Friday, October 03, 2008

The Compromises of Canvassing

I enjoyed Jennifer Steinhauer's article on Democrats canvassing for Barack Obama in Elko, Nevada. It's actually possible that I am the only person who reads this blog who has been to Elko because it is truly in the middle of nowhere. This is not a particularly nice place.

Steinhauer followed around the canvassers and caught this interesting discussion:

“I don’t want to sound like I’m prejudiced,” she (the person being canvassed) continued. “I’ve never been around a lot of black people before. I just worry that they’re nice to your face but then when they get around their own people you just have to worry about what they’re going to do to you.”

Ms. Vance skipped no beats. “One thing you have to remember is that Obama, he’s half white and he was raised by his white mother. So his views are more white than black really.” Ms. Mendive looked tentative. “Well, that’s true.” Ms. Vance said she was so used to looking at Mr. Obama, “I don’t see the color of his face anymore.”

I am really torn by this strategy. Should we be using racism to promote Obama by reinforcing the value of "white" characteristics over "black" characteristics? I cringed when I saw this.

On the other hand, I have been in these kind of situations, particularly back in my union organizing days. You have an objective--get the person to do the right thing. You are willing to say almost anything to convince them to vote in a way that will benefit them and other people. It's really hard to be in that position. In a close election, whether it is a union election or in a battleground state in a presidential election, you need every vote you can get, even if you have sometimes you feel like you are betraying a little of your soul to get them.