A Blue Stater Travels Through Red States, Part VII
Dateline: Atlanta, Ga.
At a family gathering yesterday, I actually found an undecided voter.
A little background, from the perspective of my cousins, who live here and are ardent Kerry supporters:
-- The local newspaper, the Journal-Constitution, has a conservative slant. From the stories I've read since Friday, I can't confirm this. President Bush gets a lot of respect, but Sen. Kerry wasn't mistreated -- and to boot, there was a feature on David Brock's Media Matters website.
-- Air America will not be found on your local radio dial. I did find, however, three radio channels airing conservative talk radio, and three others with a Christian bent (which, when they talk politics, no doubt side with the conservatives). The closest I found to "liberal" radio was a host who played 'hardball" with a conservative guest discussing election advertising. But then the host let the conservative talk unchecked, which defeats the purpose of a hard-hitting interview.
-- Among the sites we saw was a house which in the front lawn had a handful of trees positioned to form a half moon. The trees were each decorated with American flags. In the center of the display was a Bush-Cheney '04 sign, with footlights to illuminate it at night.
So this is not a home for many liberals. As my cousins said, you'll find Democrats in Atlanta proper, and not much of anywhere else. Bush is expected to win the state by more than 20 percentage points. Retiring Democratic Senator Zell Miller -- who after 9/11 went from conservative Democrat to "coward conservative," not so much supporting Bush as he was trashing the party he left -- is likely to be replaced by a Republican after the November election.
At the family gathering -- my cousin is getting married in October, and the bridal shower for his wife-to-be was held at my aunt and uncle's house -- I met an undecided voter. Such people are hard to find, and my experience with undecideds has been limited to the New York metropolitan area. In right-charging Georgia, I would imagine such folks are rare.
Anyway, this guy will likely vote for Kerry. His wife is a Democrat, and his kids are, too. But he's a businessman, and he has purposely not paid attention to the back-and-forth, deciding instead to watch the debates before deciding.
We had a 10-minute conversation, in which I basically asked what was left to decide. His take: the economy is improving, getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, although the war is far from done, and Kerry hasn't made a great impression on him. While he generally agrees with many policies advocated by the Democratic party -- and I took it he voted for Gore in 2000 and Clinton before that -- Kerry hasn't "closed the sale," as the pundits put it.
I didn't want to push him, because he clearly didn't want to get into a lengthy talk about politics, but I did offer that the tax cuts overwhelmingly benefited the rich. He agreed, but said that he thought they were helping the economy, albeit at a slower pace than expected. I retorted that a recent nonpartisan report suggested that each tax dollar cut had created about 64 cents of economic stimulus, but if Bush had funded state programs -- as promised -- that would have created nearly double the stimulus. "Well, that's not right," he said.
While we were eating, I made one other point. There was tuna among the items being served, and I asked where it came from. I was told Bumble Bee. "But where is the tuna caught?" I asked. Apparently, it's caught in Alaska. When asked why it matters -- I don't eat tuna -- I mentioned something Robert Kennedy Jr. told Sean Hannity recently about the high levels of mercury in Connecticut and Long Island, and how that had come about because of the removal of Clean Water Act provisions put into place under Clinton.
Those within earshot, including my undecided voter, were unaware of the problem, and weren't happy with the news.
Moral of the story -- if you are well-armed with facts, you can argue effectively on nearly any point, from Iraq to the economy to the environment to "liberal bias" in the media.
I just wonder what would happen here in Georgia (or fill in your favorite red state) if people were exposed to such facts on a regular basis, rather than getting more than their share of "news" from conservative and/or Christian talk radio.