October 22, 2008

crazy pills

The whole scrap about Ayers and ACORN in the debate the other night (if you missed it, the short version is that McCain said he didn't care about some washed-up old terrorist and then talked about him ad nauseam, and Obama said this is ridiculous) reminded me of some of the more totally insane things about this election: namely, that people are willing to believe all kinds of terrible things about Obama and vote for him anyway. Ben Smith at Politico has the best examples: a canvasser in Fishtown, a Philadelphia neighborhood, finds people who are outright racist, but "they would call him a n----r and mention how they don't know what to do because of the economy."

And then, well, this kind of speaks for itself, although you should click over and read the whole thing: after watching a no-holds-barred ad for a focus group, the kind that throws Wright and Ayers and everything at Obama, this happens.

The next was a woman, late 50s, Democrat but strongly pro-life. Loved B. and H. Clinton, loved Bush in 2000. "Well, I don't know much about this terrorist group Barack used to be in with that Weather guy but I'm sick of paying for health insurance at work and that's why I'm supporting Barack."
She thinks he was a member of a terrorist group. She's voting for him anyway. Like other members of the focus group, she was willing to accept these racially motivated slurs, but she didn't think acting on them was in her own best interest.

The guy who organized the focus group said, "I felt like I was taking crazy pills."

This has a little to do with why I think having Obama as president would be amazing for race issues in this country. I mean yeah, the far-right crazies - the Patriot movement, the white supremacists, the kind of people David Neiwert at Orcinus keeps an eye on - will go nuts. Obama will need incredibly intense security. But most people will see a black man (biracial, yes, but in a lot of the country he just reads as black) being president, doing a pretty good job of it, and most importantly seeming like a smart decent guy, and it'll change their gut feelings about race the same way it happened for this guy:
"I’ve always been against the blacks," said Mr. Rowell, who is in his 70s, recalling how he was arrested for throwing firecrackers in the black section of town. But now that he has three biracial grandchildren — “it was really rough on me” — he said he had “found out they were human beings, too.”
It's not like anyone wakes up and suddenly things are fine, but it changes people's ideas of what's possible and what's normal.

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