Here at JJP, I get a lot of the emails. All our bloggers also read your comments. From those I have gathered that while most of our readers are black, we also seem popular with a lot of people who aren’t black. And that’s cool. Jack and Jill Politics is open to all. I think part of the appeal is that we don’t hold back much here. If you’ve been wondering what the Barack Obama of your workplace — the affable, funny and well-educated black person in the office next to yours or across the board room from you is really thinking about the issues of the day — well, here we provide at least one window deep inside the mind of the African-American middle class.

Also, many comments or emails feature phrases such as “I’m white but”. Look, it’s not your fault that you are white. It’s actually your parents’ fault. And it’s just fine. Say it loud. You’re white and you’re proud. It’s helpful sometimes to know where you’re coming from, but there’s no need to apologize for your opinions.

Keep writing in, readers! We love to hear from you and frankly, it’s obvious from your comments that so many of you are pretty smart. Your comments and emails provide us with a lot of context, facts and perspective and are an important part of the conversation.

All the best, Jill

because Obama is doing one of those fancy smooth moves where you sidestep your opponent, then stick them with the pointy thing. Oh yes, I’m eloquent :)

From ABC news:

ABC News’ David Wright, Andy Fies, and Sunlen Miller Report: Sen. Barack Obama told ABC News Monday there is nothing in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s record that would give him any cause for concern about her in terms of racial politics.

Asked how Obama interpreted two recent remarks by the Clintons that prompted an angry reaction from some in the Black community, Obama sought to damp down the racial dynamics of the controversy.

Many African Americans were offended when Hillary Clinton told an interviewer in New Hampshire, “Martin Luther King’s dream became a reality when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Some say she seemed to suggest that it took a white politician to fulfill a black man’s dream.

“I don’t think it was in any way a racial comment,” Obama told ABC News. “That’s something that has played out in the press. That’s not my view.”

But, he said, the comment was revealing about her political character. “I do think it was indicative of the perspective that she brings, which is that what happens in Washington is more important than what happens outside of Washington,” he said.

He said he believes the quote betrays a belief on her part, “that the intricacies of the legislative process were somehow more significant than when ordinary people rise up and march and go to jail and fight for justice.”

He called that a “fundamental difference” between them.

Former President Bill Clinton also offended some African Americans when, addressing Dartmouth College students, he referred to Obama’s campaign as “the biggest fairy tale” he’d ever seen.

Did Obama feel dissed? He laughed and shook his head.

But, again, Obama looked past the racial controversy.

Instead, Obama directed his response to the dispute over whether opposition to the Iraq War was consistent. (Clinton has since reiterated that is what he meant when he invoked the “fairy tale” line.)

“Both he and Sen. Clinton have been spending a lot of time over the past month trying to run down my record,” Obama said. “What particularly distresses me is this notion that I wasn’t against the war from the start.

“This is coming from a former president who suggests that he was and nobody can find any record of it,” he said.

And Politico has more.

Not all racist. Not all incredibly wack. I’ve try to clean up the formatting some and added some context to others. Was surprised to find that spadework looks like its actually used a lot by people referring to preparatory work, for example.

Anyway, check it out. Update stuff. Add more.

  • Comments Off

Tomorrow is the Michigan primary, but the process on the democratic side is pretty meaningless since the delegates lost their votes by scheduling the event so early. Please share this post with any Michigan folks you know.

The Lansing State Journal put together a primary primer to help voters understand their choices (write ins do NOT count) and did a good piece on the frustration of Michiganians and what they’ve done about it

Many Democratic voters are approaching Tuesday’s primary election with a niggling sense of the contest’s irrelevance. And some are calling it a fiasco.

Two leading candidates, Barack Obama and John Edwards, won’t appear on the ballot, having withdrawn their names after state elected officials moved the primary up to Jan. 15 in violation of national party rules.

Both had pledged to Democratic leaders in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada that they wouldn’t “campaign or participate” in any state that scheduled a primary before Feb. 5.

Hillary Clinton, who agreed to the same pledge, will be on the ballot, but has promised not to campaign here.

Mike Gravel won’t be showing up either.

In fact, Dennis Kucinich, who made appearances in the Detroit area Thursday and Friday and will continue to campaign here in the coming days, is the only Democratic candidate who has so much as set foot in the state in recent weeks.

Add to that the fact that the Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee has stripped Michigan of its 156 national convention delegates – and cancelled those delegates’ hotel reservations for the August convention to boot – and you have a primary that reeks of uncertainty.

Of course, Kos suggests all Dems vote for Romney since the primary is open and Republicans have a history of mucking around in Democratic primaries.

My people,

What an unbelievable election season we are in. It is so on till the break a dawn! The Clintons have lost their damn minds. Civil Rights OGs are coming out of the woodwork to dog a brotha. South Carolina is the place to be, and the world has reached peak oil production which means all these skirmishes pale in comparison to the poo poo that is about to hit the fan.

Here’s my own blogging plan for the next few weeks.

  • Just have it out about the relationship between black folks and the Clintons
  • Live from S. Carolina. A few folks I know are heading down to campaign, monitor voting procedures, etc. I’m planning to get dispatches from them. If you are down there or know people who are/will be, let me know so we can cover this madness. Would love some video footage too.
  • Bring up some positive things about Obama. I’m open about it. I support the man. I want to make sure at least I don’t get caught up in all the dirt and responding to rhetorical inanity from the Clintons. There are many reasons to be for the man. I want to spell more of those out.
  • A dose of reality. Campaigns are contagious infections of both hope and pessimism driven a lot by personality. I’ll be reminding all of us of the fundamental and structural challenges we face as a nation that almost none of the candidates are talking about in a serious way. Basically, we are super screwed, and whoever becomes president will preside over a nation in decline in many ways
    • We face the end of cheap energy due to peak oil production. This will be dreadful
    • The dollar is collapsing; the credit markets are collapsing; housing is dead and recession looms
    • Our economy does what exactly? We don’t make any of the things most necessary to our survival
    • Our food system is poisonous and completely unsustainable.

Update 3pm: I should add, I’ll also be posting on some things that aren’t so hot about Obama. I heard a solid debate on Democracy Now last week between Michael Eric Dyson and Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report. Ford raised Obama’s plans to expand the US military by 100,000 and asked, “what good does it do to put a black face on American imperialism?”

Solid question. I’ll try to work it out.

Are we really approaching a point in our society where non-athletes use performance enhancing drugs just to look good?

“Mary J. Blige has never taken any performance-enhancing illegal steroids,” the singer’s spokeswoman Karynne Tencer told the Daily News.

The R&B singer leads a roster of entertainers named in a probe by Albany County District Attorney David Soares, the Times Union reported.

Rappers 50 Cent, Timbaland and Wyclef Jean and actor Tyler Perry also allegedly ordered steroids or human growth hormone from doctors and pharmacists targeted in Soares‘ investigation, according to the paper.

I knew 50 was juicing when I heard the Massacre. There’s no way he could have done that without drugs. I’m…not looking forward to the possibility of steroid-related rhymes.

As for Mary J, I send my condolences to Soulbounce.

Of all the recent race-based attacks on Obama, there are two that strike me as being of vital importance to the Clinton strategy, which has two parts.

The first is Andrew Young’s assertion that, as William Jelani Cobb put it, race can be transferred “like an STD”.

Young also quipped that “Bill is every bit as black as Barack.” “He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack,” Young said of former President Clinton, drawing laughs from a live television audience. Young quickly followed the comment with the disclaimer, “I’m clowning.”

The second is Bob Johnson’s assertion that Obama is like Sidney Poitier as a black doctor being attempting to win over his white fiance’s parents in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner:

Johnson went on: “That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, ‘I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ And I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, ‘This ain’t a movie, Sidney. This is real life.’”

I wrote that the point of that insult is that Obama is a House Negro, a sellout. I know that for many of you, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner is before your time, so I’m going to let Baldwin explain why the comparison is unflattering.

The Setting of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is the key. We are on the heights of San Francisco–at a time not too far removed from the moment when the city of San Francisco reclaimed the land at Hunter’s Point and urban-renewalized the niggers out of it. The difficult and terrified city, where the niggers are, lives far beneath these heights. The father is in a perfectly respectable, perhaps even admirable profession, and the mother runs an art gallery. The setting is a brilliant recreation of a certain–and far from unnattractive–level of American life, And the black doctor is saying, among other things, that his presence in this landscape, (this hard-won Eden) will do nothing to threaten or defile it–indeed, since tin the event that he marries the girl, they are immediately going to the Far East, or some such place, and he will not be present.

See? This is a character who has been written from the perspective of being as inoffensive to white viewers as possible–so much so that he is willing to leave the hemisphere in order to prevent white people from feeling uncomfortable about his marriage to a white woman.

But both of these are more than just accusations that Obama, on some level is a sellout, both Young and Johnson are calling Obama an Oreo; for the uninitiated, the epithet means that Obama is black on the outside and white on the inside. I wrote while guest blogging at Carpetbagger that:

In my experience, people are called ‘white’ not for being intelligent, articulate, or for getting good grades, but for expressing a set of priorities contrary to black advancement.

This it the framework in which Johnson and Young are attacking Obama.

What this sets up of course, is the idea that Obama doesn’t have the “best interests of his people in mind”. This is a criticism white people, especially white conservatives, like to level at black activists like Al Sharpton. The reason is that it allows the speaker to retain a certain rhetorical advantage: On the one hand, it allows him to make racialized critiques of a black figure, on the other, it allows the speaker to lend the impression that he is making the critique because he actually cares about what happens to black people.

While it is currently black Clinton surrogates who are doing the heavy lifting, eventually the “Obama is a sellout” meme will become so common that white people will have no problem making the same kind of assertions. Obama’s run for president in itself will become a kind of selling out; a metaphor for his ambition trumping his commitment to the community. If he really cared, they’ll say, he’d still be a community organizer in Chicago.

All of which has the “unintended” side effect of keeping the nigger in his place, which is with other niggers, not in the White House. White people, you will notice, never have obligations not to “sell-out” their people, because they see themselves as individuals. We don’t have that freedom yet.

The other side advantage to the Oreo/House Negro assault is that there is no easy rhetorical comeback. What is Obama supposed to say, that he’s not white? For white people, it will beg the question, “What’s wrong with being white?” Suddenly, Barack Obama, the word of American racial redemption made flesh, becomes Barack Obama, black man running for president.

The second part of the Clinton attack is making it seem like these racialized comments, to which the Obama campaign has barely responded, come from the Obama camp and not the Clinton camp.

First there was Clinton herself:

“I’m particularly offended at the way some have taken out of context and apparently deliberately tried to mislead others about what was said,” said Clinton inside a local Mexican restaurant in Reno. Clinton called the attacks “baseless and divisive.” She went on to say that she was “personally offended at the apporach taken that was not only misleading but unecessarily hurtful.”

“It clearly came from Senator Obama’s campaign and I don’t think it is the kind of debate that we should be having in our campaign.”

Of course, as should be obvious from Bob Johnson’s recent statement, this is exactly the kind of debate that the Clinton Campaign wants to have.

Still, we have Geraldine Ferraro telling white folks that shiftless, hustling Negro from Chicago is trying to bamboozle you!

“As soon anybody from the Clinton campaign opens their mouth in a way that could make it seem as if they were talking about race, it will be distorted,” Mrs. Ferraro said. “The spin will be put on it that they are talking about race. The Obama campaign is appealing to their base and their base is the African-American community. What they are trying to do is move voters from Clinton by distorting things. What have they got to lose?”

Ferraro, by stating that Obama’s base is “the African-American community” rather than the healthy cross section of Democratic voters whom he has to win over to get the nomination, helps to further establish Obama as a polarizing black figure in the vein of Al Sharpton.

The intended irony is that the Obama campaign has everything to lose from this conversation, and the Clinton campaign has everything to gain. The idea behind the racialized attacks is not to mobilize black voters against Obama. They know that we get it. The idea is to convince white voters that Obama is the kind of person who will play the race card at the first opportunity, and to demoralize black voters who question whether Obama can win. Once white people start turning on Obama, black people may give up hope and either not vote or vote for their second choice, who is probably Hillary Clinton.

This is 2008. This is the America we are living in.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

Update 2:43am: more on Bob Johnson’s horribleness, claiming the estate tax is racist, etc.

1:18am Jan 14: check out this post from Too Sense titled Founder of Modern Minstrelsy Goes After Obama. Ouch!!

This political theater is incredible and hilarious. We can’t even get Sunday off around here. Of all the black people in the world who would attack Obama on behalf of the Clintons, it would be Bob Johnson, founder of Black Exploitation Television. Gimme a break!

This is #7 on our incident tracker wiki.

His comments while introducing Hillary Clinton at an event in South Carolina

And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book – ­when they have been involved…

That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, ‘I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.’ And
I’m thinking, I’m thinking to myself, this ain’t a movie, Sidney. This is real life.

Since making these statements, Johnson said he wasn’t talking about drug use at all. He sloppily tried to explain that what had happened was

My comments today were referring to Barack Obama’s time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect.

“When Hillary Clinton was in her twenties she worked to provide protections for abused and battered children and helped ensure that children with disabilities could attend public school.

That results oriented leadership — even as a young person — is the reason I am supporting Hillary Clinton.”

Come! On! Now! You really don’t expect me to believe that when you said he “was doing something in the neighborhood – and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book…” that you were referring to community organizing??! I mean I’m sure it’s hard for you to recognize community organizing, especially if it targets your claim to fame, but you are clearly a little rusty on how to run a media empire.

In fact, you know what this excuse sounds like. SHUCKIN AND JIVIN!! See, Mr. Cuomo? This is an appropriate use of the term, and I’m allowed to say it, because that’s what Johnson is doing.

Bob Johnson is not new at the game of selling questionable products to black people.

Obviously there have been, shall we say, issues with the programming of BET even before he sold it to Viacom, one of those six massive mega media companies with not a drop of concern nor obligation to the communities they reach.

On top of that, as Black Agenda Report (no fan of Obama) covered in 2002, Johnson was out working on a Bush commission to privatize (and thus destroy) social security by claiming that because black people die younger, we get nothing out of it.

Here’s a question: why don’t you ask Mrs. Clinton why she is so proud to have the support of a man who pimped stereotypical images of black people and worked to privatize social security?

Ok, so this past week and even before, we’ve had a lot of blog posts and even more comments pointing out how Hillary Clinton or members of her campaign have thrown questionable, wack or race-baiting attacks at Obama. A lot is getting lost in the mix, and I want single place where folks can read, edit or add to the list. This is an experiment. It could go horribly wrong. It could be amazing. There are more collective eyes and ears among yall than among the four of us blogging here, so I’m asking for some help and some trust.

I present, the Clinton Attacks Obama Wiki.

Click on over there, and read the idea, then get to work. The point is NOT to make ish up, take people’s comments out of context, etc. Some of the incidents have been mad obvious and others much more subtle. Still more have nothing to do with race, but are nonetheless wack. I dare say a few may even be legitimate.

Have at it.

One of the biggest myths of the Presidential campaign is that the only people questioning Barack Obama’s negritude, or “blackness” as it is commonly referred to, are also black.

This background may be what some people (mainly blacks) have meant when they asked the regrettable question of whether Obama is “black enough” to earn their votes. But Obama has always been black enough for his elite white enthusiasts, who would never presume to judge an African American’s racial authenticity — indeed, are all too happy to have such a question be kept, by prevailing norms, off limits to them.

Someone forgot to tell Tucker Carlson that being “elite” and “white”, such a question was “off limits.” Not too long ago, he hosted an all-white panel of pundits to assess Obama’s racial authenticity.

On the August 8 edition of MSNBC’s Tucker, an all-white group discussed an upcoming forum at a National Association of Black Journalists convention that will address, according to the convention program — as quoted by The Washington Post — the question Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) “cannot seem to shake — is he black enough? Is this an unfair question? What is the measure of blackness and who gets to decide?” Host Tucker Carlson asked A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter: “What exactly do people mean when they talk about Obama’s quote, “blackness”? … I’m not even sure what that question means. I know that it makes me uncomfortable and it strikes me as unfair, but what does it mean?” Carlson, who is white, devoted a full segment of his show — more than six minutes — to the issue of Obama’s racial identity and the effect of stereotypes on his bid for the presidency with Stoddard and Alter, two white journalists.

This preceded a series of bizarre statements from Tucker directed at Obama, including speculation about the Senator’s sex life.

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh has gone as far as taking credit for Obama “getting blacker,” only shortly after advising the Senator to “renounce his race” and “be white”.

Then there was Pat Buchanan weighing in on the Senator’s negritude, stating:

“[i]t is quite apparent” Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) “is not a street fighter, and he doesn’t have the eye of the tiger.” Buchanan further said that Obama is “up there, sort of holding forth,” adding, “I mean, he’s not what you would expect from a black guy from the South Side of Chicago. He’s something, as [NBC News political director] Tuck [Chodd] says, you’d expect in a Harvard seminar for undergraduates or something like that.”

I mean, I know Chi-Town has kind of a reputation, but I have to confess I have yet to meet anyone, black or white, who has presented themselves to me as a “street fighter,” with “the eye of the tiger”. Maybe I should move to Philadelphia, but I have a feeling there’s still a chance my life would still be complete otherwise.

This week in Slate, Christopher Hitchens demanded to know why were all referring to Obama as black.

Isn’t there something pathetic and embarrassing about this emphasis on shade? And why is a man with a white mother considered to be “black,” anyway? Is it for this that we fought so hard to get over Plessy v. Ferguson?

Hitchens’ statement begs the question, who is this “we” he is talking about? I don’t know either. From what I can tell, Hitchens appears to have sat out the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Which makes sense, in 1965, he was only 16 years old. From that paragraph you might assume Hitchens spent the 60s freedom riding through the American South, registering black voters and narrowly dodging the Klan.

Peter Beinart also weighed in on the subject, with considerably more complexity than those mentioned above. His position as a “white elite” seemed not to be a deterrent.

At any rate, it seems like there are few “white elites” who see the question of Obama’s blackness as “off limits.” Quite to the contrary, they seem to consider themselves accomplished experts on who’s black, and who isn’t.

It can hardly be said that “only blacks” are discussing whether or not Obama is “black enough,” and even then, (with some notable exceptions) the conversation is more about his political priorities than his appearance, speech, mannerisms, or ancestry.

The only real shots at Obama’s “blackness” from black figures have come occasionally, from rivals’ surrogates like Andrew Young but mostly from Right wing shills like Shelby Steele, who is somehow unable to see the tragic, tragic irony in his accusing Obama of being ‘white’ both in the context of his own work and racial heritage.

Indeed, there is little conflict in the black community as to whether Obama is “authentically” black, because most of us are tired of arguing about what that actually means. The real question is whether he represents black interests better than Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, and whether or not as a black candidate, he has a chance of winning.

You know…the ones that are ‘ in our imagination’.

Hat tip: dnA

From The Guardian:

In the words of that Clinton adviser: “If you have a social need, you’re with Hillary. If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend and you’re young and you have no social needs, then he’s cool.”

But, of course, we’re just making this stuff up.

Uh huh.

My ears are still ringing from yesterday’s blow of the whistle.

Black-Brown Tensions

11 Jan 2008

TNR has an article about Obama’s standing among Latinos, that includes a survey that indicates that many have some pretty unflattering views about black folks.

In Mindiola’s surveys of racial attitudes in Houston, they asked Latino respondents to describe blacks. Some of the terms that most often came to mind were “noisy,” “loud,” “lazy,” “dropouts/uneducated,” “hostile,” “complainers/whiners,” “bad people,” “prejudiced,” “aggressive,” “angry,” “disrespectful/rude,” and “violent.” Only 54 percent of U.S.-born Latinos and 46 percent of immigrant Latinos approved of their children dating an African American. 41 percent of U.S.-born Latinos thought blacks had “too much power.” Half thought that “most government programs that are designated for minorities favor African Americans.”

In some ways, I think that “Latino” really does a poor job of explaining the cultural diversity of Spanish-speaking people, similar to the way “black” fails to take into account the diversity of people of African descent. The Latino population in Houston is probably mostly Chicano, while in New York there are a lot of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans; in short, Latinos who unlike Chicanos, share an African heritage.

Although that doesn’t seem to have helped to much in Florida:

This hostility of Latinos toward blacks has sometimes showed up in political behavior. While both groups–especially if Florida’s Cubans are excluded–generally vote Democratic, there have been instances where Hispanics, faced with a black Democratic candidate, or with a white Democratic candidate closely tied to the black community, have voted Republican.

I grew up in DC, where I saw some black-brown tension but mostly I saw people keeping to themselves (maybe that’s indicative of more tension than I’d like to admit.) In New York, I spend most of my free weekends in the South Bronx drinking and playing dominoes (and yes, Wii, I admit it) with my Boricua friends. This degree of tension hasn’t been my experience, but it certainly sounds very real. Also, my experience is probably mitigated by the fact that I can pass for Puerto Rican.

What do ya’ll think? Do you see this on a daily basis? Those numbers were pretty shocking to me.

Hat tip: The Daily Dish

From TPMElection Central:

Check out this little nugget from the campaign trail in Nevada, as per the Las Vegas Review Journal:

Clinton implied that Obama’s career has mostly been spent running for office rather than governing.

“He was a part-time state senator for a few years, and then he came to the Senate and immediately started running for president,” she said. “And that’s his prerogative. That’s his right. But I think it is important to compare and contrast our records.”

Um, no.

He was an Illinois State Senator for 8 years. Nothing ‘part-time’ about that, Senator ‘I got everything because of who I married’ Clinton. In fact, he has more TOTAL elected experience than YOU DO. And, he was never HANDED anything either. He EARNED both his Illinois State Senate seat, AND his Illinois Senate Seat, beginning from nothing.

From the NY Times

Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, said he was rethinking his neutral stance in his state’s presidential primary out of disappointment at comments by Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton that he saw as diminishing the historic role of civil rights activists.

Mr. Clyburn, a veteran of the civil rights movement and a power in state Democratic politics, put himself on the sidelines more than a year ago to help secure an early primary for South Carolina, saying he wanted to encourage all candidates to take part. But he said recent remarks by the Clintons that he saw as distorting civil rights history could change his mind.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

This week has been a mess as far as major media is concerned. I got caught up in a frenzy last weekend and so did many in the country. Over the past week, writers for this blog have attempted to make sense of New Hampshire, the polls, the potential Bradley Effect, women voters and Obama’s prospects in South Carolina. So, I’m excited to present a perspective from a soldier in the ground this past weekend.

He’s a (black) friend I haven’t seen since middle school, but he heard I was looking for New Hampshire first-hand stories. He wrote this to me on Monday, before the vote (and before the tears). There is some incredibly accurate analysis which challenges the mainstream media narrative and some of the conclusions drawn by this blog; there is also just plain interesting observation. I have made bold certain sections for emphasis and removed peoples’ last names. Otherwise, these are his words.

i went to nh this weekend and here is my journal about it. feel free to send on to whomever you think will appreciate it. i am hoping some folks who are thinking about helping out will do so. it was one of my proudest moments.


As asked by most of you, but not all of you, here are some highlights from the canvassing we did in Hollis, NH (just outside of Nashua) this weekend.
i broke it down into stats and fun stories. i tried to make it as unbiased as possible, but obviously my heart is in a specific place

if you are at all interested in seeing Obama win, trust me when i say he is still the underdog even if he wins today we need your help. people are only now beginning to take a look at him and consider him as a legitimate candidate. no matter what magazine cover he is on or
interview he gets, before Thursday, folks were convinced he could not be elected. while they are taking a look at him now, the opposition will probably stop at nothing (for example going negative this weekend) to win the big states that will be up for grabs on super tuesday,

even if Senator Obama wins today this thing is far from over


First off, Christine, Jake and I left Brooklyn (without a confirmed place to stay) around 7:30PM and arrived at 12:30AM. Around 11PM, the campaign called us (for the fourth time that evening) and told us that Jonathan had offered to let the “two of us sleep” on “Jonathan’s” floor. We told the campaign that we had a last minute addition of one volunteer and after a few more phone calls, we were told that Jonathan was happy to have all three of us. Naturally, I assumed that Jonathan was an employee of the campaign whose hotel room was paid for. Turned out, he
was a volunteer from NYC, just out of the Navy and he was paying for the room himself. Could not have been a more pleasant guy. We agreed that he had a Ralph Maccio thing going on which added to the flavor of the night. There was just enough floor space for us to sleep on the cigarette smoke ridden carpets.

We arrived at the canvassing HQ at 9:30 the next morning. The HQ was the basement of Tom and Mary’s spacious house. They had a son
who graduated from Williams in ’97, so we chose to focus on our admiration for Obama instead of any school rivalry. However Tom and I bonded over having both been present at the best football game ever (Williams v. Amherst -1997)

The basement was home to 4-6 volunteer coordinators who had been there for I don’t know how long. At any given moment, there were also tens of volunteers who came from as far as DC (Maine, PA, NYC, Conn were represented as well) to canvas. Strangers came in and out of their home and Tom and Mary always had a smile on their face and a conversation to start. Tom would later share with me that after NH was over, he planned to travel to other states to help out. The field coordinators were college kids (Mt. Holyoke was in effect) with all
sorts of energy and just about as much maturity. They sent us off with addresses, maps and flyers (they had different flyers for each day) and
told us to get to work. “Get-r- done,” became my motto for the weekend to quote Larry the Cable Guy.


I do not know from where the campaign got the lists of the addresses we canvassed.

40% of the homes visited did not answer the door. I saw a handful of people peek out of a window and I would smile and wave and continue walking away having already stuck a flyer by their doorknob.

When I knocked on a house, my opening line consistently was “Hi (smile), I’m canvassing for the Obama campaign and I was wondering if you were planning on voting on Tuesday.” Not a single person responded with a negative expression or comment. If they did not tell me their preference then I would ask if they were considering voting for the Senator. I would say 20% were for Obama, another 10% were leaning towards him. 20% were for a smattering of candidates, mostly, Mccain, Romney, Edwards and Clinton, in that order. This is where it
gets interesting.

Another 20% were deciding between Mccain and Obama! (for those
who don’t know, registered independents in NH (40% of the state’s 1.3 million citizens) are allowed to vote in either primary). These were the people with whom I had the longest conversations. 65% of them were leaning towards Mccain. The conversations suggested that these
were Republican leaning moderates who really are tired of the party and are looking for someone fresh and are hoping that Mccain can impress
them by today. The remaining 30% were undecided and/or had no desire to show their hands (people in their 50′s and 60′s were especially less
interested in telling me who they were voting for or who they were leaning towards while folks north of 65 were comfortable sharing anything.

I read and heard that app. 50% of the state genuinely had not made up their mind by last Friday. I think much of this uncertainty has to do with two factors. 1. The republican candidates are a mess 2. Obama has turned this into a true competition and now that people believe the country just might be willing to elect him, he is only just now getting the attention and consideration worthy of a legitimate candidate, further complicating matters.

10% of the people I spoke to were Republicans and could not vote in the Dem. Primary. Yet they also wanted to talk the most and for the longest. I was happy to do so, because while they pretty much knew who their first choice was, many stated that Obama was their second preference if their republican choice did not make it to the general election.

Many people expressed frustration with the number of flyers and phone calls, yet they often participated in a 5-10 minute conversation with us. They seemed to want the personal communication. At one point, Christine (who was welcomed inside by many homes) was having a conversation with a woman and the Obama campaign called this woman. The woman explained that she had a Obama canvasser in the house, yet whomever was calling kept on talking. The woman eventually told her that she would prefer to talk to Christine. Before Christine left the house, the Obama campaign called again.

As much as we got the impression that people were tired of all of the attention, the attention itself did not seem to have a negative effect on their decision. Which is a good thing for the Obama campaign, because as was said of their organization in Iowa and of SC and Nev., the effort, in manpower and other resources, is massive as well as first rate (see an email below from the chairwoman of the financial committee of the campaign).

The most important issue for anyone over 40 (the majority of the people we talked to) was health care. The war did not come up much, everyone seemed to be on the same page about it. Not one person mentioned wanting a president who was experienced in foreign policy and very few talked about the experience question in general. It felt like Obama was the choice because he has a good message and they did not seem to think anyone else was especially stronger on issues than he is.


A 68 year old man telling me he was voting for Obama and that he doesn’t want a woman in the White House. Me worrying that I had just cost the Senator a vote because I could not help but say, “Huh,” in disbelief and with shock in my face. He noticed I was surprised and then said, “I don’t know why?”

A man in his early 70′s asking me if the Senator would get inaugurated with his hand on a Bible or a Koran. Fortunately, I had already talked to the 68-year-old sexist so I was ready for mind boggling comments. I told the man that Obama is a Christian and the man said, “OK, well, I’m having supper right now, thank you.” It was 11:30 AM.

A white male who had voted for FDR telling me that Obama (for whom he was voting) should ask Colin Powell to be his running mate. I immediately responded with a cynical laugh, “You don’t really think this country will elect two black men do you?” He screamed, “Why not…” with legitimate anger and made me feel like I was the bigot, as if I had not had enough Obama KoolAid that day.

A woman telling me that she voted for Bush twice and was now leaning towards Obama.

Three families with republican parents and two children voting for Obama absentee from college.

Driving around NH using googlemaps on Jake’s I-Phone to find different side streets. I wish I knew someone at Apple, because we could make a great short movie about this (anyone?)

Bumped into some fellow volunteers who had been in town all week (from DC). One of them said that they had been calling people all week trying to shore up attendance for his rally at a school on Saturday afternoon. In the middle of the week, the campaign was worried about attendance and asked the phone callers to ask people to RSVP. They were expecting 500 people. 2,700 showed up and the line extended way outside and people had to watch via TV in another hall.

At the end of Saturday night, I went to Don’s home. He invited me inside for a glass of water. It was the first time someone had invited me in, and I was sad about that fact because my friend who flew from San Fran to canvass in Iowa for a week said that he was invited inside a number of times. I had been looking forward to similar hospitality. Don was undecided and asked me about Obama’s platform, I was able to answer his questions about the budget and the war, but not about job creation. Don’s wife is in full support of Clinton. Don asked his mother-in-law to come downstairs. Turns out she is a registered republican who has donated the maximum to obama and is sick to her stomach that she did not change her affiliation to independent so that she could vote for him. She gave me her number to give to a volunteer coordinator.

***The next day, as we drove back to HQ, around 4PM, to return our information before heading home, I drove by Don who was going for a walk. I stopped him and chatted him up. He said Obama did a very good job in the debate and that he liked what he had to say about the issues. He said he was mulling his decision on the walk he was taking. I thanked him one last time for his hospitality and we said our goodbyes.


A greek owned pizzeria played host to the obama volunteers gathering to watch the debate on Saturday night. I wont forget the evening for a long time. Agewise, genderwise, racially, the spectrum was represented. I was really happy to see most of the women wearing a “Women for Obama” pin. The Hotchkiss School (shout out to Emily) even had a group of 7-10 teenagers. What struck me most about the comments made in the room during the debate was how complimentary people were of Clinton and her grasp of the issues. I was pleased to see that my fellow supporters of Obama recognized that Clinton is a worthy candidate and they simply believe in Obama more.

Afterwards, we hurried home to catch the spin on CNN, and Britney Spears was the story. The clock struck 12 and it was Christine’s bday so we went out for one drink. We went to the biggest resturant by day & bar/disco by night in Nashua and befriended the owner. He was miffed that Obama did not mingle more with his customers the two times he came for lunch meetings. He also wasn’t crazy about Obama’s tax plans. However, he said he was probably going to vote for Obama.

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Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell

Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris

Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats


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