The first time I spoke with David Karlsruher was sometime back in about 2007 when he called to ask me to come on his El Paso morning talk radio show, “The Other Side with David K.” I immediately thought, “Now here is a guy who does his homework. He knows I have a face for radio, and that I know how to talk.”
But I hadn’t done my homework. Not being a morning radio type of dude, I had never heard his show. So for the next week, I listened to him and started to get worried. He was so good on the radio it was intimidating. I e-mailed him and told him I was having second thoughts. I knew on the political spectrum he was as conservative as I was liberal, and I didn’t want to walk into an ambush.
After expressing my worries about my radio skills, he assured me I’d do fine, and that far from ambushing me, he’d help me through my first appearance on live radio. He did, we did a great show, and he invited me back a few times. Pretty soon The Strelz heard us, and between the two shows, I became a regular visitor to the morning talk radio scene.
Despite regular political disagreements, I have liked and respected David K. ever since. In a town that loves name calling and shouting as a form of politics, David K. still uses arguments, facts and reasoning. Though we disagree politically 90 percent of the time, we debate respectfully, using reasoned arguments. Contrast that to a loud faction of the local Democratic scene. I agree with them most of the time, but the 10 percent of the time that I don’t, a respectful debate is out of the question. They attack my family, my race, my livelihood … anything to get me to shut up.
I have watched with disgust as the same thing has happened to David K. through the years. It may be a small faction, but the damage unleashed when David K. writes something the crazies don’t like on his blog Refuse the Juice … it ain’t right, and it ain’t fair.
I recently interviewed him about some of those issues, and I was surprised that what really shines through is his love of El Paso. Because of all I’ve seen him go through, I expected some bitterness. Instead, he still loves El Paso, and he does what he can to make the city better. We should all try to do as well.
An introduction: David K. moved to El Paso when he was 13, and he graduated from Coronado High School.
After high school, he played baseball at community college and Texas Tech, before he “washed out” and came back to El Paso to finish his degree in electronic media at UTEP.
After graduating from UTEP, he moved to Washington, D.C., in 2001. He worked doing grassroots organizing for a business political action committee, for the National Association of Realtors and for the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association.
More importantly, he met his wife, Jessica, and they moved to El Paso together in 2006 while engaged.
David and Jessica moved back to D.C. in 2011, though David continues to be a thorn in the side of bad politicians, as he writes about El Paso politics on Refuse the Juice.
Without further ado …
When and why did you start blogging?
In May of 2006, my wife and I — we were engaged at the time — we moved back to El Paso. She started with Dee Margo’s campaign. I was back working with my parents, and I noticed there was this huge gap. I’m hearing all this campaign stuff — people know I’m from D.C.; people know I’ve done campaign stuff, so they are talking to me — and there’s just this gap of information. And not only is there a gap of information, but when you did get information from, let’s say, talk radio at the time, you were getting false or bad information, including about my wife.
Newspaper Tree was up, and there were people writing comments and letters that my wife worked as a Karl Rove person and all this stuff, which is completely untrue. So, I said, I’ve got to at least try to put what I think is the truth or what I know out there. I’m going to start a blog … I didn’t really know if anybody was going to read it, but I was going to start a blog. Basically, that’s what it is. Dee Margo campaigned against Eliot Shapleigh, there were a lot of things going back and forth, and I decided somebody needed to go out there and tell the truth.
It appears to me that you and your family get attacked pretty relentlessly because of your blogging. Many, including me, would probably be scared away. Why do you keep blogging despite the fact that these people will go after you?
Once you get your family past the harassment … I hate to say they’ve become … it’s kind of like a Stockholm Syndrome, they are just used to it … so they are like, ‘What did my husband, or what did my son, say that’s got everybody disliking us now?’ Granted, the vast majority of people are pretty nice. They’ll start the discussion with, ‘I don’t always agree with you, but …’ And that’s fine.
But you have other folks who, as you’ve seen, go after us through municipal means by harassing my parents’ business. We’ve had people egg our house. I’ve had to call the cops a couple of times because I got e-mails or stuff from people that were pretty disturbing. One, if you quit when they do that, it just shows everybody that that works. There have been a few times when I’ve just wanted to walk away and do something else, but it’s always on the heels of somebody threatening me, and I didn’t want anybody thinking that was an OK thing to do to a blogger or any type of media person.
You’re a journalist, and you know how important it is that we are not intimidated out of doing — well, I’m not one of you, but I have a degree in journalism; I have worked in it — but you know how important it is to not be intimidated out of doing what you are doing, because it hurts everybody. Because they won’t stop with me, it will be the next person who tries to write or express their opinion, they will then go after them and block them.
I’m starting to blog again in part because I’ve been disturbed by, I guess it is a small group, but that small group of people in El Paso who engage in the politics of personal destruction. You’re in D.C. now, though. In the “House of Cards” world there, is it just as bad? Is it better or worse than in El Paso?
Well, everything is relative. The thing about D.C. is, people at a certain level don’t really have the ability … they don’t touch people individually. It’s such a bigger game. So if you say something wrong, or you’re in the wrong company … at the local level, they have the ability to really touch you personally and get to you personally. If my parents owned AT&T, and I was saying things in D.C. that were wrong, yeah, it would be kind of the whole company suffers; it would be at arm’s length.
But now you have something where people who don’t like me can literally walk up to a job site and do whatever they want or tell people directly involved with me, don’t do business with us. It’s really intense at the local level.
And there’s a lot to lose, the margins are small. What these people want and what victories they want to get, the margins are small and they’ve got to fight for them. So, they are going to fight me for it, they are going to fight anybody who disagrees with them.
One of the things that’s always fascinated me about the El Paso blogging scene, and even just the people who comment on Facebook and Twitter, is that expats are so engaged. You are blogging about El Paso from D.C., that other dude is blogging from Florida. What do you think it is about El Paso that keeps expats so engaged from afar? What makes people who live elsewhere want to stay so involved in what goes down in El Paso?
That’s the interesting thing. If I mapped out where the IPs are that come into my blog, they are all over the map. They are coming out of everything from Congressman O’Rourke’s office, to Austin, Dallas and Houston. So I know a lot of expats look at my blog, and I’m obviously still interested in it. I think it’s because everybody is rooted into El Paso in the end. In the end, we are always going to be El Pasoans, and we are rooting for El Paso, even when we get a little down on it. We always want to know what’s going on at home because I think we all felt like we were so close to having a hand in changing it.
If you were raised in Dallas, did you know the mayor? Did you know the players? El Paso is such a small town/big city, you keep track because you know the players, the names, you’ve seen them. And you think, in the back of your mind, maybe you can make a difference. It’s not because us expats think we know better. We’re just genuinely fans of the city and want either to steer it or watch it go. There are as many watchers as there are writers.
So I assume it’s not out of the question that you may move back to El Paso some day?
There are ties, and it’s always on the list. Right now, my wife and I are in D.C. and doing that and are comfortable to a point. I don’t know. One, she’s very good at what she does, so you never know who’s going to give her a call and say, ‘Hey, we need you go come out here.’ I’m kind of in a niche market with what I do. I don’t know. I’d never say, ‘No, I won’t move back to El Paso.’ Will I always be going back to El Paso and being involved? Yes. My parents are there. My family is there. That’s where I go back to go hunting, to do everything. And I have two kids now; I want them to know what El Paso is like. I may invest in El Paso, you never know.
You ran for office in El Paso. Do you ever think you’ll try to run for office somewhere again?
The thing is, when it came to running for office in El Paso, it was a put up or shut up moment. There were a lot of people saying, “Oh, if you think you are so smart, you go run.” I’m sure you’ve heard it as well. So I did. I did it for legitimate reasons. I didn’t agree with the guy who was in office.
I’m not going to say it was a humbling experience, because it wasn’t a humbling experience. Even if you don’t get a lot of votes, it’s kind of a rock star experience because you get to stand at the front of the room and get your ego pumped up. Because all the people who don’t like the other guy automatically like you no matter what you are saying. So it’s a fun thing.
I ran, I said I was going to do it, I did what I said. In another place, I would run if I really felt like there were the right issues. It’s tough to go somewhere else. I feel so rooted in El Paso. I feel like such an intruder; I live in Arlington, Va., right now. I’ve lived there a couple of years, and I lived there four years before that, but I would still feel like an intruder running for office there. I’m not from there. It’s tough.
I’m really glad that you’re blogging, and I’m really glad to see that there are other bloggers. Granted, I give them hell, and they give me hell. It’s less about jealousy and more about policing the community. By no means am I the sheriff. We all wear a sheriff’s badge; we all get called out. You’ve called me out plenty of times, and we’ve gone round and around. And that’s fine because it’s coming from, “I respect you enough to say, hey, I think you can do better.” It’s not from, “I dislike you.”
With Jaime (Abeytia) gone, there are holes. I’m glad that other people have come in and are trying to blog. Guys like Max Powers are funny, but I think they are valuable. El Paso Speak: They’ve got a conglomerate of anonymous bloggers who are at least doing some commentary. I don’t think they always get the story right, but it’s an effort. And you’re going to put an effort out, and it’s going to add to the scene. It’s going to give somebody something to read … because you can read the newspaper in about 5 minutes. You’ve got to have something else to stimulate your mind.