Doug Whaley, a 71-year-old retired salesman, says he is looking for a conservative candidate for president who is worthy of his trust.
Going into Thursday night’s first official debate among Republican hopefuls, Whaley also seeks a nominee who can articulate how and why conservative ideas are best for the greatest number of Americans.
Whaley says he is attracted to the idea of a “non-political” candidate, but could be persuaded by one of the experienced politicians in the race. He adds:
Generally speaking, most normal working people are sick and tired of politicians saying one thing and doing another after they are elected, and would welcome a non-political candidate who hasn’t lied to them before.
Pollsters detect this same discontent among voters, especially Republicans and independents as they contemplate a GOP field that has grown to 17 candidates.
They may not be sure what they want, but they want something different, Zogby Poll founder John Zogby says. At this early stage, Republicans remain split over whether to nominate a conservative—and what a “true conservative” is.
“Republican voters also tell us they want someone with management experience, experience in government, but close behind that is experience in business,” Zogby said in an interview early this summer with The Daily Signal. He added:
They want a problem solver, a consensus builder, but ultimately it really depends on how the candidates emerge, stay on their feet and then, most importantly, capture the right moment. … Republicans as well as Democrats are pretty well jaded by everything and doubting, to some degree, whether government can even function.
Similarly, Fran Coombs, managing editor of Rasmussen Reports, says the polling firm has found for more than two years that large majorities of likely voters agree the country is going in the wrong direction. Democrats tend to be evenly divided on the question.
“There’s a sense in the country that things are not going well,” Coombs told The Daily Signal. “Understandably, people have different ideas on what they want done.”
Likely GOP voters became especially upset about Obamacare and illegal immigration, Coombs said, as did unaffiliated voters—only less so.
“Generally,” he said, “everybody is unhappy with the economy and concerned about terrorism.”
Conservatives such as Whaley—who worked in sales for IBM, Procter & Gamble and Universal Pensions—don’t think they’ve had one of their own as a GOP nominee since Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984.
Before Reagan’s 1980 nomination, they argue, the party hadn’t put forward a conservative since Barry Goldwater in 1964.
“How many election cycles will conservatives put up with Republicans talking about conservative goals and then after being elected supporting much the same agenda as liberals?” asks Whaley, a former history major who splits his time between Deerwood, Minn., and Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
In email interviews with The Daily Signal, other older Republicans who are following the 2016 race say the party should swear off “establishment” candidates if they aren’t committed to principles of limited government, free markets and individual freedom.
Four sitting governors and five former ones joined the GOP field. So did four incumbent senators and one former senator. Plus a neurosurgeon, a former business executive and a real estate magnate.
So what is Whaley, who served four years in the Minnesota National Guard, looking for as the debates begin? He puts it this way:
I believe in what made this country successful to start with: individualism, entrepreneurship, moral values and lack of government intrusion into people’s lives. Liberalism is slowly destroying all of these things, and big government is becoming a way of life even in the Republican Party. So my main concern in any politician is, do they have the same belief system as I do? And do they have the best interests of the country at heart, not just making a career for themselves and being a good party member?
I would have to say I don’t really care about what will or won’t benefit me the rest of my life, but I am very concerned about the future of my kids and grandkids, which I believe is not going to be nearly as good as it could be if the country keeps drifting left. …
Conservatives need to get people thinking positively about being politically active and why not being active, interested and politically educated is why things like Obamacare [and] illegal immigration are thrown at them and why the country is $18 trillion in debt. That debt will have to be paid by young people today and their children, which will almost assuredly make their lives much less rewarding than they should be.
It’ll be another six months before the first votes of the 2016 primary season are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire. Here is a glimpse, at this juncture, of what’s on the minds of some other older conservative readers who exchanged emails with The Daily Signal.
Rick Parks, 70, Las Vegas. Parks, who retired as an Air Force major after 28 years of active duty, met his bride while stationed in Korea in 1971. He says he followed in the footsteps of his father, who served in World War II as an Army Air Corps pilot. He is Catholic.
Something he worries about: “How long now have we been satisfied with merely accepting whatever is put in front of us? That isn’t the American way; excellence is the American way. … Staff at the Osan Air Base personnel office advised me [in 1971] that although I was a career military man, there was no guarantee that my wife would be granted a quota to [come] to the States with me.
Now, we just open the borders and let in everyone, regardless of their health condition or financial self-sufficiency? Ridiculous! We are creating a never-ending succession of wards of the state and rewarding criminal foreign governments, which won’t care for their own people and send them our direction all the time.
What he’s looking for: “I’m looking for a candidate who believes in and fully supports the Constitution, American exceptionalism and the American people. The candidate should be truthful, honest and humble, knowing that their position as president is to serve all Americans and to lead us, but not to be our emperor, king or dictator.”
Herb Branch, 71, Easton, Md. Branch, who grew up and lived most of his adult life in Ohio, is a retired engineer and data analyst. He and his wife, who have three grown sons, also lived in Israel before and after 9/11 to do humanitarian and other charity work. Three of their grandchildren are in college.
Branch’s parents were Jeffersonian Democrats who left the party in 1939, he says. As a 20-year-old college student in 1964, Branch campaigned for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. He says he supported Reagan’s failed primary bid in 1976, and then his successful races in 1980 and 1984. Branch consistently has voted Republican in presidential elections.
What he worries about: “The GOP will become a permanent minority party, never again to win national office elections. That is what this immigration issue is all about. And it will produce a permanent demographic advantage for Democrats.” Branch adds:
The U.S. exists in a nearly universally hostile world of pretend friends in Europe, plus genuine enemies, plus Israel—who wants to see the older, more reliable America re-emerge from all of its internal angst and self-doubt and self-hate from U.S. liberalism’s giving up everything that ever mattered most in life and for liberty.
Marc Jennings, 67, Hoschton, Ga. Jennings is a retired cable television system executive who now is a consultant on cable issues for rural telephone companies. Jennings, an officer in the Marine Corps in the early 1970s, sees the marriage debate as “critically important to the future of our country and its culture.”
What he’s looking for: “I think this is important for all candidates: Can we trust them to stay true to core principles [while being open to] common sense evolution of positions based on new information?” Jennings adds:
I think most conservatives believe we have moved so far away from our founding principles (in governing and culture) that we desperately need strong corrections. We are suspicious of government and looking for a leader of strong convictions who we can trust to follow through on promises and who is persuasive and talented enough to lead the country and massive government.
Goldie Jones, 70, Tavares, Fla., retired seven years ago from University of Illinois. Her husband, also retired, was an area manager in farm supplies and petroleum. The Joneses have six children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They vote in Florida but also maintain a home in Illinois.
What she’s looking for: “I would like a strong leader without political bull [who] will follow the Constitution. I am really sick of all the regulations [and] corruption, and the White House thinking the law doesn’t pertain to them. They are not held accountable. … I’m sick of the pork and the debt. Stop borrowing money from China to give to other countries.”
Something she worries about: “Please, someone with some backbone be our next president. … We want a Reagan [who] will bring America back waving the mighty flag and the importance of ‘in God we trust.’ ”
Ken Kasalis, 65, Concord, Calif., is a retired retail salesman, airline worker and teacher. The Brooklyn native recalls his pride as a seventh-grader in handing out flyers on Election Day 1960 for a fellow Irish Catholic, John F. Kennedy. Kasalis recalls:
I was a Democrat until they seemed to move from anti-war to anti-traditional values, namely their embrace of abortion rights without any restrictions. I was proud of JFK. That Democrat Party does not exist for me any longer.
What he worries about: “The threat of terrorism, a lackluster economy, inner-city decay, a public education system that underperforms, welfare becoming a way of life for many, illegal immigration running unchecked.
“I wish the media would be as outraged at the IRS scandal … as they are over a bakery objecting to making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.”
What he’s looking for: “For me, a president should be proud to be an American. Someone who recognizes our unique history and soul, leader of a great nation … who many people the world over look to for leadership and morality.” He adds:
Someone who does not seek to make Americans jealous of each other and feel like victims. Compassionate, yes, but possessing common sense in solving problems while respecting our Constitution and laws. Someone who can admit a mistake, and not call honest dissent a personal attack.
Jerry Cox, 74, Clarksville, Tenn. Cox, who retired after working as a senior finance manager for two top computer and software manufacturers, says he rejects “big government involvement in all facets of our lives” as promoted by liberal Democrats and establishment Republicans.
Something he worries about: “Corrupted” and “out of control” federal agencies such as the IRS and Environmental Protection Agency, illegal immigration, and “overreaching” federal judges.
What he’s looking for: “I believe our next president, especially if conservative at all, will inherit the biggest social and economic changes of our times—the last eight years. And to try and get the country on track he will have to be [a] strong leader [with] thick skin, with a belief in values and solutions [that] will work, and proven so by the candidate.”
Cox, who also started two businesses and now devotes time to a Christian mission project, adds: “He will have to deal with runaway spending and deficits and a propped-up economy being held together with glue.”
Pamela West, 56, Portland, Ore. A small business owner, West describes herself as “a life-long conservative Republican.” She is a Mormon and the mother of five children.
What she’s looking for: “As I consider the candidates, I measure everyone against Mitt Romney. Overall, this field is better than in 2012, but none matches Romney. He’s the gold standard, and remains the most qualified and prepared.”
However, West initially finds at least five of the candidates appealing.
Robin Humphrey, 74, Crystal River, Fla. Humphrey’s career took him to several South American nations, including 15 years with a major oil company. A Big 10 college graduate, he served in the Navy from 1963 to 1968, including a year in Saigon. He moved with his wife to Florida upon his retirement in 1998.
What he’s looking for: “A president who would essentially stick with the tenets of our Constitution and the will of the Founders, and not view government as a tool to manipulate the people, by taking from Paul to pay Peter … or the other way around. If I were God, I’d mandate a balanced budget in conjunction with a flat tax.”
Terry A. Gillham, 65, Austin, Texas. Gillham is a soon-to-be-retired accountant for a construction company. He and his wife, who moved to Texas from Kansas in 1993, are active in local and state politics and helped found a pro-life pregnancy center. He identifies himself as a Southern Baptist.
“I will vote for the Republican nominee even if I have to hold my nose while doing so,” Gillham says, as he did for John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012
What he’s looking for: “America truly needs a solid conservative president with proven experience in government, where he/she has actually governed in a conservative style in close obedience to the Constitution.”
Something he worries about: “The swarm of candidates makes it very difficult for any one person to shine significantly,” and the party “has proven unable—unwilling?—to support a real conservative,” Gillham says, adding:
The nominee will need an overwhelming personal appeal to break out of the ‘good ol’ boys club’ that nominated McCain and Romney and produced eight years of Obama.
Ron Bowen, 77, Grand Blanc, Mich. A Navy veteran, Bowen recently retired after working for more than 46 years at a General Motors plant in Grand Blanc, a suburb of his native Flint, Mich., rising from die-maker apprentice to manager of quality systems implementation.
Something he worries about: “I am just one of many others that are aware that everything Obama has done was planned. We do not buy into the conventional wisdom that his foreign policies anywhere have been a disaster due to his cluelessness.
We believe he has been wildly successful at doing what he wanted to do. America has been politically bio-engineered in small doses to progressive communism, but no one will call his policies that.
What he’s looking for: “The good news is that this journey into the dark tunnel of a country without the Constitution may be coming to an end. There is indeed light. The Republican bench is the best I have seen since Reagan.”