Interview with Silverio Salazar: Making the Jump From Hillary to McCain

This weekend I had the opportunity to interview Silverio “Silver” Salazar. Silver is the cousin of both Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colorado)and Congressman John Salazar (D- Colorado 3rd). He is a former supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton but is now endorsing John McCain’s presidential bid. I found Silver to be an engaging individual who is deeply-passionate about government and the future of his community, the state of Colorado, and the country. He offered some interesting insights as to his political views.

JAZZ SHAW: I see from a previous interview that you haven’t actually left the Democratic Party. Do you view the party today as still being mostly in line with your basic political ideology, or is it moving further away? Or are your views perhaps changing over the years?

SILVERIO SALAZAR: I’m glad you asked me that. When asked why I’m still a Democrat, I tell people that I haven’t left the Democratic Party and I’m not leaving it. The Democratic Party is leaving me. Some of our local legislators – and the Democrats are in control of both the state house and senate – have done things which are not in the JFK and FDR mold of Democrats. They increased fees on license plates and said it wasn’t a tax increase. It was a “fee increase.” What? They also tripled the fines for driving infractions. I support enforcing the law, but when you triple the fines, who are you hurting? You’re hurting the poor, the single mother who has to drive to work to support her kids. It hurts the Democratic base. Democrats are supposed to help the working class, but now they want to tax you. They voted against the Bush tax cuts.

JS: You were previously backing Hillary Clinton. I’m sure a lot of people must have wondered this already, but given how close the policy positions of Clinton and Obama are, and how different McCain is to both of them, what positions of McCain’s did you find most appealing to draw your support?

SS: Clinton was the best qualified, knowledgeable and ready to lead on day one. When she didn’t get it, I looked at the person with the best qualifications to lead on day one. Senator McCain’s positions on taxes, off shore drilling, abortion, immigration all attracted me, but mostly his compassion. When it comes to energy policy, Obama will say anything to get elected, so you don’t know what he thinks about oil drilling and domestic energy production from day to day.

JS: Obama wound up picking Joe Biden as his running mate. I’m wondering… what do you think of Biden in terms of his qualifications to lead, and if Obama had chosen Clinton, would that have drawn you back to the Democrats this fall do you think?

SS: I love Joe Biden. I’ve been doing press conferences for the last few months, and he said that Obama is not qualified to be president. He’s a lot more qualified than Obama. The ticket ought to be flip flopped. Even if he picked Hillary for the running mate, it would have been too late to draw me back. With him at the top of the ticket, I just can’t support it.

JS: Obama has gained a reputation as something of a flip-flopper, hasn’t he?

SS: If Obama really wants to do something good for the country, he should flip flop that ticket and put Biden on top.

JS: What do you see as the principal challenge facing the next president? And what do you like about how John McCain will approach that challenge?

SS: There are two things, actually, not just one. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will have to be settled so we can walk out of there and call it a win. We have too many marks in the loss column right now. Second is the economy. McCain won’t be able to fix things in the first couple of years, but I think he will do it over a period of time, and his plan will fix the economy faster than Obama’s. Wages need to rise to meet costs while keeping taxes low and McCain will eventually do that. We’re working for the future here, not a short term fix. I’m looking for a solution for my kids and my grandkids, not something that claims it will right the economy tomorrow.

JS: I’m curious what you think about Joe Lieberman. Some of the Democrats clearly feel a bit betrayed by Lieberman, particularly this year. Do you think we need more people like that in both parties – people who are willing to go their own way, or is party unity and the need to get the entire party platform advanced usually more important?

SS: We don’t need more people like Joe Lieberman, but we need more self thinkers like Senator McCain. He thinks and acts on his own two feet. You need to vote for what’s good for your constituency and your country, not just what’s good for your party. Obama looks at the polls and that’s the way he flows. You’ve got to do what’s right for the people who elect you.

JS: I read one quote saying that, in the past, you’ve also supported some Republican candidates at the state and local level. Have you ever supported a third party candidate? And what do you think about the impact of third party candidates, such as Bob Barr for example, in the presidential election process?

SS: Third party candidates are a distraction unless we get a party that’s big enough to make a difference. I liked Ross Perot, but I knew it was a wasted vote to support him. If somebody could organize a good third party which would be able to make a difference, then that would be good for the country. But the way things stand today, voting for one of the third party candidates is just throwing your vote away.

JS: As a follow-up to that, how do you view the dominance of the two-party system in general? Are we getting enough choices or does it act as a limiting factor in voter options?

SS: We have to work together and be able to cross the aisle for moderate solutions to problems. Vote for what’s best for your country and not for your party.

JS: Are there any other House or Senate races you’re keeping a particular eye on and supporting a candidate?

SS: The race I’m watching most closely is Udall and Schaffer here in Colorado. Udall is so far ahead in the polls because of the number of Democrats in the state. It’s the way they do things. We have so many safe districts in Colorado that, for some of them, any Democrat you throw in is going to win. In two of them, any Republican will win. I’m not supporting either of them. We already know who will win.

JS: I’m guessing you’ll be supporting your cousin, John Salazar, though?

SS: I don’t need to support John because he’s going to win. That’s how the districts are set up. I asked them once why they even bother putting John’s name on the ballot and they said, “So they will remember we’re here.” There’s no need to support anyone in a situation like that because John will win anyway. And Ken isn’t up for election this year.

END INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Salazar has been working to help bolster John McCain’s numbers, with a special focus on denting the traditionally-solid support which Democrats enjoy among the Hispanic community in Colorado. (John Kerry pulled 60% of that voting demographic in 2004, while Al Gore carried 66% in 2000.) Silver’s discontent with the direction the Democrats have taken this year may not endear him to his family, but is likely not uncommon among disaffected Hillary supporters.

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