Sunday, May 4, 08
David James here:
9:30AM South Bend ObamaMamas had a rally and pray-in at Century Center. I did sound and sang four songs: Living in the Love of the Common People, Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Freedom, Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round, and One Man's Hands. Photos are
11:00AM After driving to the Grape Road Gurly Leep dealership for our Freedom Summer car wash fund-raising event and finding no one there, I called Lysa and, naturally, found out I was at the wrong dealership. It was at the one on Ireland. No great loss! Only took me a few minutes to find them. We enthusiastically washed cars until 3PM, and slowly began to shiver as the temperature dropped. Photos are HERE.
3:30PM I checked in at Obama HQ substation at 111 W. Wayne, then went over to the area around Miami and Fairview streets on South Bend's S.E. side, with more experienced local volunteer named Steve. This was to be my first door-knocking for Obama experience. We canvassed from a list provided at HQ by Anuj Gupta, a mighty hard-working young man who always seems to be there, the list centering on registered voters in that area, about three blocks N/S by six E/W. It was already chilly and I was under-dressed with only a light sweater. Burr. We knocked on a few doors together as my "training," with him doing the talking, then I did the talking on a couple so he could critique. He was cleverer than I, at first, at drawing out the views of the people. The idea was to get them talking and listen yourself, to get a feel for why the person was supporting one or another party and candidate, then steer the conversation to why the person should be supporting Obama, or what he or she could do if already an Obama supporter. Next we started divvying up the odd and even sides of the street. It was getting colder and starting misty rain.
This was interesting because it was a white area by and large, with poorer people west of Miami and clearly more well-off people east of Miami. At the house of the only Black family I encountered the woman was very cagey, wary, and dismissed me closing the door quickly. The thought struck me that she could have thought me some kind of a spy. ? We received many interesting responses. Occasionally Steve would join me when I was having a lengthy conversation, and I might do the same when I saw him engaging someone.
Despite the blowing chilly wind, the increasing misty rain, and the fact that I had to "wee" pretty bad, I seriously got into our job. People wanted to talk. I was delighted; even though some weren't for my guy they would still talk to me. Were they impressed because we were out in the rain and cold?
(I've gone out to the back yard to finish this. I have a wireless "AirPort Extreme" in the house, and it's a beautifu day outside. I'm under a 12-year-old Red Bud tree in the back yard that's in full flower, occasionally watching some very large bees solicit pollen from the pink blossoms.)
A county policeman surprised me. He looked like your skinhead type: closed cropped, body-builder, tattoo or two. Boy was I surprised when he professed for Obama; goes to show me not to pre-judge. He was mad about gas prices, about the oil companies making all that money, and he kept up on the issues, and knew that Obama had come out the day before with the idea that the oil companies should pay the gas tax instead of the consumer. That was a good talking point for us at more than one house. I took my cue and brought up the issue from the presence of an SUV, or conversely a car clearly bought for gas mileage.
One fellow came out for McCain. Despite living in poorer circumstances he believed he was going to be rich some day, and disliked the idea of somebody taxing his future economic bedfellows. Now, mind you, this cat looked and talked in no way headed for the upper crust, but by by heavens he might strike it rich soon and didn't want any candidate who might be laying for him when he reached the grail of American free enterprise--my words, but that was where he was coming from. By God you never know, but it looked to us more likely he would be struck by lightning in a sea-going yacht than. . .
Two thirty-something sisters, on the (I'll call it) "rich" side of Miami looked at me as if I was crazy. They are, of course, right, but not for the reason they were looking at me. They were for Hillary, and isn't it obvious that two girls like us should be? One house on the (I'll call it) "poor" side had a Hillary yard sign. This has not been a "yard sign" primary battle. I have gleaned that maybe the long-term planning of both the Democratic candidates did not contemplate such an intense battle at this late stage of the primary. Yard signs seem to be scarce as hen's teeth, and a few weeks ago when I dropped into Obama HQ for a yard sign and button I felt like I had to make phone calls for two hours--which I did--in order to be granted access to them; and two enthusiastic forty-ish Black women who came in later were told they were out of signs temporarily. Fergodssake I had gotten the last yard sign of the ¿day?
Hillary seems to be counting more on the personal appearance tactic for votes. She was in town again today, this is her fourth, I think, appearance in the South Bend/Mishawaka area in the last two weeks. If personal appearances will get her a win she's 'way ahead of Obama, at least locally. We'll see on that one. Obama? He seems 'way ahead on volunteers. Steve and I detected that there had been other Obama volunteers in the 1st precinct ahead of us. Obama HQ has very insistently called and Emailed me about getting out, and followed up my promises with reminder calls. Last Thursday I was on my way to Chicago and got a "who do you support" call from Obama HQ in South Bend. Turned out the caller was a man from Chicago, a reverend from Garrett Semenary at Northwestern U named Ken Vaux. We had a nice chat, and I alerted him to the Mama/Obama rally yesterday. He showed up, and proved to be a high-status guest who, invited to speak, and gave a tub-thumper for Obama. Score one fer auld Davey. Anyway, back to the task at hand, I was told at the West Side Democratic club that they had sent out over a hudred volunteers Saturday from that location alone. So if volunteer presence on the street will win it, Obama has it hands down.
For those readers who may be out-of-towners or just unfamiliar with local politics, the West Side Democratic Club is an amazing place. It's been on the very old west side, on Ford Street "over the tracks," forever, and I mean forever, as in maybe prelapsarian, or at least pre-WWII. That area was a very old Polish and Hungarian stronghold before it became a Black stronghold, before it began turning into a Chicano stronghold; names like Poland Street and Kosciusko Street; it's the place to be on Dingus Day (look that one up; I'll not go there today). Walk in, you smell Polish sausage, one of my pre-heart-attack loves, and beer. Robert F. Kennedy came there in 1968; Obama came there last month. I don't know why Hillary has not been there; it seems like her kind of place; but maybe I'm getting some things wrong this election; wouldn't be the first time.
18 year-old on the richer side of Miami, having a cigarette in the garage, wanted to talk, was Demo but undecided. He very much appreciated our attention--we talked to him for about fifteen minutes, so if that counts we scored one for our side. He was a first-time voter and seemed worried about his future. Many at houses where we had conversations were clearly engaged with this election and the issues, whomever they supported. We only got one or two "not interested" replies.
Odd, though, but west of Miami, on the richer side, there were three or four houses in a row that were Ron Paul junkies. I thought only the John Birch Society was left on his side--I mean, right on his side--these days, but no, there was some serious affection for him on Victoria Street here in South Bend. I rather like yer average Ron Paul supporter. Nice to see there's a bit of "Don't Tread On Me" sentiment left among the "sout side" folks, a bit of sentiment for the auld "lost cause." And if ever there was a lost cause. . . These people sometimes turn into "Obamicans;" hell, I'll take 'em.
Steve and I were gratified by the frequency of Obama support down there. I'm surprised that there are still such people as "undecideds" left in Indiana. I can see many people's reasoning for supporting both Democratic candidates, and also Ron Paul and John McCain. I've become more tolerant in my ancient age, albeit more perplexed at the middle and lower economic class support for the Republicans. These people are either hornswoggled by the Repub propaganda or really believe in some torturous reasonings.
We did run into one rabid Rev. Jeremiah Wright hater. We were yacking a bit--or rather, he was excoriating away while I was trying to get in a word edgewise--when Steve ambled up and got right in his face. Wow! I wouldn't have been surprised if this guy threw us right off his porch, but I think he needed us yesterday as objects on whom to let off steam. Anyway, that was one seriously pointless conversation. This guy was having nothing to do with Barack Obama and that "racist Jeremiah Wright." This whole tempest is depressing me. I'm afraid Obama may have lost some votes in Indiana from it. I'm surprised at the reactions of some of the more sensible Black columnists--my man Leonard Pitts whom I very much respect used words today like "clownishness," and "arrogance." Me, I have those very tendencies sometimes, and I got the feeling as I watched Wright at the National Press Club that he was very fed up with white people these days and was mocking people who criticized him when they had no idea what he was really about. Sort of like people in my auld day who criticized Abbie Hoffman, who did not or were not prepared to understand him. [By the way, he was an early-on SNCC activist, and his later attempt in '67 along with 50,000 others to levitate and make turn orange the Pentagon earned my undying affection. He also, while on a tour of the New York Stock Exchange, threw fists fulls of dollars--mostly fake--over the observation platform and mocked while those on the trading floor went scrambling for them. The platform was fitted with bullet-proof glass after that one. I loved it!]
8:10PM Enough of this! I should be writing papers and doing serious stuff.
See you next time.