Piping Plovers And Republicans
Vanishing Species on Martha’s Vineyard?
Cross my heart: This is not going to come across as a partisan article. I promise to be so neutral about politics, and so gracious to BOTH our leading political parties, that people who’ve known me for years as the old lefty crunchy that I’ve always been, will douse me with smelling salts, slap both cheeks, and ask me if I’m okay.
Here’s the simple, wholesome, entirely blameless subject under scrutiny: Way more Democrats live on -- or visit -- this Island than Republicans do, and that leads to occasional awkward situations which I’ll point out momentarily.
But first let’s take a sociological moment to ask, Why so few Republicans? After all, the Vineyard is internationally known as a playground for the rich. I don’t need to remind you about the yachts we see in our harbors in summer, with helicopter pads and girls in go-go boots strewing rose petals in guests’ gravy-boat-sized glasses of Dom Perignon. Monied people (what Diane Sawyer recently and wittily called the “richy rich”) have become so synonymous with Republican backers (not that there aren’t slews of richy-rich Democrats), that the GOP goes with $$s the way girl scouts go with merit badges.
But nonetheless Repubs don’t flock here the way Dems do. It’s just a random migratory scheme. When it comes time to pick your first, second, third, or seventh summer house, Dems buy here, Repubs choose Nantucket. Maybe because our sister island is even more expensive and, conceivably – or verifiably through forensic accounting, or even as a tremendous news flash should Mr. Romney chose to disclose ALL his income tax returns (whoops! a little bit of bipartisanship slipped out there; I didn’t say that!), then Republicans are even richier rich than Democrats, hence Nantucket.
And it certainly makes a difference that the past fifty years have brought lots of Democratic pols to our island, starting with those sporty Kennedy boys who loved to sail over here from Hyannisport. Presidents Clinton and Obama sealed the deal with their August vacations (and, man, haven’t we poor year-rounders suffered from watching the prices rise, from an acre in Aquinnah to a plate of fried oysters?).
The Vineyard is now known to be so Democratic in high-placed political circles, that a Republican setting foot on this island would undoubtedly feel about as squeamish as Superman tapping his blue-stocking toe against a slab of kryptonite.
That’s why it struck a lot of people as especially brave and plucky of Mitt Romney to swoop over here last August 18 for a clambake luncheon at the Farm Neck-adjacent home of Kate and James Sims. It must’ve been scary as hell for our former Massachusetts governor to touch down here, even for those couple of hours, but this was a man on a mission: He had $2,500 to $50,000 to extract from each member of his MV fan-base. (Those who ponied up the full $50K received “face time” which, for that amount of money, should have included the candidate’s personal tips on travel with pets. Hey! I’m not being disrespectful: He may have shared the heart-warming story that he rewarded his pooch, Seamus, with a 26-oz. steak for his time on the car-roof!)
Too, we need to summon some sympathy for the sparse turn-out when the candidate landed at the Vineyard airport. Rain showers may have prevented tens of thousands of supporters from showing up: Only eight loyal Republicans stood on the tarmac. Four of them were children.
As I write this column, I find myself feeling increasingly sorry for the loneliness of long distance Republicans living or visiting Martha’s Vineyard. Granted, we’re seeing a number of Romney signs flourishing on neighbors’ lawns. These citizens are stalwart souls, willing to declare allegiance to a party that just happens to be tragically out-numbered on these shores.
I recall, back in October of 2004, when a supremely volatile election took place. I volunteered, as I had for many years, at the Food Pantry, with two ladies, Phyllis and Marie, slightly older than I, and certainly more, well, Episcopalian. We’d worked together for many Monday afternoons over the course of some five or six Food Pantry seasons.
Believing, as we tend to do here, that everyone we encounter is as blue politically as the Adriatic on a sunshiny day, I made a complimentary remark about the Democratic candidate (whose name escapes me).
Phyllis and Marie looked shocked. I realized their sympathies resided elsewhere. Finally I stammered, “You’re not voting for – “ I couldn’t name him, I had to spell it, “ – B-U-S-H?”
When they nodded, I gathered my wits together and said, “Okay . . . okay . . . this is good. I really like and admire both of you, and this helps me to put a kindly face on . . . on Republicans.”
During that same election, my other political quandary were the men – they were always men, for some reason – who would stomp into my bookstore in Oak Bluffs, demanding to know why I chose not to stock the Swift boat book. I’d larded the window with such liberal sundries as Hillary’s memoir, Bush On The Couch (penned by a D.C. psychiatrist), and Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men, with himself on the cover clad in a dingy T-shirt and baseball cap. (FYI, these men griping about the Swift boat book also dressed that way; go figure.)
I would explain to these irate customers that retail stores were not democracies. I happened to sell liberal books, but I welcomed them to open up their own conservative bookstores.
Phyllis and Marie have both moved away, so I’m left in the unhappy position of retaining no Republican buddies on Island.
Anyone wishing to apply for the post, please email me. But let’s wait until after the election, shall we? Then we can meet for tea and crumpets, or whatever it is youse guys eat and drink.