October 30, 2008

October 28, 2008

Give change a chance

In the last days now before the election, the race in Florida is tightening as predicted. We've been seeing more Obama lawn signs - those, that is, that have escaped the epidemic of sign theft. One couple that we talked to on Saturday had lost their Obama sign to theives the night before. They were livid, of course, and we were all left to wonder about the motive behind it: by stealing the signs, the vandals think... what? That they're making the candidate himself disappear?

The evangelical-controlled republican party has been rife with superstition for some time now. Ballot initiative 2 in Florida for instance, would not only constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage, but also "the substantial equivalent thereof..." No government-recognized domestic partnerships. This over-kill initiative is so mean-spirited that none other than Jeb Bush lambasted it when its petition fell short four years ago. The goal of this measure, it seems, apart from the usual ploy of baiting conservatives into the voting booth, is to deter divine displeasure, and somehow save heterosexual marriage. The 50% divorce rate, like the 9/11 attack, can be traced directly to the nation's growing acceptance of homosexuality, you see. But as one unmarried straight couple we met, who had voted against the measure, pointed out, it puts them and their family in jeopardy too. One sign I saw in Naples said "Vote No on 2. Save our families." But in the fundamentalist-imagined universe, health care benefits, pensions, civil rights in general, are extended only to those who are permitted to submit to the proper state-sanctioned religious ritual.

One crusty duplex we visited turned out to be a "bad address." The former tenant had moved out. The old lady who greeted us at the door, surely a woman with little more than social security to sustain her, upon seeing our Obama buttons snapped "Get off my property!" Superstition, apparently, or "the substantial equivalent thereof" trumps everything in the minds of some... including their own self-interest. Thomas Frank's "What's The Matter With Kansas?", though already a little dated, is a good primer on the phenomenon.

The quirkiest encounter was toward the end of the day on Saturday. One of our last calls was on somebody named "Ono." Imagine our surprise when we pulled up to the house and there, stretched between two trees, was a huge home-made Obama sign saying "Give Peace A Chance." The guy who answered the door, who turned out to be a volunteer, had made the sign. But he wasn't Ms. Ono. He didn't know Ms. Ono. Turns out she was at another address that we'd already logged as "moved."

The thing that surprised me the most on these treks into the neighborhoods I thought I knew, were the number of contacts on our list that were "bad addresses." Apartments, condos, and houses which, once approached, turned out to be empty, abandoned, foreclosed. Houses I thought were neighbors. And that, as I look around the city, is the legacy of the last eight years made sadly tangible. Empty houses, uprooted families, properties gone to weed. From modest apartments to solemn McMansions. Not even a dog to welcome or warn. Nobody. Nothing.

In normal times, I'd favor a somewhat divided government but not this year. The old guard has to go. I'd like to see Obama and Biden, should they win the White House, get the support in congress they need to take the country in a new direction. Give change a chance.

October 17, 2008

Boo who

I've been busy canvasing for the campaign. It's been a good, if exhausting, experience. I'm glad I finally connected with the local democratic organization.

Amid neighborhoods sprouting Halloween lights and apparitions, the door-to-door has been a hoot. At this hour the mood of the McCain camp is generally withdrawn and grimly hunkered-down. The Obamans are hopeful and quietly exultant. What remains of the undecideds seem to have qualms they can't quite articulate.

The Halloween demographic is varied too, and oddly reflects its human counterpart...

October 14, 2008

October 11, 2008

October 9, 2008

Joe Biden in Fort Myers

As some of you know, I volunteer for the local Obama campaign. Last night vice presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden came to Republican stronghold Fort Myers for a standing room only rally at Alico Arena on the FGCU campus. I've always liked senator Biden... bright, articulate, a really decent guy with a refreshing and comprehensive grasp of the issues. "Depth" was the word that kept coming up to describe Biden's performance in the v.p. debate.

The crowd at the rally was diverse. Seniors, boomers, families... but young folks and students seemed to be the dominant presence.

In a striking contrast to republican v.p. hopeful Sarah Palin's marching band/cheerleader-laden show at Germain Arena on Monday, the democratic candidate's appearance at the university was an issue-driven, no-frills, informative event, and evoked enthusiasm with ideas rather than with the hype and smears that have come to characterize the republican candidates' campaigns in the final weeks of the race.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson warmed up the crowd...

Senator Biden takes the stage to a rapturous standing o.

Biden is always at ease, though passionate, a seasoned statesman. You get the feeling that he can't be thrown off balance... he speaks from his heart and mind. They're connected. He has a good voice. The senator's talk was characteristically issue-oriented and addressed the economic crisis, health care, education, and foreign policy, among other things. Citing McCain's benefit-taxing healthcare plan, Biden repeated his debate zinger that McCain's plan is "the ultimate bridge to nowhere." Somewhere in the crowd an infant yelped. "I don't blame that baby for crying," Biden quipped.

Citing presidential candidate John McCain's much-vaunted image as a maverick, Biden pointed out McCain's record of unflagging support for the Bush administration. "That's not a maverick, that's a sidekick."

In a swipe at a McCain strategist's recent statement that if the campaigns "keep talking about the economy, we lose", Biden said that the American people, and the Obama campaign, are not about to "turn the page" on the crisis, as the McCain camp had hoped, until they elect a leader who can "write an end to the story" that we can live with.

Noting the recent downturn in tone coming from the McCain camp, Biden said that the republican candidate was trying to "take the low road to the highest office in America, and we can't let that happen."

A standing ovation erupted when Biden talked about ending the misbegotten war in Iraq and bringing the troops home.

Recent polls indicate that swing-state Florida has edged into the Obama column.

October 4, 2008