Tuesday, October 28, 2008

landslide or no, we’ve got a lot of work to do

In the last 48 hours, I have received a couple of interesting emails from a friend. My friend has been a supporter of Barack Obama since early on, and she has two siblings—one who stands outside McCain-Palin rallies with a sign that says “I AM a real American,” and then posts YouTubes of the experience:

And another who sends e-mails that say things like this (reproduced verbatim and unedited):

I can give you at least 5 reasons why working class people don't want Obama elected. Never once have I heard "secret Muslim" on that list, nor "black man" on that list. Not once. Here's what I have heard:

• Obama supports making union membrship mandatory vs. optional, taking away one's freedom to decide whether one wants to join the union - and making the $500 annual dues mandatory as well. Big deal for the working class.

• He further supports taking secret ballots away from unions, making all votes known - increasing the potential for manipulation and lobbying within unions.

• He voted against funding for the Iraq war when their friends, neighbors, and colleages were serving there - directly endangering their lives.

• His tax policies make the American dream of work-hard-become-successsful that much less attainable by making the marginal tax rate after $250K up to 70% by some projections (oh, and that $250 is per household - so it's $125K for a single person. Do you think that a single person living in Manhattan or LA is so filthy rich that they should give 70% of their taxes after $125K to the ineffective US Government?)

• When you live in a working class neighborhood, you know that the biggest problem with assistance for the needy is not the lack of it, but that it goes to the wrong places (like the family who lived across from us for 2 years when we first moved here. The stayed up partying with their friends- and their baby- every night until midnight or later, had cases of beer in their trash every trash day, had the smell of pot constantly wafting from their garage accross the street. And they were on food stamps. Nice.)

I don’t post either of these to make fun of these people or try to shame them. I feel I am better informed and perhaps less afraid than the folks that shout epithets or trade in absurd rumors, but I don’t feel superior. Instead, I post this for all the ‘sphere to see because I have question: Now what?

I have to admit that I pounced on the misperceptions and outright lies in the forwarded e-mail, and I sent a point-by-point refutation, replete with links, but I also thought, if this is what this voter believes this late in the election cycle, even a close relative will probably not succeed in winning the argument—or winning another vote for Obama. After writing my comprehensive reply, I had to add, if your sib doesn’t live in a swing state, you should probably save your breath.

At this stage of the race, that might or might not be good advice, but I am pretty sure that come November 5th, I should come up with a different answer.

I will need a different answer because, rest assured, an Obama victory, no matter how large, will not put an end to the arguments, will not silence all of the doubters, will not pacify all the haters, and will not convince all of the unconvinced.

Over time, I would hope that an Obama Administration could produce results that might ease some minds and even win some converts, but I am not a Pollyanna. Not only will there be people who, for whatever reason, will never accept Obama as president—not to mention, as a successful president—there will be political interests that will work overtime exploit those people and their beliefs, laying the groundwork for the next neoconservative and/or corporatist putsch.

So, what should we do? I can think of all kinds of small-bore things that might work here or there in a specific situation with a specific person, but I want to think in broader terms. We have to live with the people in that video—and I would even like to get some of them to help with tall task of undoing the disasters of the last decade—is there anything that can be said besides “let’s just agree to disagree”. . . or “stfu”. . . or “please stfu!”?

I don’t have a lot of good answers right now, do you?

(cross-posted to Daily Kos and The Seminal)

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