Sunday, October 12, 2008

'Time To Give the Black Guy a Chance'

Photo: Obama Signs on Rural Street in Raccoon

Tide Is Turning
For Obama In
Beaver County, PA

By Carl Davidson
Beaver County Blue

About twenty of us are gathering early Saturday morning at the IBEW Hall, 'Labor Central,' in Vanport, Beaver County, Western PA. Today it's a team of electrical workers, steelworkers, SEIU service workers and a few activists with the 4th CD PDA, Progressive Democrats of America.

We're walking streets, lanes and backwoods roads to hit every union household in the area. The goal today? Voter ID. Make sure every list is correct, find every registered union family voter, find out where they stand, and then, Voter ED, give them our pitch and materials on why Obama-Biden is their best shot to defend their interests in 2008-'Green Jobs,' ending the war, defending health care.

The press calls our turf a critical battleground for the hearts, mind and votes of 'the white worker,' which it is, with McCain-Palin sliding down, but still at 51 percent today. But you wouldn't know Obama had a problem by looking at our team today. They're a hard-muscled crew, ball caps and blue jeans, but 'Vote Obama 2008' emblazoned on T-shirts, hats and buttons galore. The rightwing's bigotry is reaching a fever pitch, but these workers are making it very clear where they stand.

I enter the hall with a reporter from a major Portuguese paper, Expresso, that I'm helping out. The European press is also following this election more intently than any in a long time, and he's neither the first nor the last from Europe to visit us. I introduce him to Bob Schmetzer, one of the IBEW officials, who tells him what the unions are doing. Then he meets our PA State Rep, Vince Biancucci, who's doing the walks with us today. He and Vince trade stories about workers in Italy.

Leaving him to his business, I gather up flyers I'll need for the day. Most are aimed straight at the economic crisis and pocketbook issues. Schmetzer pulled together a good one of McCain's lousy record on veterans, well documented. There's a stack of a new one, full color, with nice pictures, with text: Obama wears a flag pin, puts his hand on his heart saying the Pledge, is a Christian who goes to church, was sworn in on the Bible, not the Koran, that was another Black guy from Minnesota, and so on.

There's a grey-bearded electrical worker who looks like a six foot six version of Kenny Rodgers reading it, too. "Whaddya think," He asks? A nice-looking job, I say, but it's pitiful that we have to put things like this out. "My thought exactly," he replies, "but we still got to answer and defeat this crap."

The union staff gets us organized into smaller teams and on our way. We're working north of the Ohio today. I'm headed for Beaver Falls, an old merchant center and industrial town on the Beaver River, known mainly these days as the home of Joe Namath, the football star. At the end of the Reagan era the Babcock and Wilcox tubular mill closed and dismissed over 5,000 workers in Beaver Falls. It's hard times, like everywhere else around here. Six of us, in teams of two, work a low-to-middle income working-class neighborhood on the north side of town, with Black and white workers on the same streets, not always that common in some places.

My first door is a Black construction worker, who tells me, "We're solid for Obama, and everyone in the house is registered, but go see the guy a couple doors down." He does want a yard sign, though, so we put one up for him. This is clearly the Obama base, or at least one major sector.

The guy a few houses down is a 57-year-old white worker, very friendly. "I'm going with Obama and the Democrats, no two ways about it." He tells us he's just registered, never voted before in his life, but the stakes are too high this time, and the conservatives have to be put out.

We keep working the street, but run into Randy and Tina Shannon of PDA at the corner. I get another sheet of names, and we swap stories.

"People are starting to use the 'O' word," says Tina. "Before, they'd just say, 'I'm voting Democrat.' Now they're saying, 'I'm for Obama and the Democrats, and give you an earful.' I think that's a shift."

"I was just up on 'The Heights,' says Randy, meaning the neighborhood on the surrounding hill. "I had one elderly lady for McCain, but I warned her, 'You're on Medicare, aren't you? If McCain has his way, you'll see it cut back.' Didn't help with her, but I ran into another lady who must have been almost ninety. 'McCain? No way, you know where he can go.' Let's just say her comments weren't appropriate for print, but she's determined to vote for Obama. I had just one guy telling me he was only going to vote for the local Democrats."

That's called the 'top of the ticket' problem, and it's a point of contention between the unions' approach, which is to work for everyone, and a few local incumbents shying away from taking a clear leadership stand to win over Clinton and McCain-leaning older Democrats.

"Most important all day," Randy added, "was one steelworker I met, who said: 'It's time to give the Black guy a chance,' and you could tell from the way he said it that he'd thought on it for some time, and probably not alone. They're seeing their pension funds shrink, their jobs lost or cut back, and they want to turn them all out."

We turn in our sheets by lunchtime and share more stories. The PDA folks are lining up people to buy tickets for a PDA 'Dinner and a Movie' night out, Nov. 1, in Monaca, PA, featuring the documentary film 'UnCounted', which will expand people's horizons on electoral problems, and help build for the next round of battles around single-payer health care and stopping the war.

Everyone agrees the tide is turning, but a lot can still happen, for better or worse. No one wants to coast. My township, Raccoon, went 30 percent for Obama in the primary, with the bulk going for Hillary. Most voters there are Democrats, and they'll break three ways-for Obama, for McCain and for 'staying home.'
Getting enough to get past 50 percent was always possible, but with the Wall Street crash, it's now clearly in sight.

The Palin right's attacks on Obama as a 'terrorist' are backfiring among many as a devious diversion. Some we talk to cling to the 'Secret Muslim' stories, no matter how clearly the lies are exposed. The reason soon becomes crystal clear: they don't let go of it not because they believe it, but because it's the new way to say they won't vote for a Black candidate. That's simply a reactionary political stand, and has nothing to do with the facts.

But the grip of the right is weakening. Obama-Biden signs are going up everywhere in the white areas. When the right takes them down, more go back up. One guy down the road took a four by eight sheet of plywood, and painted it dark blue, with the Obama 08 Symbol in the middle, and leaned it against his house, as if to say, 'Let see you try to take this one down!'

After lunch we head over the Court House in Beaver. Every Saturday for more than five years now, our PDA and Beaver County Peace Links groups are out there with 'Honk for Peace' and 'Healthcare Not Warfare' signs, together with a big 'Bring the Troops Home Now' banner. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, working to end the war and defeat McCain. Today the cars are honking like we're in Times Square. It's another good sign that change is coming.

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boukman70 said...


This story gives me hope, and I'm glad to see my homies changing their minds for Obama. I've got to tell you, though, I'm a bit worried these days. Not so much over whether Obama will win or not (I'm pretty sure he will), but with Palin & Crew's attacks stirring up a fury I think will only be made worse if Obama wins. I hope my dread is wrong, but I just can't shake it.

Oh yeah, do you need help on the 26th? I'll be in the area.

Carl Davidson said...

Yes, we can use help. Saturday AM are the labor walks, be at the union in Vanport before 9am, Cranberry Alley, just behind the the Rite-Aid. Or anytime at the Obama office on the main drag there, next to the Rite-Aid, across from Brighton Hot Dogs.

Anonymous said...

Can you give me some concrete examples of this "bigotry"? I have yet to hear one. I mean I've heard anti-Obama comments, but not bigoted ones.

Anonymous said...

Can you give me some concrete examples of this "bigotry". I have yet to hear one.

Carl Davidson said...

Are you kidding?

All the false claims that Obama's a secret Muslim and and Arab and a thus a terrorist?

But what if he were a Muslim? We have Islamic Members of Congress. And what if he were an Arab? We have many Arab-American Christians living right here in Beaver County.

When McCain says, no he's not an Arab, he's a decent family man, how would you feel if you were one of our local Arab-American citizens?

Then we can go to those who bring stuffed monkeys with Obama buttons on them to GOP rallies, what does that mean?

I could go on and on...Where have you been?

Anonymous said...

Wonder how the folks in Beaver County will feel when there is a knock on the door and the feds have come for their guns? Or when the plants that are left close because protectionist policies have driven more jobs overseas? Or when they are pulled over and arrested for that confederate flag on their rear window? Or when they are called to the principal's office to learn that Janey is being expelled for discussing religion in school with her friends?

These are things that will happen if the agenda items of the left, all of which are the subject of past or pending legislation, are enacted. These and many more.

You ask what the right will do? It will stock up, send its assets offshore, and essentially vote with its feet because it will fervently believe that the America you espouse is not the America they were born into, and they will exercise the right of resistance that the Founding Fathers and later presidents like Lincoln said was theirs.

Personally, I think that Obama will toss you under the bus. He has to in order to avoid Carter's fate.

Nom Deplume, J.D, LL.M. (but you can call me a knuckle-dragging troglodyte since that is how you see all conservatives).

Carl Davidson said...

I'm born and bred in Beaver County. I also lived in Chicago a while , and got to know Obama first hand.

You have NOTHING to worry about on any of your concerns.

As long as you have to pull a trigger to fire a round, your guns are safe. Obama has no interest in them. Obama is interested only in getting AUTOMATIC weapons out of the hands of inner city gangs--and you should be, too. Ask a cop.

Protectionism doesn't send jobs overseas, but McCain-Bush unregulated, unrestricted tax cuts do. If you're rich and you got a new tax cut, where will you invest it, here, or trying to make a quick buck offshore? Under Bush-McCain. there's no penalty for going offshore with your newly gotten tax-cut capital.

Janey can discuss religion with her friends in school all she wants, now and forever. But she won't have a teacher telling her WHAT religion she has to believe in under Obama. That's up to her and her family and her church, as it should be. It's not the business of schools.

It's the theocrats, fundamentalists and the Islamists that want to get their hands on the public schools. If you let one religion take them over, how do you keep the others out? Let you family and your church teach religion as a faith, and your daughter is free to say what she likes to her friends--and her friends are free to listen or not, as they choose. That's the American way.

You have nothing to fear from Obama or those to his left. But there are plenty on the right who have no idea what the Founders stood for. It wasn't the left wing that gutted these mills, took the money into Marathon oil futures, and told us 'We're in business to make money, not steel.' That was LTV and the right wing, their exact words.

Here's an experiment for you. Take the Bill of Rights, make it into a petition, but don't call it that. Just take it around to your rightwing friends, door-to-door, and see how many will sign on to it.

I'll be you'll get more lefties and liberals signing it, and certainly more Blacks, than you will among McCain supporters.

boukman70 said...

Hey Carl,

Great response to that last Anonymous. I find it absolutely amazing the things that people believe about liberals. I guess Rush et al. repeat their bombastic hyperbole so much it just becomes fact in people's minds. Anyway, sorry I couldn't make it to help you guys. The wedding I went to in Monangahela was a lot earlier than I'd originally thought. I'm down here in Virginia helping out, though. Say Hey to Murtha for me.

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