The professor, interviewed by some national publication was completely mystified. "I can't understand how Reagan won; nobody I know voted for him." I recall it as a reaction to the 1966 California election of Ronald Reagan as Governor. It was a signpost for early epistemic enclosure, a cocoon existence from real life. He should have extended his circle of friends.
The story may not be true. I have seen it repeated most often to cover, improbably enough, the Nixon re-election in 1972. Pretty much everyone but McGovern knew the night before the election what the day after the election would look like. As Massachusetts goes, so goes the District of Columbia. As Foster Brooks put it, if McGovern had run against Goldwater, nobody would have won. Still, the story is perfect. If it didn't happen, it should have.
The problem with cocoons is that, to some extent, everyone lives in them. Most of those I know are co-workers, church goers, or family members. Not entirely representative of American society. Primary election winners occasionally crash and burn when they forget that activists within their own political party are usually a minority within a minority.
Sometime Republican Senatorial Candidate Rick Lazio ran against Hillary Clinton in 2000. Hilary was pounded as a carpetbagger. Her support in New York City was a mile wide and an inch deep. The reaction of upstate, mostly rural, New York ranged from hostility to hatred. She went on a learning tour of upstate counties and gradually turned folks around by simply listening. Lazio campaigned by repeating the surefire lines that pleased those who attended Republican tea parties at country club gatherings.
At a now famous debate, Lazio stalked over to Clinton and physically crowded her, demanding that she sign something. Conservative partisans hooted and cheered the physical aggressiveness. Hillary won with 55% of the vote. Lazio forgot who his audience had become. He was still fighting to win the primary he had already won.
Midterm elections are conducted differently than those in years divisible by 4. It becomes more important to rile one's own base than to appeal to centrists. This is one reason rabid Republicans will win against whimpering Democrats. But one case of cocoonism seems blatant enough to have an effect.
John Raese (R-WV) is running for the Senate seat vacated when Robert Byrd died. He is making a contest of it and has a solid chance of winning. He can't have helped himself with his answer during a radio interview. He was asked a softball question about his business expertise. He started with what may have been a clumsy attempt at self-effacement. "I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it." Well, John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert inherited tremendous wealth, and yet became advocates for the working poor. JFK was deeply moved by the plight of miners while campaigning in the same state now considering Raese. So Raise went on with his comment about his own inherited wealth. "I think that's a great thing to do. I hope more people in this country have that opportunity as soon as we abolish inheritance tax in this country, which is a key part of my program."
That the thrust of a campaign for inherited power and position might not appeal to the working families of West Virginia appears not to have crossed whatever mind his parents bestowed on the privileged Mr. Raese. Don't hold it against him. Everyone he knows inherited great wealth.
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