Voter’s Voices: Mountain Home Diner Dishes Up Politics

Oct 10, 2012

Mountain Home, southeast of Boise is a microcosm of a military town.  Many of the 14,500 people who live there are connected to Mountain Home Air Force Base.  Four-thousand military serve there and some of them come to Grinde's Diner in Mountain Home to eat and talk politics.

The windows at Grinde’s are covered in patriotic paintings like the statue of liberty, a bald eagle and the liberty bell. 

Grinde’s has been a fixture in Mountain Home since 1985.  Sisters Sharon and Sandy run the family business for their parents.  This is where we meet  Justin Shackleford and his wife Meredith.  She plans to vote for Mitt Romney.  “Because I don’t want to vote for Obama. I don’t know.  I don’t like his views on things."

Patriotic windows welcome customers to Grinde's.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The young couple sits in one of the red vinyl booths.  Meredith moved to Mountain Home two months ago to be with her husband.  She hasn’t kept up much on politics. “I don’t stay in the political views too much, I leave that up to my husband.”

Justin Shackleford is a crew chief on some of the planes at Mountain Home Air Force Base. He's been stationed here about a year.  He plans to vote absentee from his native Tennessee for Mitt Romney.

“A lot of people say the lesser of two evils…I don’t totally agree with everything he’s about," Shackleford says. "He’s more the conservative of the two and as far as his views on abortion and healthcare and gun control. He’s more conservative in that aspect than President Obama.”

Justin and Meredith Shackleford have strong ties to Mountain Home Air Force Base.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Shackleford says when it comes to Romney, it’s hard to identify with a millionaire, who he calls out of touch.  But he still identifies more with Romney’s politics than Obama’s.  He knows people in the military that will vote for Obama but he believes they’re the minority.

“The military is typically conservative Republican, you know that kind of person, they're the more straight-forward, which I mean you can see it’s changing with with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal and stuff like that." But Shackleford says, “typically, it’s your conservative Republican type person. That’s always been the military.”

Meanwhile,  an elderly gentleman walks through the front door and claims a barstool at the counter.  Without a word, a waitress slides an over-sized coffee mug his way. 

On the side of the mug is the label, “Mr. D.”  This is Aaron Dicello, retired Air Force.  He’s 73 years old.  “If I knew I was gonna live that long I’d have taken better care of my body I think.”

Aaron Dicello retired from the Air Force but still lives in Mountain Home.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

When his wife passed away a few years ago, the staff at Grindes adopted him.  He comes in everyday for a snack.  If he misses a day, someone at the diner will call him at home to make sure he’s o.k.

Dicello spent 28 years in the military, including a stint at Mountain Home.  He echoes Justin Shackleford when he says those in uniform tend to lean to the right. “As a military man you seem to go more Republican.  I don’t know why, it just seemed like they were the ones that were taking care of us.”

That was true for Dicello for the most part.  He’s never missed a presidential election and he always voted Republican, with two exceptions.  John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama. “And I vote for who I think is going to be best for the country.  I don’t care if you’re Republican or Democrat.  I vote for whoever I feel…the one that moves me.”

Dicello says when he listens to Obama, he can tell the President is speaking “from the heart.”  That’s why he voted for him four years ago.  He thinks Mitt Romney was also speaking “from the heart” when he said 47 percent of Americans don’t pay income taxes.

“You and I are in that 47 percent that he was taking about, not caring about.  The people drawing retirement, people that are on Medicare and so forth and that’s who he’s talking about.  And we’re not lazy, and that bothers me.”

He plans to vote again for Obama.  “Has everything he’s done while he’s in office I have agreed with?  No. No.  I’ve disagreed with a bunch of his stuff.  But I still think he would be better than the alternative that’s being presented to us.”

Before Dicello digs into his biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs, he has one piece of advice on the election. “If you don’t vote and you come up to me and you say D, you know this guy is really bad.  And I’m gonna look at you and say who’d you vote for?  I didn’t vote.  Then shut up, you got nothing coming.”

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio