Free Markets, Free People
I arrived at Ft. Stewart’s Cottrell Field a few hours early – it was a long drive from Atlanta and I wanted to make sure I got there with plenty of time to spare. I was the only one in the parking lot as I pulled in, grateful for the opportunity to rest a bit before the ceremony. My son’s unit was coming home from Afghanistan and in a few short hours I’d actually get to see him, put my hands on him and rest assured that he was home and well.
As I sat there thinking about the upcoming event, my eyes wandered to two rows of small trees lining Cottrell Field at either end and what appeared to be markers at their base. Curious, and needing to stretch after the long ride, I walked toward them. It was a beautiful hot August Georgia day with a slight breeze, enough to keep the heat from being oppressive and the gnats at bay.
Walking toward the trees I noticed a walkway with two brick pillars. On the pillars were brass plaques, one announcing this was “Warrior’s Walk” and the other explaining it was a memorial to the soldiers lost in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. My heart caught in my throat as I looked down the long double row of trees and I thought, “there but by the grace of God …”.
Understanding the joy I would soon experience with my son’s homecoming, I felt an obligation to at least share some of the pain the families of the fallen must have endured when they found out that their loved one would never walk across Cottrell Field and back into their lives. I walked “Warrior’s Walk”.
If anyone can manage to do so with a dry eye, they’re a better person than I am. Each tree has a marble marker with the soldier’s name and rank. Each includes a metal flag representing the unit with which he served. But the most poignant items were those which families and fellow soldiers had placed under each tree. Lovingly left and carefully preserved, these mementoes tear at your heart and remind you of the lost love they represent. Many families had put wind chimes in the trees. Walking alone along the walk with the breeze gently stirring these chimes gave the walk an eerie almost otherworldly effect, strangely welcoming and embracing a visitor.
I finished my walk, sobered by the sacrifice of so many young lives. It was almost time for the ceremony and my son’s wife and my 4 grandsons, who had traveled earlier that morning to attend some classes at Ft. Stewart, had arrived. We all moved into the stands and waited for my son’s unit to arrive. The excitement was palpable. It continued to build as the time neared and more and more families arrived.
We were given updates – “they’ve just landed; they’re loading the busses; they’re enroute; they’re 10 minutes out” – and each update drove the anticipation up another notch.
Finally the busses were spotted and the gathered crowd went wild in a frenzy of cheering and clapping. Looking around it was a sea of smiles.
The unit unloaded behind a screen of trees at the far end of the field, shielding them from our view and then, dramatically, emerged from the tree line and marched in formation toward the stands. The gathered families cheered as they approached, some with tears streaming down their cheeks. Young children waved flags and signs they had lovingly made, all the while looking for their daddy.
The Colonel assigned the unenviable task of officially welcoming them home knew his duty and limited his remarks to about 2 minutes. At the conclusion, the PA announcer barely got, “and this concludes the formal portion of our ceremony”, out of his mouth before the crowd in the stands broke toward the formation. If the scene was pure pandemonium, it was the happiest example I’ve ever witnessed.
As our family pushed into the throng, we searched for my son. Finally, the crowd parted and there he was. He looked hale, hearty and happy. He looked good. We all tried to get to him at once, but everyone enjoyed a great big hug before it was over. My youngest grandson, age 6, had tears streaming down his cheeks and dripping off his chin as he wrapped his dad up in an embrace that he seemed not to want let go. More hugs, more smiles, more looking him up and down to ensure he was okay – that he was really here.
Finally, we began to walk off the field, and as I walked behind him and his son’s I smiled at the picture they made – the soldier holding the hands of two of his sons as we headed toward the cars. It was then that I heard that ghostly sound on the wind, the faint sound of wind chimes. A chill went down my back as I glanced back toward the double row of trees. It was as if those along Warrior’s Walk were welcoming him home too.
As we enter October, now is the time to begin to pay close attention to election polls. As the November election date approaches, more and more people will turn their attention to them and the polls will begin to more accurately reflect the probable outcome.
But there are other polls out there that are interesting as well. They give indicators, moods and trends which, when combined with election polls help better explain why one candidate is surging and the other faltering.
Two of those catch my notice today. The first is the POLITICO-George Washington University Battleground Poll. While it may mean absolutely nothing in 2012, the most important year for Obama, it does provide a snap-shot of the mood of the electorate. In it pollsters found:
- Only 38% say Obama deserves re-election and 44% will vote to oust him out
- Voters trust congressional Republicans to create jobs more than Obama by an 11-point margin
- Republicans hold a 4-point edge in generic ballot
The significance is the difference in his job approval rating (42% – an all time low) and his "deserves reelection" rating. The latter is the most significant, and it says he’s a one term president – for now. Remember, in politics, it is all about the confidence one has in the leadership. This poll could be considered a lack of confidence vote as it concerns Obama right now.
The fact that voters ‘trust’ Republicans to create more jobs than Democrats by 11 points isn’t so much an endorsement of Republican economic policies, but a rejection of Democratic ones. They’re deemed to have failed (and that failure, I would claim, is directly connected with Obama’s reelection number).
You have to wonder if Republicans are able to do a marginally better job on the job front (or the economy begins to rebound naturally and they get some credit) whether it will also pick up Obama’s reelection numbers.
The last number – 4% on the positive side for the GOP on the generic ballot – simply reflects the facts the other two numbers do. Voters are deeply dissatisfied with Democrats. That doesn’t mean they’re wild about the GOP though.
Some other news from the poll concerns the media preferences of the electorate:
- 81% of those polled get midterm election news from cable news channels
- 42% say Fox News is their main source – more than CNN (30%) and MSNBC (12%) combined
- Bill O’Reilly seen to have greatest "positive impact" of opinionated media personalities with 49%, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are second and third
- MSNBC personalities largely unknown – 70% have never heard of Ed Schultz, 55% haven’t heard of Rachel Maddow
Now this is interesting stuff for many reasons. One is it provides proof that the left’s attempted demonization of Fox News has not worked at all. I wonder how that’s going to sit with the White House. In fact, it seems to have been a dismal failure. What the left would characterize as “right biased media” apparently rules.
Secondly, I find it hilarious that the “stars” of the left are unknown to the majority of those polled. And remember, the 30% who say they have heard of Ed Schultz (I’d be one of those) don’t necessarily listen to him (I’d also be one of those). John Stewart, however, did quite well on the “positive impact” side of things.
Last – is Limbaugh’s star being eclipsed by O’Reilly and Beck? I realize that O’Reilly, for some reason, has held the top spot on cable opinion shows for some time, and Beck does both radio and cable while Limbaugh only does radio, but that’s interesting info if correct. However, regardless as to the ranking of those three, they apparently convincingly own the “positive impact” category of “opinionated media”. Wonder what Hannity thinks about all this (and not being really in the running?)?
And as an aside, despite their declining circulation numbers, newspapers remain the most important news source for likely voters:
Despite steady declines in circulation over the past decade, newspapers are more influential than national news broadcasts when it comes to news on the upcoming election, with 72 percent of respondents saying they turn to newspapers or their websites.
Local news did better, at 73 percent, and conversations with friends and family was the second-most-cited source, at 79 percent. Radio was cited by only 58 percent of respondents, and non-newspaper websites and blogs by 39 percent.
Anyway, all of this makes sense when you view the results of the other poll. And, given the majorities who’ve never heard of the liberal show hosts, I’m not sure it would be any different if it was the Republicans in control and failing as dismally as the Democrats are. When that was the case, those folks were on the air and apparently few were tuning in to hear what they had to say.
Why? Because for the most part, Limbaugh, Beck and O’Reilly talk about getting government out of our hair, making it smaller and less costly. That resonates. That reflects the mood of the country. It is also something you’re not going to hear from the Ed Shultz’s and Rachel Maddow’s of the world.
There’s a free clue (and one that should be obvious by now) to any politician or political party that wants it.
Of course the Chronicle – the state of California’s liberal newspaper located in America’s most liberal big city – didn’t endorse Carly Fiorina either, but no one in the state expected that would happen.
However, the fact that the Chronicle’s editorial board couldn’t find it in itself to support Barbara Boxer’s 4th Senate term is news. There’s debate as to how much weight endorsements carry with voters, but the refusal to endorse a candidate which it has supported in the past is indeed something voters should sit up and notice.
The most positive thing the paper could say about Boxer was she was a “reliable liberal vote”. But it also called Boxer a Senator of little note or accomplishment and one whose only claim to fame is her rabid partisanship.
The Chronicle is not at all enamored with Carly Fiorina’s politics which should surprise no one. But the editors all but say, “but for her politics, she’d be our choice”.
It is an odd and rare sort of editorial that you should take the time to read if, for no other reason than to understand the anti-incumbency movement has reached even into the editorial rooms of newspapers. There’s also something else important captured in the first sentence in the non-endorsement:
Californians are left with a deeply unsatisfying choice for the U.S. Senate this year.
Replace California with “Americans” and “US Senate” for “any national office” and make "choice" plural and you pretty well sum up the reason for the rise of the Tea Party, the unrest on the left, the confusion in the middle and the large majority that continues to say, in poll after poll, that the country is on the wrong track.
California’s Senate race is a microcosm of races all over the US and the Chronicle’s non-endorsement reflects the feelings many voters have as they consider the candidates they’re left with, with rare exceptions. This continues to be what the GOP is missing as it attempts to run (and support) the same old people for office. They’ve done nothing to search out and recruit the candidates for which the voters are literally clamoring. Thus the rise of insurgent candidates in GOP primaries.
“Politics as usual” or “establishment politics” if you prefer, are under attack. While there are certainly specifics in law, legislation or among issues that are important to voters, their general frustration is mostly driven by the fact that they’re unable to meaningfully change a political system in any fundamental way that they view as non-responsive and broken.
Instead they see an out of touch, out of control Leviathan blindly charging ahead and spending us into ruin whose only concern for the desires of the people manifests itself at reelection time. And, as soon as the offices are again secured for the appropriate time period, they are quickly forgotten in the world of party politics and special interests. As the SF Chronicle implies, Barbara Boxer is this problem’s poster child.
The first party that truly dedicates itself to defining and executing a plan that fundamentally changes the system under which we suffer now and makes it more responsive and reactive to the will of the electorate is the party that will rise in prominence and remain there for the foreseeable future.