Evolutionary Leaps and American Public Opinion

By Al Giordano

Nate Silver, addressing the question of What Is Obama's Ceiling?, makes, as usual, a lot of sense:

The better a candidate's standing in the polls, the harder it ought to be pick up additional support. In part, this is simply because the more voters that you have in your column, the fewer there are available to convert. But this is still a highly partisan country, we tend to have close elections, and things certainly aren't going to be any easier for a black candidate...

He then borrows an anecdote from Ben Smith:

An Obama supporter, who canvassed for the candidate in the working-class, white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, sends over an account that, in various forms, I've heard a lot in recent weeks.

"What's crazy is this," he writes. "I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are f***ing undecided. They would call him a n----r and mention how they don't know what to do because of the economy."

And draws this conclusion:

If those sorts of people are the undecideds -- and when Obama is winning Pennsylvania by 12 points or something, that's probably what we're looking at -- then Obama really is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Further gains are going to be difficult to come by, which means that his polls are more likely to go down than to continue going up. (Indeed, our model assumes that the race will tighten some).

Scientists are divided over whether the evolution of species follows a straight and plodding path or has experienced relatively sudden "leaps."

I won't wander into that debate. But I do find a 2004 experiment at the University of Texas at Austin to be possibly relevant to the 2008 elections. There, engineers and scientists forced an evolutionary leap on bacteria in a laboratory essentially by "stressing the patient." A small adjustment in amino acids, and, presto, a new mutation was born.

The current economic crisis, according to the American Psychologists Association, has stressed eight of ten Americans significantly.

And this is where race-baiters like Ron Fournier of the Associated Press have the story bass-ackwards. They're asking aloud and disingenuously so, "Is there racism in America?" I mean, like, duh: Did anybody ever claim there isn't? Their obsession - there's a CNN special on the topic on the air right now - masks a fear of the inverse: What if, suddenly, the story of this election becomes that moment in history when millions of American citizens evolved beyond fixed patterns and fears regarding race?

In the primaries, it was relatively easy to bring so many young white people and those of all ages, particularly west of the Mississippi, to their first ever primary or caucus vote for an African-American candidate for president. The Iowa caucuses, in particular, had an equal and opposite inspirational effect on the nation's African-American citizens. Most of them knew it was a very big deal.

Between the primaries and the present, other demographic groups that capitalism systematically attempts to divide among workers and the middle class - notably Hispanic Americans, and also others - have likewise moved big time into the Obama column after an initial skepticism and rejection in the primary ballots. Nobody can honestly say that tensions did not exist between Latinos and blacks, particularly in places - from gerrymandered legislative districts to schools and prisons - where the two categories of people have been forced to compete for terrain. And yet we're on the verge of a 70 percent Hispanic vote for Obama in four weeks.

Now it comes to what Silver calls "scraping the bottom of the barrel": The mineworkers and the steelworkers and other rust-belt unions have been on the front lines of the conversation, as has any Obama volunteer or field organizer up and down the Appalachian range. (Organizers in the western hills of North Carolina, for example, have told me to expect a five percent drop in the "Kerry vote" in the rural western counties based on racism, while others disagree: political consultant Gary Pearse told me, "there are not many North Carolinians that cast a vote for John Kerry that won't also vote for Obama," and the election will shortly determine which observation is more accurate.)

Major electoral prizes like Ohio may hang in the balance of this question.

The code-speak of the McCain campaign - and especially, in recent days, from its vice presidential candidate (someone who, herself, has led a life apart and segregated from African-Americans) and other surrogates - along the lines of "we don't know who Obama really is" has been a transparent attempt to invoke those heavily ingrained fears among certain sectors of the white population.

The multiple anecdotal reports of people using the N-word disparagingly but while also stating they're troubled about the economy and therefore undecided may indicate, rather than bad news, a glimpse of a possible evolutionary advance four Tuesdays from now.

The patient is being stressed, and as Dr. House or those University of Texas engineers can tell you, that process can sometimes lead to extraordinary discoveries.

What happens if the economic stresses suddenly push people, however reluctantly, into voting in their economic self-interest even if it means voting against their own racial prejudices? Well, then you're looking at an Electoral College landslide beyond even the current map and projections, and even at some unexpected states (Georgia, West Virginia or Mississippi, for example) that could surprisingly turn "blue."

(And if that leap occurs among even a relatively small number of folks in Appalachian Southwestern and Southeastern Ohio, that will definitively turn that state's 20 Electoral College votes toward Obama: that's part of the reason why Obama will be along the Kentucky border in Cincinnati and also in the town of Portsmouth - population 20,000 - tomorrow, and why he just spent three days in western North Carolina: he's stressing the patient in those strategic corners of Appalachia where the campaign's own data indicates some possible openings. That's also why you're about to see Joe Biden hit his hometown of Scranton together with the Clintons: this is the great electoral lab test, now underway.)

I'm not saying that it's going to happen (or that it has to happen for Obama to win; the math is there without having to scrape that barrel). Evolutionary leaps, if they exist, are not everyday occurrences. What I'm saying is that the patient - that racially fearful white American - is stressed and heavily so. And that's one of the objective conditions - according to at least one laboratory study - that leads to leaps in evolution and, maybe, just maybe, to mutations in the evolution of public opinion.

In the lab it took some stressed conditions plus a catalyst - some amino acids - to cause a species to evolve.

In human history, it takes stressed conditions... plus a movement.

 

Comments

I love it

Good food for thought, Al.  Reminds me of one of my favorite andecdotes from whole election.  I think it was Brendan who relayed the story of a man in IN who during the primary was asked who he would be voting for and he responded that he figured he was gonna vote for the coon.  And if that racist voted for O in the primary when he had another Democrat to chose from, I figure there will be plenty who will overlook their racism to vote in their best economic interests.  How many is the real question.  27 more days....

Best Ever

Al,

I've been reading you since February and hands down, this is my absolute favorite.  I'm without words to describe how much I enjoyed your observation of the political winds of change --taking place from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

Perfection

Great piece, Al! I've been bemoaning the "unevolved" masses lately, often feeling quite sick and despairing about the state of the country and our species. This gives me a new way to hold a bit of hope if indeed evolution can be accelerated and imposed upon us.

From the hills of western NC

Interesting theory

I had been given the book "The Tipping Point" by Malcom Gladwell as a gift about the same time Obama had that 20,000+ outdoor rally in Austin, TX before he even declared.  As I read the book and watched people reacting to Obama, it made me think that we were rapidly approaching a "tipping point" in society, and Obama was the spark to ignite it.  As Gladwell said, "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tipping_Point_(book)

It seemed like a generational shift to me (of course there are exceptions), where people Obama's age and younger were ready to start taking the reins of society, and after a lifetime of being frustrated with the way things were and hearing our parents tell us, "That's just the way it is...", decided things could be different, or Changed.

Much credit should go to Obama for recognizing where the public was and deciding to run when he did, since I'm not sure a Clinton candidacy would have sparked the movement that we have today.  It was obvious around Super Tuesday time that indeed America hit a tipping point and the floodgates were open.

Add in the economic crisis happening now, and the above theory to the tidal wave that already started, and we could very well be part of a societal evolution "for the ages."  Full steam ahead!

Another anecdote

I was talking to a friend of mine whose parents are Korean immigrants. They used to run a convenience store in DC, with all the racial tensions that entails. Nearly their entire experience with African Americans has been resentment, robbery, and other negatives.

 

She says she was completely shocked to find out that her father is voting for Obama. She never thought she'd see that happen.

Regional polling in Virginia

The last SUSA poll of Virginia, which had a breakdown by region, showed Obama tied with McCain in the "Shenandoah" region, and leading by eight or more everywhere else. I can't find a map of what that region includes, so I don't know if Charlottesville is lumped in there, but even so, it includes a lot of Appalachia.

Great post, Al

What a great connection you've made here. Will we really take that evolutionary step? We'll know soon enough. In the meantime, it's exciting just to think about it.

Wanna know how much stress? Maybe 2 Trillion Dollars.

I've been following the meltdown closely. I set up a time sensitive blog roll for all the financial sites and Poblano. Yours get a quiet placement as the post rate is less intense.

Reports are coming back that the crazy ride down to reality on Wall Street has resulted in close to two Trillion vaporized dollars from 401k plans and retirement accounts.

I'm bettin' that fits your stress definition. 2 trillion dollars of hard earned allocations from chronically underpaid people in mostly soulless sucky corporate jobs owned by piggish multinationals vaporized.

We as a nation do love our money as much as anyone, maybe too much. I have maintained for nearly 30 years, since it was invented, that 401k is a fucked up scam to dodge just paying people more and force them into a bed with the Street.

People thought I was a crank. Most of Wall Street's  growth has been those weekly or biweekly 401k allocations and you can see the volume surge on Friday's end as mutual fund managers clear their desks with the weeks cash load.

And now, all gone. The market is going to where it is supposed to be according to the historical trends of ratio between prices for a stock share and a companies earnings.

That would put the Dow at 6000. A lot more 401k's, pension funds and retirement savings are going to go because Americans have been conned since this horror began with Reagan.

"Dude.. don't put your money in a bank.. that is soo yesterday.. you can get 11 percent from the Overseas Buttrape Mutual Fund."

For most Americans their pitiful investments in these hog troughs are all they really have to call savings. The magnitude of this wipeout makes this grown man cry, even though I don't have a penny of 'exposure' to it.

So yah, even if I were an utter redneck who really believed in the myth of Race, (it's really like trying to argue the merits of a Dachsund over a Collie), and assumed that my version was bitchin', the loss of everything I busted my ass to save from insane swindlers from my own 'race' might just make me rethink the relevance of the Dachshund/Collie argument.

GOP. the Party that Wrecked America.

You've hit it on the head!

This might be exactly the reason why Obama's candidacy feels pivotal.

 

Society has its carriers of genetic information, in memes, and it evolves in similar ways. Sometimes new ideas have to be born violently and have to struggle against the immune system of society, which are its prejudices, ingrained habits and hostility to change.

 

I've been thinking this recently in terms of the differences in attitudes to universal health care between the US and Europe. At the birth of the NHS, here in the UK, public opinion was by no means all for the idea. But the Labour governemnt of 1945 had the courage to push through the reforms leading to its creation. Now, over 60 years later the NHS enjoys overwhelming support from the vast majority of the public, and no political party could call for its dissolution and hope to get elected. There is something similar embodied in the campaign of Barack Obama, his election would represent a seismic shift that would be felt all around the western world and would re-arrange our memes for decades to come. And it's in this re-arrangement, this time of uncertainty and chaos, that real change can be wrought.

 

Since I can't help directly, I'm hoping and praying that my US Field HAnd friends keep up their good work. Al - keep fire in their bellies!

more anecdotal evidence: canvassing just NE philly

I came across a woman who said she didnt like obama. When asked why she mentioned because he was black. She also mentioned that her husband is a union man and that he was 100% for Obama. She agreed that obama was the best candidate for the working man and the union but she was uncomfortable about the whole preacher thing. She didnt like the way they act in the church. My girlfriend started talking about she heard uncomfortable things in church that she didnt agree with and then we pivoted the conversation back to the economy, the bailout, and the flight of the manufacturing jobs..

In the end she said with the way the economy looks she is probably just going to "eat crow and vote for him"

 

Stunning

Wow, Al...that's amazing.  Well done.  I think there's great potential for healing in this country.  If people can overcome their racism long enough to vote for Obama, and then find out the world didn't end, it could bring about that leap of evolution you write of so eloquently.

Thanks to Tara for helping to get that video out there for us.

We are living in interesting times, people. Witness to history.

http://oxdown.firedoglake.com/diary/546#

This is about the amazing organizing you've been detailing Al, I saw the link at Ambinders to a story by Zach Exley. It's heart-warming and amazing and really makes me think we WILL win Ohio given the work these folks are doing. I'll excerpt, but you all read the whole thing.

Then go at the very least make calls from your home after work.

The Ohio campaign is attempting to build teams in 1,231 campaign-defined "neighborhoods," each covering eight to ten precincts. They are targeting virtually every inhabited square mile of the state. The campaign claimed to have teams in 65% of neighborhoods when I visited in early September. That's risen to 85% coverage at press time--and they are shooting for 100%. In contrast, the Kerry campaign effectively wrote off rural counties, and completely abandoned them in the final few weeks of the campaign in a last minute all-in shift to the cities.

It was a huge risk for the national field program to have paid staff take the time to methodically build volunteer teams instead of rushing directly to spend all their time running voter contact activities themselves. From the point of view of the conventional wisdom of much of the pre-Obama field organizing world, the campaign is actually taking two big risks: first they are risking everything on the effectiveness of masses of volunteers, then they are risking everything again by relying on volunteer teams to lead those masses. What if teams was just a bunch of hippy nonsense? What if it turned out there just weren't that many unpaid activists capable of running high-quality canvasses?

Jeremy Bird, the Ohio general election director and one of the driving forces behind making teams a national strategy, said, "We decided in terms of timeline that [our organizers] would not be measured by the amount of voter contacts they made in the summer--but instead by the number of volunteers that they were recruiting, training and testing. It was much more an infrastructure focus. So there would be no calls from Chicago saying, 'Why haven't you made more calls?!' Instead there would be calls saying, 'Where are your neighborhood team volunteers?' Or, if the numbers seemed high, 'Are they real?' It was a whole shift in mentality that was really, really good."

It is impossible to overstate how counter intuitive this slow-build approach was for Democrats. Even Regional Field Director for Southwest Ohio, Christen Linke Young--who I witnessed in 2004 pushing independently for just this strategy as an Ohio FO in Franklin County--said it was scary to take this patient approach:

"We had a whole month where, on our nightly calls with headquarters, we did not report our voter contact numbers. We only reported our leadership building. I definitely stayed on top of what our voter contact numbers looked like. But headquarters wasn't paying attention to how many voters we registered or how many doors we knocked that day--they were paying attention to how many one-on-one meetings we had, house meetings, neighborhood team leaders recruited, how many people we had convinced to come to this wonderful training in Columbus that we had. Yes, it was definitely scary to see how big our persuasion universe was and know that our first priority was not to just be tearing through that."

Excellent Post Al

I would imagine there will be those at the bottom of the barrel who pull the lever for Obama and never fess up to it.

Self Preservation is a pretty strong motivator. It's akin to there being no Atheists in a Foxhole.

another anecdote

This happened during the WI, back at the end of Feb. A rural Caucasian fellow, archetypal backwater guy in overalls about early 60s is asked who he's going to vote for. He pauses, gets a slightly embarrassed smile on his face and says, " I think I'm gonna  vote for the black boy." Peculiar how changes happen in culture and consciousness. I think both Marx and Hegel thought that changes on the ground happen, born of actual conditions, and consciousness on the societal level follows.

The wind of change

is getting stronger and stronger

 

Paul Tewes and Steve Hidebrand dispatched to FL.

they are setting shop in Miami and Tampa

The Onion

I smell an Onion headline in the making: "McCain losing Racist Vote." Hee!

 

Great post, Al. I really think the leap in the polls after the debate/bailout week was undecideds finally taking the plunge.

a win-win

If your thesis prevails, Obama not only wins handily... but evolution truly trumps creationism.

new ad

The new ad seems to be targeted at these particular voters, to reassure them

 

 

 

 

"Racism is a luxury people can no longer afford"

... as Ta-Nehisi Coates said the other day over at The Atlantic:

 

http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/let_it_come_1.php

And here is the amino acid...

Transformative Election?

In my mind this is a transformative election.

The Republicans have destroyed: Main street, Wall street, housing, health care, the military, US's reputation, and most of the economic system of the World.

FDR's New Deal lasted at least a generation, and now 25 years of Reagan's DEREGULATE - TRICKLE DOWN - THE GOVERNMENT AS ENEMY is nearing it's conclusion. 

Obama's TRANSFORMATION will last, 25 years? Hope so.

Al, CNN, and NPR

Beautiful post, Al. Very hopeful. Not only does CNN have a story; NPR, "Talk of the Nation," had over half an hour on racism and voting this afternoon. I listened to NPR during a long drive into and out of San Antonio, gripping the steering wheel in rage, not realizing such a program might have an evolutionary effect. I truly hope you're right. I felt like the one being stressed.

It might have helped if host Neil Cowan hadn't glibly referred to BO's "recent associations with Ayers," or his co-host hadn't referred to BO as a typical politician, "dull and boring," or if the 2:00 PM news hadn't referred to BO's and McLame's whereabouts today and then given a 10-20 second sound bite from the latter's speech with no equal time to our candidate's speech. Or if "All Things Considered" hadn't referred to the neck and neck race in the polls. Does no one else read Nate, Princeton Consortium, or even Pollster.com? What is going on with NPR? Did anyone else hear them this afternoon?

 

@Laura M. Poyneer

Thanks for that embedded ad, Laura, it was powerful.  I don't know if it was reading Al's post and then watching it directly after, but I now have tears running down my face.  Godammit - the number of times I have cried during this election season is totally ridiculous (and I am not a crier)!!  I think it's when I read/hear about Barack's mom - and you know what - from what I understand of her character, reading Dreams from My Father, she would have been totally optimistic about the evolutionary change Al is suggesting.

KD

Talk of the Nation

 

Elizabeth - let them know your thoughts.  I missed today's show.

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@ Elizabeth 6:33

I heard the promos for the show and thought immediately of what Al and the Fieldhands would make of it.  I didn't get chance to listen but your report tells me it was exactly what I feared it would be.  What happened to NPR?  They sold out, plain and simple.  I find myself turning them off in disgust more often than not and it has been years since I have donated money. 

Al, wonder why (though we

Al, wonder why (though we have butted heads, sometimes vituperatively) I keep coming back?  This essay exemplifies why--you are on the cutting edge of political/social thinking, in a very vibrant and dynamic way.   Nice job.  Combinging socio-evolutionary thought with the conundrum of race in US politics is an example of an evolutionary leap in political writing and analysis.

Brilliant.  What you said here is very close to my nascent thoughts on the matter.

Congratulations, nice job.

I will not sleep soundly until Mississippi turns light-blue.

However, my hunch--taking geographical ideas into consideration--is that West Virginia will turn blue before Alabama, Mississippie, and Texas.

Some of the stresses are caused by the ideological extremism that is entailed in the extremist ideology of the US rightwing: tax breaks for the wealthy, massive debt foisted on future generations, and barbaric austerity at home.  The decline of wages and living standards, the decay and fraying of infrastructure, ect.

Simply put, the rightwing Republican ideology is so extreme that to vote for it would be to condone one's own enslavement and impoverishment.

Your thinking points toward an analysis that will comprise the cusp of the progressive evolutionary leap that we are seeing develop in front of our own eyes at this moment.

Nice.   The metaphors you are employing are in every way part of the resurgence that is developing.

Of course, in today's "Palientology", this line of thinking would not be welcomed.   There was a day when humans and dinasours roamed the earth together--until Eve fucked that paradise up by wanting to think.  Even in the creationist narrative, Eve was no Pailin pseudo-feminist.

 

 

 

 

 

Uuh, NPR has a gun to its head.

W's FCC commissioner, another crony hack like Paulson or 'Heckuvajob Brownie' has repeatedly threatened that pitiful middle mind version of news.

What is 'middle mind', you ask. Why those are the well intentioned if clueless sorts that agonize about oil drilling in Alaska wilderness while buying the SUV they hoped to use to drive there, somehow oblivious to the likliehood that their SUV purchase may well be a factor in dooming the tundra.

The NPR employees want to keep their jobs and the assumed prestige the job implies and like nearly every other overpaid mainstream mnedia shill, they have been skating on the thin ice of the obvious and horrible hoping their more recondite sugar coating of viciousness and catastrophe will be more palatable than the naked foul version one might find at Fawks or ABC.

Let me know when they hire Al and I'll actually pay them some mind. Til then, can you say infotainment and utter cowardly crap? Knew you could.

 

 

 

I've been assuming all along

I've been assuming all along that McCain will indeed benefit from the racist vote, but I'm also betting that those numbers will be more than offset by enhanced turnout among minorities and youth for Obama.  Also, there are plenty of Republicans who are not happy with the McCain/Palin ticket, and will just stay home.

Jean and Elizabeth--my habit

Jean and Elizabeth--my habit is to download Democracy Now and programs from Pacifica's KPFA, however, I do frequently listen to NPR.

These are fake journalists--and, though they are liberals,they try to keep in the middle of the road.  However, their desire to create false symmetry and 'balance' compells them to lean to the right when it comes to seeking out opinions.  Their revenue model ensure that they will carry water for the status quo of corporate domination.

Their demographic are the upper middle classes and the liberal upper ten percent.   The managerial class are their audience.  They work with WP and NYT in developing what they consider timely content.

NPR was horrible on Iraq, and it still is.  Al can testify to their horrid role as propagandists in Latin America.

While there are a few worthwhile programs on NPR, none of their programming concerning domestic or international politics is worth a crap--they simply reinforce State Department conventional wisdom.

Which ever wing of the corporate ruling class is in power, they will do swell.

I give money to Pacifica, community radio, and folks like Narco News--I will never give NPR a dime.  The internet frees me from having to swallow NPR's center-right, pro-corporate propaganda as my only alternative.

All the above said--yes, I admit it, NPR is a degree better than corporate media, but not by much.

NPR is state propaganda that is ingeniously funded by its victims.  Like shopping at Walmart when your poor works toward reinforcing one's impoverishment, giving creedence to NPR's reporting will work to strenghten the corporate hegemony and decrease the democratic potential of our society in general.

Thankfully most of us have alternatives through which to weaken the corporate model of information/propaganda flows.

(My antipathy toward NPR is virulent--when one considers the grotesque disinformation that is employed on the side of tyranny and imperialism with reporting coming from the Americas and the Middle East.   NPR is pathological and cynical. Period.  The historical record backs this assement up, big time.)

 

 

 

Amazing clip of Donna Brazile .... and apropo to Al's piece

NPR = CNN on the radio

Here's a good report (albeit dated in 2004) on NPR titled, "How Public is Public Radio?"

"At least 83 percent of journalists appearing on NPR in June 2003 were employed by commercial U.S. media outlets, many at outlets famous for influencing news- room agendas throughout the country (16 from the New York Times alone, and another seven from the Washington Post ). Only five sources came from independent news outlets like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the National Catholic Reporter ."

And, 

" Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR , and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources—including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants—Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent). A majority of Republican sources when the GOP controls the White House and Congress may not be surprising, but Republicans held a similar though slightly smaller edge (57 percent to 42 percent) in 1993, when Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress..."

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1180

 

I think of the 1992 election

I think of the 1992 election of Carol Moseley Braun to the US Sentate from Illinois.  I believe she won but about 10% or so.  I remember a commentator saying there are a lot of white males in suburban Chicago and downstate asking themselves 'did we just vote for a black woman from Chicago?'

 

She later went on to lose re-election (not by much considering some of the poor political choices she made and some scandals she got caught up in) but my point is I tend to side with the catastrophe theorists.

1992 saw a lot of men voting for women for the first time.  It was won of those years were there was a break of sorts.  Suddenly seeing a woman in a position of power didn't seem so bizarre even to men that otherwise might be considered patriarchal or sexist.

Stress

Great post, and many great comments.

 

I agree with your premise, but would like to present a counterpoint (one I very much hope does not come to pass).

 

Periods of stress are also times of exctinction, of fear. Periods of stress are times when Dictators come to power, and are welcomed by the people.

 

We've been living this through the 2000's - 9/11 was the amino acid, and the Bush admin kept the stress conditions at maximum. They used this stress to roll back freedoms, gather riches, and attempt to set up a decades long regime.

 

The stresses of the 1930's can explain the evil that rose in the period. We are entering a period of perhaps equal stress -- and we have the McCain campaign exactly stoking the flames of fascism that lead to mass movments of fear and hate. Truly, we are on the cusp.

 

I pray the people -- the community organizers, the people canvassing, calling, donating, talking -- I pray our hope emerges through this "experiment". Evolution, after all, is often not pretty.

catalyst

The night before hosting about 2 dozen folks at my farm for an Obama meetup back in July, a neighbor dropped by to have a chat. I live in rural Alabama and this guy is off the deep-end on the redneck stereotype chart. The word was out, apparently, that I was having a "political rally" for that Obama, and didn't I know that folks 'round here don't take kindly to n.....? Well, I explained that I think our government needs a change, and I just wanted to meet other folks in the area who felt the same. He ended up saying "damned if you do, damned if you don't", about our political choices. On his way out he kindly extended his fist for pounding - not a common greeting 'round here.

At the meetup the next day, a black family came by - turns out the mom is a co-worker with my mom at the local college library. Their little girl was very shy, but eventually got the courage to hold my hand as we walked over to the chicken coop and I let her feed and pet the hens. She was delighted - and her mom called me later that week to say that her daughter just couldn't quit talking about that day. Gave me the warm and fuzzies.

off topic

Al, a popular language blog caught your use of the word "swingest" to describe Ohio. I would have said "swingiest" myself but this does not even merit a mention in that post, LOL.

Al, I think you have made a

Al,

I think you have made a really powerful point.  What we are seeing is the collison between two strong forces, racial fear and an economic collapse.

I think you are going to see a decent number of people on election day who walking into that booth hating/fearing black people, pull the lever for Obama and then walk out STILL hating/fearing black people.

For a while now, McCain has tried to turn Obama into the Boogeyman, but in his own way McCain is FAR scarier then Obama ever could be.

I think people see that.  Nov. 4 is going to be real interesting

Very insightful post, Al. I

Very insightful post, Al. I have felt all along that there was something just--right--about the way Obama has been going about things. Part of it is that he's very smart and understands how to organize people and count votes. But I think those who accused him of not being "black enough" were wrong.

When you're asking people to take a chance on you, guilt doesn't work. I entered the workforce in the 1970s, when women were just beginning to break out of the secretary-teacher-beautician-nurse sterotype. (Not that those aren't good and necessary professions.) Computers were still pretty new then; I saw an opportunity and learned how to program them. I supported the women's movement, of course, but was very low key about it in the workplace. I decided early on never to complain about unfairness--and there was a lot of it back then--but instead to simply show people what I could do.

I was convinced that was the way to change minds. When I overheard an older fellow saying, "I never thought a woman could be a good manager, but that little gal who does the computers is pretty darn smart," I knew I was making headway. When the guys seemed to think I should be the one to make coffee, I just smiled and said, "Here, let me show you how to do this--we can take turns."

Obama doesn't talk about race much. It's there, but he's not the one who's going to make an issue of it. He just talks sense, organizes, sticks to his plan, uses his rhetorical skills, and... believes it's possible for a black man to be elected president. The rest of us are starting to believe it too. It's votes that matter, not patronizing words. Those are a way station to a more open way of thinking.

(I don't mean to suggest any equivalency between the experience of white women and black Americans, only to share something I believed worked to change minds.)

This is a historic moment, and for all the trouble I see out there on the horizon, I have to admit... I know hope.

re green alien martians

dumb racist lower class voters are not undecided, they are in the McCain column. rich or retiring republicans that are not dumb are there to be picked. either undecided or Republicans. the fear in the financial markets trumps all else. with the VIX signalling panic in the market these people will vote for a green martian if it would stop the bleeding. that is why Obama is now even in the 60+ demographic when he was - 16 a few weeks back. that is the move in old states like FL and PA. he has lots of room to improve.

Just look at the way the numbers have tightened in West Virginia

Looking at the way West Virginia has gotten within single digits of late, a friend made a sage observation:  "People like having paychecks more than they fear people with different skin color."

Shock doctrine?

 

But I do find a 2004 experiment at the University of Texas at Austin to be possibly relevant to the 2008 elections. There, engineers and scientists forced an evolutionary leap on bacteria in a laboratory essentially by "stressing the patient." A small adjustment in amino acids, and, presto, a new mutation was born.

 

The current economic crisis, according to the American Psychologists Association, has stressed eight of ten Americans significantly.

 

Isn't this a sort of like The Shock Doctrine? Or, better said, a population of voters that has developed or is developing a certain amount of immunity, anti-bodies if you like, against this treatment as a result of 9/11, Iraq and Katrina?

@Karen Desmond

 I am right there with you. I am not a crier either.  I have cried this year over our future and this movement more than I care to admit. Mostly tears of joy, one exception, the night of the PA primary. Pure sadness that night.

Tears of joy like I have never experienced before too, the night we won the primary, & the night Barack accepted the nomination.

 I think of the tears of joy, hope and peace on November 4th in late evening when we get back on a track to those things. That's when the real sacrifices for my country will make sense.

Pretty sublime! Living in

Pretty sublime!

Living in Tennessee is not easy. Racism here has always functioned like a nasty bacteria. Hidden in the school nurse's office, lurking in the jails. You literally think you're talking to a normal person, and then they say something that makes you want to flinch. (like when someone coughs in your personal space.) It's real in this red state.

But I swear I see the mutation happening. We have a religious red neck right down the street with an Obama sign I swear to god! What is so wonderful about this theory is that Palin's behavior works right into the analysis. In addition to the economic disaster, she, the lightning rod for contempt, is stressing the patient too. I'm not kidding, here in Tennessee, I'm hearing unexpected people say she's crazy. As Biden is pointing out, she's invoking violence. Of course McCain's agitated performance last night fits nicely too doesn't it? He was hostile. Pacing, not sitting, name calling and refusing to shake hands. Stressing the collective conscious patient.

I'm working on a project to restore some voter rights for felons with another Tennessee fieldhand, and also very good friend. The guy I've been trying to help has an outlook that is absolutely undaunted. I'm not even sure I can restore his rights due to a provision in the rules. No matter, he is driven by the catalyst Obama has presented us with. He is resolute to educate others about restoration and fast. I talked to a homeless man at a demonstration last week. He's driven too. He used my phone to call his cousin. He is motivated to return home and straighten out his affairs. The racially fearful are agitated, the disenfranchised are awake. I can feel this evolutionary leap occurring, and it is enlightenment. We are starting to stand upright, and public opinion shows it.

 

As an ultimate stress to the "patient", I think Obama

should empty his vast coffers and buy out 15 minutes of the prime time teevee, including fox news and other RW stations, on 3rd November night and address the nation about where the US is now economically, how it got there and who got it there.

That would be money well-spent and that last minute shock would force the knuckle-draggers, the dead-enders and the so-called undecideds (sheesh...) to think before they pull the lever next day.

amk

Steven H

 Glad your still around , I love it when you are brilliant. Tonight you were.

Don't let my comment go to your head, your still overly-wordy in a 'Noam Chomsky libertarian socialist' meme-- just saying,' and saying it with lots of love.

Christi

Al Giordano- Tonight my 29 y/o Son read your blog for the first time; he read your wikipedia too, I think you have a new fieldhand. Lovin it? You betcha!

His words: "This guy is really smart". 

He identified his close circle of friends as to how they were voting. Results: 5 Obama, 2 McCain.

Update: Pam Hilliard Owens, my son, our newest fieldhand is about to become a english teacher-moving to WA state, I am on him to give me free lessons, via online here :-)

 

 

 

Francis Fukiyama voices similar thoughts in Newsweek

Francis Fukiyama is one of the neo-con intellectuals that helped frame the Bush years and American Empire beginning with his "End of History" prediction upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union. We could all look forward to nothing but Reagan/Thatcher capitalism taking over the world forever and all competing models were dead and gone. He has since been trying to distance himself from the socio/economic results of his ideology.

In the October 13, 2008 issue of Newsweek Fukiyama voices similar opinions to Al's thoughts of a quantum or evolutionary leap in political consciousness with election 2008. He's still right wing and "trying to restore faith in our brand", but this bit is interesting.

The Fall of America, Inc.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/162401

All this suggests that the Reagan era should have ended some time ago. It didn't partly because the Democratic Party failed to come up with convincing candidates and arguments, but also because of a particular aspect of America that makes our country very different from Europe. There, less-educated, working-class citizens vote reliably for socialist, communist and other left-learning parties, based on their economic interests. In the United States, they can swing either left or right. They were part of Roosevelt's grand Democratic coalition during the New Deal, a coalition that held through Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in the 1960s. But they started voting Republican during the Nixon and Reagan years, swung to Clinton in the 1990s, and returned to the Republican fold under George W. Bush. When they vote Republican, it's because cultural issues like religion, patriotism, family values and gun ownership trump economic ones.

This group of voters will decide November's election, not least because of their concentration in a handful of swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Will they tilt toward the more distant, Harvard-educated Obama, who more accurately reflects their economic interests? Or will they stick with people they can better identify with, like McCain and Sarah Palin? It took an economic crisis of massive proportions from 1929 to 1931 to bring a Democratic administration to power. Polls indicate we may have arrived again at that point in October 2008.

Speaking of stress

I have no one to call right now, don't want to freak out my mom [who's getting stalker-esque, politically-motivated calls herself right now], sister or husband [who has to be with his sick mom 45 minutes away], so gonna put it on you guys.  I just experienced that "stressing" of the electorate first hand.  Or, not so much the stress of the economic crisis as the avenue to vent it that the McCain/Palin camp and those cooperating in the media, etc have given those with prejudices.  I live in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in the bluest city in the bluest state and yet a group of young guys walking past my house just now thought it was perfectly fine to rip my Obama sign out of the ground and dump my recycling out all over my front walk and lawn.  At 10:30pm, on a well-lit, really busy street, making all kinds of noise, then sauntering along on their merry way.  They ripped my neighbors sign off it's framing too, while leaving everyone else's recycling alone so I know it was all about this election.  I wondered when allowing hate-filled words would lead to actions.  I saw about the guy in London who was shot for wearing an Obama shirt.  So, this is nowhere on that magnitude, but I know I feel scared sitting here right now.  I called 911 & just asked that a patrol car chat to these guys & scare them out of vandalizing any other properties [again, they were taking their time, so shouldn't be hard for them to catch up to them].  But what if it's not too hard for them to figure out which house called the cops?  I've got my two babies in this house.  Why should the death throws of "the powers that be" lead to my being scared for the physical safety of my children asleep in their beds?

A gift from Lord Keynes. Sleep you well.

Keynes affirmed the central role of liberal ethics in economics -- and urged the progressive archbishop to speak out forcefully on issues of economic and social justice. This was, after all, an economist who, on a different occasion, had said modern capitalism was "absolutely irreligious, and without internal union, without much public spirit, often, though not always, a mere congeries of possessors and pursuers," and who cursed "the hag-ridden" worship of "the money-motive."

"Keynes instead foresaw a time when "the love of money as a possession -- as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -- will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease."

Keynes was just as unambiguous about the role we could expect of conservatives in helping reach such a world: "Conservatism leads nowhere; it satisfies no ideal; it conforms to no intellectual standard; it is not even safe, or calculated to preserve from spoilers that degree of civilisation which we have already attained."

Moreover, he left no doubt about how their resistance to liberal reforms ought to be addressed. "There is no reason," he wrote, "why we should not feel ourselves free to be bold, to be open, to experiment, to take action, to try the possibility of things. And over against us, standing in the path, there is nothing but a few old gentlemen tightly buttoned up in their frock coats, who only need to be treated with a little friendly disrespect and bowled over like ninepins."

Gov. Easley on Rachel Maddow

Easley told Rachel that he anticipates a "reverse Bradley effect."  He cited his barber, who listens to the people in his chair every day, as telling him that there are a lot of North Carolinians who won't wear Obama buttons or tell the world they support him, but will quietly slip in to the voting booth and cast their ballots for Obama.

This is exactly what I have been telling my own dear Chicken Little, my husband Norberto.

Josselyn, you did the right thing.  Intervention with these young hooligans NOW by the police will scare them into modifying their behavior, which left unaddressed, would possibly have escalated into something you should rightly fear.  You are not the one who did wrong.  Let those who violated your private property be the ones to fill their pants while facing the glare of a patrolman's spotlight.

Josselyn

 Stand tall and firm with a cell phone in hand, Enough!!!!! Don't be afraid, they are the cowards and hopefully the law of the land will prevail.

 

And for all of us, working in NV,

"... In Nevada, another Republican state that Obama is trying to move into the Democratic column, Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 80,000, according to figures posted by the state in September, before the voter registration deadline last Saturday. Four years ago, Republicans held a registration edge of 4,431."  Here is the link

Veeeerry Interesting...

Just before I came home and read this post, I had an identical conversation with one of my neighbors. We live in Western North Carolina, Appalachia central. This particular gentleman is a member in good standing of the one of the older families here. Solid citizen, would fit into the 'good ole boy' stereotype. He's not rich by any means, but works hard, solid churchgoer and is a 'yellow dog democrat' to the core

Several weeks ago, he told me, and this is a direct quote, that "it won't be a proud day in my life, but I'm going to have to vote for a black man". Today, he told me that he felt strongly that Obama would do fine around here - that a lot of people wouldn't admit they were going to vote for him, but times were getting too bad for them not to. They'd go in, vote for Obama in secret, but never admit they had done it.

So not twenty mins after that conversation I see Al has come to the same conclusion. I think he may be right..

 

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About Al Giordano

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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