September 6, 2004


In an Old Coal Town, the Old Party Labels Are Faded: The economy remains the central issue to voters in Ohio, but economic distress does not necessarily mean a vote for the Democrats. (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, 9/06/04, NY Times)

Sharon Alfman, the cook at the little County Seat Diner here, might seem to be a likely John Kerry supporter. She has voted Democratic most of her life. She has no health insurance through the diner, and her husband's insurance ran out after he was on disability for more than a year. But she already knows that she is going to vote for President Bush.

Mrs. Alfman, 51, said that if the Democrats could do anything about health insurance, they would have done it under Bill Clinton. Now, she said, the Democrats have "burned themselves out." And like several other people here in this gritty patch of southeastern Ohio, she has already tuned Mr. Kerry out. A Kerry commercial, in which he says his economic plan would provide "good wages and good benefits," came on the overhead television by the kitchen, and no one seemed to notice.

"Kerry doesn't know what the working-class people do; he hasn't done any physical labor all his life," said Mrs. Alfman, who gets up at 4 a.m. to start her job. "Bush's values are middle-class family values." [...]

Jeff Williams, 47, a coal miner who was eating breakfast on Friday at one of four stools at the counter in the Corner News, scoffed at the idea that he might support Mr. Kerry.

"Bush put $447 million into coal research last year," Mr. Williams said. "Kerry is a tree hugger." Besides, he said, "Kerry would just tax me."

That's what happens when you get your party on the 40% side of every wedge issue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 6, 2004 8:31 AM

Well what do you call a swing area that doesn't swing?

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 8:47 AM

Labor Day, and the Red Sox are two and a half games out of first place.

Oh the hopefulness! Maybe, maybe this is the year!

Don't stick the needle into the doll yet Babe, their blood is not ready. Let the anticipation build, let them dream of the Pennant for another week.

Posted by: Eugene S. at September 6, 2004 10:19 AM

OJ - loved Jeff Williams, the coal miner. Sounds like the kind of guy most big city liberals pretty much have stereotypical contempt for - some black-lunged hick drinking bad coffee in his local redneck greasy spoon. And then he spits out precisely how much money the Bush Administration invested in coal research last year, calls Kerry a tree-hugger and sneers at anyone raising his taxes - his fallback position. In other words, the opposite of the liberal stereotype of the moron voter: knows exactly what's going on and what's good for him and the country. Kerry's going to have a little black lung himself before this is over - that's how deep he's going to get buried.

Posted by: at September 6, 2004 10:48 AM

The Republicans might be winning this election battle, but the Democrats have clearly won the war. Note that Mr. Williams has swung over to the Republicans not because he believes in the (long-abandoned) conservative philosophy of less government and more freedom. He has swung over because "Bush put $447 million into coal research last year."

That's just an obvious piece of evidence that proves the Democrats have won the bigger fight. More subtle examples abound elsewhere. While Republicans celebrate the latest Newsweek and Time poll results, I'm once again struck by the nature of the polls themselves: questions such as "Which candidate do you trust more to handle the economy?" or "Which candidate do you trust more to handle health care?" Respondents, of course, dutifully answered these questions with a "Bush," a "Kerry" or a "Nader."

The Democrats and the liberal media have clearly triumphed. They have successfully transformed the fundamental dynamic of American politics; they've successfully commandeered the bigger playing field. No more is it even debated whether a president should be meddling in the economy, or meddling with health care. By framing questions this way, "neutral" pollsters implant the presumption that of course a president is to "handle" the economy, health care, etc. -- now it's just a matter of which one we most trust to "handle" such "issues."

Can you even imagine a survey in 1804 asking "Who do you most trust to handle health care: Jefferson or Pinckney?" Of course not. That we put up with such nonsense today shows just how deeply we've succumbed to operating within the Democrats' framework ... no matter how much Bush may be trumping Kerry on paper.

Posted by: Semolina Pilchard at September 6, 2004 12:53 PM


Mr. Williams is doing what human beings have done ever since we jumped down from the trees, he is looking out for his own interests. He recognizes that Kerry wants to take his livelihood away where Bush wants to preserve his place in society. His choice is the informed, rational one.

That is not a Republican or Democratic victory, it is hard-wired into our DNA.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 1:08 PM

Of course Mr. Williams is looking out for his own interests. Who's arguing that? Not me. Apparently you missed the actual point of my post, or I failed to communicate it clearly.

There's no problem with Mr. Williams' looking out for his own interests. The problem is that he's willing to do it at the government-mandated expense of others. There was a time when Republicans did not support this brand of government. Today they do, because the left has successfully reshaped the very foundation of the American landscape. The left has created a scenario in which Americans take as a given things they would not have tolerated, or even imagined, many years ago.

There was a time when a Republican would be asking for Mr. Williams' vote on a different set of principles. Today, Bush wins the vote of Mr. Williams because Bush gave him something from the public till.

And nobody flinches. Except me, apparently. I want Republicans to win votes. I just don't want them to win votes by being Democrats with a different label.

Posted by: Semolina Pilchard at September 6, 2004 2:00 PM

Semonlina, you may be right. The New Deal programs are here to stay, and no mainstream Republican will ever propose that they should be abolished. They will propose all types of reform but never abolition.

Posted by: Vince at September 6, 2004 2:28 PM

Rome wasn't built in a day, and the New Deal won't be demolished in a day.
It'll have to be taken down brick by brick.

Which, if you think about it, is the quintessential Conservative way: Change social institutions slowly, one step at a time; don't make sudden massive upheavals.

Posted by: ray at September 6, 2004 2:52 PM

Ray, perhaps so. (Though the New Deal was certainly "built in a day," relatively speaking.)

Some fundamental attitudes have to be changed among the American public. The left -- via its grip on media, education and popular culture -- has convinced our countrymen that the New Deal-type structure is the quintessential American way, that it is was the realization of the true American ideal. They have convinced us that equality is more valuable than freedom.

Conservatives need to make the case that, no, the New Deal was actually an anomaly -- a blip on the bigger continuum. They need to stress that Social Security was wrongheaded and remains wrong, no matter how accustomed we are to it today. Conservatives must pummel people with some perspective: that American history didn't start in the '30s.

In short, they need to illustrate the REAL timeline of American history:

1700s --------- 1800s -------- 1930s
freedom ... more freedom ... freedom taken away


Posted by: Semolina Pilchard at September 6, 2004 4:04 PM

We're dealing with Hegelian synthesis. Americans don't want pure collectivism and they don't want unfettered free enterprise, but instead something in the middle. The debates are entirely about where that middle should be. Most Americans support some privatization of Social Security for example, and almost everyone wants tax simplification.

Quite simply the Great Depression colors peoples' lives. My parents remember the New Deal and believe that by and large it was good for America, and they are both well-educated, conservative affluent people. Whining about FDR gets you nowhere.

Most Americans have frankly returned to the idea that 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' is a laugh line. However, they would like positive alternatives to state-oriented solutions to real problems. The New Deal and the other FDR programs were a solution to real problems. They may not have been good solutions but they were an honest attempt to deal with serious matters. You get nowhere if you say that those problems don't exist. And when you say that FDR's solutions were somehow 'un-American' you turn people off.

You say that people in America want equality more than freedom. Well then, how many Americans support 'comparable worth' legislation or 'Affirmative action?' Probably less than support an independent Aztlan in the Southwest.

Posted by: Bart at September 6, 2004 4:53 PM


Yes, natural resource extraction was such a pure free market realm until 1932.

Posted by: oj at September 6, 2004 5:15 PM