At last—an election all about ME. Yes, I’m the Angry White Voter. I hate everybody— President Obama, the Republican establishment, the political elites, healthcare, the stimulus, Wall Street, Tallahassee insiders, government spending, tax cuts for the poor—I hate it all. My new idol is that Tea Party person Christine O’Donnell, the one who dabbles in witchcraft and wants to outlaw masturbation in Delaware. It’s about time somebody took a stand on the tough issues. Luckily, I hardly ever go to Delaware, and when I do it’s just a quick drive-through. I figure that even I can hold out for an hour or so.
So being in this state of constant fury, I naturally wanted to go to the recent Take Back America rally at Robarts Arena.
It was sponsored by the Republican Party, and the gimmick was that all the "stars" of the election would be there—Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and all the other candidates who have made the last month of television even better than Real Housewives reruns.
The crowd of 2,000 or so—dressed mostly in red, white and blue outfits—began to gather early in the afternoon, lured by free barbecue and a cash bar. A one-man-band entertained while we noshed, and I must say, he was very good. He dedicated My Guy to Rick Scott and then thanked the soldiers. He made us sing I’m Proud to be an American and wave flags.
Local conservative pundit Rich Swier Sr. was there, and he was in heaven. He had a camera crew and was interviewing every right-winger in sight. I do not know Mr. Swier, but I do know his son, Rich Swier Jr., and boy, what a study in contrasts. Swier Junior is tech whiz Matt Orr’s business partner and a perfectly normal, enlightened person. Swier Senior could give Rush Limbaugh a run for his money. Father and son are always getting into fights on Facebook about things like homosexuality. Sophocles could write a play about this pair.
The attendees were mainly older white people—I blended in seamlessly, particularly after putting on a Rick Scott "Let’s Get to Work" sticker. But there were also those earnest, neat and slightly geeky young men who gravitate to conservative events, and a lady in a wheelchair, with both her legs straight out in front of her. They were resting on foam rubber planks. It must have been quite an effort for her to get there, and I thought, boy, she must really be conservative.
All the local Republican candidates were busy drumming up votes, and when the program started, they got to speak first. And while I mean no disrespect, it soon became obvious that the more important a job you have politically, the more you know how to rabble-rouse. Poor Nora Patterson—I just can’t see her leading an angry mob down Main Street. And Ray Pilon made a tactical error by giving his opponent, Keith Fitzgerald, reams of free publicity. By the end of his speech you were more interested in Keith than you were in the speaker.
But then Pam Bondi came out. She’s running for attorney general. It was like watching the young Sarah Palin campaign for mayor of Wasilla. A star was being born right before our eyes. She reminded me a lot of that woman on TV, Nancy Grace, only Pam is younger, prettier, and meaner. She was wearing low-slung jeans and a white polo shirt—no Republican power suits for her—and looked like she was on her way to a singles’ mixer. She’s never run for office before, but mark my words: She has a brilliantly conservative future ahead of her.
Then there was a buzz at the back of the hall, and I looked over to see that Marco and Rick had arrived, each surrounded by a little cluster of handlers and fans. Rich Swier Sr. went into overdrive with excitement. Joe Gruters, who is head of the local Republican Party, made everybody get up and move forward around the stage so it would look like there were more people there ("more energy" was how he put it); but many in the crowd were past the age of standing for long periods of time and stubbornly kept their seats, me included.
By this time I was quickly learning how to handle a crowd of Republicans. First of all, thank the soldiers, even if the guy ahead of you already did. Have the veterans raise their hands or stand up or stand up and raise their hands. Those poor veterans did so much standing and sitting that they were getting woozy from fluctuating blood pressure. Then there are the three magic words that always work in a Republican gathering: "Fire Nancy Pelosi!" Boy, do they hate her. I can sort of see why. There is something off-putting about her. She reminds me of when you were a kid and there was always one mother in the neighborhood that none of the kids trusted.
Marco Rubio turned out to be calm, rational, and a little bland. He was nowhere near angry enough for my taste. Rick Scott, on the other hand, is always provocative. There was a question hanging in the air all afternoon—would the party faithful forgive him for buying the nomination and being so mean to Bill McCollum in the process?
Rick turns out to be a little shorter and slighter than he appears in his commercials, and he has a maniacal gleam in his eye that’s easily visible at 100 paces. As one Democrat put it, "I’m sure he has the mark of the beast somewhere on his body."
What I like about Rick is that I’m both mad at him and mad with him. How dare he try and buy the election? Just who does he think he is? Entitled to be governor because he has a billion dollars? And what about that Medicare fraud? Does he think we’re a bunch of idiots?
On the other hand, we need to shake things up. No more politics as usual. That’s what I love about the Tea Party. It’s a return to governing by the citizens, not the career politicians. And that’s the way the Founding Fathers planned it. All the rich white guys would take turns running things. That means in Sarasota we’d first have, say, Charles Githler, then Matt Walsh, then—dare I even think it—me. Now that personal bankruptcy and fiscal mismanagement and Medicare fraud and dabbling in witchcraft are no longer a bar to public office, I think I really have a chance.