Today was terrific. I finagled a switch in my ticket so as to take a "Florence on Your Own" trip instead of the walking tour for which I had a reservation. Then when I got there I found a "Hop on, Hop Off" city bus with seats on top of a double decker. There are two routes -- one for one hour going around Florence, the other a two-hour drive that includes Fiosole. For 20 Euros I could take both routes for twenty-four hours if I wanted to. But I stayed on the one-hour circle, making three complete loops around Florence It was magnificent. I would still have enjoyed the ride if I had gone ten times.
But that meant I didn't walk much or go looking inside buildings at all. Our group met in front of Santa Croce church (see photo) but I didn't go in there either. It's a strange building. The facade is the same extraordinary style as the cathedral, but it's just stuck onto the front of a stone church with a steeple at the back.
And before taking that bus, I had an hour with a cappucino and a Herald Tribune inside a restaurant facing the square. There was an interesting piece by Frank Rich the pointed out how badly McCain is doing, compared to the now "bitterly divided`' Democrats. When the Democrats voted last week in Pennsylvania, the Republicans did so as well. But although McCain has already won enough delegates to cinch the nomination, some 27 percent of the Republicans voted for some other candidate – Huckabee or Ron Paul. That 27 percent lack of support is more than the number of Obama- or Clinton-supporters who say they would not vote for the other candidate if their preferred candidate is defeated for the Democratic nomination. And there are fewer Republicans registered anyhow. I had dinner last night with a couple from Pennsylvania who had changed their registration to Democrat so they could vote for Obama. There are many thousands of others who did likewise.
Yet of course Obama lost Pennsylvania, and the pundits are all asking why he cannot make white working class voters love him. Another NY Times columnists whom I accessed on the Internet tonight pointed out that Obama is trying a new approach, connecting his "new politics" with their problems, arguing that there has to be a greater political mobilization of ordinary citizens. For example, he will broadcast all the negotiations over health care plans on C SPAN, and hopes they will watch and offer their opinions and demands.
I think that's important. But it's also important to tell them the truth -- that their manufacturing jobs are not going to come back, no matter what they do. The solution to their problems involves greater education. American higher education levels have flattened out, just while good jobs increasingly require it. I don't think any candidates have pointed this out bluntly. The emphasis on combatting trade agreements such as Nafta is misguided.
So even here at sea, the Democratic contest is the most -- almost the ONLY -- interesting topic that people can discuss seriously.
But tomorrow I go to Aix en Provence to stroll around.I am optimistic.