12 August 2008


Culture shock comes in various forms and often in successive waves--you think you're good and then you go somewhere and chat with people and you realise: actually, no. this is in fact a completely alien place to me.

We have returned from a week-ish trip to Portland and I can report that Portland is full of Portland people, which makes it a bit odd. What I mean by this is that Portland is one of the strongholds of lefter-than-thou left-leaning lefty folks, which makes me love visiting there on the one hand. Everyone is granola. Everyone rides their bikes everywhere. Of course you compost. Of course you use the fabulous lightrail and transport infrastructure the city has developed. Wrth gwrs. Natürlich. And, of course you support Obama.

We saw NO McCain signs anywhere in Portland or Vancouver WA during our trip. Perhaps it's because this isn't the route his campaign is going, but it was striking. More striking was the canvassing for money we ran into on the street. And this worries me a bit because news outlets are talking about Obama fatigue, which I didn't quite get having spent the primary season in the UK and now being in DC where while Obama is big, there are many Republicans here (weird, no?). It's a bit more balanced inside the beltway (although still out-of-whack in its own way) than the PDX crowd. Having visiting Portland I totally 'get' Obama fatigue.

The DNC folks on the streets of Portland assumed that *of course* you are an Obama supporter, and what's more, of course you've already given to his campaign. I worry that in talking to themselves so much and patting themselves on the back so much the Democrats in coastal cities like Portland will lay back and think they have it won at worst and at best repeat the cultural and political mistake of dismissing everyone in the 'fly-over' 'red' states in the middle, which are neither fly-over (direct coastal flights are expensive and rare these days) nor truly and fully red. Ignoring or dismissing the middle of the country glibly will not win you any friends and will alienate many many people. Like all those folks in the middle.

I find this insulting and arrogant and elitist, exactly the things that lose Dems the elections. I found myself--someone that finds little space for my semi-socialist leanings in the US political spectrum--I found myself sympathising with the Republicans and wishing I could enter into a debate with these folks in which *I took the conservative side*. Because they were so smug and settled.

Final and important note: another disturbing trend among these canvassers is the DNC-v-Obama rhetoric they are employing. The two fund raising entities are separate. Fine. But the DNC is doing itself no favours by whining that Obama's excellent fundraising machine is leaving them in the cold. Especially since the impression at the upper levels is that Obama is working well with the DNC (e.g. he didn't reconstitute the party leadership when he certainly could have). So I found it very problematic that one of the lines of argument the DNC fundraisers were giving us is a clear distanciation between DNC and Obama, something that I don't think serves either very well.

As a worrier, I worry. And visiting Dem-happy PDX only deepened that worry. Reassurances? Anyone?


Transient Gadfly said...

The thing that struck me about Barack was the iconography. They were selling t-shirts and buttons and such with an image of him that openly referenced Che and Lenin (that sort of block shadow negative-space thing). I found it...weird.

Otherwise, I think trying to gauge how the political battle is being fought by looking at the left in PDX is like trying to do the same for the other side by observing Rush Limbaugh listeners. That's not to say that I'm not also worried. I am.

Che said...

Any effort to tamp down worry would be counterproductive to the effort we need to make to "right" the country's path over the next few months and would be a jinx. So worry, and channel that nervous energy into organizing and carrying the fight forward.