Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tidal politics

On my way to Night Bird Lizzy's house late Sunday afternoon for a meet and greet with Democratic Congressional candidate John Hall, I found myself waiting at a light behind a red pick-up truck with a couple of heartening bumper stickers.

The pick-up looked to be about 10 years old, with some rust on the gunwales, and enough scratches and dings around the gate to convince me this was a truck that did real work. The driver was wearing a ball cap and looked a little scratched up and dinged himself. You can't go by these things, and for all I know he was a lawyer or a doctor with a boat to haul or many cords of firewood to carry up to his county house on the weekends. But considering where I was, on the border of the hardluck city of Newburgh, leaving a neighborhood where the Price Chopper stands at the highest end of retail, I thought it was a better bet that the driver was on his way to or from some job site where he worked with tools or machinery than on his way up into the Highlands for cocktails on the deck of his McMansion overlooking the Hudson, a guy who if he voted Republican voted that way because he believes that the GOP's tougher on national security issues and won't let the social fabric unravel any more than it already has rather than to give himself another tax cut.

Big if there, on his voting Republican. This is New York. We still have lots of union men and women here, still have lots of Irish and Italian and Jewish and black and Hispanic and Polish and Asian and White Anglo Saxon working men and women who know that the Republican Party is the party of the suits and the owners and the bosses and the Democratic Party, no matter how vague and inattentive it sometimes seems to be towards its blue collar base, is the Party that will work to protect their pensions and benefits, put their kids in good schools, take care of their elderly parents and newborn babies' health care, and generally stand up to the suits and the owners and the bosses on their behalf.

Maybe nationally the Party doesn't stand up quite as tall and quite as fimly on its feet as it used to, but here in New York Democrats are still Democrats not Republican Lites, even Hillary.

But as blue as the State looks on an electoral map, we've got plenty of patches of purple and some big chunks of red, and where I was, and the district Hall is running to represent, is red enough to have a Republican Congresswoman who up until this year could consider her seat safe.

What I'm saying is that it's as likely as not that the pickup truck in front of me sported a W sticker back once upon a time and it wasn't unreasonable for me to think, looking at what he had plastered to his rear bumper now, that something good is up.

First sticker: IRAQ! THE NEW VIETNAM!

Second sticker: We're Making Enemies Faster Than Bush Can Kill Them.

A lot of people, lifelong Republicans and Independents who usually voted Republican have had enough. This guy might have been one of them. My uncle sure is, although right now all that means is that he won't be voting Republican next time out, not that he'll be voting Democratic, because as he puts it, "Where am I to go? I got no home. One party's stupid and the other's evil."

Wish he could have met John Hall the other night. Might have changed his mind about the one party being stupid.

Hall's a sharp guy and right on the issues and I'll be blogging some more on things he said at Lizzy's Sunday. But one thing right now:

Turns out Hall's had on his mind what I was thinking hopefully while reading those bumper stickers and that was one of the things he talked about.

Hall's out campaigning full tilt because he has to win a primary first before he can take on the Republican incumbant, Sue Kelly,---he's the front-runner at the moment though---and, he told us, everywhere he goes people have been coming up to him to tell him pretty much the same thing: "I've been a Republican all my life" or "I've never voted for a Democrat" but "I'm fed up."

I didn't press Hall on this, didn't ask him if he's been counting. The actual number of people who've told him this may seem like a lot more than it really is to an enthusiastic and optimistic candidate out on the hustings. But let's say it's as high as 200 people. Two hundred Republicans have announced they're jumping ship.

Those two hundred people might be representative. There might be 10 or 100 more for each one of them.

Or they might be two hundred people.

But Hall is hopeful. He thinks there's a big change a-coming. He says that it's as though the tide's gone out as far as it can and now the sea's about to come back in in a rush.

The wave will wash a lot of Republicans out of Congress.

I hope so.

Sue Kelly probably thinks of herself as one of the good Republicans we still produce up here from time to time, moderate, bipartisan, socially liberal. But she's part of the Republican Class of '94, a signer of the Contract With America, which means from the start she was a creature of Newt and after that a creature of Tom DeLay. She doesn't really represent her district. She represents her Party and like almost every Republican in Congress ought to appear in the newspapers as Sue Kelly (R-Rove).

She's vulnerable. A lot of Northeastern Republicans probably are.

But here's my worry.

I think a lot more people will be voting Democratic this fall. But I'm worried that the results of this will be that Democrats who were going to win anyway will win in landslides while Republicans who were expected to win handily will win squeakers, which is kind of what just happened in San Diego, and when the dust settles it will turn out to be something of a repeat of the Senate races in 2004 when a majority of Americans voted for Democrats but the Republicans still picked up seats.

No use wringing my hands over this, though, when I ought to be out ringing doorbells.

Hall seems like the real deal. (As usual, Shakespeare's Sister was way ahead of me.) I liked what I heard and what I saw. He's got an unusual background for a Congressman. And he's raising the kind of money that's needed with the help of some friends, like this guy, and this lady.

Unfortunately, I can't vote for him. Not my district. But I'm going to do my share of envelope stuffing and phone calling and doorbell ringing.

Maybe when the wave crashes ashore in November there'll be fewer R-Roves from the Northeast.

Here's the link to Hall's webpage.

Meanwhile, up in my uncle's district, the 20th, where the evil party reigns, this guy is being opposed by this woman.


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