Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post No. 65: A Chat with the Man and the Woman on the Street – Reflections on the November 2008 Presidential Election

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In Post No. 63, entitled, “How Political Polling Potentially Does a Disservice to the Democratic Process (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/11/post-no-63-how-political-polling-does.html), we discussed the various ways in which polling organizations have the ability to affect the outcome of a poll by doing certain things. We also discussed why there are wide disparities between polls.

Yesterday, following the election of Sen. Obama as President-Elect, we took to the streets of Greensboro, North Carolina and simply asked those with whom we came into contact, for their thoughts about the election result. We did not make any effort to assemble a representative cross-section of the population. We just stopped people who, as we walked about town, were willing to respond.

Their comments are outlined below. We have neither embellished nor otherwise modified them. We also received comments from others throughout the country via e-mail and during telephone conversations.

We are purposefully not providing information regarding the respondents, such as age, race, profession, etc., with one exception, which shall be obvious. Make of it what you want. It’s simply information. And this is the Information Age. We simply need to figure out how to interpret it and use it to our collective benefit.


Nobody’s paying attention to that nigger; the only reason that they would even let him win is because the country ain’t worth a s___ anymore.

There is still work to do. This is just the beginning. We as a people, all of us, have to work together. It will open up the eyes of young black males. They’ll have to change their way of doing things, and be more responsible. I have really been into it. I have not been sleeping. I told my doctor that I had electionitis.
As I heard Obama speak over time, I felt a kinship with him as he articulated his goals. The speech itself? He called for unity, and essentially said, “Here we are; let’s put this other stuff behind us.”

You can’t beat God.

Sixty percent of the world’s population consists of colored people. It is about time.

The age of whitey is over.

He’s going to lead us down a socialist, Marxist path. I’m concerned.

If only this historic moment could be replicated in our communities.

The message is that if you work hard, you can aspire to be whatever you want to be, and this proves it. Life is not always fair, it’s hard, but life is what you want it to be.

John McCain carried Kentucky by about 7 points...very close to his best popular vote performance. Period. I spent some time today with about 50 college educated adults of a certain age. Responses to the open ended question; "Well, what do you think?" varied on a more or less normal distribution, from disappointment to elation. Most individuals on the negative end of the spectrum expressed resignation, and relief that the campaign was finally over: "At least I won't have to look at any more of those damn ads." Virtually no one expressed any spontaneous or prompted anti-black threats or reservations. On the positive end of the spectrum, there was a similar absence of gloating. The most common universal response was; "God bless, and I hope he can fix this mess."This "mess" is the Louisville job market. This is a very small sample survey, but the word "Us," seems to have taken on a new meaning. God bless...let's hope...

I’m excited; very positive. I actually got a little weepy. I hope that it signals a big change. We need to quit viewing the world and our potential in such a negative fashion. We must bring our kids on board, and make them feel that they have something at stake. Their frequent use of the word “whatever,” reflects their attitude.

We must be practical and realize that one man can not do it all by himself.

Nobody cares about that nigger. We don’t matter. He’s just another nigger.

I am one of the few people who did not believe it possible. I was convinced that America was not ready to have a black president. I was sure that the religious fanatics, the rednecks, the narrow minded, the bigots, the skinheads, and the scared, would turn out in record droves, and join forces with the thinking conservatives, to prevent this. I’m actually quite surprised. I did not have an emotional reaction, because I still do not believe that it occurred.

Change started when Obama first came on the scene. There was a dramatic increase in the number of people who registered to vote. He provided a spark when people saw him. That he was allowed to even enter the arena is significant alone. That he is a successful black man is a message that will be sent to others. The force is unstoppable, and there is a lot of hope. I actually feel that he was “anointed’ by God. He’s too flawless. Perhaps not perfect, but no major flaws. There appears to be a feeling of unity. It means that all of the work done in the past to address racial discrimination has yielded some results.

A guy with whom I work said that he cried all night out of disappointment in his country.

Bush and his cronies were arrogant. Although I am generally not this cynical, I believe that they felt that America was on the decline, and they decided to take as much wealth with them for themselves, their families, and friends, and they are going to leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves. They “took the money and ran.” They’re not much different than lots of other money grubbing leaders around the world-- Idi Amin, Papa Doc Duvalier, Sadaam Hussein, and others. They just wore suits and were more subtle. And they did not kill their citizens. I do not get the sense that Obama is a crook, or greedy. I think that he will legitimately try to help as many people as possible.

I’m ecstatic. The masses or young people have prevailed. It proves that we could get it done. We are building on our past as opposed to being crippled by our past. The youth see this as an opportunity and are pretty ignorant of history. They’re looking forward. They did not get caught up in the bitterness of the past. It is an opening to newer, bigger, and greater things. It’s a fresh start.

I saw a white person walking down the street with an Obama sign, and I said to myself, “Even white folks feel that Bush screwed up.”

When I first went into the voting booth to vote, I paused and looked at the ballot in somewhat of a state of disbelief, and realized that something significant had occurred. I was really moved, and realized that it had happened. He managed to sidestep all of the usual pitfalls. He could have been equally negative and used personal attacks, but he was graceful and let it be known that he was interested in serving all of the people of the nation. In fact, I sensed a genuine concern for all people, and a desire that our nation become all-inclusive.

We needed a person who moved the heart. All of this craftiness will do very little in the long run.

He is the Person for This Time.

On election night, my buddy and I drove around looking for a celebration party. We came across a large group of white kids in an art gallery/living museum, who were staring up at a large flat screen TV suspended above their heads, while Obama’s voice resonated through the speakers. They were staring up toward him, speechless, and appeared to hang on every word. Without saying anything, they appeared to really be looking up toward him for hope. You could feel it.

It tells me that change is going to come. It is the moment that the world has been waiting for. It is the younger generation that put him into office. It represents pride for black folks. We now believe that there is nothing that we can’t do. I really believed him when he said that change was going to come. He really provided me with a sense of hope. There was an absence of hope during the Bush administration. They appeared to advance the interests of a small group of citizens, and ignored the rest.

This is their 60s. Obama is their Kennedy. Let’s hope they can avoid some of our mistakes....

From a mentally challenged, compensatory education student with an organic learning disability, in response to the question, “Hello, how are you doing today? “We have [pause] a black President!

15 comments:

  1. Wow! Pretty amazing exercise. It’s dumbfounding that some of your polling subjects would say the ‘n-word’ out loud much less even think like that in this day and time. Could that have to do with your local polling demographic?

    I found it difficult to read the other response after reading the first couple negative ones. Although I understand the need for anonymity, it would sure be interesting to know if those specific individuals were black or white.

    I fathom that Obama represents a lot more to the American people than what he even realizes. I guess will see after the first of the year how he’s really received and supported.
    Vikki

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  2. I got chills reading this. What a fantastic effort and the answers are as diverse as people in general. Every response seems to share a different emotion and I believe I have personally experienced a majority of those emotions in the past few days! Thanks for sharing this and thanks to the people on the street for speaking their minds.

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  3. Thanks Vikki. Sorry to insert the "hiccup" at the very beginning.

    I don't think that any of us realized his cumulative effect. When one views the events and crowds leading up to the election, one would not have been able to anticipate the emotional wave.

    I find myself repeating something from several months ago. I never paid Obama any attention for the first year. I considered the prospect of a black man becoming President, remote, at best. And then Caroline Kennedy said something that got my attention, when she announced that she was endorsing Obama. She essentially said that she was not old enough or sophisticated enough to appreciate the manner in which her Father inspired people. However, those who were around at the time indicated that Obama inspired them in the very same way as her Father had. Then I had to pay attention.

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  4. Iris: I'll share something that I have not shared thus far. During his acceptance speech, I found myself standing in a room crowded with people. Having been trained as a jury trial lawyer, I was listening to every single word, the cadence, the intonation, the choice of words, the eye pattern, and the gestures. At some, I had a physical quiver because a surge had gone down my nerve endings. When I gathered my wits, I looked down, and all eyes in the room were on me.

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  5. I was 14 when JFK ran and won. I was not politically aware at the time. Because the election was close, and maybe because of my age, it began to have an impact on me. But other things were still more important, mundane things, kid things, teenage things. I was 17 when JFK was assassinated. It wasn't a political emotion that I went through, it was a historical one. It was then I started to realize that I loose connection to the world around me, that I was more observer than an intricate part. I still am. Though I have strong feelings about politics, they don't control me. Obama will be as good a president as we and the Congress allow him to be. If we don't expect him to do superhuman things, he'll be fine. If Congress doesn't let their agendas interfere, he'll do well. If we, the people, maintain support for him, he can be viewed as historical for much more than his skin color. I didn't vote for him because I am not a liberal and I did not think his ideas for the country matched mine well enough (neither did McCain's, for that matter). I hope he doesn't take the country too far to the left. But I'll support him when I think he's right and criticize him when I think he's wrong. He has a great burden on his shoulders, a lot of hope has been invested in him, he can be a great president but he may have the toughest time in office of any since Lincoln.

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  6. "I loose connection" should be "I lost connection"
    Poor proofreading...

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  7. Douglas: Not once during our reading of the various comments which you placed on our blog over the past week or so, have we gained the impression that you are an ideologue, and for that you are to be complimented. Our sense all along was that you were a thoughtful and contemplative individual with the best interests of the country in mind. We never detected any disingenuous arguments or intellectually dishonest ones.

    That is very contrary to the approach taken by the previous administration, and many Republicans during the recent campaign. Very little about them could be termed collaborative in nature. Although we suspected that you might not have been a liberal (not that it matters), it was not exactly clear until you specifically revealed it.

    You strike us as a person with whom a liberal, or someone on any place on the ideological spectrum for that matter, could work to achieve mutually agreed upon goals.

    In our opinion, it is the attitude toward collaboration which defines a president, at least in the United States, during this era. Both factions need to be pragamatic. Both factions need to be respectful of one another. Both sides need to acknowledge that reasonable people can differ. And both sides need to recognize that the interests of the collective many trump the interests of the isolated few.

    Thus far, it appears that Obama is that type of person, as much as efforts were made to paint him as an extremist. There's a reason that he is known as "No Drama Obama." The suggestion that one man in a system with two other branches of government and self-executing checks and balances, could lead us down a Marxist path was, quite simply, disingenuous.

    The previous administration appeared to behave as if it were dismissive of the interests of others. The tasks are many and difficult in quality. However, we needed someone inclusive in style to move us ALL forward. It's been done in the past, and it can be done again.

    One final thing on the issue of how reasonable people can differ. I love to tell this story. Some years ago, I was watching C-Span and I saw Joe Biden speak before the Senate on a Friday night, shortly after Sen. Strom Thurman, the ardent segregationist and conservative, had passed. Thurman's wife had just called him and told him that Thurman had passed, and that Thurman had requested that Biden deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Honored, Biden then went on to explain how an ardent liberal and an ardent conservative could work together. We need more people in our government who aspire to have that collaborative attitude.

    Thanks, as always, for contributing to the tone of civility in this forum. If only we could clone you and have your clones run for more offices throughout the country.

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  8. It must be an incredibly tough job to lead a country such as ours. So diverse in culture ad political thought. How to unite a significant majority without seriously offending a large minority takes a talent I cannot easily believe exists. No one will ever unite all citizens. If one did, I would be quaking in abject fear for this country and its people.

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  9. Douglas: I believe that it would not be actually due to the leader, but rather external forces and timing. The more serious the threat to what the most people in our society value, the higher the probability of our rallying together to fight off the threat. Arthur Schlesinger's "The Disuniting of America (http://books.google.com/books?id=8zqPoZG2UYUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22the+disuniting+of+america%22&ei=PpoUSYHrDpSyMOfr9fYL), explains how our nation started splintering into more and more special interest factions. It is a good read.

    What I suspect the Republicans did not realize, was that this was not the time for the politics of division.

    Circumstances will determine the next great leader.

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  10. I'd have to agree with Douglas about the election results. While I am a Republican (though I am probably drifting more towards Libertarian these days) I felt that the Republican party had set itself up to fail big time in this election.

    Between the repeated scandles of politicians who were caught breaking the law or eithcs the party is supposed to uphold, and President Bush's inability to even try to appear to compromise with people who have a different viewpoint (unless absolutely forced to do so), the Republicans frankly needed to lose this election. Otherwise it likely would not have been forced to take a critical look at itself and try to define just what it is going to be going forward.

    The question is will the party learn from it's mistakes? Will it clean out the politicians that have betrayed the public and will it realise that some compromise is required to govern? If not, then the Republican party is going to continue to fade and it will be replaced with a party that is able to learn these lessons.

    I think I would prefer that the White House have a President from the party that does NOT control Congress. The government is supposed to be based upon checks and balances between all 3 branches. Having 2 of those branches in the hands of 1 party (especially if the idealogues of that party manage to hold the key positions) negates the balance and can cause more harm than good. Ultimately we are better served if both ends of the political spectrum are needed to pass bills. This is when compromise truly takes place, not when one side is so strongly in control that they feel little need to work with the other side.

    I feel that Preseident Obama will have until 2010 to prove that he will truly work with both parties and to try to unite the entire country. If not, the next round of Congressional elections will likely see some big changes.

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  11. Robert AND Douglas: If we had a staff and a budget, both of you fellows would be invited to join the Institute for Applied Common Sense.

    Robert, you very cogently articulated the type of attitude and thought process which our politicians, on both sides of the aisle, will need to constructively move this country forward. If our Republicans and Democrats could adopt this type of approach, there arguably would be little clamor for a third or fourth political party.

    To both of you, please consider submitting articles of your own as Guest Authors. Our guidelines for submission are contained in Post No. 34 in our Archives. We'd like to more from you.

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  12. In times of great peril from external (and, often, internal) threats, the citizens tend to rally around a strong leader. The danger in that is clear, we've seen it any number of times throughout the world. Often revolutions promising liberation result in more oppression. We, as human beings, tend to seek out the charismatic leader. The risk in that should be obvious. Our faith should always be placed in the rule of law and the Constitution and never in the personalities of those we place in office. These men and women are elected to serve us, not for us to serve.

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  13. Douglas: Charisma, as with many things in life, can go both ways. I do think that McCain's physicality, in this visual media world, was a significant factor in this election. One reader described Obama as appearing "fresh."

    To some extent, that is once again biologically based. Our senses perceive certain images, smells, sounds, etc. which we interpret in certain ways. I think that it is unavoidable; however, we have to be careful not to let our senses override thinking clearly.

    We've been chatting it up so frequently here recently, we forgot whether we added your blog to our blogroll as a cross-link. If we have not, we will do so now. We value and appreciate what you have to say.

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  14. In times of great peril from external (and, often, internal) threats, the citizens tend to rally around a strong leader. The danger in that is clear, we've seen it any number of times throughout the world. Often revolutions promising liberation result in more oppression. We, as human beings, tend to seek out the charismatic leader. The risk in that should be obvious. Our faith should always be placed in the rule of law and the Constitution and never in the personalities of those we place in office. These men and women are elected to serve us, not for us to serve.

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  15. Thanks Vikki. Sorry to insert the "hiccup" at the very beginning.

    I don't think that any of us realized his cumulative effect. When one views the events and crowds leading up to the election, one would not have been able to anticipate the emotional wave.

    I find myself repeating something from several months ago. I never paid Obama any attention for the first year. I considered the prospect of a black man becoming President, remote, at best. And then Caroline Kennedy said something that got my attention, when she announced that she was endorsing Obama. She essentially said that she was not old enough or sophisticated enough to appreciate the manner in which her Father inspired people. However, those who were around at the time indicated that Obama inspired them in the very same way as her Father had. Then I had to pay attention.

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