Bright Lights, Good Chicken Soup

November 7, 2006

NaBloPoMo 2006As soon as I finish this piece I’ll be heading over to the Pheasant Ridge community center to vote. I’m timing this to get there just before lunch, because the best part of voting day is the chicken corn soup and baked goods that are offered for sit-down consumption or for take-out. I remember elections by the desserts I got — apple dumplings for Gore-Bush in 2000, shoofly pie the first time Ed Rendell ran for governor.

I had to look at the piece I wrote on the occasion of Governor Rendell’s inauguration to remember the name of the person he ran against, the individual I chose to vote for. I can’t stand Ed Rendell, for reasons that are probably not sound politically but are meaningful to me personally. As I wrote then, my dislike of him stems from an anecdote told about him which is supposed to illustrate what a fun guy he is but which showed me only that he can be cruel and uncaring, especially when it comes to individuals with disabilities.

The story involves his tormenting of a college professor who had a hearing loss. One might point out that Rendell was barely out of his teens then. Carefree college boys do stupid things.

But Rendell is still showing his disdain for people he sees as beneath him, especially older people. In a recent interview with a Lancaster newspaper, he touted his plan to raise revenue for Pennsylvania by expanding gambling opportunities. Critics say that casinos and other forms of gambling prey on the elderly and the poor. But Rendell said that while some people become addicted to gambling, the fact that so many senior citizens enjoy it (and travel outside Pennsylvania to nearby Atlantic City to visit casinos) proves that the activity can be positive.

”These are people who live very gray lives,” said the governor. ”They don’t see their sons and daughters very much. They don’t have much social interaction. There’s not a lot of good things that happen in their month.

”But if you put them on a bus, they’re excited. They’re happy. They have fun. They hear music. They pull that slot machine, and with each pull they think they have a chance to win. It’s unbelievable what brightness and cheer it brings to older Pennsylvanians. Unbelievable.”

Unfortunately, Lynn Swann, Rendell’s opponent, has little to offer aside from his being not Rendell. Although not a native Pennsylvanian (Rendell isn’t either), Swann became well-known as a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing with that team for his whole professional career, 1974 to 1982. After his retirement he had an ill-fated stint as the host of a television game show but found success as a football commentator for ABC. He lives outside Pittsburgh, where he is well-liked, especially by the Republican party leadership which forced out all other contenders for the nomination (some of whom were very attractive for their record of leadership and their positions on the issues).

A recent television spot for Swann showed him playing backyard football with his two sons. The voice-over tells us that “Lynn Swann represents the best of what America is.” And that’s probably true. He’s educated, good-looking, personable, a man of good character and high integrity. As a friend said, he’d make a good school board member or township commissioner. But governor?

Probably he won’t get the chance to show us. Rendell has been consistently running ahead in the polls. He might not be a very nice person by my standards, but Pennsylvanians are no worse off now than they were in 2002. In fact, things are probably better. But still, it might be very hard for me to pull that lever for someone who thinks that a session with a slot machine will help me miss my daughter less.

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One thought on “Bright Lights, Good Chicken Soup

  1. Pennsylvanians are no worse off, but out in the sticks where I’ve been living, it would be hard to suggest that anyone is doing any better. I was very torn on this vote, but ultimately, I simply abstained. I cannot give support to either of these men. I am horrified that a state as large as ours and as diverse, we can’t come up with better candidates than Rendell, Swann, Santorum or Casey. It’s disheartening in the extreme.

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