Post-election rumerations and musings

If Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston were “Bennifer”, can I call Obama and Biden “Obiden”? Pleeeease?

Yes, I know it’s horrible.  But I still feel like using it.

Anyway, I felt very good last night, and judging by the distant fireworks I heard in my area, I wasn’t alone.  What makes this even more interesting is that I have been experiencing over the last few months what the wags at the Philadelphia indie weekly CityPaper are calling “The Fishtown Effect”.  Much of the election scrutiny was on the so-called “Bradley Effect” in which white people claim they will vote for a black candidate but in reality choose a white candidate–in other words, they are voting based on their racism, but don’t publicly admit it.  But the Fishtown Effect suggests something else might be going on in this election: white voters who are publicly and unabashedly racist might still vote for a black candidate.

During the primaries, Fishtown went big-time for Hillary Clinton. According to an Obama volunteer who was canvassing the area at the time, racial overtones were sometimes obvious.

“We had this one woman come out. … Before I could open my mouth she said she didn’t vote for — I don’t know if she said black people or the N-word,” she recalls.

The volunteer whose observations were picked up by Politico — he agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, so let’s call him Joe the Canvasser — had a similar experience during the general election.

“They dropped the N-bomb right off the bat,” he says. “Some of the most graphic descriptions came out of the mouths of little old ladies. There was one lady … dropping it almost casually — ‘Oh, the nigger?'”

What really shocked Joe, though, was that even despite that kind of language, a lot of people seemed ambivalent, even open to voting for Obama.

Consider Patrick McGowan, a union carpenter whom I met at Murph’s bar on Girard, just a block down from the Fishtown for Obama office. McGowan said he was voting for Obama.

“Everyone’s voting for him,” he said.

Would race be an obstacle?

“Not at all — not for anybody who’s a working man paying taxes,” he assured, adding: “First of all, he’s not all black. And maybe if a black person gets in there to be president, it’ll keep all the crybabies from crying discrimination.”

McGowan, like many of the Fishtowners I spoke with, was ready to assess Obama on his merits as a candidate, even as he viewed blacks in general as a monolithic, possibly hostile group.


Walking door to door, volunteer Tom Bayne is received politely. Many people say that yes, they’re voting Obama, but do so quietly, sometimes even glancing down the street first.

“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t want my neighbors to know,'” Bayne says. “I want to tell them, ‘Your neighbors said that, too!'”

I don’t live in Fishtown, but I do live in a suburb of Philly that has lots and lots of non-black people who drop the N-word casually, yet were cheering loudly last night.  I have a neighbor who is downright paranoid about blacks (he is Armenian\Italian), but has been encouraging everyone within earshot to vote Democratic this cycle.  Perhaps The Onion was right when they declared “Nation FInally Shitty Enough to Make Social Progress”.

I have some more cynical, depressing views on the election results, but they can surely wait.  It’s time to feel good for awhile.


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