|10-09-2008, 11:45 PM||#1|
Draft Defense Early&Often
Join Date: Oct 2004
Rednecks for Obama
Does their vote count?
'Rednecks for Obama' want to bridge yawning culture gap by Michael Mathes
Thu Oct 9, 9:50 AM ET
SAINT LOUIS, Missouri (AFP) - When Barack Obama's campaign bus made a swing through Missouri in July, the unlikeliest of supporters were waiting for him -- or rather two of them, holding the banner: "Rednecks for Obama."
In backing the first African-American nominee of a major party for the US presidency, the pair are on a grassroots mission to bridge a cultural gap in the United States and help usher their preferred candidate into the White House.
Tony Viessman, 74, and Les Spencer, 60, got politically active last year when it occurred to them there must be other lower income, rural, beer-drinking, gun-loving, NASCAR race enthusiasts fed up with business as usual in Washington.
Viessman had a red, white and blue "Rednecks for Obama" banner made, and began causing a stir in Missouri, which has emerged as a key battleground in the run-up to the November 4 presidential election.
"I didn't expect it would get as much steam and attention as it's gotten," Spencer told AFP on the campus of Washington University in Saint Louis, the state's biggest city and site of last week's vice-presidential debate.
"We believe in him. He's the best person for the job," Viessman, a former state trooper from Rolla, said of Obama, who met the pair briefly on that July day in Union, Missouri.
The candidate bounded off his bus and jogged back towards a roadside crowd to shake hands with the men holding the banner.
"He said 'This is incredible'," Spencer recalled.
It's been an unexpectedly gratifying run, Viessman said.
Rednecks4obama.com claims more than 800,000 online visits. In Denver, Colorado, Viessman and Spencer drew crowds at the Democratic convention, and at Washington University last Thursday they were two of the most popular senior citizens on campus.
"I'm shocked, actually, but excited" that such a demographic would be organizing support for Obama, said student Naia Ferguson, 18, said after hamming it up for pictures behind the banner.
"When most people think 'redneck,' they think conservatives, anti-change, even anti-integration," she said. "But America's changing, breaking stereotypes."
A southern comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, defines the stereotype as a "glorious lack of sophistication".
Philistines or not, he said, most rural southerners are no longer proponents of the Old South's most abhorrent ideology -- racism -- and that workaday issues such as the economy are dominating this year's election.
"We need to build the economy from the bottom up, none of this trickle down business," Spencer said. "Just because you're white and southern don't mean you have to vote Republican."
To an important degree, however, race is still the elephant in the polling booth, experts say, and according to a recent Stanford University poll, Obama could lose six points on election day due to his color.
Racism "has softened up some, but it's still there," Viessman acknowledged from Belmont University, site of Tuesday's McCain-Obama debate in Nashville, Tennessee.
Despite representing the heartland state of Illinois, and having a more working-class upbringing than his Republican rival John McCain, Obama has struggled to shoot down the impression that he is an arugula-eating elitist.
Surely he alienated many rural voters earlier this year when the Harvard-educated senator told a fundraiser that some blue-collar voters "cling to guns or religion".
But Viessman, who says he owns a dozen guns, said Obama "ain't gonna take your guns away."
The South traditionally votes Republican -- victories for southerners Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were exceptions -- but with less than a month to election day, four states in or bordering the South are considered toss-ups: Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Virginia.
Viessman says he'd like to think his grassroots movement could sway enough people in small-town America to make a difference.
"There's lots of other rednecks for Obama too," he said. "And the ones that's not, we're trying our best to convince them."
|10-10-2008, 07:20 AM||#4|
Never say Always
Join Date: Jan 2003
October 9, 2008
The barbs have become like a soundtrack to Richard Ivory’s life: Uncle Tom, sellout, self-hater. Being black and Republican does indeed have its challenges — especially in New York. And even though the remarks sometimes wear on Mr. Ivory, they mostly seem to have emboldened him.
Mr. Ivory started a blog, HipHopRepublican.com, four years ago to voice criticism of what he perceived to be the political pigeonholing of blacks.
The blog is part of a small but vibrant collection of black Republican sites that have given right-leaning blacks a sense of community during an election in which Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy has made their political stance seem particularly unlikely.
Indeed, Mr. Ivory, despite being a devout Republican, feels history tugging at his loyalties.
“That a country that was founded by slavery could actually elect a black person to be its highest person in office, it’s just amazing,” said Mr. Ivory, 30, who lives in Chelsea and works as a counselor to mentally ill patients.
It was in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that Mr. Ivory engaged in politics and became interested in the Republican Party. As a staunch supporter of the Iraq war, he was often the only black person at pro-war rallies, he said.
At one demonstration in New York in 2004, he recalled, an antiwar protester, who was white, used a racial slur against him, and black demonstrators with the protester kept silent.
Mr. Ivory said he was incensed that blacks would ignore such a slur because it was aimed at someone with opposing political views.
“There was something annoying about the idea that if you were black, you had to be Democrat,” Mr. Ivory said. “The blog started out as a means to vent.” Beyond his support for the Iraq war, Mr. Ivory considers himself a conservative on economic issues who believes government should help people help themselves.
Mr. Ivory recently posted a blog entry about a poll suggesting that one-third of white Democrats held negative views toward blacks. The headline: “Poll: Dixiecrats Still Democrats”
More than 20 people regularly contribute essays to his site, Mr. Ivory said, and it gets more than 1,400 hits a day.
The site has caught the attention of Senator John McCain’s campaign, which invited him to attend the Republican convention, he said. (Mr. Ivory accepted the offer and blogged for The Root, an online magazine affiliated with The Washington Post.)
Michael Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor and a prominent black Republican, said that he regularly reads HipHopRepublican.com.
“It’s just refreshing to know that there is this spectrum of opinion out there that exists,” said Mr. Steele, chairman of Gopac, a group that cultivates Republican candidates.
Though Mr. Ivory has succeeded in finding a niche in cyberspace, his message certainly runs counter to what polls of black voters have found. Polls show that likely black voters overwhelmingly support Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain.
Several black conservatives also said there was a perception among many blacks that Republicans did not care about them.
Even Mr. Ivory is sparring with his conscience. He said he was about 80 percent sure he would vote for Mr. McCain.
“I always say my heart is with Obama but my brain is with McCain,” Mr. Ivory said. “That sums up the struggle with me.”
He added: “The appeal of Barack and Michelle Obama in my life is that when I look at them, I also see members of my family.
“When I see their two daughters, I see my cousins. There is an appeal there — a personal appeal.”
Still, Mr. Ivory said that while his site might not win many votes for the Republican Party, it could at least show that political activism among blacks is not monolithic.
While some blacks lean conservative on issues like abortion and gay marriage, Web sites like Mr. Ivory’s raise issues important to blacks that many Americans are concerned about: health care, affordable housing, the economy, the environment and education.
Many black Republicans believe that conservative policies are more beneficial to the black community than liberal policies.
Mr. Ivory believes that his Web site addresses Republican issues in a way that a black audience can relate to them.
It is difficult to gauge the size of the black conservative blogosphere, but Michael Bowen, 47, a senior management consultant for a global information technology firm, said it had mushroomed in recent years. Booker Rising, a blog started in 2004 by Shay Riley, a 37-year-old freelance writer from Chicago, is another popular forum for black conservatives.
The virtual networks are a refuge for conservative blacks who might be reluctant to publicly espouse their views. Other than these Web sites, Mr. Bowen said, “there’s no support for them, there’s no place they could go and not be ridiculed.”
Being black and Republican, however, can still be very lonely. Kimberly Brown, 26, a personal trainer in Chicago, said she lost about 100 friends from her MySpace page after she revealed that she was Republican. “I think it’s just ignorant,” Ms. Brown said of the reaction.
The potential for Mr. Obama to make history in November, however, has swayed some conservative blacks. Cleo Brown, 53, who teaches G.E.D. preparation classes in Chelsea, has been a registered Republican since 1994, but said she planned to vote for Mr. Obama.
“I remember that when I was a girl and the civil rights movement was going on, they kept telling me I would never go to college,” she said, “not only because I was female, but because I was African-American. And they told me I would never see an African-American president.
“The time is upon us and it’s really, really inspiring.”
Lenny McAllister, a 36-year-old Republican political commentator for Fox News in Charlotte, N.C., compared this election to Jackie Robinson’s breaking baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
Back then, Mr. McAllister said, many blacks rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers because Robinson was on the team. Now, of course, baseball is a far different game.
“We need to be at a point in time where there is such a diverse inclusion of African-Americans that the African-American roots for their favorite team based on their preferences, not based on the existence of one person playing on the ball field,” said Mr. McCallister, who planned to vote for Mr. McCain.
Mr. Steele said he believed sites like Mr. Ivory’s could help inject greater diversity into the Republican Party.
“The only way the party is ever going to be able to gain momentum in the black community is if it understands those issues, embraces them and is ready to speak about them in a genuine way,” Mr. Steele said. “The only way to do that is to get the word from black folks. This is one opportunity to do that.”
Already, Mr. Ivory said, people have gotten jobs with the Republican National Committee through connections made on his Web site.
During the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, Mr. Ivory said, a black friend walking into Madison Square Garden, the convention site, was confronted by a white man who said protesters were not welcome. Mr. Ivory told the man that his friend was a fellow Republican.
The encounter, he said, underscored why his blog is useful. “If the party can’t reach out to urban people,” Mr. Ivory said, “then in some ways we have to take them there.”
|10-10-2008, 08:42 AM||#5|
Mo' holla fo' yo' dolla!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: In a bunker in an undisclosed location
|10-10-2008, 11:34 AM||#6|
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Topeka, KS