December 15, 2007

A Sense of Place

The above picture evokes Chiles brilliantly. The calm of the woods.

Few politicians evoked a sense of place, time, and duty better than Bill Clinton on the stump in 1992. "I still believe in a place called Hope" was a rallying cry for his Arkansas populism.

Now, in the Mike Huckabee campaign, we have another insurgent from Hope--this one an evangelical conservative. But, I don't detect any sense of place. I can't remember any time Huckabee mentioned his roots at all. Maybe he is just avoiding the Clinton connection, maybe it's just not a concern for him.

I think Clinton has defined his Arkansas boyhood so well on the presidential stage, it is tough to cut another campaign message featuring the tiny town. But it would be interesting to see Huckabee try.

December 13, 2007

Going the Extra Mile

Walking on the campaign trail can be such good copy...easily packaged into a great PR story.

Check out Carrie's walking for John Edwards in the dead of Iowa winter. This is snipped from a recent Edwards for President e-mail:

"Will you go the extra mile for John Edwards? Carrie Duncan is.

Every afternoon, when 47 year-old Carrie finishes her job as a food service employee for the New London school district in Iowa, she starts walking... and walking... and walking -- all for John Edwards.

Carrie walks a total of 6.1 miles -- a 95 minute journey -- to her home near Lowell, Iowa. As she braves the biting cold and snowstorms, bundled up in her cold weather gear, she carries a large "John Edwards '08" sign so drivers passing by can see her support for John.

Carrie has made a commitment to walk the 6.1 miles and to carry the sign until the night of the Iowa caucuses on January 3 -- a total of 128.1 miles over the next 21 days -- no matter the weather."

Rosewood Searches

From looking at the stats, it looks like research into the 1920s massacre at Rosewood, Florida is still very much in progress. That tops the hits for this website in Google searches.

It's always the unexpected.

I'm so grateful to have Canter Brown's histories of Polk County at my disposal. They're quite comprehensive and include a rich discussion of the county's civil rights movement.

December 12, 2007

The Chiles Trail on Film

US 90, the paved Spanish trail from Pensacola to Jacksonville, is featured in the recent film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men. With all the buzz about walking the Florida section in 1970, it's easy forget that it is a national highway and it cuts through Del Rio, Texas.

Anyone who has seen No Country for Old Men has the exit sign for Del Rio etched in their memory.

In Chiles' world, US 90 was the gateway to the Panhandle and his favorite people and food. Miami, Broward County, Palm Beach, their politics might confound him, but he always knew when he was strong in the Panhandle. He knew how to talk to them. You can probably still find his boot marks on the highway shoulder.

In McCarthy's world, US 90 is an escape route, the barren setting for one of the most harrowing chase sequences I've ever seen. It provides a quick fix, but as one of the characters says, you can't stop what's comin'.

December 11, 2007

Apple-Picking Politicos

The words Harry Byrd or the Byrd Machine don't mean much anymore in Virginia politics, or any politics. The only times he gets mentioned these days are when history books discuss the notion of "massive resistance" against school desegregation in 1950 and early 60s.

Harry Flood Byrd Sr. served Virginia in the U.S. Senate from the New Deal to the civil rights movement. According the legend, from his family's apple orchards in the Shenandoah Valley he ruled state politics, schooling up-and-coming Democratic lawmakers and shaping them in his image. He embodied the old guard, the segregationist fellow travelers who went along with the New Deal's economic equalization so long as race relations kept cool.

Virginia's Democratic Party has resurged of late. There were always Democrats in the state legislature and governor's mansion, even after the 1994 Republican Revolution, but now the Dems are excited. They feel like they've got the Big Mo'--Governor Warner, Governor Kaine, and now Senator Webb.

But gone are the days when Shenandoah apples shaped Virginia politics. More and more, the northern Virginia (NOVA) business roundtable sets the tone for the state. It's amazing how power bases can shift so quickly.

It reminds me quite a bit of the vanished Pork Chop Era in Florida politics, when the kings of tobacco and cotton ruled the legislature, and south Florida waited its turn.

December 9, 2007

Virginia Gobbler

When Lawton Chiles served Florida in the U.S. Senate, he would whisk away to the woods early in the morning, often leaving from Washington for his favorite turkey roosts in Virginia about 3:00AM and arriving on site to watch the world awaken by around 4:30AM. From interviews, I understand that it was the mystery of the turkey's entrance that entranced him--that moment when they suddenly appeared in the clearing. The kill was just the cap on the full experience.

I found a website describing turkey sign.

I'm not sure where Chiles and the rest of the Senate gobbler caucus hunted in the Old Dominion. The above picture is from the Shenandoah Mountains. As polluted as the mountain skies are nowadays, I'm sure the turkeys are still scratching up the grounds.

Operation Overkill

In October 1970, the Nixon White House targeted Florida for a Republican renaissance. Ed Gurney's victory over Democratic lion LeRoy Collins in 1968 gave 'em a taste of power, a seat in the U.S. Senate. Pinellas County, Orange County, and Sarasota County--the geography of a new Republican loyal opposition party in Florida. If both Florida's Senate seats turned GOP, the party could claim a firm foothold in the Democratic South. The papers would eat it up. The national party would perk up.

So, Nixon spent two days in Florida stumping for Chiles' opponent, Congressman Bill Cramer of St. Petersburg. He spoke to thousands in Cramer's back yard. Heck, he even rallied in Tallahassee--the first time in decades since a U.S. president had been to Florida's capital.

Attorney General John Mitchell came to Florida, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. The Secretary of Transportation John Volpe flew in, too.

A Florida newspaper ran a great cartoon depicting an Army tank filled with Nixon and his emissaries, its long droopy barrel trained on Chiles' lone walking figure.

President Nixon later acknowledged to Senator Chiles that he knew Walkin' Lawton would prevail when he beat Farris Bryant in the primary runoff 2-to-1.