Monday, January 28, 2008

Avatar for Pensacola Voters

Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times thinks she's found the avatar for Northwest Florida's electorate. Sad to say, it may be so.

The stand-in for typical Pensacola voters are Charles and Rhoda Harding, a debt-ridden pawn shop proprietor and his wife. Their business is located "across the street from Dinosaur Adventure Land, a 'Bible-based creation museum."

They twice voted for George W. Bush, hate Hillary Clinton for no reason they can articulate, and are drawn to Mike Huckabee because "he sounds like he wants to help people."

The Hardings, who are in their early 60's, have suffered greatly under the Bush administration. "By almost every indicator," Roug writes, their "quality of life... has worsened since 2004."
When the Hardings voted for Bush, they trusted the war would end once U.S. troops uncovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were hopeful their wrecked world would return to normal once the insurance company paid to repair the roof blown off by the storm.

Though the couple believe in minimal government, they expected there would be emergency help -- perhaps a loan to cover the hurricane damage. Their insurance company paid only half the cost of repairing the roof, and federal officials turned them down when they applied for assistance. They never returned to an even keel.

The Hardings, who earn about $2,000 a month, could no longer afford health insurance. When their son Ronnie started suffering from bouts of fatigue, he refused to get tested because it would strain family finances, and his leukemia went undetected.

Ronnie died July 28. He was 43.

The week Ronnie spent in a hospital cost almost $100,000, and the Hardings are already $50,000 in debt. All they got from the government was $250 in assistance for their son's cremation. "That's what you're worth here in America," Rhoda says.

After two decades of running Adams Pawn, they are trying to sell their business. But in this depressed economy, there are no buyers.
So there you have it: they're anti-war, pro-national health care, for a competent FEMA, and against Bush's consumer bankruptcy law amendments. In other words, their political views almost exactly match those of a liberal Democrat -- and they don't even know it.

It's a phenomenon that we've seen before. Years ago, a legal aid worker of our acquaintance happened to win a hard-fought Social Security disability case for a horribly injured unemployed blue collar worker. What should have been an open-and-shut case -- the guy couldn't walk and was dying of an incurable lung disease -- was made extremely difficult because of changes in federal disability law forced through Congress by the Reagan administration.

The client was, of course, grateful for our friend's devotion to his case. He also was thrilled that he'd won. After profusely thanking our lawyer friend, his family loaded the man's wheelchair into their broken-down van and started off for home.

"As I was waving good-bye," our friend recounted, "I happened to glance at the bumper sticker on the back of the van. It said, 'Re-elect Reagan.'"

What makes this scene double ironic was that at the very same time, the Reagan administration also was fighting to abolish funding for the legal aid society.

The source of the disabled man's legal problems was the Reagan administration. And the only avenue for a cure was under attack by the Reagan administration. Yet, just like the the Hardings in today's LA Times story, the disabled man and his family were about to vote against their own interests -- and they didn't even realize it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing. This shows how much party politics is really tribal. Tribal identity is more important for most voters than public good or even self interest. Facts are totally irrelevant. We are doomed.