Taxi Talk

One of my favorite parts of hitting the campaign trail is chatting with cabdrivers, who always seem especially eager to discuss politics. (Listening to talk radio all day will do that to you.)

Take my cabbie this evening out on Long Island. A black man in his mid-40's who arrived in the U.S. from Jamaica in 1990, Steve was something of an enigma. As we motored from the Garden City station to the local Marriott, Steve immediately asked whether I was attending the debate. I told him I was a reporter for Newsweek. "Is that in the city?" he said, drawing a blank; I explained that it was "like Time." "Oh," he said. "You know, I've been following the politics, what's going on. It's my hobby."

As if to prove his point, Steve flipped from FM (Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'") to AM, where he settled on Michael Savage's "Savage Nation." (A Journey fan, I was deeply saddened by the change.) "I listen to this guy, Savage, all the time," he said. "He gives me both sides of an issue." Considering that Savage, an arch-conservative, was talking at that point about how the "false conservative" (Bush) had selected the "old man" (McCain) as his "fall guy" so that "BO" ("Obama") would win the election and allow the "power structure" to "usher in worldwide socialism," I assumed that Steve was something of a conservative, too (or simply a conspiracist). When he mentioned that he agreed with "most of what Bill O'Reilly says," that seemed to seal the deal.

But then I asked Steve who he was voting for. "Obama," he said proudly. Why, pray tell? "I seen poverty firsthand in Jamaica," he said. "The guy who wants to help the little guy is for me. That's my politics. What these CEOs making? $400 million? That's not right. It's not right." So that was Steve: a black Caribbean immigrant who agrees with Bill O'Reilly and Michael Savage "most of the time" but is drawn to Obama because of his populist message amid the current economic chaos. Like most of us, he doesn't fit any demographic mold.

He'll vote for the first time on Nov. 4.