Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Campaign Strategy

This Maryland campsite had the best of all worlds--semi-secluded campsites, water/electric, laundry facilities, and lots of beautiful scenery.

In my "younger" years, about 12 years ago, I gave serious thought to running for Congress. Well, the thought was serious, but when I sought the advice from a Congresswoman I knew, the money needed and personal sacrifice required splashed cold water on my hot idea.

Now, as we're in the midst of what seems like an eternal campaign season, I've had too much time to think. But my one RV-relevant thought is worth sharing.

Presidential candidates should spend time talking to campers in state parks. Yes, I know camping is a largely Anglo-Saxon pastime. I am not suggesting this is the ONLY venue they should visit, but bear me out....

In campgrounds you will find an interesting cross-section of America. Some wealthier people with their spiffy $1 million+ McMansion/RVs; crustier full-timers who either travel lots of miles or within a smaller area; families camping on the weekend to get their kids outside and to enjoy the offerings of our state parks; the vacationers who like getting closer to nature than the 4-walled motel rooms; and from what I've seen, some people who live in parks because they have lost their place to stay.

The candidates can come in casual duds and maybe partake in some BBQ chow or slam back a cold lemonade while chatting with the campers. While I'm sure lapel pins, debate formats, and other hot topics may be on the minds of some folks, based on my 2 1/2 years on the road, with countless nights in state parks, I imagine the issues list would look something like this:

  • Cost of Housing/Property Taxes I've overheard more than one conversation about how someone's sold their home to get out from under the burden of housing costs and property taxes. It's not just seniors. Then we have the burgeoning sub-prime and foreclosure debacles. Hearing some practical approaches to solving these growing crises would be welcomed.
  • Environmental concerns will also be an issue. On the most basic level, recycling--a rarity at campgrounds--and suggestions about protecting/improving conditions of our lakes and rivers, forests and undeveloped and park lands will likely arise. Park maintenance budgets would be good to include in the conversation, with the obvious suggestion of a 21st century version of Depression-age initiatives to give people jobs and restore dignity to the growing ranks of unemployed women and men.
  • Education and care for our children are prime topics. Parents who bring their kids out for a camping trip invest a lot in providing valuable experiences for their kids. They'll want to hear of real plans to improve governmental services that enhance the quality of life of ordinary people and provide educational opportunities so their kids can become productive adults.
  • Safety and neighborhood environment are subjects for discussion. It's amazing to get a group of strangers together, some shielded from the outside by the thinnest of fabric walls, and you have--at least from my experience--relative peace and civil behavior. Maybe change-of-pace has something to do with it, but we could learn from campground management, especially the unsung heroes who serve as camp hosts.
  • Health issues affect everyone. Providing healthy activities and good nutrition can go a long way to improving people's health, not dismissing the need for access to medical services at a rate that doesn't cause bankruptcy.
  • Fuel prices will surely make the list of worries for the camping public. Not just gas prices, but home heating oil, propane and electricity....
  • Economy--Add to the list how the next President can salvage an economy that is as close to doom-and-gloom as anyone would want to see...
  • War--then explain how military--and more critically para-military --involvement in the Mideast will be handled.
Then the candidates can hop back on the campaign trail, refreshed, knowing that they've heard from an oft-ignored segment of the American public.

Sure beats the hypocrisy of standing in New Orleans over 2 years later and decrying lack of action. Well, there I go, getting all political again....

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