My Take On The Lewis Flip

15 Feb 2008

Rikyrah already gave her take below, I just wanted to cosign and add some things.

Last year, when John Lewis decided to endorse Hillary, I was pretty disappointed. This is what I said at the time:

It occur[s] to me that there’s a very real generation gap among black folks when it comes to Obama and Clinton. For people like John Lewis who lived through segregation, the idea of a black man being president in their lifetime must seem really far-fetched.

The fact that Obama has managed to stay so close to Clinton in fundraising while falling behind in the polls suggests to me that there are a great deal of people out there who would rather see him as president, but simply don’t think it’s possible for a black man to win.

But something happened between now and then. All of a sudden, it didn’t seem so far-fetched anymore:

MILWAUKEE — Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

There could be no Barack Obama without John Lewis. That much is obvious. But Lewis’ initial skepticism of Obama was borne of a life and a time many of us can barely imagine. Since Montgomery, Selma and Washington DC, Lewis’ generation has inspired us. Now we have finally begun to inspire them.

But enough mushy stuff. Let’s just all enjoy this picture:

Pretty much explains the last forty years of race and gender politics in America between black men and white women, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: I know it ruins a joke if you have to explain it, but in the interest of not being taken the wrong way, what I am exclusively referring to is the fact that the liberation movements of the past hundred years have brought white women unprecedented access and proximity to power, (which is a good thing) despite the sexism still pervasive in American society. But whether we’re talking about pay disparities, elected office, or college admissions, the rest of us have been left behind. And I don’t think that’s something many people have begun to apprieciate.

From the

Black Leader, a Clinton Ally, Tilts to Obama

MILWAUKEE — Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention.

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate, he could not go against the wishes of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.

“I’ve been very impressed with the campaign of Senator Obama,” Mr. Lewis said. “He’s getting better and better every single day.”

His comments came as fresh signs emerged that Mrs. Clinton’s support was beginning to erode from some other African-American lawmakers who also serve as superdelegates. Representative David Scott of Georgia, who was among the first to defect, said he, too, would not go against the will of voters in his district.

Translation: Since she has already said that she’s going to steal this nomination ‘ by any means necessary’, my Black Butt better not be on the wrong side of this. Black folk will skin me alive.

Second Translation: Al Wynn got his butt kicked. Just what I need – a mailer with a picture of me and Hillary in 2 years….I’ze needs to keep this job.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

Over the past few weeks, you’ve probably noticed me grabbing TV clips way faster and more precisely than YouTube allows. I’m using this service from a company called Redlasso, and it’s the hotness!

I’ve used it to grab Michelle Obama and Oprah’s “I am a FREE woman” comment

Here’s how it works. I can search for TV clips over the past two weeks from most national cable news stations (including Univision, BBC and PBS) as well as broadcast TV stations and AM radio stations in several major cities. I can search by time as well as by words spoken. I found that Hillary Mexican boy clip by searching CNN for Hillary Clinton and El Paso.

I’ve found clips in two ways: 1) watching TV myself (rare) and 2) getting a tip from a friend. Now I want to expand that to the readers of this blog. Collectively you watch way more television than I do. I’d like to enlist you as spotters.

If you find something you think would be of interest to the readers of this blog, holla.

It’s most helpful if you can provide

  • the TV network
  • date and time of what you saw
  • some phrases and especially proper names that you heard

In fact, I’ve set up this form (not a wiki this time :)) which should be SUPER easy for you to fill out. Bookmark the page, and next time you see Bill Clinton shove his foot in his mouth or some news anchor attack Hillary unfairly or a CBC member selling us up the river submit it.

It doesn’t need to be just about this campaign. There are still other things going on in the world, though we’ve been obsessed with the election here.


let’s see what we find. your comments and emails have definitely made this blog better, even and especially when you disagree or correct us. Keep it coming!

Then click on the following links:

Democracy for America -Voters Decide

Superdelegate Transparency Project

Here is what we’re up against – from The Boston Globe

Clinton is determined to “take the Democratic nomination even if she does not win the popular vote” with a plan to “persuade enough superdelegates to vote for her at the convention.” Clinton “will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary, said Clinton’s communications director, Howard Wolfson.”

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

I know politicians constantly exploit photo ops for their own purposes, but a friend told me about this awkward moment at Clinton’s El Paso rally Tuesday night, and I had to share it. I feel bad for the little boy. See how they quickly escort him out of there!

I’m not saying other candidates don’t do it. I’m just saying this looks damn ridiculous. She should have upped the ante, have the lil youngin wack an Obama pinata while he’s up there.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

These frontline experiences of mine are mad long, so I’m gonna split Sunday’s Virginia canvassing into several parts. This is part 1.

I’ve written about my solo caucusing efforts in DC on Saturday which consisted of cruising in my Mini Cooper Zipcar and discussing Obama with family and friends. However, I was also in DC to connect with NYC volunteers who had come down to canvass in Northern Virginia. After returning from dinner Saturday, I sent a text message to Beth, our NYC leader, around 9:45pm

This is baratunde. Had a good DC day. What’s the meetup plan tomorrow?

Beth got back to me at 1:40am. I was just wrapping up my conversation with “Anita.”

Hi! We are going to meet at 6066 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church VA at 10am! See you there!

Sunday morning I crammed down breakfast at Kramer Books and jetted over to Virginia. I arrived at one of the two Northern Virginia offices, this one on the fourth floor of an office building. Inside, I found a room abuzz with the work of about 15 people. Quickly and unceremoniously, I was put on phone duty. There was no, “Hi, how are you? Si se puede!”

A man named Al gave me a list of about 40 names, addresses and phone numbers as well as a call script with codes to mark the person’s response. I was honestly a bit annoyed and didn’t think it was really worth my time to call from Virginia when I could have done that from New York or my bed that morning, but he told me they needed about 30 minutes of calling before they’d be ready to send me out canvassing.

The script went something like this.

Hi, my name is Baratunde Thurston, and I’m a volunteer with the Barack Obama campaign here in Northern Virginia. I’m calling to see if you plan to vote in this Tuesday’s primary. [with the use of pauses or polite inquiry, I'd try to see if they planned to vote for Obama. If PrObama, then] Great! Well would you be interested in volunteering over the next few days? We could use help through Tuesday.

And if they were down, I’d try to sign them up right then or give them the office number or have someone call them back.

After the call, I’d mark the sheet with codes for LM (left message), NH (not home), DISCO (line disconnected – lots of those), then a numerical code indicating their support (pro Hillary, lean Hillary, undecided, lean Obama, probama, GOP). Oh, and I added an extra one: DND (do not disturb). Some people had been called multiple times or just didn’t care for the calls at all. There was an Ethiopian woman working the phones next to me who got hung up on angrily at least three times.

After the 30 minutes, Greg (also from NYC and working the phones. In fact there were two Gregs, so I’ll call this on “Greg X”) and I met Beth in the lobby and split into two cars with two people each. (there were additional groups I never met). Greg X and Beth teamed up, and I joined forces with Greg Ross. Beth gave us what are called “turf sheets.” The NYC volunteers and others had been up until 4am dividing up Fairfax county into “turfs,” breaking the county down into smaller regions. We got a map of our overall turf with targeted houses on them plus sheets showing the addresses and names of the places we were supposed to hit up.

The lists are drawn from various voter databases and God knows how many sources, but it was interesting and creepy to see that in a block of 20 houses, we would only be sent to three. More on that later.

The general process was Greg R and I would look at the map and find a cluster of houses. I would program it into my GPS, and we’d park at the center of the cluster, handle five houses or so, then migrate to another cluster. Having grown up in DC proper, lived in Boston for 12 years and now residing in Manhattan, I forgot just how painfully un-walkable suburban America is.

I came face to face with the jacked up zoning and urban planning which has fed our car dependency and driven us to create a country full of community islands. The air was beautiful and the lawns just lovely, but there was something isolating about knowing that each of these houses attempted to replicate all of society’s resources for each individual family. Everybody has their own yard, so there’s no need of a park. Everybody has their own car (multiple) and driveway, so why bother with a sidewalk. And you know that inside, everyone has their own 40-inch flat screen television with dolby digital 6.1 surround sound.

The closest thing to a market or social center was the gas station or multiplex or fast food joint (there was downtown of course, but most people are nowhere near there). I saw actual McMansions yall! They were like the big mansions but slightly smaller, and they all had the same elements: face brick facade, two car garage, picture window above a wide front door, foyer and a massive yard.

Not every neighborhood we hit was this rich. Some were definitely more modest and others more original in terms of architecture, but what was consistent was the extreme individualism. As a small but important example, we would be walking down the street, and nearly every driveway had it’s own basketball hoop. Where was the neighborhood court? How can you play as a team when everyone’s practicing solo?

This level of structural social isolation bothers me. We as Americans pride ourselves on the efficiency of the free market, but there’s something highly wasteful about the way our suburban neighborhoods are constructed, and considering the size of the challenges we face, especially with regard to energy, I can’t help but feel that we have set a limit on our ability to change. It’s not enough to convert all of our cars to hybrids. We need fewer cars, but neighborhoods don’t easily allow this.

OK, enough philosophizing. If you want to know more about the history and unsustainability of suburbia, check this film: The End of Suburbia. In my next post, I’ll get into the details of my door-to-door encounters. Here’s a teaser.

We visited one house with a Republican couple. The husband planned to vote for Obama. I asked him why. He said, “I’ll do anything to keep that bitch out of office.” When his wife said she wasn’t sure who she would vote for, he interjected, “Don’t you dare vote for that woman!” I was just waiting for him to add, “Ms. Lewinsky.”

stay tuned

Wow. This piece echoes what I heard on the ground in Virginia — the reality of the horribly negative reaction Hillary Clinton evokes in people.

(btw, I’ll be light on blogging through the weekend. am traveling in the Yay Area here in Northern Cali doing shows etc.).


NAACP gets involved

Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP, has written a letter to Howard Dean to express “great concern at the prospect that million of voters in Michigan and Florida could ultimately have their votes completely discounted.”

If you want to read the letter in its entirety, go here

Rev. Al Sharpton is all over this. He said, last night on MSNBC, and this morning on Tom Joyner, that this letter from Bond was, ‘ PoliTRICKS’ of the highest order. That this was akin to being in the 3rd quarter of a game, and then deciding to change the rules of the game.

Roland Martin (, WVON-AM) said this morning on his radio show that he had been in contact with several NAACP Board members, and the NAACP Board had NOT approved of this letter. Bond sent it without putting it before the Board.

Let’s make this clear – Julian Bond has sold out to the Clintons.

There is no way, that the contests in Michigan or Florida could remotely be considered fair, plausible, or should be counted in anyway.

IF you’d like to drop a line to the NAACP, here you go:
NAACP National Headquarters
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore MD 21215

Toll Free: (877) NAACP-98
Local: (410) 580-5777

For those of you who thought the original letter was a hoax:


Found this at Roland Martin’s Blog

From: “Julian Bond”
Subj: FW:
Date: Wed Feb 13, 2008 2:24 pm
Size: 5K
To: “‘Roland Martin’”

When these rules were set it was suspected at the time that they would be discriminatory for states with large African American populations. It seemed a harsh rule to disenfranchise millions of our voters just to appease the thousands of white voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Party rules never stated that candidateshad to take their names off of the ballot as was the case in Michigan. This was something that the Iowa and New Hampshire state parties imposed on the candidates in a bidding war to show their allegiance to the first-in the-nation”white” primaries.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire strongly OPPOSED the addition of South Carolina and Nevada as early primary states. They fought theBlack and Hispanic Caucus tooth and nail to stop this addition ofstates with Black and Brown populations having a greater say in the nomination process. They lost and in retaliation made the candidates sign a pledge to them – not the DNC – to not campaign there and not have their names on the ballot. Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinichand Chris Dodd refused to sign this pledge and left their names on the ballot. Clinton did not go into Florida until after the polls closed keeping her pledge.

The Obama campaign miscalculated on this issue and should have stood with Michigan and Florida given their strong African American populations. Had Obama won these states I am sure many people would be supporting this change in the rules.

Julian Bond


If you’d like to contact Howard Dean at the DNC:

Mailing Address:
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. SE
Washington, DC 20003

Main Phone Number:

Ted Kennedy Redeemed?

13 Feb 2008

This is from The New Republic:

Ted Kennedy Redeemed?

Pivoting off the great point Mike’s correspondent made–is it possible that Ted Kennedy (and the rest of the Kennedy clan) actually came through for Obama? If you look at the places Obama made inroads tonight–older voters, white Catholics, Latinos, the white working class–those are all groups with which Kennedy was said to have influence.

I don’t know the answer. (If it’s a yes, it’s a probably a marginal yes. But, as I keep saying, this is a margins game…) But what’s less plausible: expecting Ted Kennedy to pay dividends for you among these voters in a single week (roughly the amount of time between the endorsement and Super Tuesday)? Or expecting the effect to unfold gradually over the course of a couple weeks? Several of the demographics I mentioned are generally slow to assimilate news–and they didn’t know Obama very well to begin with. It wouldn’t shock me if it took them a little while to get up to speed on him, and if the Kennedy endorsement was the beginning of that process.

–Noam Scheiber

Now, I hadn’t thought of this. From where I sit, the Kennedy Endorsements might have done this.

But, I’ll go back to Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, who pointed out that the purpose of the Kennedy Endorsements was thus:

To STOP, in its tracks, the GHETTOIZATION of Barack Obama.

Stopped it dead in its tracks, giving Obama the breathing room to succeed during Super Tuesday.

Senator Barack Obama has won the Primaries in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Because of the weather, a judge ordered the Maryland Polls open an extra hour and a half.

I’ll be updating throughout the night, breaking down the exit polls. Some interesting stuff, so far.


With 99% Precincts Reporting:

Obama – 64%

Clinton- 35%

Obama – 68%
Clinton – 30%

He won White men, 55 – 45.

Obama – 60%
Clinton – 39%

Party Affiliation:
Obama – 62%
Clinton – 38%

Obama – 72%
Clinton – 23%

Obama – 69%
Clinton – 30%

Racial Breakdown:
Obama – 52%
Clinton – 47%

Obama – 90%
Clinton – 10%

Obama – 54%
Clinton – 46%

( I guess they didn’t get the Latinos don’t vote for a Black candidate memo)

Obama won EVERY income category.

Washington, D.C.

With 97% of the Precincts reporting:

Obama – 75%
Clinton – 24%


With 82% of the Precincts reporting:

Obama – 60%
Clinton – 37%

Obama – 62%
Clinton – 33%

Obama – 55%
Clinton – 41%

Party Affiliation:
Obama – 59%
Clinton – 40%

Obama – 62%
Clinton – 27%


Obama – 42%
Clinton – 52%

Obama – 84%
Clinton – 15%

Obama – 45%
Clinton – 55%

Guess they didn’t get that Memo either.

He won every income group.

Obama is 8-0 since Super Tuesday.

DELEGATE TOTALS (includes pledged and superdelegates) – according to CNN.
Obama – 1,215
Clinton – 1,190

Obama has won 21 states.
Clinton has won 10 states. (they include Michigan/Florida)

Obama is now leading in NUMBER OF TOTAL VOTES CAST. (Including her totals for Michigan and Florida).

Check out these numbers from today’s morning email by Chuck Todd of NBC’s First Read:

Total Vote %
Obama 9,373,334/ 50%
Clinton 8,674,779 / 46%
Others 726,095 / 4%

With Florida and Michigan
Total Vote %
Obama 9,942,375/ 47%
Clinton 9,860,138/ 47%
Others 1,249,922 / 6%


John McCain had a good night too, but he’s still having a conservative problem, as Virginia indicates.

McCain – 50%
Huckabee – 41%
Paul – 5%

McCain – 55%
Huckabee – 30%
Paul – 5%

Washington, D.C.
McCain – 68%
Huckabee – 17%
Paul – 8%

McCain – 812
Huckabee – 217
Paul – 16

1. I absolutely LOVE that color coated state map that they have on CNN. I think it rocks, is useful, and just is COOL.
2. My personal soundtrack for tonight: CAN YOU FEEL IT -The Jacksons. Been blasting it all night.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

It’s so funny to see a Democrat display such open contempt for the will of voters. For Hillary, some votes are more equal than others. First, watch this madness on CNN:

Then check out Markos at dailykos do what many have been doing in identifying the pattern of contempt and selective counting Hillary has done with the primaries and caucuses. The lady doth protest too much. aka. She’s whiny, and it’s really, really starting to bug the crap out of me.

More from Kos:

This post was inspired by a comment I read earlier yesterday, which I can’t find now, so apologies for the unsourced inspiration.

One of the hilarious side-effects of every Obama victory is the spin from Clinton quarters and its surrogates and supporters explaining why said victories “don’t matter”.

Iowa didn’t matter because it was a caucus state, and it’s undemocratic. Same goes for every other caucus state including Maine. The only caucus state that mattered was Nevada.

Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Alaska, and Utah don’t matter because they’re small Red states that Democrats won’t carry in November.

Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Louisiana don’t matter because they have black people. Expect the same spin out of DC this Tuesday. Black people don’t apparently count.

Washington and Minnesota don’t matter because they have educated white people.

In any case, Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana didn’t matter on Saturday because everyone expected Obama to win them anyway.

Virginia and Maryland, assuming they’re won by Obama, will be a combination of the “black people” and “educated people” rationalizations. Throw a little of “Obama was expected to win anyway”, and you’ve got the trifecta.

Illinois doesn’t matter because that’s Obama’s home state. Expect the same spin when Obama wins Hawaii by double-digit margins in two weeks.

Missouri doesn’t matter because Clinton sent out a press release claiming she won it.

Colorado was a caucus state, so that leaves Delaware and Connecticut. Those are the only two states that apparently matter, giving Hillary Clinton a commanding 10-2 lead among states that matter.

Of course, everyone fires their campaign manager for losing states that don’t count.

Update: great Huffpo piece on the subject of ridiculous Clinton post-loss spin.


With 46% of the Precincts Reporting:
Edwards – 60%
Wynn – 36%

My mom lives in Donna’s district. Last year, when I spoke to her about how great a candidate Donna Edwards was and the problems with Al Wynn, she was skeptical, confused, and kind of uninterested in the race. The sense I got was — why should I care?

This year, I mentioned to her once again that I really hoped she would vote for Donna “Leadership that Listens” Edwards and that I thought she’d make an excellent Member of Congress. I started to go into her record, supporting organizations and the Washington Post endorsement. She stopped me mid-sentence and told me the following story:

Oh, you don’t have to tell me! I saw her just the other day up at the Giant’s. She started to hand me something and I told her — “You can keep that!” She looked at me a little funny — you know how people can be. She’s probably used to a few people giving her the brushoff or getting confrontational. I said to her, “You don’t need to give me any of that literature because you’ve already got my vote. You should’ve taken it the last time from that old son of a gun! I’ve got a good feeling this time and you’ve got a lot of support in the county.” Well you should have seen her. She just lit right up.

So today, you can light up this district too by voting for Donna, telling your friends and kinfolk to vote for Donna or whether you live in the district or not — donating to Donna Edwards’ campaign. She really is a great candidate and she wouldn’t have gotten this far without your help. She’s at the last mile. Please join me in helping her cross the finish line. Cuz running for office ain’t cheap and it ain’t easy. Make a DONNAtion today (ha) and help make change happen. I did and it feels good.

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

Last week, I posted a video of my friend Derrick Ashong getting interviewed about Obama and health care outside the LA debate between Clinton and Obama. That video has blown up, and Derrick has received thousands of comments and other responses.

Today, he explains how he came to be interviewed (not staged) and offers an extremely powerful emotional explanation of his support for Obama. This complements the intellectual perspective he dropped. Check it out, and share with others.

You can also read Derrick’s original explanation of support for Obama here.

You should also find out more about his band, Soulfege.

cross-posted to goodCRIMETHINK

Years ago, I found myself upgraded for free on a flight from Florida to Boston. The man seated next to me was of the prostelitizing flavor of Christianity. He went on missions abroad and door to door to spread the good word. I asked him, “Why can’t you just leave people to their beliefs?” His response: “If you knew this plane was going to crash, wouldn’t you try to tell the captain and all the passengers so they could try to correct the situation or at least call their families? Well, that’s how I feel about my religion. I know that these people will go to Hell if I don’t help them get saved.”

While I would hardly go so far as to say that those who don’t vote Obama are going to Hell, I have felt a sense of mission about sharing the vision of a politically engaged America that Barack Obama’s campaign has rekindled in me. I looked forward to moving my words from the computer screen directly to my fellow citizens (blogging in 3D!), and it was with that sense of mission that I traveled to DC this past weekend.

My initial mission was to have a face-to-face discussion with the family friend I referred to last Friday, but the trip included so much more. I returned exhausted but also reinvigorated about the potential each of us has to contribute to this world, and I have an increased respect for the value of simple conversation among neighbors.

The second mission was to meet up on Sunday with fellow New Yorkers who traveled down to volunteer by canvassing door to door in Northern Virginia.

This post deals just with Saturday. Considering how little sleep I’ve gotten, I can’t promise the most eloquent (or spell-checked) tale, but I’ll do my best to cover the highlights while only slightly blowing up your computer screen with an insanely long post.

Friday night – 11pm-3am: Planning & Packing

Saturday – 10am-1:30pm: Meeting A Fellow Self-Canvasser

I had the train ride all planned out. I had my downloaded and printed info plus the Google video. I wanted to be prepared for my encounter with the skeptical family friend, and I was going to cram for this exam. But when I got to Penn Station, I saw another self-motivated Obama supporter. She rocked several buttons, homemade posters and info sheets. Her name is Andrea Fazzari, and she’s a world-traveling photographer
whose work appears in Vanity Fair, Gourmet magazine and others. She has done street canvassing in NYC on several occasions, never at the direction of the campaign. She just felt moved to do it, made her posters, and made her case to strangers. She had a few nightmare stories of encounters with rude Hillary Clinton supporters, including a hilarious run-in with an elderly woman who shoved her so hard she almost fell down. Ah, New Yorkers.

Andrea was heading to Baltimore. She had identified a Whole Foods there, figuring it would be a high-traffic location for a Saturday, called them to be sure she had permission, made her posters, printed her info sheets and just rolled out. Han Solo like that. I wasn’t the only crazy motivated one.

We talked a lot about her travels (especially to Cambodia), why we were supporting Obama and America’s challenges with racism and poverty. Yep, just your average conversation among strangers on the train! We also checked out the Maryland resources on which is seriously useful. Obama has provided some great self-organizing resources at his site.

After Andrea got off the train, I got in touch with a Jack & Jill Politics reader who had reached out via email that morning. She was planning on doing street corner canvassing in Georgetown. We exchanged some text messages and set a meeting place.

Saturday – 1:30pm-5pm: Jack & Jill Politics Live!

The reader who contacted me is Rebecca Abou-Chedid. We have some crazy cool people as part of this JJP community. Until two months ago, Rebecca was national political director for the Arab American Institute! After pimping out my Zipcar with my homemade posters (here I just mean “pimp” as in “heavily accessorize” not as in “create opportunity for Clinton to yet again play the victim”), I met Rebecca over at Wisconsin Ave & M Street (blasting the mix the entire way). I wish I had video. I think I was born to do this. In college I loved working tables for the student organizations trying to recruit freshmen. Nowadays, every week, I “bark” in Times Square to get folks in the seats of comedy shows. Barking for Barack. Ha. That’s what’s up!

Rebecca and I then headed to unofficial Obama HQ in DC which is Busboy’s and Poets at 14th & V St NW (Potomac Primary watch party Tuesday Feb 12 6pm-midnight). It’s a very cool spot inspired by Langston Hughes with a great restaurant, bookstore and lots of artist space and performance (Bomani Armah of Read A Book fame is on the board). The owner is Iraqi. Rebecca has worked for O in multiple states including New York, South Carolina and Nevada. She told me Nevada got real ugly, ugly that has yet to be reported and which we didn’t have time to get into completely. As one example though, she said the Clinton volunteers’s main pitch was to yell repeatedly that Obama is a Muslim whose middle name is Hussein. Ugly and hate-filled. You hear that Mr. Krugman??!!

Saturday – 5pm-7pm: Back to the Hood.

I drove slowly through my old, now heavily-gentrifying hood blasting the Latin music Obama jams. I stopped by my next door neighbors who immigrated here from El Salvador. None of them can vote because they aren’t yet citizens, but William has his interview this Tuesday. He was frustrated with his Latino brothers who were not for Obama. I left him some info sheets though I didn’t have any in Spanish.

Saturday 7pm-9:30pm: dinner with family friends.

no politics talk allowed as it was a birthday dinner and the celebrated one did not want to have people warring. We held our tongues except for brief moments when she went to the bathroom

Saturday 10pm-2am: The family caucus

This was why I had come to DC, and I was tired as a mug by this point. I ended up talking with two people skeptical of Obama for different reasons. Robby is basically my age. Our mothers were good friends back in the day, and we share a life trajectory. Both raised by strong black women during the crack wars, escaping the city against the odds to be educated at Ivy League colleges, currently employed in stable jobs having avoided both the prison industrial complex and baby mama drama.

Robby is cut from a different political cloth. He’s basically a libertarian brotha, and despite some frustrating moments when I felt like my two conversion targets were not letting me answer their questions, we had a damn fascinating conversation. Robby actually had three very good suggestions/observations for Obama.

  1. When he comes to DC, he shouldn’t just appear in the newly gentrified section. He needs to come to the still-black parts of DC in SE/Anacostia or Benning Rd. etc. It would do a lot for black DC to see that someone who works in their city actually cares about it beyond kickin it on Capitol Hill. Obama does support DC voting rights, but Robby’s basic point was that he could get extra mileage out of showing he cares. He reminded me that Bill Clinton marched down Georgia Ave back in the day, and there are still black folk who remember that fondly.
  2. Despite the dogwhistle concerns of a lot of us about the Hussein, muslim father issue, Obama needs to own and advertise the value his heritage and name bring BEFORE the Republicans paint him as a traitor with it. One of my own strongest selling points is that O is uniquely capable of playing makeup with the world after Dubya has taken multiple dumps on it. With family in Kenya and years spent living in the most populous Muslim country in the world, Obama is connected to global poverty (for example) in ways no other president has ever been or will be
  3. Obama has rightly focused on inspiring and motivating the American people, but in order to realize many of his stated goals, he needs to inspire and motivate federal employees. If he can do that, he has a good chance of getting something real accomplished
  4. (updated. just remembered). Can black people criticize or not be for Obama without being considered traitors (similar to the NOW fanatics who call women voting for not-Hillary traitors)? This is a great question, and the answer should be yes. It depends on the nature of that opposition (CBC water-carrying vs. policy/philosophical/fact-based critiques like the Black Agenda Report peoples). It would be a travesty if black people did not feel free to raise concerns about Obama, and I know I have to be careful to check my fervor when confronted with facts. We all should. Blind followership hurts us all.

My primary reason for being there was someone I’ll call Anita because I never got her permission to use her name. We talked more about this concept of “who does Obama owe” (and yes I’ve read your comments that just because a Goldman Sachs employee gives to Obama doesn’t make him indebted to global imperialistic finance interests). She is someone who didn’t start voting until very late in life because she never had anyone to vote for and considers all politicians to be corrupt. My case to her as I blogged last week was, if that’s the case, you should consider Obama the least corrupted for having been in national politics for far less time than Clinton or McCain.

After taking some detours through a discussion of DC’s mayor Fenty, Anita threw out something for which I was not quite prepared. I had always feared that it was white people who had unachievable expectations of this articulate, educated black man. But Anita works in the city’s welfare department. She sees people on a daily basis who lack basic access to services. She nearly cried recalling the times (multiple) she has had to teach 13 year old black children how to write their own names. Her point was that there are many black people expecting the world from President Obama. They see him as someone who can finally bring an end to their suffering, to their broken schools, to their poverty to racism. These people who have no money yet find money to donate $10 to his campaign worship him as a man with a magic wand. Anita’s question: what will he actually do for him?

Robby and I had similar initial reactions: for people expecting Obama to solve the problems of poverty and racism for them, too bad. He cannot do that. Robby added that it’s not even the president’s job (Constitutionally) to go lead such interventionist policies. This was not satisfactory to Anita who wanted to see the National Guard sent to inner city schools to protect kids from violence there. “If we can send them to Iraq to protect those people, why can’t we send them into the hood to protect ours?”

After thinking on it further, I found a better answer to Anita’s concerns. I do agree that there’s a limit to what the federal government can do for everyone, and that the wheels of government turn slowly, but that’s only true to a point. The president (and especially a President Obama) can shine the light of government on society’s problems; he can direct certain government resources like the department of justice toward eradicating certain types of ills; he can initiate job programs that re-establish local economies; he can motivate the collective citizenry to invest in changing their communities for the better themselves. And as for the government moving slowly, well that’s all a matter of priorities. This government moves very quickly when it comes to war and big money.

At points during the conversation I found myself so very frustrated. In part because I was fielding incoming questions, rapid fire, from two people often at the same time. In part because I sometimes felt inadequate to the task. In part because I was mad tired. I almost gave up and called it quits a few times, but Anita, to my surprise, said the following:

“You have already moved me more towards Obama, and I’m glad you came down. I still can’t say for sure who I’m voting for, but don’t you ever give up on him. As long as you have the breath, you go to the floor for him because you never know just what it is that will sway someone.” Today, I sent her Obama’s urban poverty address from July of 2007.

That push, from someone who wasn’t even fully down, turned out to be useful advice for my door-to-door canvassing in Northern Virginia the next day. More on that later.

Who We Are

Cheryl Contee aka "Jill Tubman", Baratunde Thurston aka "Jack Turner", rikyrah, Leutisha Stills aka "The Christian Progressive Liberal", B-Serious, Casey Gane-McCalla, Jonathan Pitts-Wiley aka "Marcus Toussaint," Fredric Mitchell

Special Contributors: James Rucker, Rinku Sen, Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Adam Luna, Kamala Harris

Technical Contributor: Brandon Sheats


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