2004-10-14 / View From the Middle

Can Either Candidate Really Empathize With The Common Man?

By Charles Rogers

Your candidate is presidential looking, all right. He’s got that confidence that says he can do the job for the next four years; that he has a “plan” to secure our homeland, take care of the Iraq conflict, the economy and, oh, yes, the health of all Americans.

He voices some statistics — some say too many — in the few debates for this, the heated race for the Presidency. Of course, he seems to know what he’s talking about. Statistics seem to roll out of his mouth much like a robot, but that’s part of the game, isn’t it?

The talk during the debate centers on a number of subjects, a great deal of it on Iraq. One says the situation should be handled one way, and the other says it should be taken care of another way. Whether they, in essence, agree with each other is moot at this point, though. We do know they, as we, would like the ending of the war to be soon and with as few casualties as possible. How we got into it is another point — one in contention but, well, beside the point now, don’t you think?

They do argue a lot. It is, in fact, unusual to see anyone in a Presidential Debate confront and literally lambaste each other as we’ve seen in these instances.

While they both seem to know what they’re talking about, one wonders, though, whether what they’re saying hits where it should count the most: the heart of the common man, or, better yet, the prospective voter.

Do you really have the feeling that either of the candidates is talking to you? They’re trying to get a point across, but can they really relate to the citizen who is, we hope, preparing to vote in what many consider the most important election in decades? I mean, these candidates can hardly put themselves in someone else’s shoes. They both come from privileged stock, after all. As if they ever had to worry about where their next meal would come from; whe-ther the unemployment compensation check would do any real good in helping to put food on their table; whether the kids would have enough money for lunch; whether there would be enough money for anyone ’s lunch tomorrow. Each is saying he will put a cap on taxes and do what he can about those rising gas prices, but one does wonder when was the last time either man waited in line at a service station to have the tank filled.

It seems the world the candidates come from is nothing like what the common man meets every day of his life. While President Bush is trying to be as down to earth and “folksy” as he can, Senator Kerry is on the other side of the spectrum and looks regal and intelligent and using them there big words and “above it all.” Meanwhile, you wonder if either of these men could empathize, in any way, with the person getting on the L train at 14th Street at 5:15 p.m. on a weekday. Could they ever have come eye-to-eye with a derelict soliciting them for a quarter for a cup of coffee, or ever bumped into (or walked over) one at Avenue C in the East Village? Do they know what it’s like to come home after working a swing shift and be thankful to see a police patrol car watching out for the everyday citizen? As a matter of fact, do they know what it’s like to come home from a swing shift — or what a swing shift is?

We take a look at these candidates and we in fact wonder if the world they’re talking to is the same world in which we live...

And then, come November 2, we vote for one of them — maybe it doesn’t really matter which — to be the leader of the country for the next four years.

View From The Middle

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