I was traveling to Midland Texas a year ago when I caught sight of a billboard that showed the worst picture of Nancy Pelosi I have ever seen. Her mouth was open, she was pointing her finger, and she needed serious makeup work. The caption stated, “Can you believe she is only two heart beats from becoming President? We can’t either.” West Texas it seemed sported the preambles of Republicanism, guns, churches, oil, no unemployment, no state income tax—it was veritable utopia of mesquite, rattlesnakes, and oil derricks–nirvana on the high plains.
Politically speaking, I find myself a bit hard to categorize. I am a registered Democrat, but I have not voted for a Democratic candidate, save Herseth Sandlin (I voted for her once on her second election to congress) in the last ten years. If you’d ask me, I’d say I was a Libertarian-Independent, conservative…well I just might not answer the question. But one thing I do know is that it is hard to be a conservative Democrat or a Liberal Republican ….or to even vote Libertarian in a South Dakota primary for that matter. I was a capital paige at the Wisconsin statehouse once upon a time and the whole experience turned my stomach for politics. I also worked as a paid staffer for a congressional candidate (Democrat), and I worked on the Bob Dole campaign (really?!). Unfortunately I was a member of the Young Republicans. It seemed the young Democrats had a lot more fun in college than the Young Republicans, including better alcohol and prettier women, and I heard good things always happened to young college aged men after protest marches but I was too busy studying to find out personally. Republicans didn’t protest back then….oh well.
Back to Texas…The next sign I saw was one of a blond woman holding a baby. She was wearing a cowboy hat and a young boy by her side, a church steeple was in the background. There was a husband, I presume, on the right side of the billboard holding a M-4 Rifle. This sign said, “Vote for your culture and heritage, vote Republican!” That is not a sign I’d expect to see near Chicago or New York City. I watch Bill Maher on HBO frequently and besides him bashing religious thinking, he bashes us people living in rural America. He calls us rubes and idiots. Now of course his attitude does not speak for everyone but I think it is pervasive. I’m not sure the Midland Texas ‘culture and heritage’ is what South Dakotan culture and heritage is, but it is a lot closer to that than the Los Angeles and New York culture and heritage. How many adult friends do I have that smoke pot?
It is hard to believe that Nebraska was once the most Democratic state in the union and now it has been switched over to the most Republican. In large part, rural America has been abandoned by the Democratic party and co-opted by the Republicans. Maybe this is good but maybe not. Unfortunately the traditional Republicanism of the New England rich is not the Republicanism of rural Christian right. The Elites placate us with promises of cultural values and moral fiber but in the end they are only hollow promises. Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?
Driving around west Texas is just like driving around western North Dakota, there is oil money everywhere. There are pump-jacks pumping in backyards, school playgrounds, the Costco parking lot, and in one town the pump makes up part of the outfield fence of a little league baseball park….it is a long fly ball, deep to left, going going, its a gusher…? Is that America’s culture and heritage too? It is difficult to stereotype an entire population with a selected sample from Hollywood, the Upper West Side, West Palm Beach, or Midland Texas, so I don’t think we should try. What we do need is jobs, better education to get jobs, an economy that plays fair (since it doesn’t now), and a national purpose (to replace the last three which were to stop Hitler, get a man on the moon, and beat the Russians). Right now we have no one solving these problems and most politicos actually not even talking much about them, but in the last seventy years answering problems have not been the primary reason for political office.
I have become increasingly suspicious of anyone running for political office. I don’t think it is a higher calling and to run for an elected office would be the last thing I’d ever want to do. I am proud to be a South Dakota voter in this election, as unlike Iowa or New Hampshire, which are the first to choose, South Dakota is last, nearly dead last and by the time June comes around and our primary happens, there will no doubt who will run as the Republican Nominee for President. You know, that isn’t half bad. It was nice seeing President Clinton in Milbank four years ago, but I would rather not see endless political commercials like they do in Iowa.
Again back to Texas…I drove farther north, north to the dusty cotton fields and out of the Permian Basin. North of Lubbock and I saw a more interesting sign, something truly bipartisan and something that fit my inner political beliefs. “The Big Texan, Home of the Free 72 ounce, steak…” Now there was really something I could sink my teeth into…beef, its for dinner.
Vote early and vote often,