Who are you going to vote for?
That simple question provoked one of the oddest conversations I’ve ever had. It was refreshingly civil and intelligent, something not generally expected when
The question was posed to me by an elderly gentleman, while we were standing in line at a local retailer.
I was wearing an Army t-shirt, so he assumed I must be a Republican. He explained it had been many years since he met someone who obviously, publicly and unabashedly supports our troops who wasn’t Republican. He was wearing a VFW emblazoned hat.
Rather than answer his question directly, I asked him who he thought was the best Republican candidate to beat Obama. With a scratch of the head, he said, “Well, that is two separate questions.”
He explained who he thought was the most qualified, the smartest, and had the best chance to turn this country around and get it back on track, and who was the most electable are two different people. Then he sighed and said, “It didn’t used to be this way. We had a better quality of man to pick from in the past, mostly because we didn’t know about every time they farted sideways.
“Nowadays, we say our elected officials have to be better than the average man, with none of the flaws of character that are part of an average man’s life. Yet, with the way the media goes after a person’s life, what decent person would be willing to submit themselves, their families and their entire life history to that kind of scrutiny. So, we get a bunch of megalomaniacs, sociopaths and straight-up loonies running for office.”
I repeated his initial question to him, and he said, “I am still trying to decide between the lesser of the evils; still trying to figure out which one of them will be able to defeat Obama, not because Obama is any good, it’s just that they are all too, well too something or other.
“Take Santorum, for example. He is out there running around, positioning himself as the right Right candidate. He keeps talking about returning to the family values of generations' past. Well, I’m from generations' past, and I can tell you that things really weren’t that different. Or really better in a lot of ways. Even in my grandparents' generation, there were a lot of babies born less than six months after the wedding.
“When I was young, there was a boy who was killed in what the papers said was an accident, that the kid fell down a well. But all of us who knew the family knew the father was one of those who beat his wife and kids. We all knew the father beat the kid to death and threw his body down the well. The idea that a hardworking family man would kill one of his own kids was too terrible to believe.
"Such things went on all the time, but the thinking about them was different. There was no such thing as Child Protective Services. There was no such thing as getting involved in what went on in a man’s home. Back then, people would feel terrible, but if the father went to jail, how would the family survive? How would they ever escape the shame? No, returning to old-time family values is a myth.”
About Newt Gingrich, he had this to say; “That guy is undoubtedly the smartest, best qualified, but completely unelectable. Maybe if divorce weren’t so easy nowadays, he would still be married to his first wife. Sure, there’d be a string of affairs, but such things were kept quiet and hush-hush back in the day. I don’t know if we’ve ever had more than a handful of presidents who were completely faithful to their wives their entire life.
“Not that a man who cheats on his wife is right, but when such things weren’t known, we could judge a man on his ability to govern. We’ve had some great presidents who were notorious womanizers, and some who were faithful husbands who were terrible presidents. It’s a shame, because I would love to see Gingrich wipe the floor with Obama in a debate. On that basis alone, he would show Obama to be the fool that he is and win the election by a landslide. He’s as close to a true Republican as we have.
"Then there’s (Mitt) Romney. His biggest flaws are he is rich and he is a Mormon. Because he didn’t pull himself up by the bootstraps, he is somehow not able to represent the common man? And who cares if he follows a religion that tells him not to smoke, drink alcohol or even caffeine, and stay faithful to his wife and family? How are these bad things? I’ve got news for you, we’ve never had a truly poor president. Even back in the day, being a successful businessman, whether you were born into it or you did it yourself, was basically required for running for office. Our Founding Fathers and first few presidents were wealthy landowners or successful businessmen.
“No, I really don’t know who’s going to get the nomination. It’ll probably be Romney. Maybe he’ll be smart enough to take on Gingrich as his running mate. Then we could get the moral candidate and the smartest guy in the room next to him. Maybe that combination will beat Obama. I hope. I hope.”
As the old man walked away from me heading towards his car, shaking his head, I wondered if he realized I never answered his question. Then I realized it didn’t matter. I had just received a brilliant and succinct political analysis from a generation that has much to teach us all, if only we would listen.
I’m reminded of the famous Winston Churchill quote, “A young man who is not a liberal, has no heart … but an old man who is not a conservative, has no mind!”