Somewhere, over the rainbow, a blog is born. A blog for Kansas. A blog for America. A blog by a reporter with a difficult-to-pronounce last name. But most importantly, a blog that is AMERICA'S ONLY PLACE dedicated to the vital intersection of politics and Sunflowers. The Heartland gods nod in wise approval.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Voters and dragon shirts

A couple thoughts while packing for the convention:

1. I really resent that Hotmail has had "Coppola, Tarentino dating" as their lead headline for the past two days. I don't want one speck of my precious declining brain matter devoted to the fact that Sofia Coppola and Quentin Tarentino are an item -- yet media repetition guarantees that 20 years from now one of their names will come up in conversation and I'll say "Hey. Didn't he/she date she/he early in the century?"

2. Why is it that whenever a politician schedules a bunch of speeches in towns where his constituents live, it's called a "listening tour?"

Huh ...

Had a humbling moment on the cab ride home this evening that will stick with me through the convention. I get in the cab, and the first question out of the driver's mouth is "So who is it this year, Bush or Kerry?" I instinctively hate answering that question point-blank. I'm a journalist and professionally, I don't take sides. So I dodged the question with a nonsequitur -- "I'm going to the convention tomorrow," and tossed it back at him. "Who do you think?"

"I'm a lifelong Democrat," he said (imagine deep Virginia drawl. He's got a white goatee, slick-black hair, a seat pushed back, a belly touching the steering wheel, and a shirt embossed with deep blue dragons), "but I don't think, with everything goin' on right now , that we should switch halfway.

"Bush, he knows everything about Osama bin Laden and where all that stuff is hid. Kerry, he'd win if that weren't going on, but I think I'm going for Bush."

I'm about to engage him in a discussion about the war on terror, and he continues.

"Now Hillary," he says, "she's strong. If she was running I'd vote for her in a minute." And then the cabdriver went on about how great Hillary Clinton is. I didn't follow everything, and he didn't talk long -- my cell phone went off, and by the time I got off the call he was talking about a really beautiful woman he'd seen in front of the Old Town Holiday Inn earlier in the day. Reflecting later, I shouldn't have taken the call.

Now, I'm not saying I agree with the guy. I'm not saying he's the most informed person out there. I'm not even saying I didn't find his presence, and his odd connections, a little bit disturbing. But that's beside the point. The point is, this guy votes, and he will never show up in an opinion poll. Journalists will never write a story about people whose two top politicians are George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton. Karl Rove will deny that such people exist! A billion dollars will be spent on persuading this cab driver to think a certain way this election cycle, and the chance of a silver-bullet message putting him in lockstep is nil. And who knows where he'll be by November? Maybe he'll decide Kerry's tough enough and go Democrat. Maybe he'll give money to Bush, hoping Kerry's loss will help his true political love -- Hillary Clinton! -- in 2008.

Pollsters simply don't identify the Democrats-for-Bush-unless-Hillary-were-running demographic -- but that cabbie, like millions of other voters, splits in a unique way that the finest minds in the Ivy League will never fully understand. And thank God for that -- the day politics truly becomes a science, when every person's opinion becomes the predictable product of spin, that's when the police state takes over.

Of course, in the aggregate, consumer decisions are rational -- quote Adam Smith. But individually, the American voter is one of the most fascinating, inscrutable, free-thinking creatures ever created -- for better, for worse, and for the spirit of big-D Democracy. And I have the pleasure of examining the creatures, and everything the "experts" throw at them, firsthand.

I gave the guy an extra dollar tip, headed to the fridge, chugged a Coke and started packing. Boston's gonna be cool.