- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:>

I am not sure what to make of all I am hearing on the nightly news on the major networks and the endless blathering from talking heads on cable, but it does not match up with what I am hearing here in the middle.

I live in one of those small towns that seems to have become the laughing stock of the pontificating class living on the coasts. I live in a place where families venture to small farms on weekends to pick apples and raspberries. It’s a place where people go to football on Friday nights, and yes, church on Sundays. I live in a place where boys and girls hunt and fish and are not ashamed to say so. I live right here in the middle in a place called Michigan.

Most of the educated class tell me Michigan will certainly go for Sen. Barack Obama this November, and if I am somehow not in lockstep with that I must be some sort of Neanderthal. Well, it seems Mr. Obama and the Harvard crew have forgotten a couple of important things: 1) Despite our low-rent, fly-over status we still have the right to vote; and 2) We really don’t like being insulted by people who look down their noses at us.

This brings us to Gov. Sarah Palin, the newly selected vice presidential nominee for John McCain. I, like some 37 million other Americans, tuned in with great interest to see what she was all about last week. Twenty minutes or so into her first prime-time national speech, I felt a smile crossing my face. It was not because she had offered some new compelling proposal of great impact or had lined up with me on some close-to-my-heart issue. No, I smiled because for the first time in too many years to remember I was looking at the real thing. I was looking at a genuine American with a real story who took great joy in the pitfalls of life. She did not make excuses or try to take on the mantel of being a victim. No, she stood up and said she was blessed by the challenges of having a Down syndrome baby and a teenage daughter about to make her a grandmother at 44.

She lives in the world most of us do with good days and bad and with tough decisions that have to be made, regardless of who’s happy about it and who’s not. I felt a kinship for this woman and for her courage to stand up for a country she believes is the epitome of greatness and not the country to blame for everything that goes wrong in the world. I felt good about myself and my country when she was done. I was proud to be an American where a working mom could stand up and challenge the establishment and actually make a difference.

Over the past few days polls have appeared showing Mr. McCain has benefitted from his unexpected choice of Mrs. Palin and the race is tilting in his direction. Meanwhile, the talking heads blather on about her “energizing the base and exciting Republicans.” News flash from the middle: Mrs. Palin has gone far beyond the base with her appeal.

In just the last three days I have spoken to three women I know fairly well. Without exception, all three repeated a similar story and here it is: I have not been focusing that much on the election, but I had been thinking I would vote for Mr. Obama because I am tired of George W. Bush. But after seeing Mrs. Palin speak and then the way she has been treated, I am voting for her. Voting for her, they said! Two of them are actually taking it one step farther and organizing fund-raising events! Here in Michigan, like many other swing states, we take our hunting and fishing seriously - and that includes Republicans, Democrats, independents, Libertarians, and Green Party members. It includes doctors, lawyers, teachers, laborers and union members, and the list goes on. I was quite sure those who live exclusively on concrete would sneer at Mrs. Palin’s time spent hunting with her father and running fishing boats off the coast of Alaska, but for many of us that resonates in a very real and positive way. We respect people who join us in the woods or on the water. We identify with them as real and reliable.

In Michigan more than two million people bought hunting or fishing licenses last year. That represents 20 percent of all residents. Listen closely to the next part: Pennsylvania sells significantly more! And guess what tens of thousands of those license holders are - believe it or not - women. Women that we respect and would vote for.

Mr. Obama would do well not to dismiss the millions of Americans who hunt and fish every year in this country and the small towns and places we represent, because I guarantee you on Election Day we show up in great numbers. This year we have a new reason and a new champion of our values and she should not be trifled with.

Meanwhile, back on television the commentators continue to downplay her significance and try to put light on any scandal they can find. So far, that seems to be coming up empty, while the women in my small town are falling in line with Mr. McCain and the “former mayor of a small town.” By the way, the men are with their wives on this one, too. The earth has shifted here in the middle and it’s not likely to shift back.

I predict that for the first time in many elections, Michigan will be going into the red column this November. This son of a working mom knows what he learned from his mother (who loves to fish) many years ago; when a woman makes up her mind it is almost impossible to ever change it back. Trust me on this one.

P.S. The only pigs that should concern themselves at this point with lipstick are those of the male-chauvinist kind.

Steve Gruber owns Wolf Creek Productions, which specializes in outdoor adventure programming. He hosts two nationally syndicated television programs on The Outdoor Channel and a weekend talk show on WJR radio in Detroit.

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