Running Lights Blog
Election 2016, part 1: A truckers’ primary

Election 2016, part 1: A truckers’ primary

If you’ve ever eaten at the counter of a truck stop diner you’re going to think I’ve lost my mind, but: I say truckers are a much better sample of America than voters in Iowa or New Hampshire, and a big-rig ballot would produce a much better nominee than all of this silliness that’s going on more than a year ahead of the next presidential election.

Now, I know better than to talk politics here on Running Lights. I’ve been the subject of enough newspaper and magazine reader surveys to know that if say “the sky is blue” about an equal number of folks are going to suggest I’m too liberal or that I’m too conservative—and that’s putting it politely.

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But I will talk about the political process, and I do plan to get around to the corrupting impact of legal big money campaign contributions and how 24/7 cable news coverage has deliberately turned the presidential campaign into reality TV show where the most outrageous personalities get the air time—and very possibly the votes. But, like I said, we’ve got more than a year to get around to all that so today we’re talking about truckers.

As I write this, the first debate between would-be presidents of the Democrat persuasion is scheduled for later in the day in Las Vegas. I’m not going to touch the symbolism, but today’s blog has its roots in a recent Politico piece, “Why Nevada Should Be the New Iowa,” which says that early primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire are quaint but meaningless political artifacts that no longer represent “the real America.”

How ’bout this: If you want the real America you’ll find it in trucking. So rather than having candidates sit around milking cows, let them park the campaign buses at a truck stops—if they can find a spot.  (And I’d love to be there when some young campaign volunteer complained to a trucker about the hundreds of  miles they’ve had to travel in that bus—that week.)

Demographically, trucking is more diverse than the national average, so some tough questions about race and opportunity would need to be addressed right off the bat. Of course, women are drastically underrepresented in trucking, and truck drivers are much older than the average—but again, substantial areas for would-be leaders to tackle. That’s to say nothing of health care, independent contractor status, jobs for veterans, trade policy and the supply chain.

As the Bill Clinton campaign so eloquently put it in 1992, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And you can’t talk to truckers without talking about the economy. Or infrastructure. Or federal regulations. Or highway safety. Or clean air.

Most importantly, you’d be hard-pressed to find to any two truckers that agree on all of these things. There is no “party line” in trucking, unless it’s “just let me do my job.”

So if some of these candidates would spend as much time at the truck stop—or, even better, in the cab—as they do in coffee shops on Main Street in Des Moines or in ice cream parlors by the scenic old mill in Exeter (at tables routinely filled with demographically calculated and TV-worthy supporters, by the way), then maybe, just maybe, he or she would appreciate “real America” a little more. At worst, he or she would get an earful of real American issues.

And ultimately, trucker-voters would find out who can handle the over-sized load that is the U.S. of A., and who’s just a steering-wheel holder.

Up next: The New York Times loves truckers lately—but why?

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