoming election, fast. This time he brought a friend, again a retired fellow affluent local, who turned out to be a banker and said he wanted to merely listen to our conversation as Harold had often described to him our little talks. Actually John spoke more than he listened.
What I found in this anecdotal connection as with my neighbor yesterday is that the presumption that Romney and the Republicans do not have locked up the over 65 year old retired white vote, especially the investor-retired class of voters. It is interesting that in Romney's famous video he poked at the concept that those in the 47%, who do not pay Federal income tax, where the lowering the income tax rates might not have the desired voter motivation effect. It is also interesting that Romney and the Republicans have targeted retirement entitlements as their primary area of reform or even revolution as a policy initiative. In short, their target is Social Security and Medicare which are called the 3rd Rail of politics because you are messing with the Social Compact that rebuilt the American Society after 1929 Market Crash and subsequent Great Depression.
Political Scientists will point to each political realignment either adding or changing the America's Social Compact. Regardless of what some people thought the Reagan Revolution was a realignment and it represented a fundamentally change in the New Deal Social Compact. But that realignment did not remove the basic New Deal Social Compact and for good reason, it was 1980 and 1984, where there were a large number of first person memories of the Great Depression still alive. Adult survivors of the Great Depression now in their 80's and children in their early 60's. They knew the pain and knew first hand what the Great Depression felt.
Now a generation later the ones who still have first person memories are now well into their 80's. In 1939 when the first recipient of the new Social Security program got her check, the survivors were in 1st through the 6th grades. The two fellows drinking coffee with me this afternoon were in the 5th and 6th grades. In 1966, when President Truman was Medicare's first recipient these two fellows were 40. They might not have liked the tax but now they like the benefits. They also remember their grandparents not having available healthcare or going broke or without medical care in their elderly years. I recall my grandmother, born in 1899 having a heart attack in 1967, and because of Medicare she received one of the first pacemakers. She eventually lived to 1989 even attending my marriage and if not for Medicare would have died from congestive heart failure by 1970, if not sooner. Was she a moocher, a parasite as Ayn Rand would say?
Now the conversation with these two old time traditional Republicans who I now know were local party officials but are now voting for a Democratic Presidential candidate.
John: “I see you don't go for those high-priced fancy European coffee drinks the young ones seem to like.
Me: “I am more traditional than you think though I do like the taste of Starbucks, especially when they have the Italian Blend, thanks!
Harold: “Is that because the Italian is that Liberal conscious trade thing?”
Me: “No, I just like the taste but the Free Trade thing, you might want to look deeper into it since it is about small business and the small farmer versus the corporate conglomerate.”
Harold: “I told you, he can bend things back where he makes a strong case for the liberals.”
John: “You have been here [Colorado Springs] for what five, six years and you have already made quite a splash with the group.”
Me: “Actually it is seven and what kind of splash and who or what is the group?”
John: “Harold may I? [Harold motions yes and demurs to his friend.] “The splash I am talking about is that you are a regular contributor to that rag that is called'The Independent' [weekly local newspaper that is completely advertisement underwritten who's editorial leaning is progressive liberal even in Colorado Springs, CO reputed to be the 17th most conservative voting city in the U.S. This year it purchased Colorado Springs Business Journal, a conservative weekly business publication that was closely tied to the local Chamber of Commerce, reputed to be the political center and ruling elite of Colorado Springs, CO).
“The group is just a few old-timers who get together at the Chamber to talk.”
Me: “Well I am touched by the fact that I am noticed outside the like minded readers.”
Harold: "For a while I didn't connect the name to you but then someone else said they knew you from the Obama Campaign and well you are distinct.” [We laughed, as I am rather heavy.]
Me: “So Harold what brings us together and why have you brought your friend?”
Harold: “Well it is election season and you haven't knocked on my door so I just wanted to talk and hear what you are thinking.”
John: [Interrupting] Harold has often tried to reiterate your previous conversations. It is interesting how you were able to peg so precisely like the mayor's race and almost predict the vote before it was made."
Me: "Well predicting the voting patterns of Colorado Springs and El Paso is now pretty self-evident since 2004 and 2006. It appears pretty hardened that 52% of all registered voters who vote, vote straight Republican regardless of the candidate. That margin is no matter what the Independent-Unaffiliated vote and how many Democrats turn out the election is determinate. OR an independent or Democrat can receive all the unaffliated and Democratic votes and still will lose 52-48. Skorman, (an independent but identified and labeled with Democrats and liberals despite solid non-partisan political credentials where he had endorsements of Republican and Democrats only got 43%. One could say it is almost a record where Skorman got the majority of Independents and Democrats (who turned out) but...lost”
John: “I think that 52% hard vote is fading and this could surprise people this election.”
Me: “What is Obama going to go over 41% in El Paso County? Now that would mean he wins CO by 9 or 10% instead of 7-8% if 2008 repeats. But Republicans are said to be solidly behind hating Obama and therefore polled by national outfits to be more enthusiastic, than Democrats by a factor of 10%, that moves the bar by 2-3% closer.”
John: “I don't think the enthusiasm polling is being measured properly or at least not in groups or individuals here in Colorado Springs, or at least not with individuals whom I have been talking with.”
Me: “Are you saying that the Republicans you are talking to are not excited about voting for Romney?”
Harold: “Worse than they were about voting for McCain.”
John: “Or Dole, remember milk toast Bob Dole, yeah he came alive after the election in those Viagra commercials. Republicans as you know and have wrote so well about are not a monolith. Yes, there are some who are so crazed about voting against Obama, but at the same token there are Blacks who are as excited for Obama and they will be rightfully voting for Obama. Most of us at least are not happy with either candidate but in reality looking back, Obama is not much more liberal than Clinton or Nixon or even Eisenhower, just different times. The problem we have is with Romney and his sidekick, Paul Ryan, but also where the Republican Party is headed, it is not the Republican Party we once knew.”
Harold: “Paul Ryan was here a couple weeks ago during the Democratic Convention and met with some people after his main event where he talked about this divide in our nation between the producers and takers where all social entitlements are taking from the producers. Now in that video Romney was speaking about it too. Never heard such stuff from a big name candidate."
John: “When I saw that video tape of Romney who spoke back in May to high-roller donors about this 47% parasites who only want entitlements for things like healthcare, food, retirement benefits and that those who receive these entitlements are not responsible for their lives.”
Me: “I think he said healthcare, food and housing but it is Randism. Also back up, what do you find so wrong with Romney?”
John: "[Disgusted face] What is right with Romney, he is worse than[Doug] Bruce."
Harold: “What the hell is that? Is that Rand Paulism?"
Me: "No or yes, but it appears Ron Paul named his son after Ayn Randm but is an author called Ayn Rand."
John: "Here is our problem. We can read the polls like anyone else and we can plainly see that of all groups, Romney only has a lead with retired folks---meaning those who are receiving entitlements, 65 year olds. Does he think that he has a such a lock with our group, that he can throw us under the tank?"
Me: "You mean bus?"
Harold: “Let me make it clearer. I can't remember it exactly but he discussed how the entitlements were breaking the bank and that we would have to remove most of the deductions and privatize Social Security and Medicare to save it but that it was going to cost people. That we also have to reward more of the producers to rebuild America again. What is this Randism, is that it?”
Me: “First Randism is from this obscure author who wrote two books that now seem to be like Hitler's Mein Kampf or Marx's Communist Manifesto, but she idealized hyperindividualism, absolute capitalism as the highest moral order and now it is the Right Wing Ideology."
John: "Your joking, who, what?"
Me: "No I am dead serious, Paul Ryan is like the Lenin of Randism. Grover Norquist the Himler of Randism and they have had other surrogates like Alan Greenspan and Justice Clarence Thomas. But none of this is funny, it now appears that it has grown into the Tea Party, permeated the rich and affluent. Ayn Rand wrote some fictional stories about how the producers or makers in society decide to go on strike and take all the money and then leave the takers or parasites to themselves. It was more in line to a children's fairy tale except the fable now seems to be in play. In short, it crafted a moral code that selfishness and self-interest was good and moral and the best thing humans could do to advance the human race and it has a name objectivism.”
John: “Your bullshitting us.”
Harold: "I didn't go into war a week after the Battle of the Bulge and free Europe to see America go down the path of another ism."
John: "Harold you didn't fly 25 missions. You see all this talk of entitlements is so much of resentment. Are they saying that because I got my degree with the G.I. Bill, came out and became a banker, worked till I was 65 and retired and now receive Social Security and Medicare INSURANCE I am now a parasite to society?"
Me: "Let me spell it out for you guys as I see it. Romney was in private equity, PE as it is called used every sacred resource in the book to mine money from companies without regards to morality or persons. PE is about using leverage and part of leverage is using pension funds, selling labor off to China is another, so sucking the value of a pension fund of persons who worked for a lifetime to cash in a quick profit is no different than cashing in America's retirement social programs and yes once you are retired you are a parasite if the money is coming from public funding.
But it goes deeper than that. If you were in banking you would know that the leverage was tax deductible or part of the PE formula and further since they said the income was equity it was not taxed at 35% so the whole mess was on the government advantage, but they don't like worker earned income. So this group has would sell their daughter and mother for a profit. But my question is why are you guys talking to me?"
John “What do you mean? We need to understand this thing. Is Obama going to win? How is your side doing?”
Me: “You understand what the Social Compact is or was?”
John: "I understand that FDR made a new one in my youth."
Me: "Okay that is true, FDR said that the government had to be a partner with the individual and protect him let me recall, FDR proposed that government needed to be an an advocate to intervene, and protect the individual where each era governance had to face new problems of a changing society that harmed the individual where those who were able to gain power caused this harm. Therefore the new compact was a New Deal, where the Feds partnered with the individual to be successful in the brutality of faceless, ruthless capitalism. So you guys got social security and also the SEC to protect your stocks, banking regulations, the FCC, and the GI Bill. Then things went too far with LBJ and Nixon so Reagan came along and there was a new compact, though this one was not as open as FDR's, it modified things. Welfare Reform, deregulation etc. But then came the breaking of Glass Steagall and eventually all hell broke lose. Now I understand why as Greenspan an Randite was in control and when the market melted he didn't understand why.
So now the nation is facing a new decision, whether to rebuild a new social compact in the minds of FDR or Andrew Mellon. Actually Obama and Paul Ryan. So are you guys voting for Obama?"
Harold: "It is a secret ballot."
"Our side is not like 2008 but it is better than 2000 or 2004 and it seems to be gaining speed."
They felt relieved as I had to go to pick up my college aged children who live with us at school but I walked out thinking, boy if Romney lost these two retired country-clubbers, both WWII vets, affluent but still tuned in, he has lost the nation. But I am gaining confidence as more and more old timers are seeing the light.
So this morning before I posted this I see that three critical battleground states, WI (where I used to live), IA and CO have all broken over 50% supporting Obama in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. This election is breaking early and the debates will be about Obama closing the deal and then targeting the Congress so he can do his agenda.