Archive for October 19th, 2008

My Obama Minute: A Half Hour With a McCainiac

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I spent another two hours canvassing the Jewish community in Beachwood today. I spoke to 16 voters. Fifteen were voting for Obama. One for McCain.

Extrapolating these results out, I think we can all safely expect an Obama landslide on Election Day.

(Hey — I’m a creative writer, not a statistician. There’s a reason.)

It was another one of those fall days ripped from an Ohio Tourism brochure. High sun. Chilly, until you started walking, until you stepped out of the shadows of the houses and into the sunlight.

We set out around 11:30 a.m. — just after Meet the Press — and, I think it’s safe to say, we were propelled through the streets of Beachwood with Colin Powell’s endorsement at our backs.

People were, by and large, glad to see me. Even when they didn’t have time to talk, they let me know they appreciated the work I was doing. I spoke to one guy, in his doorway, for 15 minutes. I asked a 59-year-old woman if her daughter and son-in-law, who lived with her, were Obama voters, too.

“They better vote for Obama,” she said, “or else they’re out of the will.”

Perhaps my most satisfying conversation, though, was my last one — with a seventy-something McCain voter.

I started out by speaking to his wife, an Obama supporter, at the doorway of their modest ranch house, shaded by a low-slung roof. I’m happy to talk about Obama’s positions on Israel, I said.

“I don’t trust him on Israel,” the man said, unseen inside the house.

I answered his wife. Obama’s a great friend of the Jewish state.

“I don’t trust him on Israel,” the man said.

I heard Obama speak in Cleveland to a small group of Jewish leaders, I said. Obama said he would work tirelessly for a safe and secure Israel. He repeatedly spoke of the importance of Israel as a Jewish homeland. He has AIPAC’s stamp of approval. And a perfect voting record on Israel. He introduced a bill in the Senate to sanction Iran.

She invited me inside.

I’m not going to change my mind, he said. He sat at the living room table with his bare foot up on a chair — said he was nursing some ailment or another. Apologized for it. His kids, he said, were working their tails off for Obama, despite him.

You’re not going to move him, his wife said.

Still, we engaged in a spirited back and forth. He complained that Obama was going to be a tax and spend spread the wealth president. I told him I didn’t think so. Obama believes that trickle down economics has been class warfare against the middle class, and he wants to right that wrong. Further, I said, Obama is not a panderer. He was booed, after all, by the teacher’s union, for advocating standards for educators. He lost the progressive wing of the party when he agreed to immunity for the telecom companies. He supports gun ownership, and backed the Supreme Court ruling that called a DC law banning handguns unconstitutional.

I told him that McCain, in picking Palin, had in fact proven more tightly tied to his party’s extreme wing than Obama.

The man had a curt reply: Politicians pick the person who will most help them win. Obama did the same thing. End of story.

No, I said. If Obama wanted to pick the person most likely to help him win, he would have picked Hillary. Even Tom Delay and Newt Gingrich said as much. Obama, I said, picked the person he felt would help him govern, while also, hopefully helping him politically. No guarantee, though. Big, material difference.

His wife shook her head, smiling.

The man smiled, too. I haven’t voted for a Democrat since Adlai Stevenson, he said, and I’m not about to start now.

You’re man is going to win, anyway, he added.

Clearly, he had no idea who he was talking to.

I wouldn’t count on it, I said. The polls are contracting. The swing states are a dead heat.

Trust me, he said, you’re going to win. But, I tell you, you are doing the right thing — you can’t assume anything. You have to play this one through to the bitter end.

His wife went into the kitchen, came back with a copy of David Brooks’ column from the New York Times last week, in which the conservative columnist kind of gives a grudging stamp of approval to Obama. Take this, she said, it’s excellent. I’d already read it — but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

I don’t like either of them — Obama or McCain, the man admitted. Truth is, he said, if Hillary had won — I might have actually considered switching parties, to vote for her.

Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought.

I love the political process, he said. I love elections. I only hope I live another four years, so I can be here for the next one.

From your lips to god’s ears, my friend. I’ll stop back in 2012.