Seeing Blue in NC

That’s the title of an op-ed I wrote, published May 11, 2008 in the News and Observer, partially in reaction to David Broder’s arrogant column, “Two Weeks of Trivia,” in The Washington Post, writing off the importance of the North Carolina primary and claiming, without doing his homework or voter analysis, that NC is so solidly in the Republican camp that there’s no way Obama can win it. I pointed out counties like Chatham where the combined votes of Obama and Clinton were greater than those for Bush in 2004, and precincts where Obama won white working class votes.

Excerpt: “My barber in Chatham County, a white man close to retirement, was singing Obama’s praises Wednesday, comparing him to John F. Kennedy. Obama’s a man who speaks eloquently, especially to young people, he said.

“My barber is clearly a member of the white working class that media pundits have been telling us won’t vote for Obama. But he said he can’t stand the Clintons or the Bushes and would like the country to make a fresh start. He’d like a president who makes the wealthy pay their fair share and who preaches personal responsibility to all.

“Obama may be the man, he said, though he worries that Obama doesn’t have enough experience in this dangerous world of terrorist plots.

“My barber, I bet, is a swing voter. People like him may determine the outcome of the November election, not only in Chatham County but the nation as well. I’ll keep going back to him for doses of political reality that I don’t get from the media pundits.”Read the whole thing (link no longer works).

I believe Obama can win over a lot of white working class, non-college voters if he goes out of his way to listen to them and prove to them he cares. After all,eight out of 10 voters say the U.S. is off-track, headed in the wrong direction. Andrew Sullivan makes a good point: “Obama’s got his work cut out with these people when he gets the nomination. A summer of engaging and listening with rural non-college educated white folk would help – why not hold a series of town hall meetings in rural America? I don’t think any region should be written off by any candidate, especially if the major objections seem racial or religious.”

A front-page piece, “Racism Alarms Obama Backers,” in The Washington Post describes the racial hostility Obama encountered in Indiana. (Previous articles described the racial hostility he encountered in Ohio and Pennsylvania, necessary states for the Democrats to win). Obama is betting that racist voters represent a smaller and smaller fringe.


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