Old Friends and Presidential Politics

Member Group : Reflections

Well, I looked younger than anyone there.

Sitting at the bar in suburban Pittsburgh before a reunion party, I heard the same thing from two people entering the restaurant: "Um, these people are really old. Are you sure we’re at the right reunion?"

As they say, "If you think things improve with age, attend a class reunion."

At the reunion luncheon last September of Baldwin High School’s class of 1959 — 56 years after graduation — we did a straw poll about political attachments and the presidential candidates.

The graduates self-identified themselves last year as 70 percent Republicans, 15 percent Democrats, 15 percent independents, and zero communists.

Ranking which political issues were their most important priority among six choices, the attendees last year responded as follows:
• Shrinking the size of government: 52 percent
• Immigration reform: 23 percent
• Tax reform: 12 percent
• Global warming: 12 percent
• Transgender rights: 1 percent
• Income redistribution/higher taxes on the rich: 0 percent

Several respondents supplemented their issue preference with brief comments. "Transgender is a waste of time," stated one. Along the same lines, said another, "People’s sex problems shouldn’t make them celebrities."

Commented another respondent regarding climate change (not echoing the statement of Secretary of State John Kerry that rated our window air conditioners and climate change to be as dangerous, if not more so, than ISIS and Islamic terrorism): "Global warming is nothing more than normal changes in climate — a non-issue."

These aforementioned political expressions by those who graduated from high school more than a half century ago regarding fluctuations in global temperatures and sexual identities are not exactly in tune with the current politically correct opinions being promoted by the professoriate in Brown University’s Department of Political Science or among the impeccably groomed, spectacularly privileged and strikingly thin inhabitants of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

In the straw poll last September regarding their favorite presidential candidates, the attendees from the class of ’59 put Trump far ahead:
• Trump: 45 percent
• John Kasich, Carly Fiorina: 12 percent each
• Ben Carson: 9 percent
• Ted Cruz: 7 percent
*Others, including Hillary Clinton, 3 percent or less each.

"Let’s do another straw poll this year" suggested one of the reunion attendees last week.

This time, among basically the same crowd, the presidential preference vote for the top two current candidates was strikingly different than last year: Hillary Clinton, 55 percent; Donald Trump, 45 percent.

The presidential vote was accompanied by several comments expressing dissatisfaction with the choices: "With 300 million people, you’d think we could do better," "Who’d want to run to become a 4-year or 8-year punching bag?" and "Neither one is truthful or straightforward."

Also different this year was the positioning of issues, ranked currently as follows from the issues receiving the most votes to the issues receiving the least votes: terrorism/national security; unemployment/economic growth; inflation; political corruption; federal debt; inequality; tax reform; environment; sexism; racism; regulatory reform.

And so it was good. We’re friends before we become senile and then we become new friends. And has been astutely observed, "Friends come and go like the ocean but true ones stay, like an octopus on your face."

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.

Ralph R. Reiland

E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 412-527-2199 (cell) / 412-884-4541 (home)