ORLANDO, Fla., May 6, 2015 – My political junkie friends and I were sitting around with nothing to do, so the rabble-rouser in me woke up and initiated conversation. It was the least I could do. We were stuck in the middle of a slow news day on a rainy Saturday, and my friends were on the cliff of impending boredom.
The Stanley Cup playoffs were underway, but the next game would not be for hours.
The Red Wings got knocked out early, and we were too cheap to buy pay-per-view to watch the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. It was up to me to stir things up.
After all, that’s the life’s purpose of rabble-rousers.
“If you had to vote for president today,” I began, “Who would you vote for, and why?”
My question took them by surprise. It was obvious that none of us had spent a microsecond contemplating a subject that we had no intention of deciding for another year and a half. I immediately regretted my question. A comment of that magnitude requires more beer, and my refrigerator was crying for a beer run. It was clear from their body language and facial expressions that my friends had definite opinions fermenting in their fertile minds, but it may have been premature to express those opinions before they had sufficiently aged.
Dave volunteered to go on a beer run, and the rest of us sat in silence, running the list of declared candidates through our minds. We quickly moved from that list to the “likely candidates,” those luminaries who constantly hint about running, with more money than common sense. Without speaking a word on the subject, we independently moved to the “I wish he/she would run” list. By the time Dave got back with way too much beer, the political junkies were ready to talk.
On a rainy Saturday in May, it is difficult to ponder the future of presidential elections, but after the obligatory beer, we were prepared to tackle the sobering reality of a slow news day. Dave spoke first. “I talked to Mike at Mike’s Beer Barn, and he said he was going with Ted Cruz. I asked him why, and he said that Cruz is from Texas, and he grew up watching “Dallas” on TV, and Dallas is in Texas, and so he’s going with Cruz.”
We immediately reached for a fresh beer, wrestling for the bottle-opener. “Does he realize that Cruz is a Hispanic, and he was born in Canada?” Fred intoned.
“I was buying beer. We didn’t go into depth on the subject,” Dave explained.
Jerry was next. It was clear from his agitation that he wanted to get his opinion off his chest, relieving himself of the pile of ridicule that was looming. He knew it would erupt from the other participants as soon as he said it, but then it would be over. “I’m gonna vote for Hillary. She has the most experience.” Bob erupted from the couch, clearly incensed by Jerry’s premature declaration, 18 months before the election. “Experienced at what? Living in the White House?”
We changed the subject, turning on Fox News for its fair and balanced report of the news.
“It’s official. Hillary Clinton has admitted that she never thinks about Bill’s indiscretions as president,” Sean Hannity reported, in a fair and balanced way.
We scrambled to control the remote, switching to a color-enhanced John Wayne movie on the Turner network. Nobody spoke for fear of disclosing his response to the incendiary question of the day.
I began to wonder when the question posed by the rabble-rouser would be turned back on the rouser himself. I diverted attention from the inevitable by controlling the conversation. “Jack, who would you go for?” Jack looked mortified. He knew that his name would be called and he would be expected to speak. His life as a CPA was simple and predictable and comfortable, but this, the demanding world of political opinion, was a challenge to be dreaded.
In this world, there was no right answer. The books would not balance at the end of the day. “I would vote for Scott Walker. He’s for a balanced budget.” Jack’s opinion was met with no comment, to his surprise.
We all reached for another beer.
I ended the pause in conversation as everyone took a long swallow on their long necks, wondering why people vote for a particular candidate. I already knew the answer.
People vote for someone who they perceive as holding the same values as they do, believing that if that candidate held the job of president, the winner would make decisions their way.
“OK, OK, I am tired of waiting,” Juan exclaimed. “I’m voting for Rubio. It’s obvious. He wants to deal with immigration, and he is from Miami, and don’t even try to change my mind.”
Dave laughed. “I would vote for him if he didn’t look like he was too young to vote.”
We all laughed.
The beer had attained the desired effect, and rational thought had left the room.
We watched John Wayne dispensing with banditos, wondering why his shots always met their mark, but the bad guys always missed.
“Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders. They could run as a team.” Roger spoke up, obviously conflicted. “You know that will never happen,” I replied. “Yeah, but out of the choices we have, I picked the one who I want to win.”
Roger sat down on the couch and reached for his beer, satisfied with his decision. For the moment, he was impervious to criticism. Spontaneously, they all turned to me.
“Have you even considered Jeb Bush?”
“Oh yeah, him,” they said in unison, not even waiting for an explanation. We turned our attention to John Wayne, who was blasting the life out of screaming Indians.
With the presidential election a year and a half away, it is too early to pick a president, or to determine why we choose to vote for a particular candidate. The press can opine on a slow news day, and we can turn the channel. It has become the American way.