Canvassing Las Vegas, a Scary Moment Just Before Election Day

Sign on the gate 2 doors from the home of our Las Vegas trouble-maker.

“Get out of my neighborhood. I have guns! If you two don’t leave right now I’m gonna go get them.”

It was the Saturday before election day and we were canvassing in Las Vegas in a sprawling cookie-cutter development – not a fancy one – with “front yards” of sand, not grass.  Worn Halloween figures and flags hung on the doors; fake spider webs stuck stubbornly to doorways and bushes.  My son Dan and I had just arrived and this was our first block.  It was the weekend before his birthday but both of us were beyond anxious about the election and hoped that going door-to-door, even more than making calls, might ease our souls a bit; at least we were doing something.

A moment earlier we’d been joking with this same 30-something guy over the neighborhood Halloween decorations. He asked what we were doing walking along his block and Dan said “Just talking to people.” “What about,” he asked. “What are you talking to people about?” “Hillary Clinton” I said, smiling at him – (that almost always works.)

Not this time. As we moved beyond him and on up the street, he was still yelling. “Get out!  Get out!”  Shaken, we decided to move up a block and try the next house on our tally sheet but he and his friend were making their way toward us, his friend telling him to “do something about it” if  he was going to yell anyway.  We fled.

I’ve seen angry crowds before, including demonstrators and police in Chicago in 1968.  I’d seen reports of scary Trump rally crowds too.  But this single person, focused on us with such rage, was a different kind of scary.  My heart was pounding as if I’d had way too much coffee.  As that response ebbed, I just got sad.  And then sadder.  “This isn’t how our country is supposed to be.” I kept saying to Dan.  He, wisely, was more concerned about danger than he was with analyzing the social meaning of all this.  He has a two-year-old son and was unsettled more for him, and for his wife; he needed to stay safe for them.

That was wise, but for me, the cruelty and rage of these two men, who’d turned on a dime from “We all DO love our Halloween here” to “Get the fuck out of my neighborhood” was painful on so many levels.

They weren’t the only ones.  At least two more times, the response to our question: “Have you voted yet?” was “I don’t do Democrats.  Go away,” declared with icy affect and stone cold eyes.

Saturday afternoon, as we waited at headquarters for a new neighborhood assignment, we were visited by Gabby Giffords, and her husband Mark Kelly, as well as Lucy McBath, one of the Mothers of the Movement, a sad sisterhood of moms whose children, her son Jordan Davis among them, had been killed by police officers.  The combination of the realities faced by these people and their efforts to reenforce the critical nature of every vote we could pull out of our assigned areas was a reminder of all that is at stake in our country.

Enthusiastic volunteers wait for Gabby Gifford and husband Mark Kelly to address to the crowd.

Lucy McBath, one of the Mothers of the Movement. Her son was Jordan Davis

Here’s the thing though:

This anger didn’t arise on its own. It’s been enabled, and not just by Mr. Trump and his allies and followers. Not all the angry people we met lived in lesser circumstances, with less education and income, than the norm but they do live differently from the people who govern them – and the people who cover them.

Listen to Columnist Sarah Smarsh in The Guardian

sarah-smarsh-sized*  Earlier this year, primary exit polls revealed that Trump voters were, in fact, more affluent than most Americans, with a median household income of $72,000higher than that of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporterss.

*  Forty-four percent of them had college degrees, well above the national average of 33% among whites or 29% overall. . . .
These facts haven’t stopped pundits and journalists from pushing story after story about the white working class’s giddy embrace of a bloviating demagogue. . . .
*  The faces journalists do train the cameras on – hateful ones screaming sexist vitriol next to Confederate flags – must receive coverage but do not speak for the communities I know well.
*  One-dimensional stereotypes fester where journalism fails to tread. The last time I saw my native class receive substantial focus, before now, was over 20 years ago – not in the news but on the television show Roseanne, the fictional storylines of which remain more accurate than the musings of comfortable commentators in New York studios.

* In lieu of such coverage, media makers cast the white working class as a monolith and imply an old, treacherous story convenient to capitalism: that the poor are dangerous idiots.

Sure political passions on both sides are self-defined far differently than they’re defined from the outside. But if those who cover non-elites never go near them except to write about them; if they’re described more through sociology than personal stories, oddities instead of neighbors, the divisions we’ve experienced in this election will not ease.

We don’t go to the same schools, we don’t live in the same neighborhoods, we don’t share military/non-military histories and we don’t agree on politics. We also don’t have access to simple exchanges: in the carpool line, as room parents or scout leaders, at the supermarket or the gas station, at the playground or even at neighborhood Halloween events.

I grew up in a steel town on the Monongahela River.  I was the lawyer’s daughter; when we graduated I went to an Ivy League college that almost no one in my community had even heard of.  Several of the kids from my high school who went to college did so by joining the Army.  Because of Viet Nam, many of them never made it home to enroll.

We all went to the same dances and football games though, and parties in each other’s homes.  I know – know – that every day that I spent as a journalist I did a better job because I’d grown up among so many different kinds of kids, even though it was always clear my future was going to be different from many of theirs.

We need to be able to depend on journalists to translate a bit for us and right now that doesn’t happen enough. Of course no American should threaten another with a gun.  Of course not.  But we also need to be able to expect from those who deliver information to us that they’ve gone beyond their own experiences to learn how others live- and to share that understanding with the rest of us.

Mo(u)rning in America: 2014

sad capitol   I  spent W’s eight years in political despair. It was hard to watch the news or read the paper, harder still to think of all our fellow Americans without resources who would, and did, suffer on  a very concrete level.  Our kids were educated, our mortgage getting paid; we had work and health insurance and political and religious freedom but for many the pain of those years was personal.

Barack Obama’s election felt like the turning of a corner. This morning, as we face the unremitting and successful (and un-American and cruel and racist) assault on voting rights, the prospect of Joe McCarthy-like hearings in both bodies about almost everything that this president has been able to accomplish despite unprecedented, treasonous opposition, certain continued and brutal safety net cuts, violation of workers rights, a terrifying, determined erosion of the rights of women, a near-caliphate level of fundamentalism among even some of our newly elected members of Congress, the now-certain, veto-proof approval of the Keystone Pipeline, obscene power grabs by wealthy oligarchs and their ALEC, Americans for Prosperity operations not only nationally but state-by-state and unimaginable foreign policy attitudes, it’s a grim day.

Friends of mine have posted look-ahead messages and I admire them for it.  For me, it’s going to take a little longer.


Sarah Palin and the Resignation: Some Posts You May Have Missed

Palin leaves I don’t know about your universe, but all the listservs I read have been crammed with Sarah Palin discussions ever since The Resignation.  I went looking, therefore, for some not-so-usual blog posts, beyond the conventional wisdom.  There are lots of great comments and ideas. Among them:

My biggest hope is that the very strange tale of Sarah Palin doesn’t
dissuade other mothers of small children from running for office.
There’s something to be said for having that perspective in state
houses, governor’s offices and in Washington, D.C. I hope the strange
path that Sarah Palin seems to be on doesn’t keep other moms away from
the political world.   Punditmom

It’s hard to know what more to make of this until we get a much better
explanation, but the view from here is that you won’t have Sarah Palin
to kick around anymore.  Her Presidential prospects are done, and it’s
hard to see how Republicans will still consider her a potential leader
of the movement.  The Next Right

A few words about Sarah Palin: She is one of the most fascinating women
I have ever met. She crackles with energy like a live electrical wire
and on first meeting gets about three inches from your face. Her
instant subliminal message is: “I don’t know you very well, but I’m
very clear about who I am.” She reeks of moxie and self confidence. And
she’s fearless.  Mark McKinnon

What is going on right now in the Republican Party—even as the
professionals scramble to react with grins and snorts to the news of
Palin’s Alaska resignation—are the early scenes of the 2012 campaign
for the presidency with Sarah Palin as the once and future hero. Like
Joan of Arc,  Catherine the Great,  Elizabeth Regina, and, skipping
four centuries of quarrelsome princes,  Margaret Thatcher, the
Republican Party has already decided that the governor of Alaska will
rescue the GOP from its ruination. What Sarah Palin begins with an
announcement from Wasilla is not only a campaign, it is an Iditarod of
a crusade—first woman, first mom, and second moose-hunter into the
White House.  The Daily Beast

Beyond the basic publicity blunders Palin made (e.g., her spokesperson
was on vacation in New York while the announcement was delivered in
Alaska), the governor’s departing speech was rife with errors of
judgment. Every quitter, famous or not, can learn from her mistakes,
particularly if you’re resigning from a position of leadership.  Harvard Business Blog

As quoted in Disability News,
Palin wished that “folks could ever, ever understand that we ALL could
learn so much from someone like Trig — I know he needs me, but I need
him even more… what a child can offer to set priorities RIGHT – that
time is precious… the world needs more ‘Trigs’, not fewer.” That
apparently struck Erik Sean Nelson, described on his Huffington Post
page as a “fiction author and comedy writer,” as hilarious, and he
responded with a post titled, “Palin Will Run in ’12 on More
Retardation Platform”. . .(this one is really quite shocking)  Terri’s Special Children Blog

THIS IS MY PERSONAL FAVORITE:  “I think Sarah Palin is on the verge of becoming the Miami Vice of
American politics: Something a lot of people once thought was cool and
then 20 years later look back, shake their heads and just kind of
laugh,” quipped Republican media consultant Todd Harris.   Politico

But Sarah Palin didn’t quit. Her family was held hostage until she agreed to give her captures (sic) what they wanted – the ransom was her career.  Isn’t it a shame that a popular governor of Alaska with a terrific
future of contribution to her state, had to give it all up because she
made the fatal error of accepting the Republican VP nomination. Too bad
a public servant has been slaughtered. Too bad she wasn’t giving a fair
fight based on her principles. Too bad for women everywhere who have
considered a role in politics. I hope Sarah Palin travels the country
and speaks to all the folks who like her message and makes oodles of
money doing it. She’s earned it.   Help4NewMOms

We’re not very interested in bashing Palin; Todd Purdum took care of that
for all of us. But she deserves some credit: no matter how much luck is
involved, you don’t move from small-town politico to national newsmaker
in three years without at least knowing what you want. And Sarah
Palin’s resignation makes her goal abundantly clear: she will never
again have a chance to make this much money in this short a time, and
she’s going to take advantage.  The Stimulist

Finally, take a look at this: three bloggers including my good friend Jill Zimon talking about soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Palin and the impact of her withdrawal from state government.