Wednesday, October 22, 2008

13 Days to Change: My Home Sweet Patriotic Racist Home

Except for how well the Steelers are doing, it's hard these days to own up to western Pennsylvania as where I'm from. First Rep. Murtha said western PA is racist. Today John McCain more or less endorsed the same idea, although he calls it "patriotic." As in the most patriotic place in America. Patriotic=white racist on the Hate Talk Express.

Evidence that the McCain campaign believes this is in their tactics, like this provocative robocall in which a voice that purports to be Obama goes off on a racial tirade during the call. Pretty clearly it's their belief that they can push the buttons of racism that suggest to the McCainiacs that they ought to try to flip PA, the only blue state they are even trying to win. And obviously they are counting on western PA to turn it for them.

Much of western PA is insular and xenophobic--and since I was born and lived for a number of years in small town W.PA, I can't dispute it. It's one reason that a lot of young people leave. I happen to love the city of Pittsburgh, and the history of the region is part of me, but it's a complex place, that can be limiting and discouraging. There is racism but I tend to see it more in terms of xenophobia. After all, the Steelers--the culture of the region in one word-- have a black coach, and the revered (white, Irish) owner of the Steelers is actively campaigning for Obama.

But western PA may be more ornery than racist. And so there is this phenomenon described by Nate Silver: So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

Which leads to the phenomenon that Ben Smith of Politico called "Racists for Obama": “What you see is it’s perfectly possible to hold a negative view of at least one aspect of African-Americans and yet simultaneously prefer Obama,” said Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Racial feelings are not as cut and dried — not as black and white — as people often say.”

What a world. What an election.

In other news, viewing the polls quoted in the post below and others, Marc Ambinder felt moved to sing, "The Polls They're Not A-Closin'": They're just not.

Now since it's past midnight and therefore my day to be worried (Margaret's day to be excited--we've decided on this division of labor for now), this doesn't mean the polls won't be a-closin this time next week. But McCain has an awful lot of ground to make up.

I'm also looking at Florida where early voting is not favoring Democrats, although the gap between GOPer early voters--a tradition in Florida--and Democratic numbers is closer than previous elections. I did hear Chuck Todd say on Monday that Obama can lose both Ohio and Florida and still win, in a number of ways. But it does seem more likely now that we won't know which way Florida is going to go until well after the polls close there.

Okay, I'm probably going to shirk this worrying thing. I am excited. But however you are feeling, you might be interested to know that over at Dreaming Up Daily I'm going to be posting Obama music videos. There are so many good ones out there (and a lot of bad ones too--which I listened to so you won't have to) that I'll easily have one a day up to and including election day. There are a few inspirational ones but mostly I'm looking for catchy dance tunes--there are several in Spanish, a couple from Africa, some reggae, etc. We can work to elect Barack and still start the celebration.

And why not? Why should you folks in battleground states get all the fun? Like the crowd in Miami on Tuesday. Here's James Rainey in the L.A. Times: One day a few years back, the old newspaperman who sat across from me pressed a phone to his ear and scowled. The reporter on the other end of the line was reaching for an ambitious metaphor to describe a brush fire."No, no, no," he barked. "Turn around. Look up the mountain. Tell me what you see. Just tell me what you see."

I remembered those words as I sat in the press tent at Miami's Bicentennial Park, where Barack Obama appeared Tuesday evening. So I stepped outside, and this is what I saw: a sea of people stretching out to a hill 100 yards from the stage. Women waving their arms in praise. Men hollering into the balmy twilight. Children hoisted on shoulders, their cameras flashing like fireflies.In other words, a spectacle. A love-in. A happening.

.....Many have developed a deep bond with their candidate...And you could see it in Miami, in row after row of white, black and brown faces, craning to catch a glimpse of their candidate. An hour after Obama left the stage, knots of his fans still gathered under the klieg lights, chanting "Obama, Obama!"

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