A view from Texas: Regular people work together. Why can't Congress?

To hear Congress tell it, their constituents are demanding they take extreme positions and not compromise. But as I see it from Dallas, Texas, where I’m a blue liberal in a sea of red, regular working people have no problem cooperating with those who hold opposing views.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Cathey Park from Cambridge, Mass. shows the words "I Love Obamacare" on her cast as she waits for President Obama to speak at Boston's Faneuil Hall about the federal health-care law Oct. 30. Op-ed contributor Mike Joy writes: 'I don’t recall, in my 25 years in Texas, any debate around a construction site about gay rights, Obamacare, abortion, 2nd amendment gun rights, or even legalization of undocumented workers.'

I am an older white guy living and working in one of the reddest states – Texas. Yet, I am bluer than Barack Obama.

I work as a contractor in one of the reddest industries – home construction. But I openly tell my fellow contractors – many as red as any Texas tea-partier – that I am a liberal who voted for President Obama and that I lived in France and loved it. Like my conservative friends were when they learned my views, they are at first shocked and dumbfounded. There are not many older, liberal men around my area of Dallas.

I see them pause, as if considering whether they should be offended and hold my political views against me. But they quickly realize that breaking off a friendship and working relationship makes no sense. So we all get back to work to pay the bills, which is what it is all about.

As I see it from Dallas, politicians who tell Americans how divided we are and how we should not work together or compromise with folks on the other side of the political divide are just playing a political game with financial incentives.

The animosity, gridlock, and hard political edge in Washington, D.C., and in the media that try to divide us seems to be a recent phenomenon. I grew up in Morgantown, W. Va. – a university town filled with liberal students and professors from all over the United States and many foreign countries.

But Morgantown also sits in the heart of coal country. During my college days I worked construction at the local coal mines with conservative men from very rural areas. I remember being made fun of as a bungling college student, which was true. But I never remember any hard-edged politics from those coalminers.

Luckily and surprisingly, in Texas, where regular people live and work together, things have not changed that much.

The vast majority of people I come across seem to have virtually no interest in politics in general – or specifically in the major hot-button issues of the day. I don’t recall, in my 25 years in Texas, any debate around a construction site about gay rights, Obamacare, abortion, 2nd amendment gun rights, or even legalization of undocumented workers.

I am not saying people don’t have personal views on these subjects or strongly held beliefs. I am saying that fortunately, regular working people have no problem keeping their personal views in check while doing business with people who hold diametrically opposing opinions.

If you listen to our congressmen and women you would think that the vast majority of their constituents are beating down their doors demanding they take extreme positions on issues, to stand firm, and most of all not compromise.

I don’t buy it. Yes, town hall meetings with a representative from Congress might get a little out of control and make for good TV drama, but those kinds of forums include only a small portion of citizens – maybe 50, 100, 200. I don’t see any ground swell in Texas from regular working folks for our politicians to take hard-edged, no-compromise, political positions.

I have survived and prospered as an openly liberal person in the great state of Texas. Politicians and media may try to stir people up. But thank God, we still stand together as Americans.

I believe that it is money and business interests trying to divide us. I am still hopeful that people will not succumb to the temptation to follow our leaders on this point.

Mike Joy has owned several retail stores, hitch-hiked around Europe and the US, worked in construction since 1973, and since 2005 has owned a building contracting company specializing in painting and drywall. He has just finished writing a book about the building contracting business and all of the problems homeowners encounter on a regular basis.

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