Front lines in the political Ground War

Front-yard campaigning in Greensboro

This morning I hung out with Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) and State Representative Pricey Harrison. They were walking a neighborhood getting voters out in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is one of those few states that are in play in the election for President.

I write about it here to tell other bloggers that if you get this chance in the future it’s a lot better way to get to know someone and their views than if you go to Washington DC and get a 15-minute interview.

It also showed me the hard work of campaigning. Pricey won her last race (she’s running unopposed this time) she told me because she hit almost every house in her district and people hadn’t seen her opponent in years because he had such a strongly-Republican district.

As we walked through a quiet neighborhood people stopped in the street to talk with them (the neighbors recognized them from TV ads).

We talked about policies, what Congress will be like next year (his legislative aide was along for the walk too and she said that Congress is backed up and a ton of legislation will get written next year), and the effect of the Internet on campaigns. Of course we talked about the economy and about the bailout bill. He said that was a tough vote (he voted for it) but it wasn’t popular with people calling and emailing his office. Says that sometimes he needs to not listen to his constituency and do what he thinks is the right thing to do. Says that’s a key to our form of representative democracy.

On how technology affects politics, Miller told me that when he started running for office back in the early 1990s that was before the Web. He told me when the Web first came along he derided it as a toy. Said that was a mistake and now uses the Web and other technologies to get the word out (he was watching polling information coming in on blogs like Daily Kos on his Blackberry as we walked around).

We visited a few dozen houses. When people were home they said hi, handed out literature, urged them to get to the polls (which are already open in North Carolina), and answered questions.

This seemed to be the least likely thing a technology blogger like me would be doing on a Saturday morning, but even here you could see the effect of technology. We had maps printed out from a database and Pricey had information on each home. Whether they were Democratic or Republican. Of course a lot of the houses had yard signs for either McCain or Obama, so it was pretty easy to figure out who was a strong supporter already.

The mood among Democrats is confident, but nervous. Piercy and Miller talked with each other about some of their experiences with racism on this campaign cycle. Miller told me he’s encountered lots of independent voters who tell him they are “uneasy” with Barack Obama. He says that if you get to know them they’ll cop to not being sure about voting for a black man. He told me about talking with Union organizers who notice that if they have someone with a noticeably African American voice that they’ll get different results than if someone who sounds white will call.

That talk depresses me, but he noted that North Carolina will probably go to Barack Obama, which is surprising everyone because it is a state that’s been solidly Republican in the past. Greensboro is famous for the student sit-ins during the civil rights struggles. On Thursday, I got a tour of the town and stood in the separate “white” and “colored” waiting room in the train station. Just a little reminder of how far we’ve come in this country in just a generation, but this talk reminded me we still have a ways to go.

Anyway, thanks to Sue Polinsky, the founder of Converge South, who introduced me to the campaign and set this up. I have a new respect for politicians. I sure wouldn’t want to do this.

Comments

  1. I heard Obama say recently that he recognizes that there will be people who do not vote for him simply because he is black, but that there will be many others who do: other African Americans who want to see a black man in the White House because of what it means to them personally, white progressives who feel like they will be making a statement about their own values.

    I’m going to try to remain optimistic.

    Check out this poll from Real Clear Politics about the state of the election in NC

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/nc/north_carolina_mccain_vs_obama-334.html

  2. I heard Obama say recently that he recognizes that there will be people who do not vote for him simply because he is black, but that there will be many others who do: other African Americans who want to see a black man in the White House because of what it means to them personally, white progressives who feel like they will be making a statement about their own values.

    I’m going to try to remain optimistic.

    Check out this poll from Real Clear Politics about the state of the election in NC

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/nc/north_carolina_mccain_vs_obama-334.html

  3. Happy to do it, Robert. Like I told you, even though I live a few blocks out of Brad’s district and can’t vote for him, I still support him (in that important wallet way) because we need people like Brad Miller in Congress (the same for Pricey Harrison, but I do live in her district). Both are longtime supporters and participants in ConvergeSouth, as well, which speaks to their wanting to learn more about technology (which they’ve both done). Actually, Pricey is a dedicated and very savvy Mac user.

    We enjoyed lunch; I have a new respect for rare bison burgers now. How ’bout them chips?

  4. Happy to do it, Robert. Like I told you, even though I live a few blocks out of Brad’s district and can’t vote for him, I still support him (in that important wallet way) because we need people like Brad Miller in Congress (the same for Pricey Harrison, but I do live in her district). Both are longtime supporters and participants in ConvergeSouth, as well, which speaks to their wanting to learn more about technology (which they’ve both done). Actually, Pricey is a dedicated and very savvy Mac user.

    We enjoyed lunch; I have a new respect for rare bison burgers now. How ’bout them chips?

  5. I understand the need for these kinds of reports, but I wonder about their ability to reinforce and encourage the behaviour that they chronicle.

    In other words, is the Bradley effect perpetuated by stories of people expressing their reluctance or do these stories shame some people into acting against their Bradley inclinations?

    Any thoughts?

  6. I understand the need for these kinds of reports, but I wonder about their ability to reinforce and encourage the behaviour that they chronicle.

    In other words, is the Bradley effect perpetuated by stories of people expressing their reluctance or do these stories shame some people into acting against their Bradley inclinations?

    Any thoughts?

  7. [...] sak som jag fastnade för är den alltid rörlige journalisten och medianörden, Robert Scoble, när han är ute på olika aktiviteter. Den här gången hängde han med kongressledamoten, Brad Miller när denne var ute i Greensboro [...]

  8. interesting

    I did some kocking up (as its called in the uk) a couple of elections ago and also was an observer at a polling station which was interesing.

    Will be even more so next time as we are a swing constituancy.

  9. interesting

    I did some kocking up (as its called in the uk) a couple of elections ago and also was an observer at a polling station which was interesing.

    Will be even more so next time as we are a swing constituancy.

  10. I should possibly point out that Maurice (hopefully) meant to type “knocking up” for the UK practice of doorstepping the populace :)

  11. I should possibly point out that Maurice (hopefully) meant to type “knocking up” for the UK practice of doorstepping the populace :)

  12. Let’s just hope that McCain can pull it out for the sake of America and the world. The last thing we need, given the current state of affairs, would be the Democrats in charge. They’ve never done anything right.

  13. Let’s just hope that McCain can pull it out for the sake of America and the world. The last thing we need, given the current state of affairs, would be the Democrats in charge. They’ve never done anything right.

  14. Great post, Robert, thanks. I’m living back in Chapel Hill, NC, a town over from Greensboro. Not many people are willing and able to talk about racism – thanks for being willing, and so able. It’s both ironic and cool that a tech blogger does this. Kid’s Programming Language guy here, btw – long time no see!

  15. Great post, Robert, thanks. I’m living back in Chapel Hill, NC, a town over from Greensboro. Not many people are willing and able to talk about racism – thanks for being willing, and so able. It’s both ironic and cool that a tech blogger does this. Kid’s Programming Language guy here, btw – long time no see!

  16. davemall your statement is a stereotype and unnecessary. You have every right to your opinion that is one of the great things about being an American (liberal or conservative), we all have the same idea how to make this Country a better place to live for all (rich or poor).

    But if you believe that just because someone is of a different political party they are any less qualified to run the country, then I feel sorry for you. The idea that just because liberal v conservatives or conservative v liberal that your way is the only way exhibits a great deal of hubris and arrogance.

    Neither party has done much right over the past decade and perhaps we need a change in leadership all the way around. But from what I can see is that right now with McCain having been in Senate for 26 years and that means he is part of the policies (90% voting rate on Bush policies) that have us where we are and have given us the current state of affairs that we all as a country face.

    Given that actual reason instead of the stereotype that you gave is why I believe that Obama should be President and McCain continue to be a Senator or retire. Stereotypes and generalities can be used to say nothing, please be specific. Perhaps the last thing we need, given our current state of affairs is to “stay the course”.

  17. davemall your statement is a stereotype and unnecessary. You have every right to your opinion that is one of the great things about being an American (liberal or conservative), we all have the same idea how to make this Country a better place to live for all (rich or poor).

    But if you believe that just because someone is of a different political party they are any less qualified to run the country, then I feel sorry for you. The idea that just because liberal v conservatives or conservative v liberal that your way is the only way exhibits a great deal of hubris and arrogance.

    Neither party has done much right over the past decade and perhaps we need a change in leadership all the way around. But from what I can see is that right now with McCain having been in Senate for 26 years and that means he is part of the policies (90% voting rate on Bush policies) that have us where we are and have given us the current state of affairs that we all as a country face.

    Given that actual reason instead of the stereotype that you gave is why I believe that Obama should be President and McCain continue to be a Senator or retire. Stereotypes and generalities can be used to say nothing, please be specific. Perhaps the last thing we need, given our current state of affairs is to “stay the course”.

  18. Well, Obama has stated that he wants to “Spread the Wealth”. No one made him say it. He spoke on his own beliefs. That concerns me. The Bailout concerns me. And both parties in congress and the senate are equally responsible for the mess. Now with the gov’t owning parts of the financial industry, what new impositions will the gov’t put upon our economy? And to have one party running both the legislative and executive branch is not good. Doesn’t matter which party it is.

  19. Well, Obama has stated that he wants to “Spread the Wealth”. No one made him say it. He spoke on his own beliefs. That concerns me. The Bailout concerns me. And both parties in congress and the senate are equally responsible for the mess. Now with the gov’t owning parts of the financial industry, what new impositions will the gov’t put upon our economy? And to have one party running both the legislative and executive branch is not good. Doesn’t matter which party it is.

  20. I don’t think black and white colour are valuable in field of eligibilty and depart the followers on this basis . Colour complexion is doesn’t matter if he is capable to run the prosperity of country on his shoulder.

  21. I don’t think black and white colour are valuable in field of eligibilty and depart the followers on this basis . Colour complexion is doesn’t matter if he is capable to run the prosperity of country on his shoulder.