He laughed in my face when he heard that I care about politics

We have an enemy besides McCain and the Republicans, and it's not Barr or Nader.  

I work facilities for a major financial institution, taking calls from advisors and their staffs who are too hot or too cold, have spilled something, broke their desks, or the like.  Most mornings I take my break with some of the furniture guys; they're decent folks: blue collar fellas who are wary of politicians.

This year, though, things inevitably turn to politics, because it seems like it's all anyone ever talks about.  An older guy I sit with has seemed to be in favor of Obama, but I suspect that he just wanted him to knock off Clinton; the race issue quietly makes a difference to him and he sometimes gets his news from FOX.  We're all pretty respectful, for the most part, though, and don't let disagreements get in the way of our friendship or work.

Which brings us to today.  Today the manager of the furniture team was there, which is unusual.  He doesn't usually take breaks with the plebians.  When politics eventually came up, he was going on and on about how all politicians are crooks and liars who had no conception of the troubles of the average person, and that included Obama.  I said that that my research suggested otherwise and I wanted Obama to win, he laughed in my face, said, "I'm really sorry," and walked away.

I was left sitting there dumbfounded, barely managing an angry "I'm sorry for having beliefs" as he walked off.  The other guys sighed and said that was what they had to deal with every day.  I was surprised that the guy was so disrespectful; this is a person I have worked with steadily (mostly over the phone) for four years.

The older gentleman I mentioned before had suggested that last night's infomercial was a "victory lap," and while I didn't see it (I was out doorknocking to Get Out The Vote for Obama and Franken), I also know that Obama does not consider this a done deal; he'll do the victory lap when all the votes are in, he has more electoral votes, and the Supreme Court doesn't have to get involved.  Our disagreement on that was terse but respectful, and we both backed off... the manager, though, went off on a rant about how the fact that Cindy McCain wore a $300,000 outfit the other day means that neither Obama nor McCain have a clue about the middle class, or will follow through on any of their promises.

I get where he's coming from.  I really do.  I have believed in the past that the Democrat running for president was the lesser of two evils and that they'd probably just be a better manager of Ronald Reagan's ideals than the Republican alternative.  What I don't get is how someone could emit such disdain and disrespect for someone with beliefs trying to make a positive difference.  Though I am not religious, I don't try to second-guess the motives of missionaries bringing food and education to Third World peoples; I only criticize them when their actions betray some other motive (like demonizing native religion).

How large is the segment of society that is so cynical and broken from years of the status quo and things only ever getting worse that they heap derision and scorn upon anyone who would work for an ideal of improvement for all people?  

One of the people I canvassed last night was an old lady, possibly a McCain supporter, who told me, "The only right we have left is the right not to tell anyone who we're voting for." I agree that it's a fundamental right, and is one of the reasons I don't like phonebanking or canvassing: people need to make their own decisions.  If the straits weren't dire, then I'd never do it.  What the woman's statement really told me, however, was that many people see their canoe as sinking down to the water line; they resent anyone rocking the boat, lest it upturn and do down completely.

I have a favorite saying, "We're playing for all the marbles." When we're not only going up against the Republican smear machine, but also indifference and apathy painstakingly crafted by years of politicians on both sides of the aisle making false promises and letting their idealism get blunted by the mundane need of getting re-elected, then we need to redouble our efforts and get out the vote as strongly as we can.  

What a lot of these older, cynical people don't realize is that we're in the dawn of a new internet age.  Politicians who have fed on apathy and expedience, too, don't understand this "series of tubes" that can be used to disseminate all sorts of information--What you say in front of the NRA this week can be seen by people in the PTA you'll be talking to next week.  Yes, it can be used to spread lies as well as truth, but I think Obama's proven that the lies don't stick as well as the truth does.

What we need to do is to take matters into our own hands and hold our media, our politicians, and ourselves accountable.  We can make a difference.  If an ex-slave could make a difference in the 19th century, then we, born free men and women living in the 21st century, what can we achieve?

Master Lincoln, he's a great man, and I am a poor negro; but the negro can tell master Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the negro free. Suppose that was an awful big snake down there, on the floor. He bite you. Folks all scared, because you die. You send for a doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolled up there, and while the doctor doing it, he bite you again. The doctor dug out that bite; but while the doctor doing it, the snake, he spring up and bite you again; so he keep doing it, till you kill him. That's what master Lincoln ought to know.

Harriet Tubman was speaking of the slaver states, of course, but her point holds true today: we can patch our wounds every time we get hit, but we're just going to keep getting hit until we start believing that we can make a difference ourselves.

So I'm going to be taking the hits with a little dignity.  It's not long now.  Ms. Tubman said something else, which we remember with a little help from Hillary Clinton:

No matter what happens... keep going.

When you hear the dogs in the distance.... keep going.

When you see the lit torches nearby.... keep going.

When voices are calling out behind you in the dark....  keep going!

This is ours.  Keep going.  Push.  Vote.

Tags: GOTV, Harriet Tubman, personal story, volunteering (all tags)

Comments

24 Comments

It's shaping up to be a bad day

I'm going to take responsibility and try and make it a good day.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: He laughed in my face

I've made this argument since last summer (2007) that the real Progressive agenda that Obama brings to the table is getting people interested in government again.  It was very easy during Reagan, Bush Sr., Clinton, and especially Bush Jr. to feel like the whole thing was a self-perpetuating tragicom that followed no rules and responded to no outside pressure.  It didn't really matter what any of us thought.  I think the Bush Jr. years took this to a whole new level, but it has been there for a very long time.

Making people feel this way is a political strategy that generally favors a center-right status quo.  After all, if politics (and by extension government) is completely run by crooks and liars, why even try to understand it?  Why waste your time looking at the details of, say, Welfare Reform, the Iraq War (either one), the FISA legislation, the Bailout.  And, if that's your honest belief, then who cares about public service or the functioning of critical government agencies?  Maybe FEMA never worked anyhow.  And, finally, why should any of us pay taxes?  I don't want my money going to Colombian death squads.

What Obama brings to the table is a crapload of interest in the government and how it works.  He brings with him voters who, maybe for the first time in a generation, are excited about a politician and think that the government could be made to work.  This is critically important because when people pay attention to politics, it's harder for politicians to pull one over on them.  It'll still happen, but there will be a mitigating force.

by the mollusk 2008-10-30 09:22AM | 0 recs
What drives me nuts:

Democratic politicians have been too lazy to even try to get people invovled on a large scale.  Granted, the tools to make it widely possible weren't always there before the internet, but that's no excuse.

Letting people not care is a key to Democratic failure.  No investment means that people have no reason to put their money where their mouth is.  The people that do have an investment are the people that directly benefit from a Republican presidency.  They vote.

Obama understands this and is finally using it to make a difference.  All the same?  All crooks and liars?  I think not.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: What drives me nuts:

Two things-

First, John Kerry, as much as I liked him, just didn't inspire people.  Al Gore was similar in 2000.  The Al Gore of 2008 simply didn't exist in 2000.

Second, I wouldn't automatically assume that the Democrats were 100% committed to getting new voters interested and excited.  It was exceedingly difficult to tell what the Democrats stood for from 1998-2005.  I don't think this was entirely an accident.

by the mollusk 2008-10-30 09:55AM | 0 recs
Yeah I get it

I know Democrats didn't necessarally want it; I'm just saying that it's like poor folks voting Republican... they're going against their own interests in doing so.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: He laughed in my face

You have to remember that although many people have enthusiasm and energy and want to get involved in running their government, many people do not.  They are busy.  They don't care about transparency or being part of a movement or any of that, they just want government to be responsive to their needs and they get frustrated when it isn't.

I wrote this diary during the primary in which I tried to explain the worldviews of these two groups of people and articulate why not everyone is looking to become actively engaged.  Just because Obama gets elected doesn't mean the entire electorate has moved into a single category.

by Steve M 2008-10-30 10:16AM | 0 recs
True

Just because Obama gets elected doesn't mean the entire electorate has moved into a single category.

But it does mean that enough of the electorate was.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: True

Enough to do what?  Is the election of Obama a means, or an end?

by Steve M 2008-10-30 12:27PM | 0 recs
Right now it's an end

But it's part of the means to a larger end.

Not everything is going to be roses and peanut butter once Obama becomes President; we have a long, difficult road ahead and having an ally in the White House is just the next step.

We need to keep involved, and I think that a President Obama would continue to use his e-mail lists to talk directly to the public about his initiatives.  Hopefully we can avoid apathy.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: True

No. It just means enough people voted for Obama rather than McCain.

If you care about politics, you're going to have to accept that other people just don't care, and never will. And this isn't some sort of skepticism reserved for "older" people. Politics is sort of like religion this way -- convincing the non-believers that they MUST believe is never going to work. For many people, the government they don't have to think about is exactly the government they want, and it's not because they are stupid or lazy.

by LakersFan 2008-10-30 12:32PM | 0 recs
Yes, but...

Without the enthusiastic ground support that Obama enjoys, mostly freely given by activists, I'm not sure Obama would win this one.  He basically had to play every down near perfectly to make up the base advantage the Republicans have in terms of race, soft money, and lack of moral fortitude.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 12:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Yes, but...

I disagree. While Obama has run an excellent campaign, I still believe the Democratic party had a huge advantage going into this thing, and the meltdown of the economy sealed the deal.

I don't know what you mean about the Republicans advantages in "race, soft money, and lack of moral fortitude". The election is not being won or lost on racial terms, Obama has more money, and believing the GOP has greater moral fortitude is a myth created and perpetuated by Republicans (especially "Reagan Republicans", which leads me to believe you may be exposed to a lot of them and have unconsciously accepted some of their language and buzzwords without questioning where they came from).

by LakersFan 2008-10-30 12:55PM | 0 recs
You misunderstand

I consider that the Republicans lack moral fortitude, and that it is an innate advantage for them... or has been in the past.  When you're willing to say anything to win and still sleep soundly at night, you've got a leg up on the opposition.

Race is an issue in this election whether people talk about it or not.  Not much else to say there.

And traditionally the Republicans, who have the wealthier constituency, has been able to rely on 527s and other "soft money" imput to put them over the top; it's only with Obama's fundraising prowess, currently unique in all the history of politics, that we're able to go toe-to-toe with them.

Yes, we have some advantages this year, but many of them come from no longer being willing to play the same game that the right is.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: You misunderstand

Yes. I got that backwards. My wrong assumption was based on another comment you made about Democratic politicians being too lazy, which I just fundamentally disagree with.

Race may be an issue in this election, but I don't think you can claim it necessarily is an advantage one way or another. The country isn't that white, and I think there are way more anti-racists than racists in this country, so I won't even try to venture into who gets the advantage there.

Money is money and the more you have, the more you have to spend. But money has no sense of history, it only matters who has more right now. Obama has the money advantage this election, and we should be happy about that. I'm not giving the GOP credit for the money they "could have" raised. They failed to keep up for the exact same reasons that they have failed to understand what this election is about for the American people.

And I really don't know who the "they" is that you claim have been willing to play the same game as the right in the past. The Democrats I know have always been playing a different game than Republicans. Maybe you haven't been voting long enough to remember that we elected, and re-elected a Democratic President with huge electoral margins, in very recent history.

by LakersFan 2008-10-30 01:38PM | 0 recs
Huge Electoral margins...

...but pretty close popular margins.  Good work, H. Ross Perot!

One could argue that only the wild card allowed the Big Dog to win in that climate, and Clinton largely did play the same game as the Republicans, being a DLC centrist.  This isn't the point of the discussion at hand, though.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Huge Electoral margins...

One could only argue that if have been raised on a steady diet of right-wing talk radio and believe what Republicans tell you. Those of us who actually remember those elections know that Bill Clinton was and is extremely popular.

Clinton was no more centrist than Obama is (with or without the DLC). If you really think that Obama is not playing that same game, you haven't been paying close attention to this campaign.

by LakersFan 2008-10-30 01:55PM | 0 recs
Ooh

To believe that I have not been paying close attention to this campaign is to not pay much attention to all of my diaries and comments easily available on this and other sites.

Cheerio.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 02:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Ooh

I know you have. That's why you should be able to recognize that Obama has been running a very centrist campaign.

I think you simply have an incorrect perspective on what running a centrist campaign is all about. A lot of newly minted liberals like to criticize Clinton for the way he ran, but the fact is, that's how you win elections in this country.

by LakersFan 2008-10-30 02:24PM | 0 recs
Re: He laughed in my face when he heard that I car

Dracomicron

I think the issue is this.

Most democrats are good people to the shock of many republicans.
Most republicans are good people to the shock of many democrats.

Most people are not super duper smart.
Most politicians are smarter than average.
Most remaining problems are very complex so much so that even the smartest don't understand what will happen.

Because of this Politicians are unable to deliver what they WANT to deliver.  This looks to most as though they are lying about what they will deliver when its merely they are ignorant of how terribly terribly difficult and unpredictable things are.

by dtaylor2 2008-10-30 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: He laughed in my fac

That actually made sense.
by Reaper0Bot0 2008-10-30 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: He laughed in my face when he heard that I car

I remember hearing somewhere that Chuck Schumer scored 1600 on the SATs.  I certainly would not have guessed that.

by the mollusk 2008-10-30 10:45AM | 0 recs
Credit where credit's due

You're right about that, DT.

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 11:44AM | 0 recs
Re: He laughed in my face


First of all, the "they're all the same" belief is the mark of people who vote or are Republican.  It's called 'leveling' to refuse to see distinctions that actually matter.

Having said that, in a way there is an oblique truth to the point of view.  Every politician of our time is, because s/he has to be, a surfer on the wave of public opinon.  We are that small d democratic as a society- lower middle class people and blue collar people presently constitute the majority of the people who see politics as something in which to their individual interests and opinions are dealt with.  (A century ago most or all blue collar people sold their votes or got told how to vote, and middle class white men were the people who were in fact in control of what public opinion was.  And two centuries ago it was upper middle class or upper class white men who bought or controlled how middle class white men voted.)

And blue collar and lower middle class people in this country have a lot of baggage in physical needs and psychologically in unresolved fears and resentments.  (As did the classes of people who controlled public opinion in earlier times, who likewise played their needs and resentments out until they were resolved.) That slow unpacking and dealing with and ditching of that particular baggage is what defines our politics now.

We're also at the end of 40 years of a phase of individualism in politics, of a public consensus to do the minimum necessary to make it through the day and through the year as a collective.  Because otherwise we might (God, how awful) help undeserving or hopeless people with our time, effort, and wealth- poor black people, felons, gay people, Latinos, Muslims, the mentally ill etc.  And not spend that time, money, and effort punishing our enemies.   Maybe we were in fact economically and psychologically overstretched as a society in 1972 or 1980 or 1994- and 2001 released a lot of pent-up remaining existential fear of nuclear missile and bomber attacks from the Cold War.

A lot of people stay stuck in some point of time.  We probably were mostly done with our fears and probably had the economic size and power in the late 1990s and early 2000s that this anti-collective phase probably should have passed quietly then.  But Republicans dug hard at the remaining deep feelings of fear- fear of physical destruction, fear of social changes, fear of being poor again, fear of the loss of religion, fear of being governed by people who don't like to kill their enemies, fear of grudges from the past in the rest of the globe and domestically, fear of violent crime, fear of a world in which serious scientific education is a necessity.  We have now exhausted our fears, I think.  

But many people sadly never quite exhaust their fears fully once tapped, or sense of loss of the past that they cling to.  They don't return to faith in the collective, aren't willing to invest in society at large and its endeavors that make its future.  And they express it by rejecting and tuning out the politicians who represent the public opinion, who represent the desire to start doing serious and constructive things together again.

Of course, too deep and fervent a belief in collective endeavors also always comes to grief.  Large groups of people always set a lot higher and more ideal-based goals than can be accomplished.  Or, are truly necessary.  But it's the forward motion that matters, the better and stronger and larger foundations laid for the future.   We can often build high on small and inadequate foundations, but the edifice soon falls again.  See the moon project, for example.  Better to care about the solidity and size of the foundation, and consider the height of the edifice built in this generation in e.g. universal health care or environmental protection or alternative energy a bonus to be grateful for but a bit transient.  Everything good we do has to undergo revisions eventually, some tearing down again before getting built higher, better, stronger.

We do have some great accomplishments to show for all our pains.  We are going to fully understand every disease in the next few decades and will have cures for many.  We have excellent pictures from the planets, unbelievable pictures of the stars, and men have been to the moon and back.  We were the first First World society to learn both a love of and respect for wildness and wilderness.  We created the weapons of greatest destruction- and now we are the power that most sees to their elimination.  We have become the most diverse and functional and creative large society on the planet, despite our disputes- our despair over setbacks is great because our expectations are so great.  We have as a society dealt with all of the great issues of human history, though some more than others, and despite the pain of it and terrible cost in blood we are a society that ultimately becomes an increment more human and humane and fair every generation.   Every generation more ignorance and bigotry passes away, more grievances end.  We are terrible in our sloth and indifference and ignorance- and yet so energetic and capable and in a form wise when we choose to that we are more than a little afraid and then deeply proud or ashamed (or both) at the results of unleishing our collective energy on anything.

by killjoy 2008-10-30 12:03PM | 0 recs
That was impressive

I think I learned something there. :P

by Dracomicron 2008-10-30 12:36PM | 0 recs

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