<\body> Stories in America: Camping with Republicans

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Camping with Republicans

We spent the past few days in Kerville, a retired, predominantly Republican community. In Kerr County, Bush got 16,538 votes; Kerry got 4,557. Kerrville is part of the Texas Hill Country, and is said to be the nicest place to retire in Texas and one of the top 10 in the country. The drive through the Hill Country's rolling terrain was beautiful. It was nice to escape the strip malls and be surrounded by trees, rivers and free-roaming animals on huge ranches. We were clearly entering a prosperous area.

We camped at the KOA in Kerrville and were surrounded by large RVs, American flags and "Support Our Troops" ribbons. Again, everyone was incredibly friendly, asking us where we're from and where we're going next.

After telling KOA Manager John Rogers about my project, he revealed that he's a liberal Democrat, but is registered as a Republican because there are never any Democrats on the ballot in local elections. "I wouldn't be able to vote as a registered Democrat," he said. John doesn't talk politics and would never wear a shirt or put a bumper sticker on his car that reveals his politics because it "wouldn't be to my advantage." John also told me that most of our neighbors are full-time "RVers," meaning they live in their RVs year round.

Bill and Jane Blalack have lived in their nicely decorated RV, complete with a bird chirping clock, for 13 years. They live in Kerrville for seven months out of the year and Northern Arizona for five. They invited me into their RV after I told them about my project and expressed an interest in asking them a few questions. Bll, 75, and Jane, 73, have been married for 55 years.

Here are excerpts from that interview:

How do you keep up with current events and the news?

Jane: We have two TVs. We have one in the bedroom and one in here. We're out and about in the community. We're very active in our Church. We have a Church group in Arizona and one here.

Do you also take time to vote wherever you are?

Jane: We vote right here in the rec room on the campground. We register to vote here, we register our car here and we have our mailing address here.

Bill: We have our telephone here and we're online with the computer so we keep up with everything.

Jane: We're at home wherever we are.

Why do you think this area is so Republican?

Bill: Kerrville is a unique town. Many people that live in this area are retired.

What is it about retired people that draws them to the Republican party?

Jane: There are a lot of well to do people here. I think this county is one of the richest counties in Texas per capita. The first time we went to Church, we would ask people, how long have you lived here? Oh, two years, four years, six years. We had a long time before we found any natives that had grown up here.

What issues are most important to you?

Jane: Medicare is most important to us and the medicare prescription is important to us because we're in that age group and we have to buy the medicine. We don't know how it's going to turn out.

Do you think the Bush administration is doing a good job on that issue?

Jane: Oh, I don't know. I'm not seeing much progress. It seems to me there is never any unity in our government. I would not want to be President. I think his hands are tied.

Are you a fan of the President?

Jane: Yes, I like him.

What do you like about him?

Jane: He's just a friendly, outgoing person and I like the fact that he does admit that he has a faith in God and that he seeks his will and I think that's what we need for our country. We have turned from what our country was founded on and we have gone to the other extreme as a country.

Which is what?

Jane: To just whatever anybody wants to do. There are no guidelines; there are no rules. We have a friend in Arizona who was appointed a federal judge several years ago and the only thing that they could find wrong with him was that he was an active Christian and I think that's wrong. I think we should be allowed and not be criticized for our faith. I think Bush is criticized for it.

Did you hear about the Church in North Carolina where the pastor basically said if you don't support Bush, you're not welcome here?

Bill: I think that's terrible and that's not Christianity at all. It doesn't matter whether we're Catholic, Baptist, it doesn't matter.

Jane: That's wrong. He's doing it under the name of the Church and that's not what the Lord would have us do. Everyone should be welcome and their beliefs should be welcome.

Do you think politic s should be brought into the Church?

Jane: No, and religion should not be brought into politics.

Have you ever voted Democrat or do you always vote Republican?

Jane: We voted Democrat when we were young. As a matter of fact, our parents would probably have just been horrified if they ever knew we changed and voted Republican. The part of Texas we were in, mostly everybody was Democrat.

Why did you change and when did you change?

Jane: Forty years ago at least.

Bill: We had what we called "yellow dog" Democrats. If a yellow dog was running, they would vote for him.

Jane: We tried to vote for the person and what they stood for and that's really when we switched more to the Republican.

What was it about the Republican party that made you switch?

Bill: Conservatism.

What does that mean? And what does the term "liberal ideologue" mean to you? Those terms are always being thrown around.

Bill: Liberals believe that everybody oughta be equal. There's nothing wrong with that. They're more, I think, communist. In other words, they think the government oughta divide everything up. They believe in a strong central government, whereas the conservative is less government and I think that's what we need. We need to be able to take care of ourselves.

What do you think about the amount of money being spent overseas versus the money spent here at home? The Bush administration is constantly seeking billions to spend in Iraq and it's not running a small government.

Jane: Well, that's true. Our government needs to be a little more conservative about money. When we see the conventions, we see the money they're spending that they could be putting to better use and especially the money they spend on these campaigns and yet they say we need more money for this and that and they aren't willing to cut their lifestyle. The government is too well paid. They could take that money and spread it around and help more people.

You sound like a liberal...

Jane: The Republicans can spread it around too, now...(laughs)

Would you be open to voting for Democrats in the future?

Jane: It's possible it could change and Democrats could be more conservative. We would consider the issues and the person. We're not tied to the (Republican) party.

Before I left, Bill and Jane grabbed my hands and asked if they could say a prayer for the rest of my journey. "God, thank you for bringing Rose into our home. Please watch over and protect her as she continues her journey. Amen."


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