Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hatching rescue plans for Florida's elderly voters

Chris and I left Florida 30 years ago for the Rocky Mountains. During those three decades, the changes in our old home state have been enormous. I'm not going to look up the statistics because it's Sunday morning and I still haven't had enough coffee. But it's no secret that millions of people have moved to Florida looking for warm weather, pristine beaches, verdant open spaces, and peace and quiet. By moving there in droves, they've destroyed all but the first one. That's the way it goes. We've had similar problems in the West's beautiful places. We're short on beaches, but we boast mountains that will knock your socks off. People buy property to be near those mountains. Others follow and pretty soon you can't see the mountains for the mansions and woodsmoke, and open spaces are pushed further back into the wilderness until the Bush Administration gets its hands on the place for oil and gas drilling.

I digress. Chris and I attended high school and college in Florida, met and decided to go West. We get back to Florida as often as possible to see family and friends. My eight brothers and sisters live in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Orlando, Palm Bay and Tallahassee. Chris's lone sister and her husband live in Green Cove Springs near the St. John's River. Our parents have passed on, but we still have aunts and uncles and cousins scattered around the state. Chris's relatives from New Jersey and New York all migrated south in retirement, and now all of her cousins live on the Florida West Coast.

The state's big enough to accommodate all of our relatives and millions of others. Sort of. Retirees used to flock to the state and settle among their own kind. Rust Belt retirees (back when there were jobs) settled in St. Pete and environs on the West Coast, Southerners tended to land in the Panhandle along the Redneck Riviera, and New Yorkers, especially those of the Jewish persuasion, flocked to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and other towns and cities of Dade and Broward counties. In the 2000 election, we saw some of these former New Yorkers trying to make sense of the hanging chads. They looked really old and confused. Some say they cost us the election and gave the world Dubya. We all know it's more complicated than that.

Sarah Silverman of TV fame has decided to help these voters in the next election. Not with the hanging chads -- those don't exist anymore (at least I don't think they do). Silverman is urging those in her Jewish age cohort to travel to Florida before the election and help convince their parents and grandparents to vote for Barack Obama. She and others involved in "The Great Schlep" feel that misinformation has confused their family members and they might end up voting for McCain instead (or by accident). The McCain camp, of course, has been encouraging these misconceptions by his own misleading ads. So Silverman & Company came up with this plan, which I think is brilliant. I am wondering, though, how hard-headed New Yorkers, no matter their age, will response to youngsters flying into Miami to tell them what to do. But it's worth a shot. Just a few votes may affect the entire election.

I'm wondering how our elderly relatives would respond to a similar plan. There's a major problem right off the bat. While Jewish retirees from New York almost always vote Democratic, that's not the case for Catholics from New Jersey. Most of our family members are diehard Republicans. Abortion is the main issue, of course. Birth control, too, as well as the Catholic Church's insistence on centralized authority. That issue rubs most believers in democracy the wrong way. You'd think that "States' Rights Republicans" would bridle at being told what to do by an oligarch in Rome who wears white robes and designer red shoes. Rome's in Europe, that dreadful place. And you can be pro-life when it comes to fetuses but support a foreign policy that vaporizes entire Iraqi families with not-so-smart bombs. But I guess it's O.K. to be a "Cafeteria Catholic" if you're a Republican.

So, "The Great Schlep" won't work for our oldsters, even if it had a different name, such as "Bringing Democracy to Old Benighted Republicans." Perhaps, as nest eggs continue to dwindle in tough economic times, we could frame it as some sort of Bush rescue plan. "We're from the Bush Administration and we're here to help." Considering the past eight years, that could cause a panic, even among Florida Republicans.

1 comment:

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