Well, this year’s Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally got some publicity today when Sarah Palin and family accompanied them as private citizens. As the mother of an Iraqi veteran, she is entitled to this.

Most of the half million attending the rally seemed pleased.

So of course most of the press coverage was about Andrea Mitchell finding the one “spokesman” who didn’t know she had been invited, (1088 news stories) and most of the rest actually found a few Obama supporters (all women, presumably bystanders or wives) who objected to her participation in the rally.

The story would have been even better if Andrea Mitchell or the press would ask some of these bikers attending the rally why they do it every year, or why they continue to worry about the country’s lack of care for today’s veterans.

You see, the rally is not about Palin, or Obama: it is to remind people of the POW’s and of others who served or died in Viet Nam, and now to remind people of the sacrifices of those who serve in Iraq or Afghanistan or the other hellholes of the war on terror.

The culture gap in the US is a worrisome matter to those of us familiar with history.

The polarization is not left versus right as much as elite versus the rest.

The roots go back to the implosion of traditional ethics of the 1960’s.  In the past, one served two years in the military, but in Viet Nam, the elites started justifying not serving, and went out of their way to insult those who did.

Oh, they all have their reasons, but as “the Manolo” points out the real reason for the elite not to serve:

… The bien pensants do not say, “I did not serve because I wanted to party down in Ibiza, or New York, or Yale” but rather, “I did not serve because the military is taking advantage of the poor minorities, discriminating against the gays, and chopping down the rain forest with the depleted uranium chainsaws.”…such qualified political statements are not the pacifistic objections of honorable conscientious objectors, but rather just the socially acceptable way of excusing one’s failure to do one’s duty.

The wounds of Viet Nam are still with us, and this cultural divide is well known to every one of us who have relatives who served in the military.

So when Palin (but not Romney, or even Joe Biden, whose son is also an Iraqi veteran) attends the Rolling Thunder rally as a guest, it sends a message that someone out there knows we exist and agrees with our love of the country. This is similar to that sent by John McCain’s visit to Sturgis during his presidential campaign. She is sending a cultural message to those who who still are naive enough to believe in America and freedom, and she is also sending a “headups” to the establishment of Washington of both parties that they are out of touch with the hoi polloi…

Rolling Thunder is not so much a group as a rally of bikers who support the troops.

Rolling Thunder began in 1987 as a demonstration to bring awareness to the plight of prisoners of war (POW) and to those missing in action (MIA). …This first Rolling Thunder run was made in an attempt to petition the government to take responsibility for the soldiers that were abandoned after the Vietnam War ended.

Today over 250, 000 motorcycles ride during the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day weekend observance, held each year in our nation’s capital. Rolling Thunder has evolved to be not only a demonstration for the POW/MIA issue but also a demonstration of patriotism and respect for soldiers and veterans from all wars.

Another biker group, the Patriot Guard,  who sacrifice time and money to protect the families and honor the fallen soldier and accompany them to their final resting place. 

Bikers are only part of a subgroup of what might be called “dirty job” Americans (to use Mike Rowe’s TV show). They are hard working folks who are vital to society but whose work is unsung and unseen in American culture.

In the current recession, as working class jobs continue to disappear overseas and when small business people are worried about regulations and health care expenses that will undermine their ability to stay afloat, there are many who might not support the President in next year’s election.

The first group, the working class and ethnic “Reagan Democrats” supported Hillary in 2008 and might support Palin; the second group, the “tea party” Republicans, also are up for grabs in today’s political landscape.

How all this will play in 2008, I have no idea. I don’t support Palin, and we don’t get Fox news in the Philippines where I live. But what I do see and read is a failure of the administration to recognize the anxiety of those who want to work, but can’t find jobs.

Oh, more welfare programs, and free health care are being touted as if Obama was a king granting his largesse to the peasants. But as a doc, it means hiring more people to do proper electronic billing, and putting more time and effort into the paperwork than in caring for Aunt Mable. And coming soon: thousands of pages of regulations that tell me who gets what medicine, and punish me if I don’t follow the regulation.  Forget it. I retired instead.

Multiply this dismay by hundreds of thousands of small businesses, and you can see the problem.

And the real question of 2008 is if a Republican can contact with these folks and explain why freeing businesses of cumbersome regulations so they can provide jobs is a better idea than extending welfare to more and more people.

Palin is not the choice of big business, (indeed her claim to fame is fighting the oil company/Murkowski connection in Alaska) which is why the big business type Republican leadership dislike her. However,  she could be a “kingmaker” for another candidate, and few, even her critics, doubt her ability to define the worries in pithy soundbites (e.g. “death panels”) and she can communicate using folksy style that appeals to many. Except for Bill Clinton,  few other candidates of either party are able to do this.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Hey Doc Xanga Blog.

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