The Simons of Roxborough: For two lifelong Democrats, politics is a cherished ‘indoor sport’ [UPDATE]

Don and Susan Simon of Roxborough weigh in on the final Presidential debate held on Monday, Oct. 22. 

Here’s the latest comment on the election by Don and Susan Simon from Roxborough. For the original story, see below.

Tuesday, Oct. 23 

Susan: I think Obama more than held his own. Romney has changed his position so many times that I don’t trust him. I liked Obama’s remark about bayonets and horses. I also liked what Obama said about his trip to Israel talking to Israeli citizens and visiting the Holocaust museum to remind himself why we needed to be strong supporters of Israel while Romney went there with Sheldon Adelson to meet with fundraisers. The debate showed Obama as a strong leader, knowledgeable about foreign policy. 

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Donald: Obama came across as strong and thoughtful. Romney comes across as a bully who thinks if he keeps talking loudly enough everyone will forget how many times he’s changed his position. I think Romney is a great salesman. He knows how to do market research so he can tell people what they want to hear. But is there any substance behind his presentation? It was interesting to me that Romney’s position on many foreign policy issues (e.g. Syria, Iran) were no different than Obama’s even though he’s been critical of those same positions previously. I believe Romney really has the same neoconservative go-it-alone attitude that got us into trouble in the first place while Obama has developed an inclusive and thoughtful foreign policy that is far more effective. Romney’s criticism of Obama’s offer to meet with Ahmadinejad was specious. It was Moshe Dayan who said: “If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”

Wednesday, Oct. 17

Susan was out last evening and came home in time to watch the second half of the [second Presidential] debate. I watched it from beginning to end.

We were both much happier with the way Obama was forceful and assertive in catching Romney at his distortions and misrepresentations of Obama’s record. I thought Obama was correct in calling Romney’s use of the tragedy in Libya to score political points offensive.

I think it’s about time Romney was called on the fallacies of the Romney/Ryan tax plan. Obama: “He doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan.”

Everything we’ve read said the Romney/Ryan tax plan doesn’t add up, and the net result will be to take away middle-class tax credits.

We both noticed how Obama and Michelle went over to talk to audience members immediately after the debate while Romney stood surrounded by his family.

Bottom line: I doubt Obama will get much of a bounce on this, but I think it will help to fire up his base.


At the age of 10, while most kids were out playing sports or watching American Bandstand after school, Don Simon was stuffing envelopes at a presidential campaign office for Adlai Stevenson II in Rochester, NY.

“It was 1952 and I think I wasn’t happy about the Korean War,” Simon said. “I was actually walking by the office, saw the Stevenson headquarters sign, walked in and said ‘Can I do something?’ so they had me stuff envelopes.”

Stevenson lost that presidential election, and the next one in 1956, to Dwight Eisenhower. But that didn’t dampen Simon’s political spirits.

The former social worker, who spent much of his career working in mental health, is a lifelong Democrat. He says his interest in politics was inherited from his parents, whom he describes as “Roosevelt Democrats.”

Don and his wife of 47 years, Susan, have been strong supporters of President Barack Obama since 2008. Don hosts a weekly phone bank at their Roxborough home every Tuesday evening, trying to drum up local support for Obama. The couple also volunteers their time to registering local residents to vote. 

“I did get one man at the ShopRite who has never voted and he was probably in his late 40’s, early 50’s,” Don said. “His wife has been pushing and pushing him to vote so he decided it was time to register.” A few weeks ago, the couple helped register 79 people at a Manayunk food festival. 

Susan, a retired teacher and current musician, hopes her recent outreach efforts will help to instill in others a message that was influential to her as a child.

“My parents took me with them to vote every time they voted and told me how important it was,” she said. “My mother kept telling me that in the year she was born, women could not vote and that was a big deal for me.”

That’s part of the reason why discussions about politics are such a constant in the Simon home. 

“It comes up all the time … every five minutes,” Susan said. “It’s almost like an indoor sport and I think it’s great fun to talk about the issues and I think it’s a sad thing that people are afraid to discuss things or disagree with each other.”

Worried for grandkids

For the Simons, who generally support a liberal/progressive agenda, the stakes in this upcoming election are simple: It’s about the kids.

The couple has Social Security and Don has a Medicare Advantage plan so, according to Don, they’re in pretty good shape if either candidate wins.

“If the Republicans win control of the federal government and if they keep their promise, we wouldn’t have a problem because what they keep saying is seniors will keep their current plans, but we’ll screw everyone else,” Don said. “My worry would be that my children and grandchildren are going to be the ones on the short end of the stick.”

The Simons have two children in their 40’s and three grandchildren between the ages of 4 and 7. Under Gov. Mitt Romney’s control as president, Don’s biggest fear is a flashback of a struggle his grandparents went through in their ’20s.

A haunting family memory

Don tells the story of his grandparents, who were immigrants from Eastern Europe, settling down in America. His grandfather found work as a laborer and on a specific day at work, his life changed forever.

“He was holding a stake in the ground and someone was hitting it with a sledgehammer,” he said. “Well, he missed … and the guy hit my grandfather right in the head. Yeah, the head … a real mess.”

After that, Don’s grandfather was subject to seizures, wasn’t able to work and died in his late 20s of pneumonia.

“There was no workman’s compensation; there was no health care; there was no safety net,” Don said. “In the early 20th century, they had to do what Romney is recommending, which is to rely on the faith community and family and friends who, of course, didn’t have the resources themselves to do anything to help my grandparents.”

Don admits that he doesn’t think this country will ever go back to the way things were in the early 20th century but, for him, it’s getting too close for comfort. That’s why the Simons are doing everything in their power to get people to vote.

The Simons are among those who thought that privilege could have been compromised in the upcoming election by Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.

Last week, a judge ruled out enforcement of the law for the November election, delaying until later a final decision on its constitutionality.

“I think it’s ridiculous, quite frankly,” Don Simon said about the law, “in that there’s absolutely no evidence of significant voter fraud.  If we are going to have a voter ID law, it needs to be revisited and there needs to be continued pressure to make it as fair as possible.”

Down about Denver

If the voter ID decision elicited a sigh of relief from the Simons last week, the first presidential debate had the opposite effect.

Those 90 minutes of reality TV in Denver left them both pretty frustrated.

“I thought Obama was lacking in energy and was kind of listless; I wonder if he was sick or something,” Susan Simon said. “I was really hoping he would clobber Romney but he didn’t.”

This is how her husband put it: “He just wasn’t there that night. It looked like he really would have rather been out to dinner with Michelle on their anniversary.” 

The couple plans to follow the campaigns closely over the next few weeks while Don ramps up his volunteer efforts in the Northwest. 

“If [Obama] loses some swing states, we’re all gonna be in trouble as far as I’m concerned. I think we’re going to have to continue working and working hard at this point, harder than we would have had to before,” Don said as, almost on cue, his landline phone rang. “It’s Obama again. I wish he’d stop calling.”

Check back here to see updates as the Simons of Roxborough blog about their thoughts and experiences taking part in this election.

Other family profiles to come:

Friday, Oct. 12

Alisha Jones and Cynthia Portlock of Bear, Del. (on WHYY-FM and NewsWorks)
Janet Gilease and Jonna Naylor of West Mount Airy, Philadelphia (NewsWorks only)

Monday, Oct. 15

The Zauns of Downingtown, Chester County (on WHYY-FM and NewsWorks)

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