By Samantha Hayes, in Frankfort, Kentucky
May 19, 2008
You've heard of soccer moms, NASCAR dads, and latte liberals. Political nicknames the pundits use to identify a particular voting block. I sort of love and hate these monkers, because they are, in a way, descriptive and clever, but by nature, stereotypical.
Here's what I mean. I want to coin a new one and I thought of it on my connecting flight down to Lexington: garden club wives. Maybe you can guess who they support. My inspiration is a woman named Karen who was sitting next to me during my flight. She lives in Lexington. I guessed her to be in her mid-fifties. She's married and has a daughter, but is originally from Massachusetts. That may have given you a clue, but wait. She was flying home with a friend of hers who was sitting in front of us, same approximate age. They are neighbors and are also in the same garden club. And while I imagined them sharing all sorts of tips on what to grow and when, I realized they are spending a considerable amount of time talking about politics, because they knew their presidential candidates. And Karen is currently working on a campaign. Which one?
When she sat down in the aisle seat next to me, Karen pulled out 'Dreams From My Father,' Barack Obama's first book. She looked to be about three-quarters of the way through. That's what initially started our political conversation. "I just find him to be inspiring," Karen said. She used to be a supporter of Hillary Clinton, which to be honest, is the candidate I would have thought she might still be supporting. Karen said she thinks Clinton would be a good president, thinks she has the experience, "whatever that means," she joked, and has in-depth knowledge of the issues. I wondered what happened to change her mind. "I felt like her campaign became very negative, and I really didn't like the way she attacked him...and I didn't like what her husband said about Obama in South Carolina."
Ironic, she added, "Because Bill Clinton has been revered as perhaps the best campaigner of his generation." She had heard Obama speak before, in person. Apparently he visited Lexington last summer for an early campaign event and the experience stuck with her. She read his second book, 'The Audacity of Hope,' and "was very impressed." So impressed, that when she decided that Obama was her candidate, she attended the opening of his campaign office in Lexington and has been canvassing for him. I asked her if other people in her neighborhood shared her feelings. "Probably not," she laughed, "I basically keep to myself, politically, because I live in a very conservative area, but the church I attend is liberal, and the majority of people there are definitely Democrats." But according to Karen, Obama is not just for liberals. She added that her friend, the president of the garden club, attended a conservative church and was also supporting Obama.
Karen said she also enjoyed the diverse group of people working in the local office for Obama's campaign. While he is not expected to pull out a win in Kentucky, Karen's experience made me wonder if Obama is making an impression on voters that may pay off in the general election in November.
If that's the case, I'm doubtful that it will be "garden club wives" who will swing the vote. But in this election, it's always good to be reminded that you never know which candidate someone may be supporting.