A few months ago, my husband and I went out for dinner with his parents on a random Friday night. We went to a suburban Olive Garden restaurant, shared a bottle of their house table wine and ate Italian comfort food. In my opinion, there’s almost nothing more American than a night out at a big box restaurant in the burbs. Most people aren’t fancy, and we aren’t either. We want a good value, a good conversation and dependably good food. So that’s why when we dine out, the most exotic we get is the occasional visit to a local Thai restaurant…with a coupon…where we almost always order the exact same thing. More often, Brandon and I frequent places like Taco Bueno and Braum’s if we go out at all. We’re easy to please.
His parents are similar to us in that way. They want a place where they can spend quality time together as a family. They want to be able to hear each other. They want a good meal. And we do too.
I don’t think we’re different than most families. Most people want to enjoy these good things: they want to work hard, come home to their families, save money, plan for the future, go to church or Bible study or not go at all, enjoy their homes, help others, love their children and spouses. Most of all, they want to do those things of their own volition. I have never met anyone who said their life would be easier if someone just told them how to live it…what restaurants to frequent, what kind of car to drive, what kind of food to eat or not eat, who deserves help and who doesn’t, whether or not to have a glass of wine with dinner, where to go to church and what kind of God to worship.
So, I’ve been thinking of things like that visit to the Olive Garden a few weeks ago in light of how most of our friends and family would like to live their lives.
During our dinner discussion, the subject turned to politics. I don’t remember what had happened in the news that week, but something related to the GOP 2012 field had come up in our conversation. By no means were we in a heated debate. We were simply discussing the candidates and contemplating who had a snowball’s chance in heck of winning in 2012. (Brandon and I are by no means Republicans, though.) My father-in-law mused that he really likes Ron Paul for the GOP nomination, and I kid you not, my husband stood up, walked around the table and kissed his stepdad on the cheek.
It was a humorous moment, and we all laughed at the ridiculousness of it in light of our pseudo-intellectual discussion. But it got me thinking: can that guy actually win A race? Is he electable? And can he win The Race?
At first I didn’t think so. He’s consistent (give the man credit for that, if for nothing else), and he has been for 12 terms. But, he’s not the polished political mouthpiece who normally wins big races. Compared to Mit Romney or Rick Perry, he sounds like a wackadoo to most folks in the mainstream. The GOP base might like certain things about him, but they don’t like the whole package. Add to that the way he actually presents his stance on issues, and, really, his countenance and stage presence make him look unsteady and volatile. Worst of all, he doesn’t seem the impassioned champion of those whose rights have been trampled upon or who deserve better, which is ironic because his ideas really are about liberty, peace and the power of individuals to choose for themselves. But, compared to President Obama’s championship of the poor or President Bush’s call for the preservation of the American family, Paul doesn’t cut it. The guy needs oratory coaching.
But I think I figured out why he bothers so many people. And the reason could mean his best chance. He bothers people because he doesn’t impose the duty one individual feels upon the rest of us. He doesn’t insist that every American ought to feel the same way my 80-year-old great aunt feels about American soldiers. He agrees that illicit drugs are terrible, but he’ll ask you to kindly leave their use up to individuals to choose for themselves. He agrees that we ought to care for our fellow man, but he doesn’t want to force you to do so by taking your wages away from you and squandering them in a way you might not agree with. In short, what bothers people is that they want others to validate their lifestyles (be they conservative or outlandish) and agree with their ideas. But, he’s not unlike us, and we’re not all that different from each other. He wants to live life without a bunch of politicians bossing him around. So do I. And so do most people.
Anyway, considering that, I guess my next question is, why has the media dismissed him with such finality, especially compared to Michelle Bachmann, a relative newcomer who can be considered, for all intents and purposes, downright crazy? A good question, but one well addressed by this story in the Washington Post. Read up.