Waiting for Pennsylvania to buckle down and decide

LATE ONE Monday morning several weeks ago in a small-town diner in central Pennsylvania, I looked up from my paper to see that I was the last customer at the counter. Just the one waitress, the coffee pot and me.
    Filling the silence, I asked for a refill. Then I asked for her thoughts on the upcoming titanic battle in which she and her fellow Pennsylvanians would get to choose the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
    She didn’t have any. Yeah, she knew there was something like that going on, and that some people were really excited, but she had made no effort to follow it. She wasn’t dismissive, and she was willing to hear me talk about it, but to her it was neither here nor there. Some customers want coffee. Others don’t. Some want to talk politics. Whatever.
    This was disconcerting. I looked around the way you do when you’re thinking, somebody back me up here. But it was just her and me. And there was something about the moment — she was so matter-of-fact — that made me feel like I was the one who had to explain himself.
    So I did, at some length. I even confessed that I actually made my living caring about elections and such, thinking and talking and writing about them, which as I said it sounded ludicrous. She just nodded. Some collect stamps; others watch birds. This guy’s into politics. Whatever.
    She even encouraged me, in a noncommittal way. She asked who was still in it. I explained that John McCain had sewn up the Republican nomination, and that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were locked in a tight battle on the Democratic side — one primary going to her, the next to him, back and forth, the suspense building. I told her how folks had come out in huge numbers in South Carolina to support Obama.
    So who will win? she asked, and I said the smart money at that point was on Obama, with more and more Democrats deciding they couldn’t support Hillary.
    She asked: “Why? Because she’s a woman?”
    The question wasn’t a challenge; there was no feminist defiance in it. She was just asking, the way you might ask, “Do you think it’s going to rain?”
    Certainly not, I told her, and tried to explain about the Obama Appeal, about Hope and Change (capitalizing the key words with my voice), and how Sen. Clinton tended to appeal to folks who actually relished the partisan fight between left and right, and that many Democrats, and independents who had voted in Democratic primaries where (unlike Pennsylvania) that was allowed, were tired of the Bad Old Politics, so Obama was really catching on.
    There were, however, certain demographic tendencies to be noted, I said. For instance, quite a few white women over the age of 30 (realizing that I had just described the woman in front of me, I started talking faster to put that part behind us) did seem to support her because she was a woman, but the men and minorities and young people and women who favored Obama were, if they were turned off by Clinton, reacting more to the sort of campaign she had run….
    She nodded, and when I paused to take a breath, told me that the woman who owned the diner, and another waitress who wasn’t on duty that morning, were both Hillary supporters. Apparently, I had described them pretty well. Deciding I should quit while I was ahead, I paid my check, making sure to tip at least 20 percent, and headed back out into the cold March wind.
    And I thought about that woman, and how very normal she had been. She was no silly, apathetic fool, the sort that the passionately committed declare that Democracy Is Wasted Upon. She was intelligent — at least average, if not more than. She was sensible, and perfectly willing to care about things that should be cared about. She was earning a living; she was doing what needed to be done, and not wasting energy on anything that didn’t.
    Since that day, she has come to represent The Pennsylvania Voter in my mind. Down here in South Carolina we knocked ourselves out trying to make a difference, and we did — giving Sen. McCain the payback he had waited eight years for, giving Sen. Obama a big push forward.
    But it’s not over yet on the Democratic side, and it’s within the power of Pennsylvanians to make the final decision, and after the mad pace of having a high-stakes primary about every five minutes from the first of January through early March, nothing has happened for weeks and weeks while we all wait for Pennsylvania to do something, and the latest polls say it’s still a dead heat. Zogby reported Thursday that 45 percent were still for Clinton, 44 percent for Obama, 9 percent undecided, and 3 percent wanted someone else.
    Tied? Undecided? Someone else? They still haven’t decided up there! It’s like they haven’t been paying attention.
    The candidates haven’t helped much, what with Sen. Clinton making up Bosnia war stories (there I was, pinned down…) and Sen. Obama going all cold and detached (religion is the opium of the people…), to the point that you can see how a sensible person might be turned off.
    But I find I want to drive back up there before Tuesday, and go back into that diner, and convince that sensible woman that these are solid candidates, that one of them is likely to become president, that the rest of us took them seriously, so won’t you please just bear with us long enough to go out and vote, and settle this thing for the sake of the country?
    And then, once you do, we can all take a load off, order another cup of coffee, and think about something else until Labor Day.

20 thoughts on “Waiting for Pennsylvania to buckle down and decide

  1. Phillip

    Brad, very nicely written piece.
    What strikes me most is that this hard-working woman, just trying to piece together a living, get through each day, feeling somehow detached from the political winds swirling around her, make her not really much different from her counterpart in a small Chinese city today.
    The irony is that by about the midpoint of the 21st century, America and China will have reached astoundingly similar political conditions, but by completely different paths.
    We’ll both be capitalistic societies, more or less…and we’ll both have about the same degree of active democratic participation by our citizens.

  2. Lee Muller

    If we elect Obama or Hillary, the USA and Red China will both meet on the road to socialist ruin that much sooner.

  3. Randy E

    Or, Lee, we can elect McCain and bomb the crap out of everyone – except NW Pakistan where Osama is because they are our friends.

  4. slugger

    Maybe the lady pouring your coffee was an actress. I am sure that you told her about your editorial job. Maybe she was going to write down what you told her about the candidates and then flip a coin.
    Now. Getting back to acting. Osama needs the academy award for overacting. He is acting like he is already the president. How do I know. He talks about how honest he is and he is going to make a change. If you believe any of that, he has faked you out.

  5. Randy E

    One great example that undermines your analysis slugger. In this past debate when Bosnia came up, he had a great chance to kidney punch Clinton. Not only did he not take the opportunity, he tried to direct the hatchet men to discuss the real issues. Obviously they declined.
    McCain and Clinton would have salivated like Pavlov’s dog if they had a similar chance…oh ya, Clinton did have the opportunity and she took it, didn’t she. Read McCain today, he’s jumping on the Ayers mole hill as well.

  6. NPC

    Wow what a nice piece. Brad, I’m always on the Net reading the big papers and seeking to read something or just anything which massages my mind about this process; however, this piece, in my own local newspaper, is the best read for this entire election cycle so far. I look forward to the followup.

  7. slugger

    If any of you do not realize that Osama is a plant and a yes man that has been trained by powers that be to deliver this country to the New World Order, you are living in a dream world. (The New World Order have had candidates before Osama but they did not suceed.I do not think but wonder sometime).
    Everybody wants to deny that such an organization exists. Deny is the prime word. Canada, USA and Mexico are leading the way and setting the example that other countries will follow. When we have a combined continent instead of being the leader of the world. We have a candidate and his name is Osama. Osama wants to talk to all the country”s of the world to bring about peace. He wants to bring about world socialism. He will sell his soul to the company store. He has in fact already done exactly this. It just has not been made public.
    We must remember that history tells us that all major changes that affect the whole world starts with and ends with religion. Take it to the bank (if there is any left standing).

  8. gustav galbreath

    Solid candidates?
    I think of them as Who?, Who Else? and Whom?
    I can’t imagine following any one of them anywhere, but McCain seems the most trustworthy, because he seems to have actually been somewhere and not lied about the sniper fire or the content of the sermons afterward.
    Can I envision my leader being mentored by Jeremiah Wright?
    Married to the philandering former POTUS himself?
    Interestingly enough, at least to me, I can’t come up with a big drawback for McCain, except that he’s from Arizona, a state I loathe.
    But he doesn’t much believe in earmarks, so maybe that’s OK.

  9. Lee Muller

    No one is voting for Obama or Hillary because they think either of them would pursue Bin Laden or any other terrorist more vigorously than McCain or GW Bush.
    Obama’s friends include terrorists. His church bulletin distributed anti-Jewish tracts from Hamas. He is endorsed by Hamas.
    Hillary was associated with Puerto Rican terrorists, who were pardoned by husband Bill for several bombings. Bill also pardoned several of Obama’s terrorist buddies.

  10. slugger

    Well. What do you know. The would be high school bomber “hates people”. Maybe all those that hate are not in Chicago churches after all.

  11. bud

    No one is voting for Obama or Hillary because they think either of them would pursue Bin Laden or any other terrorist more vigorously than McCain or GW Bush.
    Did you type that correctly? What you’re saying is that people are not voting for the Dems because they will pursue Bin Laden. Are you saying the people don’t want to apprehend Bin Laden?
    I’ll assume this is a typo and you meant to say that the people believe the Dems will NOT try as hard to apprehend Bin Laden. That of course is quite a stupid thing to say since our current POTUS has failed utterly to capture Bin Laden. By definition Hillary or Obama could not do a poorer job.

  12. Lee Muller

    Obama and Hillary INTEND to do a worse job than President Bush. They say so. Their voting records say so.
    Any Democrat who says they want to pursue the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere else is a liar, because they haven’t done it all the times they were in office. Their canidates, Obama and Hillary, are cozy with terrorists, Muslim and domestic.
    9/11 is Bill Clinton’s mess from his abdication of duty in pursuing Bin Laden after the 1993 WTC bombing. Everyone who understood the Clinton’s association with the USSR in the 1960s was not surprised.

  13. bud

    Obama and Hillary INTEND to do a worse job than President Bush. They say so.
    You’re right Lee. Just the other day I heard a speech by Senator Obama where he said: “If elected president I promise I will do a much worse job than President Bush. I plan to allow criminals into this country, free all felons and of course will invite Osama Bin-Laden over for brunch at the White House. Further, if elected I will see to it that all Americans are unemployed. If only you, the voters of Pennsylvania, give me the opportunity I will make your life a living Hell!”
    Maybe you can find this speech on YouTube.

  14. Lee Muller

    Actually, Obama has said
    * he intends to not pursue Bin Laden or any other terrorists
    * intends to not stand in the way of Iranian invasion of Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine
    * intends to withdraw US troops from Iraq no matter how well the mission is going,
    * intends to dismantle our nuclear arsenal
    * stop development of our missile defense
    …. and his votes in the Senate back that up.

  15. slugger

    Lee you have Bud nailed to the fence post.
    Obama has not minced his words about exactly what you are quoting him as saying. If he is elected president, we are in a world of hurt.

  16. bud

    Ok, let’s take Lee’s point one at a time:
    * he intends to not pursue Bin Laden or any other terrorists
    What planet have you been on Lee? That perfectly describes our current president. On many occassions he’s indicated the irrelevancy of Bin-Laden. Given McCain’s obsession with Iraq it would appear that McCain is likely to follow in Bush’s footsteps. Obama, on the other hand, has stressed the importance of pursuing Obama in Pakistan. That’s something Bush has refused to do.
    * intends to not stand in the way of Iranian invasion of Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine
    So what. Let Iran have Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. That would be 3 less headaches for us.
    * intends to withdraw US troops from Iraq no matter how well the mission is going,
    Good. That’s exactly what he should do. Kudos Barack!
    * intends to dismantle our nuclear arsenal
    Of course he’s not going to completely dismantle our nuclear arsenal. But if he reduces it that would be a good thing. It would save us tons of money without reducing our security one bit.
    * stop development of our missile defense
    Good. It’s a complete waste of money. It won’t work except to make a few military contractors a bit more wealthy.
    If what Lee says is true then Barack Obama is the man. You folks on the right are the most paranoid bunch of scardy cats. We already spend more on military stuff than the next 20 nations combined. No one is going to challenge us militarily. If we cut back on the military by half we’d still have plenty to defend ourselves. And we could devote the remainded to health care, infrastructure or debt retirement. In the long run those things will make us safer than some new missle or military occupation.
    Besides, isn’t all this military spending just a socialist ploy to control the masses. Just a thought.

  17. Lee Muller

    You didn’t respond to that long list of Al Qaeda terrorists killed and captured, which I posted. Cat got your tongue.
    Go ahead, vote for the traitor Obama, just because he promises you more handouts. That started with Mussolini, Hitler and FDR.

  18. brain lara

    Yes I have also gone many times in the Central Pennsylvania. There were many customers at the counter. There will come one water to give the coffee for you. I also want to know about president of the United States.
    brain lara
    Addiction Recovery Pennsylvania

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