Thursday, July 29, 2004

Attending a Republican Political Event

I was out on the breezeway earlier today, an hour before class, and there was this man with a cute little ten year old setting up a table for Doug Gallagher, who is running in the primary for Senate. This is Florida, and he's up against trial lawyer and hand-picked Bushite Mel Martinez, who frankly has a wonderful personal story. Gallagher is third in the race last I looked, and I was curious why his supporters would campaign on this deserted campus - it is summer school, after all.

Fifty minutes later I returned outside, greeted my students and chatted them up. And then what happens but Gallagher drives up, gets out of the SUV, and strolls up to press the flesh. My students and I chatted a few minutes, and during the chat I excused myself, asked one of his handlers how long the rally was going to be, and made my decision. Instead of Humanities class tonight, instead of teaching critical thinking skills using the Socratic method, we were going to study politics. Republican politics. I was to be surprised.

I posted a note on the classroom door for the stragglers and led the students to the Auditorium. There were forty of us only, fully half of them my students. Doug Gallagher, the software entrepreneur, cam on to the stage and then showed us this video. Pretty funny. Then he gave his spiel, and it hit some good points. He's a Steve Forbes kind of guy. Flat tax with no loopholes, Tort reform, healthcare innovation. I swear he sounded like a Democrat when talking about healthcare, except on the cost issue he was only about limiting liability for Doctors in the end. Still, I warmed to him, not least because he knew I'd brought the class and kept thanking me for doing so. I swear I blushed.

But here's the kicker. Through the introduction, through the video, through the speech, and through the question and answer session, Doug Gallagher, though he expected a 100% Republican crowd, never said teh two words George Bush.

Further, Doug Gallagher, though his opponents are reportedly doing so, never hit those hot-button Republican culture war issues. He did NOT mention the Marriage Act. He did NOT mention abortion. He did NOT mention gun control. Adn he barely mentioned the war in Iraq at all.

What does this tell me? Bush's coattails are tragically frayed. And the culture war issues are going against him.

This post is too long as it is. But I must say when we compared notes after my students were spot ON! The 50 year old Republican guy didn't get the answer he wanted about getting his wife's drugs from Canada. The 22 year old Republican student didn't get the answer he wanted about cronyism. And two people noticed I didn't get the answer about, in the absense of punitive damages in lawsuits, how DO we punish corporate and medical miscreants?

Overall, I would consider voting for Gallagher, were he to win this race, which is a longshot, but he's got to answer my questions. And he has to answer those of my students.

Still, a very instructive night.