What Barack could learn from Barry

S.F. Examiner File PhotoTune in this week for Melissa Griffin's coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte

After Bill Clinton’s speech Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention, the delegates cast their votes on behalf of each state. The woman who took the microphone to cast Arizona’s vote said that her state had produced some fabulous politicians from both parties.

“One includes my grandfather, Barry Goldwater,” she continued. “I’m CC Goldwater. My grandfather wouldn’t recognize the Republican Party of today. Barry Goldwater believed in personal freedoms, the right to privacy and a woman’s right to choose. On behalf of the Arizona delegation, I want to cast 77 votes for President Barack Obama.”

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There were only three of us left in the press section where I was sitting, checking Twitter feeds, reading reactions and texting delegates. In unison, we all looked up and then at each other with the shocked expression of, “Did that just happen?” But perhaps we should not have been surprised.

In three days of speeches at the Republican National Convention, I heard a lot about “liberty” and “freedom” and “getting government out of the way” so people can maximize their true potential. I didn’t hear anything about the party’s stance on eliminating abortion, prohibiting same-sex marriage or any of their other dogma that is impossible to reconcile with desperate pleas for limited government and self-determination.

The first event I attended here in Charlotte was a panel discussion about North Carolina politics at The Charlotte Observer. One of the panelists was Rob Christensen, chief political writer for the News and Observer of Raleigh. He talked about sitting in on a focus group of “Walmart Moms” — women who shop at Walmart at least once a month, have at least one child living at home and are undecided in this election. According to Christiansen, in describing why they had not chosen a candidate, one woman said, “I really wish we could elect a Democratic president and have a conservative handle the money.”

Christensen added, “They were looking for a third way.”

In 2½ days of speechifying by Democrats, I haven’t heard a word about pension reform, the extraordinary influence of public employee unions or government waste. These expensive items crowd out the funding for the social safety net to which Democrats claim to be dedicated and infuriate private sector employees.

The Republicans did nothing to reach out to people who are socially liberal, and in fact tightened up their party platform on those issues. So Democrats still have a chance to find that “third way.” When I wrote this, Obama had not yet spoken in Charlotte, but if he could talk about fiscal responsibility in addition to jobs he can win the votes of some of the women and men who lean socially liberal and fiscally conservative. You don’t need to be Barry Goldwater to see that the two can naturally go together.

Otherwise ignored by the major parties, the ranks of these independent voters grow every year. You don’t need to be Barry Obama to see this opportunity to win their support.

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