US Election Dispatch: Tommy's, Cleveland, Ohio
1824 Coventry Rd
+1 216 321 7757
by T.N. Toost
Four years ago, when the LRB first went “in field” to cover the American presidential primaries, the response among breakfasters was near universal: “I would prefer to vote for Ron Paul, but he has no chance of winning, so I’m voting for (insert second choice here).” It was actually a bit sad how much people preferred Paul and how little faith they had in his electability; it seemed that people had given up on the political system, and rather than fight for their opinions they threw up their hands.
Four years later, things have changed. It isn’t so much a difference in peoples’ perceptions of Paul’s electability as a rational and conscious evaluation of the candidates against whom he is running. Yes, of course his ideas are batshit insane. Of course he would put us on course for a complete economic and political meltdown. Of course we’d likely end up in actual civil strife and, perhaps, even civil war.
But have you seen the other guys?
That, I think, is why the people who your correspondent spoke to this year are not qualifying their choices. No – the Paul supporters this year are voting for their man, come hell or high water, and believe in him fully, because they have already considered Gingrich, Santorum and Romney. They are voting for Paul and, considering his opponents, I think they are making the right choice.
So it was that I came to breakfast on Super Tuesday with my friend Gina and one of her friends, Joe, who was wearing a Ron Paul shirt. With nary a word of prompting he launched into an exposition on the exceptional rectitude of the Paul positions – on energy, gold, gay rights, constitutional interpretation, social structures, military intervention, welfare, education, international trade. Paul believes in the world as it should be, and there is no room for dissention. As a reporter and a professional in the mold of Malcolm Eggs, I was a mere observer. Gina, on the other hand, clearly disagreed, but stayed silent.
First they came for the communists.
Then breakfast arrived, with a healthy side of chips. I had the Zeke, the first thing on the menu – pita piled with eggs, veg and cheese, placed in the middle of a large plate. It was delicious when it cooled down. The chips, though, are perhaps my favorite ketchup delivery mechanism in America today. Hot, thin-cut, perfectly fried, I ate almost the entire plate – perhaps a kilo – and most of Gina’s plate, too. By the end of the meal, Joe and I had gone from talking about voting for Ron Paul to shaking hands on a gentlemen’s competition: we would take one year and try to sleep with direct descendents of every single founding father, documenting our quest for a PechaKucha presentation and, perhaps, a book deal.
In the end, Romney barely edged Santorum in Ohio, which disappointed me. I’d voted for Santorum. Yes, he is one of the most vile and despicable human beings alive today outside of, perhaps, Myanmar and good swaths of Africa still at war. My reasoning: none of the Republicans should ever live in the White House, of course, but Romney is the most electable and Santorum the least. If Romney is kept from the nomination, and any of his rivals goes before the nation, it will be much easier for Obama to get another four years. It’s the opposite thinking from the 2008 Ron Paul supporters. Luckily, the win barely lifted Romney’s sails, and the race will drag on, and on, and on, and Americans and the world will continue to be horrified by the state of the American political system.
And we’ll see you in a few months.