Rain comes down hard in Florida. It comes down suddenly and leaves just as quickly, the UV-rays quickly burning your skin in the places washed clean of sunblock.
The contrast between the sun and rain is stark, similar to the difference between attendees of the Republican National Convention and their Occupy antagonists. Most of the delegates in Tampa have given — or helped raise — nearly inconceivable amounts of cash. One local delegate said he'd helped raise nearly $1 million for Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign.
Disconcerting in part because of the Occupy RNC protesters, camped not in resorts on the beach but in tents in the mud. In the driving rain, hippies, freaks and true believers — or some combination thereof — participated in two separate marches Monday, denouncing what they see as the insensitivity and greed of the Republican Party.
One of these people was Stephen Sweet, who drove out to Tampa from California with four companions — two human and two canine. Sweet, born in 1968 in Pasadena, is homeless. The car, a silver Toyota, is a rental.
“My car is old,” he said with a grin. “It wouldn't have made it.”
Sweet said he made the trek out of a sense of civic responsibility.
“There's a real surge in interest by people these days; it's almost a renaissance,” he said. “People know what's going on, and they're pissed.”
The same feeling of agitation, but from a markedly different perspective, can be found 30 miles southwest, in St. Pete Beach. There, I spoke to two members of the California delegation at the Tradewinds resort, a swanky hotel on the Gulf Coast.
First, a side note: Shortly after walking into the hotel, I was stopped by a very polite, but firm, member of the St. Pete Beach Police Department. Apparently my attire threw him off.
“Well, you are wearing a long coat, and it's August,” he said.
“It's raining,” I replied, confused. “It's a raincoat.”
Afterward, I asked around, and my clothing choice was indeed locally perplexing: Few in Florida would dream of ever wearing a raincoat. I thought it would make more sense than an umbrella, given the forecasted — and largely overblown — affects of Hurricane Isaac.
Nope. I looked like a terrorist.
Fortunately one of the local delegates, Dr. Greggory DeVore, a fetal doctor and La Cañada Flintridge resident, vouched for me, and all was well.
Sitting in the lobby, DeVore said that he helped raise about $900,000 for the Romney campaign. He said he believes deeply in a Romney presidency, largely because of his views on entrepreneurship and limited government.
“Whether it's $5, $50 or $500 dollars, it's important to give something,” he said. “You want to be involved, to look for a return on your investment.”
Next I spoke to delegate John Cushman III, the chairman of Cushman & Wakefield, a huge commercial real estate company founded by his grandfather. Cushman lives in the Granite Place Residences, a high-end complex near the corner of Lake Avenue and California Boulevard in Pasadena.
“Los Angeles, Southern California, the United States, the world,” he said, “is a mess.”
The solution, he added, is to reduce the regulation and taxation that is driving companies out of state, and out of the country.
I suppose I could complain of a lack of specifics from these three men —all living or born within a 10-mile radius of one another. But frankly, those specifics would likely just lead to more division, not less.
We are hopelessly deadlocked in Washington and in Sacramento. So perhaps the solution is not to try to change people's minds, but to discover what the true majority actually might be. I'll argue we don't know; simply not enough people vote.
According to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, less than 22% of residents voted in the June primary. This will clearly increase for the November general election, but what would our state and federal capitols look like if turnout was more like 80%?
We should find out.
DAN EVANS is the editor, and is covering the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.