RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

We Need a Worker, Not an Entertainer

Who’s the genius that said to vote for folks we’d drink a beer with? I have higher standards. I’m not looking for a pal, or a confidant. I don’t want to talk to my candidate about sports.

I want someone I can trust. I want someone that works on my behalf to get the job done. I want Joe the Plumber. Someone who knows how to figure out where the water’s leaking and which pipe to bang on. Someone who shows up on time, because I don’t want to take off work to wait for help that doesn’t arrive.

We need someone who can explain the problems in simple terms. And what it will cost to fix it.

Once I read about a plumber who ended up babysitting because a lady was stranded at work, but all I want is someone who drives slowly up the lane, is nice to the dogs and if there are any kids around, lets them watch and maybe even learn something.

And, if my candidate’s halfway through the job and runs into trouble, I want to know immediately. And, what the additional charges will be.

And I want my candidate to have trustworthy friends. An electrician, a carpenter. Someone with a backhoe.

McCain and Palin fail the plumber test. I wouldn’t leave either of them in the house with Grandmommy’s good sugar bowl on the table. Obama seems trustworthy, and Biden might be able to hand him a crescent wrench, so I’ll go with them but if I lived in a state that was solid D or R, I’d vote for Nader, because we still need independents.

But I live in Missouri, and nobody knows which way it will swing. As much as we may like him, Obama has a lot of baggage and it’s hard to say which bag is the heaviest. Like the Minnesota lady at the McCain rally who said on national TV that she’s afraid of Obama because he’s “Arab,” it’s hard to fight disinformation or to even know where it comes from. Does he talk like an Arab? Use too many Arabic words and numbers?

Or does she mean he’s too Muslim? Or, is he too black? Too liberal? Too skinny? Too—oh, you know—new.

And why the heck does a nice guy like that want to be Prez? He’ll be responsible for fixing the present messes and those we can’t even imagine. He needs to fix our food system. And, besides the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need someone to settle our quarrels with Russia and China, fix health care, make education affordable, challenge the industries that are too big to fail.

Here’s a question: Did the government save the banks, or did the banks swindle the government? It’s hard to believe that any banker was surprised when the sub-prime loans fell apart. And who’s really in charge now? With no new regulations or guidelines, it seems like the government is at the mercy of bankers that started the crisis. Too big to fail? Does that sound like a reason for a bail-out?

Thomas Frank, writing The Wrecking Crew, says Conservatives have purposely wrecked the government. By funding lobbyists, insisting that the lobbyists be conservatives, and helping the lobbyists buy Congress and the regulatory agencies, Frank says, conservatives have put industry in charge. The perfect Industrial Park, according to Frank, is a campus with locked gates to keep the workers in and the media out. Inside the gates is a collection of factories that pay low wages, manage their newspaper stories, and include entertaining amenities for the executives. Bars, private dining rooms, prostitutes and, oh yeah, a golf course.

The rot goes all the way to the Supreme Court, those learned jurors that listen to arguments between consumers and industry and decide, increasingly, that industry wins. Next guy elected will appoint the next Supreme Court judges. Maybe three of them.

A few weeks ago, I stayed up to see Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey is brilliant, but let’s be clear: She’s an entertainer, not a policy maker. Because VP candidate Sarah Palin is also an entertainer, she has her shtick down. So Fey has a dream job mimicking Palin. And while it seems that the lines between Fey and Palin are blurry, we should be reminded that entertainers do things for effect, while politicians should act for our good interests. By “our,” I mean voters who elected them.

We’re too easily won over by clever lines and good grooming. Case in fact: Ronald Reagan, the great communicator, who ushered in the last big recession and pushed farmers into bankruptcy. Arnold Schwarzenegger, governator of the state most likely to need a bailout in 2009.

I don’t require entertainment from my plumber. All I really want is someone working on my behalf.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email:

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2008

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