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Wednesday, August 16, 2006
  Blue-Collar Republicans, Farmer John and Cadillacs Last week, members of my staff and I met with Candidate John Farmer, who is running on the GOP ticket against Congressman John Tanner. Farmer, coming off a decisive victory over Rory Bricco in the District 8 Republican Primary, met us at Cadillacs after work. Cadillacs, if you aren't familiar with Weakley County, is somewhat of a historical institution. It's been around roughly 40 years, and it's one of those places that if you've never been there you might turn your nose up to it. It's one of those dives with heart and more stuff happens there than most places. It's a bar where you can get a really good pool room cheeseburger and cook Sandy will even grill the onions for it if you ask. The owner, Rick Wilson, runs the place. He's low-key, doesn't take any crap off of anybody and will give you the shirt off his back. He's one of the most genuine people I know. The beer is cold, the discussion leans toward sports, politics and the local arrest report which runs Thursday in our paper. (and it's VERY popular although on a personal level I hate it.) And despite its modest surroundings, it's one of the few places that has wireless in Martin other than the library and the university. We go a lot for that reason as much as anything. Did I mention that most of those folks at Cadillacs are big-time voters? They are probably more politically active than you would suspect. Big Time. So when Farmer suggested meeting at Cadillacs, I was surprised. Most politicians want to meet at more refined locations, but Farmer wanted to meet there. I sorta dug that because if one thing Cadillacs is not is pretentious. If you have ever spent any time in Martin, you already know this. We knew who Farmer was the minute we walked in the joint. He was drinking a beer with Wilson and waved at us. And he was early. Politicians who are early is unheard of. We sat at what is unofficially called the Press table and got busy chatting. Now see, I lean left and he is a Republican and in all honesty, I didn't know what to expect. You see, I've never met a member of the GOP who called themselves a blue-collar republican. And that's what we talked about. Farmer was very candid as he sat with me, Tammy Lynette, Beth and Rodent Queen about changes in the republican party. He believes (or at least he told us) that focusing on issues such as energy, solutions to loss of industry and government access were the things that needed to be focused on. He said he is currently trying to build alliances with Democrats and Republicans for effective change in government. Huh. And I mean, huh, because in all honesty, he said some things that people really got. He doesn't discuss abortion and pro-marriage rights (which he is very conservative about and I'm not.) He talked about gas prices and their long-term spike upwards. We know that that is putting a hurt on people, but very rarely do you have a conversation with a candidate who goes into detail about it. Usually it's just a lot of rhetoric and then moving on to their mission statements or platforms. He talked about the loss of industry. I explained that in Dresden, the home of Gov. Ned Ray, the largest employer at the current moment was the grocery store. And I'm not lying. He discussed the mainstreaming of right and left wing politics. He even talked to Wintermute while he was there on the phone. We also discussed the fact that folks just aren't voting. Only 25 percent of Weakley Countians cast a ballot earlier this month. And he has a sense of humor, because when we started hammering away that national politics are really not in tune with the people we know (and yes, I do have conservative friends. Tally, I'm giving you a shout out here). He agreed that politics are funny in many ways. On another note, He is a big guffaw kind of laugher and he was smitten with Rodent Queen's obsession with squirrels. We talked about his life growing up in Weakley County, his personal victories and defeats, and the fact that he had been shaking hands with everybody, which is important in elections. Rodent Queen's parents went to the polls only because one candidate in Obion County asked them to vote for him. They felt they had a responsibility to keep their word on election day that they would. Anyway, we talked. We talked about a lot of things. And we found him to be genuine and nice although we are usually very guarded and cynical about politicians. We also discussed he has a huge uphill battle because Tanner is literally beloved where we live. Does this mean I'm jumping into the conservative mainstream? No. Not in the least. Does it mean that conservatives and liberals can find common ground? Yes, because it is my experience that politics doesn't have to be black and white all the time. Also, Kleinheider, we talked about you. Wonder what we said? Probably not, I'm guessing. My part of the conversation could be broken down to the handshake. I like Tanner alot, but his handshake slays me and we get the giggles everytime one of us gets the handshake. My staff and I have discussed this for years. He gives you two good pumps and then pushes your hand away from him. It's very slick.I have determined its because politicians want to get away from journalists as quickly as possible. This seems to be the most viable solution I can come up with. (Bob, you sorta do this too. Rodent Queen and I both noticed that you have the early signs of the Tanner shake. Thought you might want to know. As small town media, we pick up on these things because it amuses us. I like Krumm too, if you were wondering. Seems like a nice guy and he has the Tanner handshake thing going for him and he had a victory party at Brown's Diner, which has the same ambiance of Cadillacs.) So is there a wave of GOP folks abandoning the lifestyle of what Farmer calls a "Country-club Republican?" I'm watching this very carefully. For the past week, people have been including the term blue-collar republican in their conversation in Democratic stronghold Martin. 
Comments:
Cadillacs! The place I celebrated my 21st birthday almost that long ago. The bar that sings David Alan Coe several times a night and mumbles legends about an owner being run over by his own wife, twice.
 
The legends are true!
 
Wow, that's a name I hadn't heard in 20+ years. Cadillac's was the bigtime for us Benton County girls back in the day, ha!
 
I was STUPID not to be there that night.
 
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