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Last week while I was in Santa Fe, I dropped in on a voter named Fred.


(Editor’s Note: This is not the Archetypal Fred whom we discuss often at BPI.)

My real-life-Fred is a Democrat through and through. Like many New Mexico voters, he’s Hispanic. And he’s someone whose brain I often pick because he has political horse sense.

I first met Fred about twelve years ago when I was writing a grant. Back then, his hair was black.

He is an affable, outgoing man who has risen to the top ranks of the outgoing Richardson Administration. Like many political appointees, Fred is now looking for a job. He is unique because he is well-respected by Democrat and Republican alike. He is untouched by the deluge of scandals that have rocked the current administration. You see, even though he is a political appointee, Fred has always prioritized bringing actual services to the people of New Mexico.

I can’t resist relating an anecdote about Fred from the days of coal-black hair. A group of New Mexicans was asked to attend a conference in Jackson Hole Wyoming. I had rented a small (and I mean small sedan). Four of us were on our way into Jackson Hole for dinner and were waiting for Fred. I had agreed to give him a ride to the airport.

We intended to cram five people and Fred’s supposedly limited luggage (he said he was traveling “light) into our tiny compact. When Fred showed up, he was carrying two huge duffel bags and a guitar for a three day trip. Once the gang stopped laughing at him, we shoved the people into the car, Fred’s guitar and luggage jammed on their laps. All I could see in the rear view mirror was luggage. Occasionally I heard a muffled giggle behind the bags.

Fred and his luggage made it safely to the airport. The rest of the passengers arrived at dinner with newly minted Afros.

Back to gray-haired Fred:

I dropped in on him last week to get his take on the recent elections.

“Well, it’s like a chess game,” he told me. “And right now, Obama’s three moves behind. I don’t think he’s an adroit political operator. I don’t think he has the skill to catch up. It can be done, but I don’t think he can do it. He’s not as skilled as Clinton.”

Fred believes it was a mistake to tackle health care first. “Obama’s first priority should have been jobs,” he told me. “That is what is most important to voters. He shouldn’t have tackled health care before jobs.”

In Fred’s world, where service delivery is dependent upon clever manipulation of the political environment, Obama set himself up for failure by not immediately forcing the Republicans into taking the wrong stance on an aggressive jobs bill and by forcing the legislation through. He credits Obama for legislative brilliance, but worries that his brilliance will not stand the test of political struggle.

“Bill Clinton was a savvy politician,” Fred told me. “He knew how to checkmate the opposition. I don’t think Obama has the same skill.” He believes that Obama can still pull it off by facing down the Republicans about jobs and economic policy. But he is skeptical this will happen.

“So what do we do?” I asked him.

Fred is preparing himself to become a ray of hope in a right-wing world.


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