Tales from the Durf Side...

Ladies and Germs: I managed to con an actual educated person into covering for me this week. I think you will enjoy his blather. For once I will not bloviate madly in my intro and will simply say... here is a little something from Mark Durfee of Texas, but originally from this reading area - the Conneaut Valley area, Mom is Bonnie Rudler Dearborn; grandfather is Chuck Rudler.

Tales from the Durf Side...

“Evolution of a Voter”

Mark Durfee, MBA,MA, M.Ed

Troy,TX- Howdy! Yes I am in Texas but I grew up in Crawford County. Lisa Houserman invited me to write a guest column regarding how my politics have evolved over the past 20 years since high school graduation. As you will see later, time, experience and high education were the catalysts that moved me to my current worldview in terms of public policy. Growing up, I was surrounded by great people with great moral values who still hold them today.

After high school in 1986, I left the Keystone State for basic training in the U.S. Army. In 1992, I was a freshman in college at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). Up to this point I really did not have much of an interest in politics. The difference was that in 1992 I was married and had child on the way that October. As I sat in my college classes, the beliefs and values I grew up with were challenged greatly. They were all I ever knew so I had no reason to doubt them. College changed that. I graduated in 2000 from Texas Lutheran University with a BA in Business Administration. When you only see issues from one perspective, the hardest thing to do is to look at that same issue from multiple perspectives.

Like most of my classmates, I was enamored by this guy who played a saxophone named Bill Clinton from nearby Arkansas. One day at UTSA one of the candidates for the Democratic nomination spoke under the Sombrilla in front of the John Peace Library. I had hear of this guy dating Linda Ronstadt or something like that. I also heard that he was from California and that his nickname was “Governor Moonbeam’ for his extreme liberal views. After listening to him speak, i realized quickly that his views did not match my own. I began my search anew. I served under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and felt that domestically, our nation was not heading in the right direction. William Jefferson Clinton spoke of things that resonated with me as a 24 year old freshman ( I was a late bloomer).

I was about to get out of the Army in two years and I was concerned about my daughter and the economy. The numbers were not there under George H.W. Bush regarding the economy. The unemployment rate in June of 1992 was 7.8% (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/UNRATE) following the recession of 1990-1991. My daughter has a picture with a Clinton-Gore button just weeks after her late October birth. Clinton-Gore won. However, as impressionable as I was to be swayed for Clinton as a freshman, I was later equally swayed later to follow conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. I maintained my heavy right wing conservative view because I worked in the financial services industry as an investment adviser and I saw things from a very anecdotal perspective assuming the rest of the world resembled my limited view of my world.

Later as a sophomore in college I took a philosophy course at a local community college in San Antonio and took the first step of my political evolution. I quickly realized through Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates that even though people held beliefs vastly different from my own it did not mean that they were bad people. I learned that I did not have to agree with their views but I did have to respect them and listen to them and maybe, just maybe I might hear something that would challenge my own deeply held views. I continued to support fiscally conservative and socially conservative issues volunteering on the Dole-Kemp campaign in 1996 and the George W. Bush campaigns in 2000 and 2004. I finished my MBA at St. Mary's University of San Antonio and still held those very conservative views because I painted my world in broad brush strokes ignoring the plethora of perspectives that gave more of reality based view of our country.

By 2008, not much had changed except that I had been teaching 5th grade reading in a Title I elementary school for 30 months. I still absorbed everything I heard on right wing cable networks, radio programs and websites. I did not challenge what I heard because it fit my political agenda. I did not want to research the validity of the information because I did not want to have it prove my agenda to be wrong. In the summer of 2008 I began graduate school at Tarleton State University majoring in educational administration. Each day I spent in the classroom, I saw a microcosm of society that many Americans never see. I saw kids from every socioeconomic status. This began to change my thought process.

I finished graduate school in December of 2009. In the fall of 2010 I went back to graduate school but this time to study American history. Once I drilled down to the primary sources of the various periods and cut through the one sided historical narratives, I began to see the history that goes deeper than what we see in popular culture and from Hollywood movies.

A nine month school year does not provide nearly enough time to get into the depth of our historical narrative. As a graduate student, you get to really see the details from our past that expose agenda driven writers of history as propagandists of a specific political agenda. It was at this point that I dug deep into discovering our Constitution, the intent of the founders and average ordinary people who did extraordinary things to help make our nation a beacon of democracy. In my numerous research papers, I discovered many things about our past that seriously called my worldview into question. I realized that I can live my faith yet also champion freedom of religion for all faiths and respect those who chose no faith at all. When I researched the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, I truly understood the equal protection clause and how the federal Bill of Rights applied to the states as well as the national government. I finally realized that rights guaranteed to one must be guaranteed to all regardless of how we feel religiously.

My MA in History forced me to look at our past in a very holistic fashion. I became an “originalist.” I wanted political leaders who championed the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for all Americans. I wanted leaders who supported George Washington’s vision of steering clear of political parties and foreign entanglements. I wanted leaders who truly spoke for the people rather than for partisan greed. I wanted leaders who did not try to force a moral code didn’t fit every American. I wanted leaders who eschewed the two party political machine that locks out people from the fringe areas. I wanted a leader who told us what we need to hear rather than what we want to hear. I wanted a leaders who gives us straight facts without using fear, hate or hyperbole to get our vote. I wanted a leader who tells the truth because it is the easiest to remember.

This election year, we have been given nominees who were nominated by only 9% of registered voters. Both major party nominees have unfavorable ratings above 55%. Better nominees ran but were pushed out by party bosses or simply bullied their way to the nomination by engaging in the politics of personal destruction. I have followed Gary Johnson since early last year. He had what I looked for in a leader. Two terms of chief executive experience as a Republican governor in a Democratic state. When he left office he left a surplus rather than debt. He opposes crony capitalism, favors free trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership. He rose to 13% in many national polls.

The two-party juggernaut of Presidential politics controls so much in Washington. This can be seen no clearer than in the Commission on Presidential Debates who implemented the 15% threshold of five major polls for candidates to participate in the Presidential debates. It was added because Ross Perot almost tipped over the proverbial apple cart threatening two party power. Johnson did not meet the threshold of 15% for the first debate and most likely will not meet the threshold for the last two either as we get closer to November 8. I am still holding out for a miracle but reality is soon starting to set in. I will either stick with Gary or go with the candidate of one of the major parties that I feel is best suited to lead our nation.

Research the choices. Don’t vote one way or the other because you have always been a Democrat or a Republican. Search your heart and vote for the candidate who best matches your core values. If that is Gary Johnson, ignore the bullies who tell you that you are wasting your vote only to help one of the major party candidates win. If is Trump or Clinton, also ignore those voices trying to bully you into voting their way. It is your vote. Vote your conscience. Ben Franklin once remarked that without liberty of conscience, man is not truly free. Thank you for allowing me to talk with you today.