An Actual Smoke-filled Room

A hundred years ago, five out of every six New York police officers were Irish. Fifty years ago, it was more like half, and it’s probably much less than that now. Still, it’s a safe bet that a majority of Caucasian NYPD officers and a plurality overall are still Irish.

There’s another aspect of New York’s Finest that you might not be aware of if you’re from out-of-town. (To residents, there are only two places in the entire world: New York and Out-of-Town.) They’re an entrepreneurial bunch. A lot of them own businesses on the side: taverns, private security services, a construction business that’s been in the family. I know a cop who owns a truck and trailer leasing business. The way I know him is that he also owns the local BYOB cigar lounge. I have a friend who’s a cigar aficionado, far more than I am, and this has become our man cave of late.

It’s the cop’s place, so we let him hold court. So he talks about “The Job”: strapping on his nightstick, holstering his pistol, and driving off into a godforsaken, crime-ridden neighborhood with nobody but his partner to watch his back. And he’s so glad it’s another Irishman.

I so wanted to tell him, “Jews go into the same neighborhood every day carrying nothing but chalk and erasers” but the conversation took a sudden turn.

To politics.

Just as he was about to go on an anti-Obama tirade, my friend gave him a signal to dial it down because he knew I’m a supporter of the President.

The cop was in a gracious mood (I was a paying customer and brought an eighth-keg of Newcastle) so, as we continued clogging the air filters with the pungent smoke from our maduros, he asked if I’d read any of Barack Obama’s books. I said, yes, I read The Audacity of Hope, but hadn’t bothered with his other literary works. So he follows up by asking if the quotes that have been attributed to Obama “in the media” (I’m assuming Fox News) were taken out of context. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about, so he gives me the example of something to the effect of “I would rather stand with the Muslims than with the Christians”. That didn’t sound familiar, but I did note that many mainstream Christian theologians would tell you that the righteously acting non-believer is preferable to the outwardly pious sinner. Again, he graciously granted me that the current economic climate is largely a product of George W. Bush’s policies. He also went so far as to say that the reason Big Business isn’t spending money, the imminent “fiscal cliff,” can be attributed to intramural rivalries within the Republican Party and not much to do with Obama. He also expressed no love lost between him and other “real conservatives” and the right-wing nuts who attend primary season debates. But he was still going to vote for Mitt Romney because he was the surer bet to get Big Business spending again, and his leasing business depended on that happening. (It eludes me how Romney could get the Republican Congress in line if John Boehner, whose job it is, has already proven incapable, but anyway.)

Sitting there puffing away, I was bothered by what he was telling me. He’s a cop, which means he’s in a union, which suggests an affinity for the Democratic Party. He’s also a civil servant, so ditto. He’s a civil servant in New York City, which depends on Wall Street as its economic engine, and the stock market  (despite everybody’s intuition to the contrary) has a history of outperformance under Democratic administrations. He admits that it was Republican policies that got us into this mess. He acknowledges that the fiscal cliff is a creature of the GOP’s own making. He shared my perception that there’s a huge difference between my Republican neighbors of whom I’m quite fond and the Teabaggers on cable who call the shots on a national basis and scare the bejeezits out of me. And, despite his tough-guy image, he is in a sense voting for Romney out of a sense of being extorted.

I just don’t get it. Is there a reason aside from tribalism why white, Catholic, middle-class men won’t vote for Obama, no matter how much their self-interest lies on the left side of the aisle and no matter how much they despise the guy they’re going to hold their noses and vote for?

How do the Republicans do this?



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