Where did Pat Toomey learn politics? The former investment banker suddenly seemed to burst out of the Lehigh Valley in the mid-90’s but is that where the Rhode Island transplant learned to play public policy hardball?
Likely he learned it at Rookie’s. That’s the restaurant and sports bar in Allentown that he started with his two brothers. A successful place and the Senator – elect wouldn’t have been the first bartender to hear a political story or two.
Fact is in America’s earliest days the town tavern was the center of political life. The tradition of the colonial era tavern where town criers brought news from through out the countryside, reading the occasional newspaper to those that couldn’t read and imbibing a few drams are as much a part of the nation’s political fabric as voting itself. That’s not a lot different than it is today.
The main difference is that in Rookie’s there seems to be enough TV sets to watch every station in the state and with that kind of media flow there’s got to be room for debate, especially the kind fueled by libation of every sort.
Owning a restaurant/tavern is hard work. Seven days a week, long nights, important weekend trade and very few holidays. The cooks must be consistent, the kitchen immaculate and the wait staff and bartenders happy, happy people. Not easy to do in 2010 America but it’s management’s job to keep them that way.
Then there are licenses and regulations. In Pennsylvania the Liquor Control Board, local and county health departments as well as the myriad of complications that any employer has to deal with: the fun stuff like worker’s compensation, employee withholding and OSHA.
Undoubtedly at Harvard University, Pat Toomey learned a great many things but at Rookie’s he learned reality. The reality of what it is to create jobs, make a payroll and be a success. At Rookie’s he had to be in the people business and that’s reflected in his humorous and easy going style.
Pat Toomey is now Pennsylvania’s rookie Senator. He’s got Wall Street and more importantly Main Street on his resume. From all that we’ve seen it will be the Main Street part of him that governs.
The only president that hailed from Pennsylvania was James Buchanan of Lancaster County. Most historians don’t rank him as one of the great; in fact many Civil War era scribes rank him as the worst. Someday Pat Toomey might have the chance to erase that sad fact from the history books.
Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit educational foundation with offices in Harrisburg and King Of Prussia. Somedays is syndicated to leading newspapers and radio stations through out Pennsylvania. [email protected]