Good Democrat tried logic to change the boy

Friday, November 14, 2008

There was a circuit court judge during the 1980s somewhere else in South Central Tennessee who was what party officials called a "goood Democrat."

This was so long ago that before he presided over big court cases, he was a county judge, a title that preceded county executive, an office name that was changed again to county mayor.

The shift from executive to judicial wasn't so odd if you knew the reduction in responsibility from county judge to county executive. A county mayor's duties are the same as the executive's. Both have less power than a county judge.

Back then, a county judge also served as juvenile court judge and presided over probate court. They could help families when Junior was in trouble, or after Meemaw died. Relatives remembered at election time.

After my friend was elected from two lower courts to the circuit level he was the father of grown children. One of his boys became a doctor and a Republican. You could hear the Yellow Dogs bark.

This was more than a decade before moderately conservative Democrats started calling themselves Blue Dogs. My friend was more blue than yellow. You don't sit on the bench and put people in jail without some grasp of the concept of conserving our peaceful, law-abiding way of life.

The judge told me his doctor son saw himself as a capitalist -- someone who was going to make money from investments, so money worked for him.

That, however, ignored his original source of money, the judge said. It was from labor with his hands. He was proud of his son's surgical skills and calm demeanor when saving lives.

Manual labor, either by laying bricks, typing words, sawing wood or pounding nails is skilled labor, too. So, the judge reasoned, his son was relying more on handiwork than investments.

I don't know if the doctor-son ever accepted his father's political judgment, but it makes me wonder about how medical professionals will help change America's health care system. It's now perceived by many pundits as the next big challenge for America.

Medical professionals' billing system was radically changed by the insurance industry, a trade that's surely got more capitalists than laborers. Most of us have seen medical bills and how they're adjusted for rates set by insurers.

Maybe they'll change because of the new administration.

Meanwhile, I spoke with two young men nearly 3-1/2 hours before the polls closed on Tuesday last week. What they said at one of the sit-down restaurants on Ellington Parkway makes me wonder if the president-elect's margin might have been larger.

The Center Street resident isn't registered to vote because he's "not really into politics," but he was "thinking Obama" would win because "I think I relate more to the way he thinks," and "I saw more of him than McCain."

If free speech really is commensurate with money, as a capitalist might argue in the pre-election months every two and four years, then could it create enough momentum so some of the registered voters won't feel the urgency.

The other young man at the restaurant lives on Centennial Street, said he is registered, but "probably wouldn't vote," because neither of the two top presidential candidates had said what he wanted to hear.

"I liked what Hillary said. If I picked one it would be Barack. He's for the working person. With the Republicans, the rich get richer and the poor are here," he said. "I used to lay tile and make good money.

"Now, there's no work," he said at the job he found since construction stalled.

The curious thing about those two working guys is that they're not what you'd call "goood Democrats," and they're obviously not capitalists.