Unclogging the politics of plumbing

By Scott Green

According to Politico.com, a major record studio is reportedly in talks right now to put out a country music album as early as inauguration day, starring – naturally – Joe the Plumber. The guy’s been in newspapers, on TV, and is supposedly mulling a run for Congress. It’s only a matter of time until he shows up in adult films (“Hi, I’m here to fix the plumbing in this girls-only dormitory”).

But I was disillusioned to learn Joe the Plumber isn’t a licensed plumber, and isn’t named Joe. His real name is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, and because it is misspelled in the Ohio registry, he might not even be able to vote. How could any of us possibly trust his political insight after that? We can’t, which is why I instead called plumbers across the nation – licensed plumbers – to find out for whom I should vote.

The first thing I learned was that most plumbing companies have answering services that take your name, number, and reason for calling; these services then forward the information to the plumbers, who decide, for example, if they’d rather call back a journalist or stick their arm down a stranger’s toilet. Very few returned my call.

Anyway, I managed to interview four: Steve the Plumber, Andy the Plumber, Bruce the Plumber, and Frank the Plumber. These guys were completely up on politics. I expected to catch them off guard but each was ready to tell me whom he was voting for and why.

“I don’t like Obama. Don’t like his policies, his views on second amendment, pretty much everything,” said Steve, 27, who works for the Scottsdale Plumbing Co. in Arizona. Andy, a 49-year-old “die-hard Republican” who is an owner of Chicago’s Good Plumbing, said he was also voting for McCain. “Never was a liberal, never will be,” he said.

Why are plumbers uniquely qualified to instruct us on politics? “Plumbers are blue collar, hard-working kind of guys,” explained Andy. “They work for money, they don’t like paying taxes.”

Of course, working for money and hating taxes also applies to entities you wouldn’t trust with politics, such as prostitutes or George W. Bush. But the point is taken, because a lot of plumbers own their own businesses, or one day plan to.

“I think probably most of them are Republicans because I think your business people tend to link to a Republican type of thinking,” said Bruce, the 63-year-old owner of Abbott Plumbing in Las Vegas, Nevada. “When we put philosophers above plumbers, we’re not gonna have good philosophy and we’re not gonna have good plumbers.”

This was a good point from the plumber-philosopher, even though – with no disrespect to Bruce – I have no idea what it means.

“Plumbers,” Bruce continued, “they protect the health of the nation. We protect the water that you drink, we take care of taking the sewage, the bad water out of there. If you didn’t have plumbing you’d have very unsanitary situations like you have in third-world countries.”

This was scary – the idea of an army of plumbers, ideologically linked, with the power to send us to third-world sanitation levels if we didn’t vote for their candidate.

“Yeah,” he said, “I think it would swing the vote.”

They could do it, too. In overwhelming numbers, they support the GOP. “Plumbers I’ve talked to on plumbing sites, they tell me they’re voting for McCain,” Andy told me. “I would say nine out of ten are voting for McCain.”

Wait -secret web sites where plumbers discuss politics? Can I see one? “You have to be a licensed plumber,” Andy said. “They check you out before you can actually join.”

Frank, the 41-year-old owner of Grayton Plumbing in Washington, DC, was the only plumber who didn’t tell me he backed McCain. He voted absentee but wouldn’t say for whom, which is surprising when you consider that, at the time I asked, he had known me for upwards of 15 seconds. “Neither of the candidates fully represent who I am or my beliefs,” he said, “so I don’t pledge allegiance to the Democratic party or the Republican party.”

But Frank was more than a plumber and non-partisan. He recently became a pastor at a church of about 100 members. “You feel that God has called you to it,” he said, probably about preaching and not plumbing.

So the plumbers, not satisfied with politics, are angling for religion, too. This won’t be a big change for college students, who are already experts at kneeling before the porcelain god. But for everyone else, watch out. Especially Garth Brooks. Because Joe the Plumber’s going triple platinum.

Scott is a third-year student in Plumbing Arts and Sciences. His arm is down your toilet right now.