Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Baracking the Vote

I cast my ballot for Barack Obama today. Hopefully, the first of two. It was relatively uneventful. I showed up at the polls around 8:30 am. The polls were moderately busy, although my district was less so. They guy right in front of me was a Republican, which threw the poll worker into a bit of a tizzy. There aren’t many Republicans in my area and there was really no reason for a Republican to vote because their local nominees are rarely contested and everyone knows they are losing in November anyway. And of course, McCain already has the presidential nomination. Suprisingly, there were a lot of Ron Paul signs out, and I saw someone trying to get people to vote for Paul anyway--a development which I found somewhat heartening—wouldn’t it be something if Paul won Pennsylvania?

My area (first borough outside Pittsburgh) seems pretty split between Clinton and Obama with perhaps a slight edge to Obama. This is largely judging by the yard signs and the conversations I have had. The local Obama HQ is about a half a mile from my house, which might contribute to the appearance that Obama is doing well. Where I work (in the city proper), it is more pro-Obama and the further you go in the city, the stronger the Obama support is-—the further out, it gets more mixed. It seems like urban folks, regardless of race or gender really like Obama. Clinton does well in the suburbs.

I have to admit it has been exciting to see so many people taking an active interest in a primary. Conventional wisdom has suggested that this is a bad thing (divisive) for the Democrats. I tend to disagree. The level of mobilization and interest is high and I suspect that this will carry through to November. Although the campaign’s have exchanged barbs, neither has been particularly dirty and, from what I have gathered, registration is up and participation is high—which bodes well. It makes me think that the Democrats should think about restructuring their primaries to a more condensed (two month) period, and have them later (March-April) in staggered elections, making each primary all the more important, keeping the grassroots mobilized.

What I won’t miss is the phone calls. We have had no fewer than five phone calls a day for about a week now. Campaign volunteers from Obama and Clinton and plus local politicians have called incessantly. What is funny is the nature of the phone calls themselves. They aren’t very persistent—a Clinton supporter called me and asked if I would support Hillary, I said I was voting for Obama and she said “Ok,” and hung up. What? No sales job? Michelle Obama called several times as well—recorded of course—but I appreciated the effort. The phone call I was looking forward to, but which never came, was Rev. Jeremiah Wright damning Hillary Clinton—now that would have been something. I also got called by Quinnipac for the first time in my life. I have never been polled before (it wasn’t as painful as it sounds). Then, I got called again by Quinnipac to survey me on the quality of the survey they gave me—I said “thumbs up.”

The reasons for my support of Obama are quite simple. I am a strong opponent of the DLC wing of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton long ago hitched her star to the pro-corporate Democrats, and they have done more damage than good to the party. Obama isn’t perfect by any stretch, but it is more likely that organized labor, African Americans, and the poor will have a voice through him than through Clinton. Hillary decided a long time ago which side she is on—Obama is still up for grabs. This isn’t to say I have any illusions about him. I would have much preferred Dennis Kucinich or even John Edwards. Obama is an unknown quantity—but at a certain level I find that more “hopeful” than Clinton.

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