And what a long, strange trip it's been, talking at the country's colleges about dirty tricks in American politics. From Auburn to Iowa, from Massachusetts to Wyoming, with a slide show full of campaign commercials (such as the ones Errol Morris is talking about in his informative NY Times piece today) and a desire to show people that today's election is nothing compared to what was going on way back in the distant past, such as 1988!
Flashes from the road--the Libertarian party student at Virginia Tech who set up his table full of brochures which looked like they had been printed up in the 1980s...and who wanted to go back to the old pre-1800 system of voting, except expand it to the masses, two votes per voter, one for pres, one for vice-pres. No political parties. "Wouldn't it be nice to get two people with different views into the White House?" Uh, no....
Then there were the two black women in Alabama who came up to me and warned me that my criticism of the KKK (in the Al Smith election of 1928) might stir things up. "You have to be careful how you mention the Klan around here," they said, laughing a little and shaking their heads.
Then there was getting stuck in beautiful Laramie Wyoming airport for five hours, causing me to miss my talk at Columbus State College, in Ohio, which I was really looking forward to (sorry about that, Columbus State). If you get stuck in an airport, Laramie, more of a landing strip than an actual airport, is not the one to get stuck in. But the University of Wyoming was great. Watched the last debate ("Joe the Plumber") in a student bar there with great burgers and lots of focus on what was being said. In fact, everywhere I went, kids were really into the election. There was a good deal of indignation over the current series of McCain attack ads, although at the same time, there were doubts about Obama and his lack of experience.....
Back here in my solidly Democratic town in my solidly Democratic state of New Jersey, Obama signs sprout everywhere, far more than there were Kerry signs in 2004. The Democrats, sensing victory, are pushing ahead everywhere. The campaign is getting dirtier and now may crack my top ten dirtiest elections--I will decide after election day. It isn't just the outlandish McCain attacks on Obama (next they'll be calling him Leon Trotsky) but real concerns about the amount of fighting already going on about voter registration lists, with Republicans mounting challenge after challenge to knock most Democratic voters from the rolls for technical reasons. Then there's ACORN, which has really smeared Democratic get out the vote efforts. And everywhere I went, people are afraid that by some political skullduggery there computerized votes won't count....or that there will be Florida/2000-like confusion if they are voting in a close state.
More tomorrow. I am a somewhat amazed at the Obama campaign plans to go ahead and air his 30 minute long campaign infomercial tomorrow night. In my talk, I warn against 30 minutes worth of presidential candidate talking time, citing how badly it failed for Adlai Stevenson in 1952. Naturally, Obama won't just be a talking head like Stevenson was --plenty of video and images--but this kind of thing can backfire, especially if one already considers the Obama campaign (remember the awful "seal" and the strange Grecian columns at the convention?) a tad pompous....
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
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