November 4, 2008
Massive Voting Problems in Cambridge, Mass.
Posted by Alan Childress
Blog post, updating regularly, here on how registration lists in Cambridge were incomplete and many voters were forced to vote "provisionally." I already thought Cambridge was the heart of communism so this may be some indication of that. Jeff reports that he and Alene voted without a hitch but the woman in front of them was unhappily redirected to the provisional pile.
In Louisiana, I received a text message last night on my cell phone telling me that due to long lines expected today, obama voters must wait till Wednesday to vote.
And seeing CNN right now, they just cannot get their heads around race (or past it). They are interviewing black person after black person about voting for Obama. It is as if a white person could not identify with him or see the historical moment. The white voters are certainly not being interviewed about how they "feel" about this. (It reminds me that during the convention the TV cameras always caught black delegates' reactions and ignored white ones, whenever black speakers spoke, as if Obama was the candidate for one demographic of the party. Was it Chris Rock who said the cameras do that during Oscar telecasts?) I honestly believe that most Americans, Democrat or Republican, are fairer and more mature about race than many in the media are, if only because keeping the racial-divide story going is such good entertainment for ratings purposes. Why ask a white person (or a black one, for that matter) if they prefer Obama's tax policy or McCain's stance on Iraq? Not a real story in their eyes. Too boring. Really it is appalling that many in the media just cannot see a vote for either McCain or Obama as about anything other than race. I had hoped we'd gotten past that in the primaries, but apparently not. Maybe someday, and maybe starting tomorrow.
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I completely agree re the bizarre fixation of the media on the racial aspect of the victory. (Note, too, the degree to which they were worked up over the nonexistent Bradley Effect.) Yes, it is a historic vindication of civil rights activists' work to see an African American elected president. But this was an election about policy, and the greatest disservice and disrespect to people like Barack Obama and Martin Luther King would be to disregard their policy goals---to promote the welfare of all Americans and particularly to help the least among us, regardless of their race.
Walter Benn Michaels has written provocatively on these themes recently.
Posted by: Frank | Nov 5, 2008 9:28:11 PM
Alan and Frank, I really don't think the attention on the racial aspects has been overblown. Take a look at the Doonesbury a lot of newspapers refused to run because it necessarily predicted an Obama victory. The punch line is that the white soldier is proud of Obama because he is "half-white."
I think this is a cathartic moment in history. I grew up assuming I could never be President because I was Jewish. Before Kennedy, Catholics felt the same way. Woman are still dealing with it, notwithstanding Hillary. When the result of this election reduces Colin Powell to tears, that's a statement about significance.
Having said that, the real significance of the sweeping victory is that it occurred as it did, the old-fashioned way, with a clear majority in the popular vote and the Electoral College, decided without lawsuits over voting irregularities, early in the evening, with gracious speeches on both sides. Black people didn't sneak somebody in and gain a victory over white people: white people elected Obama - without them, he'd not be President-Elect. I wouldn't for a moment deny to African-Americans the stunning awesomeness of that moment.
Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Nov 6, 2008 1:40:44 AM
Jeff, I hear you all the way. I do not mean to be heard as denying anyone the awesomeness of the moment. My only reaction is to how the TV media has been presenting it. They pick one telegenic story and reduce the election to that. I loved the candid interviews after the election of various people (many of color) who were stunned and weeping. I did not like the selective ones during the voting process itself that seemed to suggest that only African Americans were voting for Obama and that their entire reason was personal and historical (especially since he wound up only slightly outperforming Gore in that demographic). These questions were not asked of white "man on the street" interviews. And there were no questions that I saw that were about the non-race issues in the case. Three weeks of Joe the Plumber and no one was asked whether their vote was a worry about tax policy? Eight years of Republican rule and no one was asked whether that was rejected? And now the meme seems to be that the vote was so historical and awesome that it was not about policy at all--that Obama has no mandate and must govern from the middle and maybe center-right. The man was called liberal and socialist and we are not allowed to consider that the majority embraced that, chose that? I doubt it too, but then there would be a discussion of how those labels were wrong. And John McCain does not get his due if he is reduced to the guy who ran against history. For all my disagreements with him, I think he was sincere in believing that he was history and would make history, as he often said. And that he had real policy differences with Obama.
Anyway, I am not saying that you are wrong or that this was not a big story. But it seemed to be THE story. And when I voted, it was not for me. And I think policy matters. I agree with Frank that this came across as a bizarre fixation.
Posted by: Alan Childress | Nov 6, 2008 7:20:58 AM