In a previous piece here at America’s Right, I mentioned that I had been stuck on the east coast for some time because I needed to work out problems with work and with my medical coverage. I managed to resolve these issues and rejoined my family back on my Midwestern home turf. As a part of my homecoming, I paid a visit to a friend of mine I have known since the first grade, and found much of the visit to be equal parts nostalgia and political revelation about America and the condition of many of its citizens.
My friend is a member of a construction trade union, and has less than six months to go until he can retire. (From now on, for the sake of simplicity and anonymity, I’ll call him “Joe.”) At the end of the six months, Joe will have sufficient hours to qualify for his pension.
He has not been employed, however, for over a year. Unlike other unions–including those in the government–there is no agreement to hire based on seniority, so the companies are not forced by contract to employ him even if he has far more experience. He has had a couple unemployment extensions, and has spent his time as a stay-at-home grandfather and TV lounge chair potato.
“Are you in financial trouble?” I asked him.
He shrugged and gave me a rambling explanation. He has cut down on the cost of everything, including his vices. He rolls his own cigarettes. Buys cheap beer. Never goes to a restaurant. He can live off his savings, but that was never what he had planned.
I don’t need to ask who he blames. As a good union man, Joe has always blamed the Republicans when he could not find work. I believe he may well represent the mindset of many Americans. He is not a radical. He lives a modest, decent life. Yes, he has had many of the failings of American men who are careless when they are young and spend a lot of time reforming through middle age, but what matters here is whether the Republican party can convince people like this that it cares as much about them as it does about the men who own the companies they work for. My friend has never believed the Republicans cared whether men like him worked or not. Whatever he has, he believes the Democratic Party has made possible.
But now all he gets is an unemployment check issued by a federal government run by Democrats. Can Joe believe the Republicans will put him back to work? Or will he be content to ride it out in his lounge chair until President Obama and his minions fix our economy and make it all better?
The activity in Joe’s house reflects an America in economic trouble. Take away the appearance of a shack, and his house is much like the ones Americans imagine exist in large numbers in third world countries. He has different members of his wife’s family and his family staying with him at various times. I am sure there are many families in America now who have one or two breadwinners supporting an extended family, but when I visited Joe, he had three house guests.
He does not complain, but in his darker moments I am sure he worries about what will happen to his family. This is where, I believe, the Republican challenge lies. They must convince the voting public they can create a future worth having. It is a belief in the future that keeps a lot of Americans going, Americans who at this point are doing all they can to simply stay out of dire trouble. But how do the Republicans sell their vision of the future? Political campaigns are very often nothing more than character assassinations against the opposing side — after all, the Democratic Party is still trying to survive off the political carcasses of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, a future being sold by the Democratic Party as a world without Republicans. For them, the Republicans are an obstacle to a beautiful Democratic paradise.
To help, President Obama preaches bi-partisanship, and in doing so he has claimed the differences between the Republicans and Democrats are not that great, but elections are all about differences. This idea that the two parties are alike is a ploy by the Democrats to get their legislation passed and then take all the credit. This strategy also favors incumbents, since claiming the two parties are alike is a way of convincing the public to re-elect those who are already in office.
How the Republicans paint the future has a lot to do with the media. As I mentioned, Joe spends a lot of time watching television, and that is an information source that is not always kind to Republicans. I am certain has heard a great deal of moaning on television about what the Republicans won’t do. After all, the GOP is portrayed largely as those who want to deny the public when it is in need. It has been written and discussed at length since World War II that socialism always makes headway when it is able to convince people that the government is capable of relieving its citizens of burdens that could otherwise negatively affect their lives. That is why feeding the public, giving medical care to the public, and supplying education to the public is the perfect place to start. All police states begin as welfare states, then they merge.
Like many Americans, though, Joe does not want to lose what he has, and the constitutional framework of America may not be as important to him as his own survival. This situation is also part of the socialist framework. Lenin, the head of the Russian communist party, often wrote and spoke about the opportunities socialists are given when a country is in crises. That is the perfect time to make political gains because people are so vulnerable at those times. Joe, much to my dismay, will not look at the internet, which I believe has become the information source that will defeat the left. There are signs the left knows this, and those on that side of the proverbial aisle are beginning to show signs that it wants to restrict internet usage.
The Republicans are on the rise , no doubt about it, because of the unrest the American public has experienced over the liberal agenda in the American government, but many Americans who remain in a state of weakness and fear may lose their nerve and vote for comfort instead of responsibility to history and to their children. The Republicans need to get the Joes of the world out of their chairs by election day 2010.