FIGHTING THE LAST WAR

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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LUCKY I PASSED

I was told Riffy was very protective, especially toward the ladies in the family, and that he was prone to biting weak-willed men. If you stood your ground and spoke with authority, you passed the test. Luckily, I passed. I soon learned that, even with his reputation, he wanted attention, and I quickly, and then often, found his snoot poked in my face as I sat on the couch.
 
I’ll have to admit…dogs aren’t my favorite pets. I like cats, even though my allergy made having one impossible. I especially didn’t like it when a big dog like a Huskie or Lab came up and stuck his nose in my crotch. I’m told they all do that. It doesn’t make them any more endearing. But Riffy was a midsize dog…apparently a mix of Border Collie and something else. He had the speed of a Border Collie, but not the disposition. He at least chose some people to be friendly with. Somehow the normal herding instinct went awry. Riffy was more likely to chase down a squirrel than to herd anything.
 
I guess strangers wandering through his yard looked like squirrels to him. More than one regretted their trespass when it was rewarded by a nipped rear end. Even I, in my last encounter with Riffy, narrowly avoided that fate. I saw him approaching, head down in hunting posture, and he began growling. I knew his eyesight was failing, so I  yelled, “Stop it, Riffy!” His approach immediately transformed from menacing to obedient and submissive, punctuated by a furiously wagging tail. Thank goodness he recognized my voice and that I wasn’t about to take any of his crap. We live so much longer than most other animals that it’s inevitable to have to say goodbye. It wasn’t long after that encounter that this long-time family pet made his last trip to the vet…the day all pet owners dread. He’s gone, but he won’t be forgotten…not even by those unfortunate intruders.
 
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
 
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BUT I’M A CAT LOVER!

The long-haired male ginger cat I called my buddy saw me sitting on the bottom step by the back door and hurried toward me. Soon, as always, he was in my lap and purring vigorously. The goofy look on his face told me he was enjoying it as I scratched the top of his head and behind his ears. He stretched out, and soon the purring slowed, and he knew he was asleep. I knew I had to leave soon, but how do you bring yourself to disturb a cat at peace with the world? I was glad that my cat whispering was all it took to get his attention.

My allergies keep me from having a cat of my own, but I’m always glad to welcome a cat friend. My buddy actually belongs to my neighbor. I think he’d gladly change families if I could survive it. When he’s on my lap, there’s nothing his cat mom or dad owner can say to get him to go to them. Perhaps it’s a bit malicious on my part, but I never encourage him to leave to go home.

I heard cat mom calling. “Rusty! Here, Kitty!” Only a few seconds passed before she repeated her call. No response from “Rusty” told me he wanted to stay. When I looked toward their house, I saw the muzzle of a black and white dog poking through a hole in the board fence. In his eyes, I thought I detected longing…or maybe it was jealousy. He whined.

“Sorry, Killer. I know you’d like me to pet you too,” I said quietly, then finished my sentence, “…but I’m a cat lover.” My buddy just stirred briefly, then put his head down and fell back asleep. When there’s a cat sleeping in your lap, all is good in the world. Isn’t it?

 
© 2017 Robert Mihaly
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IT DIDN’T HAPPEN

He knew it…he’d struck out once again. He’d fallen asleep thinking he’d really gotten lucky. Billy looked at the alarm clock, saw 5am, then saw that the dream from last night had split. Only later did he realize that she’d rifled his pants pockets and emptied his wallet of money and credit cards. That was how his day began. It was about to become more than a long weekend.

Billy’s a normal guy…maybe a little too normal…and not the player he brags about to his buddies. The fact is, last night was his first time out in a month. A blind date, Lola was a friend of a girl at work…or so he thought. A night of drinking, dining, and a night in bed was unusual for him. He now realized he’d been a dutiful sucker. Ginny was gonna hear about it when he got to work on Tuesday. But, for now, he had phone calls to make…to cancel his cards before Lola, if that was her name, could run up a huge credit card tally. Not even 8am, and he’d already called 3 companies. He’s lucky he had the latest charge statements handy…the cards gone, he’d never have been able to get the right 800 numbers. There goes the weekend, he groused. He hoped he hadn’t gotten a social disease…Billy actually prayed the worst was over.

Tuesday came. Ginny was there before him, but when he asked her about Lola, she looked puzzled. “I spent Friday night with Lola. That wasn’t Lola who robbed you.”

Billy knew he hadn’t dreamt what happened. The money and credit cards were gone. The other shoe was yet to drop…the debit card he’d forgotten to call to cancel. When he went to the bank before lunch, he had his checkbook, but the teller said he was overdrawn.  Billy protested, “There’s gotta be a mistake. I made sure there was $500 in checking on Friday.” A look at the bank records said otherwise. That $500 had been withdrawn early Saturday morning. There was nothing but chicken feed left. Billy wondered if there was more bad news to come. Even as upset as he was, he chuckled as he thought to himself…was he going to find out now that he was pregnant? He sure felt screwed. Whatever else he felt, he didn’t want to talk about it with his buddies. That night never happened. He decided that was his story…and he stuck to it.

 
© 2016 Robert Mihaly
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What if I told you exactly what I feel in this sad election year?

I admit it…I’m famelicose for something that looks like good government. Like a dog that grokes my dinner, I look at the F.D.R. years in longing for a government that works for the people…not just the rich people. Instead, we have a Congress seemingly suffering from extreme ergophobia. When asked to do what’s right for the people, not what benefits corporations and the wealthy most seem to suffer from clinomania. A bigger pack of snecklifters I’ve never seen. And just watch them quomodocunquizing, hands out everywhere. Sure…it costs money to run a campaign, but who else is to blame for that? They write the laws…though most of the time, they’re fudgeling. Listen to what passes for debate now, even in the Senate, and what you hear is naught but the blather of ultracrepidarians. To say that I’m sick of nearly every one isn’t hum durgeon. While they’re grufeling with their dark money donors, I’m just philogrobized. I know not all of them are snollygosters…but at this time, they’re the majority. If I remain in a zwodder in this election year, you now know why.

 

© 2016 Robert Mihaly

 

Written from the vocabulary contained herein:

13 Wonderful Old English Words We Should Still Be Using Today

 

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Reflections

Like Marley’s ghost, I wear the chains I forged in life. So I’ve at last concluded. This is not the life I planned and not the life I worked for, but the life I settled for. The things I substituted for joy now leave me cold, leave me wanting…not for more things, but to be rid of most of the detritus of living from one disappointment to the next.

Having spent an excess of forevers seeking amusements alongside one who felt it their due, I found a wealth only of regrets. I was never one to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, content, or so I let myself believe, with going along to get along. Being my nature to be kind, it seemed necessary not to make waves. But forces long suppressed will eventually return as a tsunami of emotion. And, though it took long enough…too long…to come to the surface, I finally found myself suddenly, as I thought it, overwhelmed. Regrets…I have many…some far worse than others.

But time is not reversible. Don’t we all wish it was? So here I am, entering the latest new year, working to accommodate my reflections of mistakes made, undo those I can, and move on, to make, most likely, many more. As they say…that’s life. And live I shall. Chains will be smashed. New experiences await…and I welcome them.

© 2016 Robert Mihaly

 

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