“I don't know if I've confronted that issue," he said.
"I mean, I know it's there.
"It's coming, okay?"
This was Brian Moore on the lanai behind his home. Moore is the Hernando County man who ran for Congress in 2002 and 2004, and then for Senate in 2006, and now is the presidential candidate of the Socialist Party.
He was nominated last fall. Since then, not a lot has gone right: His wife lost her job, and she was the family's primary wage-earner. Cellulitis kept him in a hospital in California for a week and a half when he was supposed to be campaigning.
All of this has Moore, 64, confronting a crossroads.
He needs a job, preferably something in social services, health care or fundraising, maybe a nonprofit. He put his resume on Monster.com and clicked sales and marketing and has even gotten a few e-mails from car dealerships.
"I'm for mass transportation," he said.
He hates capitalism. It's a system, he believes, based on individuals getting ahead at the expense of others. But now he needs in.
He has always worked for "the cause." But the cause now is far less grandiose — himself, his wife, his adopted son, their home.
"Justice, fairness, peace," Moore said. "Those goals are not achieved by buying into the system."
He shook his head.
"But it doesn't matter, does it? When you've got to deal with the basics, it doesn't matter. If you're going to lose your house . . ."
Going broke, or selling out?
Can Brian Moore live with himself if he sells out? Can he live with his wife if he doesn't?
• • •
Moore has always been this way. Opinionated. Stubborn. Idealistic.
He has been a marketer, a fundraiser and a health care consultant from California to Washington, D.C., but always also a "citizen activist" — a sign holder, a campaign volunteer, a writer of letters to the editor. In '02, he ran for Congress as an Independent; in '04, he ran as a Democrat; in '06, he ran for Senate as an Independent. He founded the Nature Coast Coalition for Peace and Justice and has protested the war since before the war began.
He married for the first time, at 60, and adopted his wife's grandson. Working for the cause can get lonely.
He hadn't thought of himself as a socialist before last fall, but he realized he wants what the party wants: peace, universal health care, a living wage. He supports affirmative action, a woman's right to choose, equal rights for gays.
But then Peggy, his wife, lost her job in the mortgage loans department at a Tampa bank. The checks stopped in December.
Peggy doesn't want to talk much on the record, but she does talk, and it's probably fair just to say that Peggy has not become a member of the Socialist Party.
• • •
"I know Peggy wants me to quit," he said.
He has not.
"There's too much at stake."
So he talked and talked, about "waving the banner," about longtime Socialist leader Eugene Debs, and about how his struggles, his own intimate struggles, made Brian Moore the candidate much more like a real, average American than Obama or Clinton or McCain.
He was in his driveway, on the phone, and his adopted son could be heard in the background.
He kept talking about a story he had seen in the Milwaukee paper about how 150-million Americans make the same amount as "300,000 rich bastards."
"America's in trouble, okay?"
But what about his little piece?
"I know what you're saying," he said. "Is this guy going to let his family die? Is he going to lose his house?"
He said he'd work at Home Depot if he had to. Two jobs if he had to. Whatever it took. Two minutes became 20.
"Here I am, 50, 60 years old, no financial legacy," he said. "I have to live with not having had kids. I blew it. So what do I have to show for it?
"I do have the satisfaction that I've worked for causes."
There was a pause.
"Okay," he finally said. "If I don't go inside now, I will be divorced."
• • •
About a month later, in his kitchen, Brian offered his visitor a cup of coffee in a heavy mug. He showed the matching heavy plates. You could do some damage with this, the visitor said.
"Knock some sense into someone with that sucker," Peggy said, on her way out of the room.
The washing machine here broke a couple of weeks ago. That was more than $300. She collects unemployment. He collects Social Security. She has had more interviews than he has had. They should get about $3,000 back from taxes. So that's good. There's still water in the pool, and there's still food in the fridge. He canceled a dental cleaning. They didn't renew the bug guy.
Brian went into his office with the cluttered desk. Headlines from nytimes.com. Deals from Expedia.com. Updates from St. Pete for Peace. Job openings from CareerBuilder.com. He checked votebrianmoore.com. He called some volunteers.
He has applied for jobs in the Hernando County schools, at Eckerd Youth Alternatives, the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. One interview so far. And a letter back.
It started: "After careful thought . . ."
He scrolled more job openings. He cut and pasted from another cover letter.
"I hold a master's degree in public administration from Arizona State University."
"For over five years I designed and implemented programs for public health projects."
"I also served in the U.S. Peace Corps for an additional three years in Latin America."
"I speak Spanish fluently."
He ran it through spell check and e-mailed it away.
Michael Kruse can be reached at (813) 909-4617 or [email protected]