Why I Shook Bob Vander Plaats' Hand this Weekend

(I love this kind of event. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

This weekend, I went home to my hometown of Centerville for our big annual Pancake Day festival. Although you've probably never heard of it, and it probably didn't bring in as many guests as the Dave Matthews concert in Des Moines, it's still a pretty big event for the southern part of the state.

The big parade starts with a cannon blast at 1 o'clock sharp, every year. In addition to all the Pancake Day Queen contestants, the local celebrities and the business floats, the parade usually brings a few local politicians or political candidates down every election year. In 2004, when I was still in high school, I marched in the parade with Dave Franker (remember him?). In 2006, Pancake Day marked the first time I had seen Dave Loebsack in person.

This being an odd-numbered year, I wasn't expecting to see any political candidates beyond our statehouse representatives and whoever is running for mayor this year. I was surprised then, to see Bob Vander Plaats round the corner of the parade route, shaking hands.

He walked alongside his billboard on a clean, white pickup truck that might have belonged to a local farmer but was too nice to be a true “farm truck”. Alongside him walked about six or eight people in crisp, white Team VP t-shirts handing out baseball card-sized campaign cards. (The cards had the usual Republican boilerplate about “principled leadership” and “fiscal responsibility”, along with a brief bio.) As he neared my seat, I rose out of my comfy lawn chair and shook his hand. He said “Hi”. I said “Best of luck.”

And I really do wish him the best of the luck. I wish him the best of luck with his wife and his four boys. I wish him the best of luck with his professional and business career. 

His political career, though, I hope stalls like an 18-wheeler in a mountain pass.

Why, then, did I shake his hand? I may disagree with darn near every idea the man has, but I respect him for running. Running for office, be it for school board or Senate, is a deeply courageous act. Republican or Democrat, those who run run out of a sense (however misguided that may be) of civic duty.

Between the anti-Bush protesters of a few years agoand the tea-baggers of a few months ago; between the Glenn Becks and Keith Olbermanns of the world, I think it's too easy to see everyone as partisans and not as people. It's the little common human decencies like shaking hands with people we disagree with that keeps our democracy healthy and sane.

That's why I shook Bob Vander Plaats' hand this weekend. I hope you would have too.

  • don't worry

    According to Dave Price, the Dave Matthews Band show was nothing to write home about.

    I would absolutely shake Bob Vander Plaats’ hand if I saw him at an event. Just for fun, I clicked on his issues page to see if there was anything I agreed with. It took a while, but I did find one thing: he’s against the expansion of gambling. So, if I ever did shake his hand, I would probably say, “I agree with you that we shouldn’t expand gambling.”

    Unlike you, I don’t want BVP’s political career to stall–yet. I would be thrilled to see him win the GOP nomination, in fact.

    We may head to the Windsor Heights “Oktoberfest” this weekend, but the only candidates we’re likely to encounter there are running for Windsor Heights City Council.

  • WoW

    I have so missed Pancake Day for years. Going to have to get back down to Centerville one of these years for it. When I was kid, growing up in Chariton, my grandparents on Dad’s side lived in Centerville on East Terry Street. Almost every summer I would spend time down there, and out at the Bridgeview campground at Rathburn. Sometimes I miss the 70’s and 80’s. Grinnell’s Happy Days just don’t compare to Pancake Day.

    As for BVP, there is no way I could shake his hand. If he had his way I’d be sent off to some camp or prison simply becuase I happen to have been born gay. Having to put up with people telling you that your a second class citizen, or that you are less than human, tends to make a person cranky.

    • I understand your feelings

      I have shaken hands with plenty of people who think I’m going to hell because I don’t accept Jesus as my savior, but I understand why you would want to avoid any civil interaction with someone like BVP.

  • Very respectful...I like it

    Great points.  For example, I really don’t care for Ralph Nader, but I certainly would shake his hand.

  • I'd shake his hand

    Just because it’s polite.  I’d also probably look him in the eye and say that he should be ashamed of himself for demonizing a group of people to get elected.  I’m with DMDem though, I hope he wins the nominations….he won’t win a county east of I-35 and would be a drag on local Rep candidates.

  • DMB

    P.S.  I had friends at the concert and they all reported that it was ridiculously fun and a good show.  I dunno, I drove by and it looked like a U of I tailgate going on, so I’m sure the atmosphere was fun at least.

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