ALLENTOWN, PA, 12:00 a.m. – Six hours after walking through the doors of Dina’s Diner in working-class center city here I emerged into the stormy gloaming outside. I’d just spent the latter half of the day talking politics with seven life-long residents of the Lehigh Valley in a diner that’s been a fixture in town for more than 60 years. They spoke earnestly and honestly and one woman was swayed, during the conversation, from swearing she wouldn’t vote to pledging that she would support democratic nominee Barack Obama on November 4. An older couple felt differently.
Dan and Betty, married for 37 years, were tentatively under McCain’s big top. Dan, who didn’t want to give his last name, said he was almost definitely voting for John McCain while Betty said she was leaning that way but could still be swayed by Senator Obama.
Kim Onea, who leased Dina’s last year and runs the diner said she’s mired in a Catch-22. Her ingredients cost more, but with the economy like it is people are eating out less and less. She said she feels she can’t raise prices because that would drive more people away but her profit margins keep shrinking with the rising cost of food.
Kim’s son Daniel, being 15, is not of voting age. However, he cited the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration’s immigration policy as reasons he would vote for Obama on November 4 if he could. Why those? “Because those two things affect the biggest thing,” he said. “The economy.”
Krystal King said she was inspired by Obama’s blue collar upbringing and noted that she felt he had struggled in his life. She said she could identify with him on that, unlike the rest of the presidential candidates she’s seen.
Lisa Leonard, 37, was reticent to talk at first. She wanted to stay out of political discussion. Her friend’s speech, though, convinced her otherwise and she said she would be voting for Obama come election day.
Jason Manson, who works in security, said John McCain’s manner in the debates convinced him to vote the other direction.
Despite the economic plunge and living in a poor area rich with crime, all of them maintained some level of optimism, oftentimes inspired by the change they feel Senator Obama embodies.
— BY ALEX LOWTHER