With the Republican nominating convention in the US presidential race underway, a passage in the novel Poodie James comes to mind. The mayor, Torgerson, is trying to drive Poodie, the title character, out of town, claiming that he’s connected with a civic threat from hobos who camp along the railroad tracks. Poodie and one of the hobos are heroes because they recently rescued the engineer from the locomotive of a burning freight train. The publisher of the local newspaper, Winifred Stone, is discussing the situation with her editor and thinking of a recent meeting with an acquaintance of Poodie who may be a madam. The editor says, “What I don’t understand is what he hopes to gain by going after Poodie James.”
Winifred Stone stood at her office window in The Dispatch watching cars go in and out of the hotel garage on the corner. She thought of her conversation with Angie Karn.
“He seems to have friends all over town, all kinds,” she said. “The mayor thinks he can tar Poodie with the hobo brush. In a funny way, Poodie’s joining the hobo in the rescue might help Torgerson’s cause. It’s hard for me to imagine that people think much about hobos one way or the other around here, but it wouldn’t be the first time a politician was able to get the populace stirred up about an imaginary threat. Demagoguery works.”