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OHIO STATE OF MIND: “I’d Never Vote For A Nigga”

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Matt Goldfine has been working in Philadelphia and Harrisburg politics for the last five years. Tired of fretting over the polls from afar, he drove out to Ohio last Sunday to volunteer for the Obama campaign’s get-out-the-vote drive. He will be filing regular dispatches from Ohio from now to election night.

BY MATT GOLDFINE BUCKEYE CORRESPONDENT A chihuahua on a pink leash is yapping away at me and I don’t know what to do. I’ve been knocking on doors for the president in Tremont, a diverse lower income community on Cleveland’s East Side, for a few hours tonight as I approach the beast. Surely it’s no threat to me, but it looks like it will go after my leg nonstop when I make my pitch for Obama to its owner, and I don’t want to have to punt it away.

The owner actually walks out before I have to make a decision; it’s a young black man who looks in his early thirties. I say hello and have my pitch for Obama. As I hold out the literature and ask him if he plans to support the president, he looks into the air pensively, then leans towards me and says, “Tween you and me, I’d never vote for a nigga.”

Perplexed, I ask him to repeat what he said, thinking maybe I heard him incorrectly. I didn’t. I wasn’t really sure what to say: this isn’t one of the standard situations I walk canvassers though in my trainings.

As I try to gather my thoughts and say something, anything to break the tension, he starts smiling at me and says, “Naw man, I’m just fuckin’ with ya.” We both break out in hysterics and he goes on to tell me how he’s never voted Republican and never will. In 2007, on my first campaign, Schooly D made a very similar joke when I tried to pitch him on the candidate I was working with. But I was a little quicker then, unlike today when I’ve sent volunteers to contact over 3,000 voters, and I managed to quip back something to Schooly D that also could have applied in this case: “Well, at least his mother’s white.”

At another house, I encounter a woman in her forties who does not speak much English. I try to muster up some Spanglish but four boys come to the doors and one helps me translate. She’s supporting Obama and I explain information for early voting. One of the boys says something and his brother translates asking if he can still register to vote. I explain that the deadline passed a month ago and when it’s translated back, the boy’s mother starts smacking him on the head with the literature I just handed her and curses at him in Spanish.

There was a low flying plane zipping around the West Side this weekend saying that people could early vote until 9pm, exclaiming GO OBAMA! Early voting ended at 2pm on Saturday and 5pm today, so everyone thinks the plane is here to mislead voters. Not sure if they ever caught it. I had a similar situation one Election Day when a van with mounted speakers and covered in signs supporting a candidate on our side was blaring information reminding voters to vote tomorrow, which was the day after the election. I reported it to the campaign, letting them know someone was trying to suppress the vote. Ends up it wasn’t intimidation after all: the van was a union supporter who was playing a tape from the day before.

The only friendly fire I’m seeing this weekend is probably an over saturation of canvassers. While the OFA effort is very well organized, there are various unions and community groups who are doing their own thing covering the same territory. We’re already planning multiple passes in the final day ourselves; I’m just hoping that the non-stop reminders don’t turn off too many would be voters.

The lines for early voting are massive. Here in Cleveland you can only early vote at the county elections office and I’m hearing of wait up to two or three hours. Republicans tried to shut down early voting for this weekend, but a federal appeals court stopped the effort.

While the GOP is continuing suppression efforts, the Secretary of State is pushing a last minute change to provisional balloting that could throw the election into a messy redux of the 2000 Florida recount if the election is close here, the Democrats are doing everything they can to get people to go vote early and stay in line. Stevie Wonder did an unannounced concert this weekend close to the early voting location downtown, encouraging people to head over and vote. Supporters near the line to vote were grilling and giving out hot drinks.

Some stories are reporting less enthusiasm for Obama here in Ohio, but I don’t see it. We’ve got scores of students Columbia University who were bused in straight from Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath and when I sent them to the ‘hood after a quick training, they reported back with nothing but love from voters. The predominantly Latino, black and ethnic white neighborhoods where I’ve been sending troops probably gives me a slanted view, but if we can increase turn out here it could put the president over the top. No sleep till Brooklyn! Brooklyn, Cleveland that is.

PREVIOUSLY: OHIO STATE OF MIND: Live & Direct From The Front

PREVIOUSLY: OHIO STATE OF MIND: Bowzer & Me Save Democracy

PREVIOUSLY:
OHIO STATE OF MIND: From The Trenches Of Cleveland

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