When you have an opportunity as a journalist to speak directly with the person running a political campaign, you jump at it. So it was that I was speaking, just after the Democratic Convention with John Minor, campaign chairman for Democratic Party presidential candidate Jane Barron, a recently-elected Senator from Maine. The election of 2016 had been a disaster for the Democrats. Losing the White House was only part of it. Making so little progress toward taking back control of the Senate, let alone the House, had been disappointing. So I had to ask if they hadn’t learned the wrong lessons from that experience. “John, after the level of anti-woman sentiment that worked against Hillary Clinton in 2016, what was the thinking behind having another woman candidate in the next election? I’m not saying a woman can’t or shouldn’t be President, but are the people…the voters…likely to change that quickly?”
“So, Ryan…I hear what you’re saying. But Jane was selected in the primary process. Voters in a wide range of states voted for her…selected her to be the nominee…believed in her programs.”
“Of course. We have the system of primary elections to narrow down the candidates to one, but can’t we agree that, because of the way the electorate has been fragmented by partisanship and hot-button issues, that primary voters of both major parties are more extreme than those who vote in the general election? And it’s only gotten worse since the Republican Party has so severely shifted to the right.”
“You’re right, Ryan, but you’re also right that this started with the GOP being taken over by the Tea Party and the extreme infusion of dark money. I read what you wrote about that. The GOP is addicted to Koch dollars at all levels. We want to speak directly to the people…but we have to compete with far less money to work with. There are, of course, liberal millionaires donating to the party and to PACs, but the big money goes to the GOP. That’s why one item on our platform is an amendment to overturn Citizens United.”
“Do you ever think that maybe the multitude of goals your platform lists are too much for the average voter to grasp and get on board with?”
“We prefer not to insult the intelligence of our voters, Ryan. The GOP reduces everything to a bumper sticker slogan. Think about how simplistic Trump’s slogan was…’Make America Great Again’. What did it mean? We know he was assuming our country was in decline. And maybe it was, but not for the reasons he stated. He picked up a lot of disaffected whites who blamed their troubles on people of color and immigrants. He spent the entire time of Obama’s two terms accusing him of not being an American. If you were looking for a scapegoat, you might believe Trump…and vote for him. We know that wealthy extremists on the right have worked hard and long to get us where we are. And they’re still not going to be satisfied until they control everything.”
“Hillary called them the vast right wing conspiracy. She was right about that. But, again, if you assume that the average voter in the general election is as partisan or as well informed as a primary voter, I think you’ll have a hard time reaching them. When it came down to it, Trump’s voters believed he’d bring back the jobs…factory jobs and coal jobs, especially. We know that was a lie. The President has no such power…and a GOP Congress wasn’t about to overturn free trade pacts…if anything, they’d make them less beneficial to workers. So why not concentrate on the major issues?” I wasn’t playing gotcha with Minor, but I wanted to see how he responded to things some of us in the media were finally focusing on.
“Like I said, Ryan. We believe the voters can see through the simplistic promises the GOP platform makes. And many of their platform planks are just mean-spirited.”
“I’ll leave it with this…and not to be offensive, but I think the complicated message will work against your candidate, even in the absence of the Clinton baggage.”
“I guess we’ll see in November.”
I thanked him for his time. I was certain I hadn’t been an effective devil’s advocate…how do you convince a true believer to consider an alternative? Having a vantage point further away from the issues gave me an insight he was unable or unwilling to accept. Fighting the last war is never the best tactic.
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
Note: This story is intended to become part of a political novel that is underway. It’s topical, so I hope current events don’t leave my story in the dust.
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I remember the summers
In my youth…ok…long ago
In those days…sounds from
The baseball fields familiar
And those are still with us…
So too splashing and shouts of glee
From swimming pools large or small
But those are sounds that
People make…young or old
What has changed…
Maybe a consequence
Of where I live…but likely not
And most of it…the sounds
Of the natural world changing
Foreboding nothing good
The sounds of frogs dying away
Seventeen year locusts
Coming in the wrong year
And far too often…a deadly twister
I hope to keep that far away…
But when people in power refuse
To accept the irrefutable evidence
There’s more that’s not normal
Sadly on the way…my fear
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
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Goodness and beauty
Yearning for a sign…
I know it’s out there
But all the time
We see the greed
And struggles
For power…
Will somebody
Throw me a line?
No…don’t promise
Something nonexistent
Or in short supply
Don’t sell me a dream
I want the real thing…
Life is too short, so please
Is it too demanding
For me to want it now?
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
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The door was partly ajar, and it was all I could do not to help it open a little more. The sound of music and gaiety poured out from within. Whoever was inside was enjoying themselves, clapping and singing along, and I thought I heard the sound of dancing feet. I remembered a night long ago, the sounds of a young couple celebrating the wedding with their families and friends. That was me and my bride, but that was so long ago that much had faded from memory. What had become of the happy couple was all those who knew them could now offer. Had they known the answer, they might have never asked. But my thoughts returned to what I was hearing now.

Walking the streets of Brugge, I was amazed at the variety of entrances and how many were so beautifully inviting. By American standards, an ancient city, canals, an inviting central square and friendly people all added to its old world charm. I think my European soul was awakened. But this one particular door kept me transfixed. Even if it wasn’t a wedding party that I heard, I reveled in the joyful sounds. Dare I look in? I thought it best to stand outside and let my imagination fill in the gaps of what I knew. As I started to turn…to walk on…a gust of wind provided what I’d been reluctant to provide. The door swung open wide, and I saw what I’d expected. Unlike so many moments in the world of late, in this moment, all I could say was…I see happy people. We…and certainly I…need to see more of those.

© 2017 Robert Mihaly
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