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Voter Intimidation in Odd Places

Voter Intimidation in Odd Places
Even in Safe States, hints of fear and intimidation

by Daniel Patrick Welch

Swampscott, Massachussetts, isn't the place you'd pick for right-wing hatemongering. Sandwiched between the industrial cities Lynn and Salem on Boston's North Shore (and somewhat wealthier and more conservative than both) Swampscott is a seaside bedroom community many people pass through on their way to and from Boston. In fact, was doing just that when she came face to face with the kind of right wing tactics that have become infamous in swing states.

A woman--we'll call her M the Voter--takes the train to work in Boston, and parks at the station in Swampscott. A proud Obama supporter, she has a sticker prominently displayed on her car. She returned from work to find a sheet of paper stuck under her windshield. It read, in large caps, INDICTMENT. Below, the poster was more specific, informing her that she had been "listed in our registry" and "relevant information will be recorded and forwarded to the proper authorities."

The creepy part is where it overlaps neatly with charges that have spewed from the McCain-Palin campaign, with the vice presidential candidate and other GOP mouthpieces talking openly about "real America," "pro-America" and "anti-America" parts of the country. In the same vein our scary leaflet warns that "True Americans cannot tolerate your acts of treason any longer," and invites the targeted Obama supporter to join friends in Iran, Syria, "or any of those nations you support."

For the most part, this is boilerplate "why don't you go live there" crap, part and parcel of the redbaiting-turned-war-on-terror argument leveled at any who disagree. I get emails like this all the time, though I mostly laugh at them, and figure it part of the price of writing and publishing for a broad audience.

There are a couple things that are different here. One is the citing of a federal statute stating that treason is punishable by DEATH (again in bold scary caps), rendering the leaflet a form of death threat for supporting the Democratic nominee for President.

The other is the time and place, in broad daylight on a public street, and in a state where Obama has a 26-point lead. "I found it really creepy," says M the Voter. "Coming home alone, it's getting dark--it just gave me a weird feeling." So much so that she declined to have her name appear in print. Other friends and observers were equally shocked, and all mutter something along the lines of "if this is happening in Boston, just imagine what they are doing in close states."

Indeed, there is an ugliness that may itself be turning the tide. Most have heard about the evil robocalls. Fewer might know of the harassment of early voters in Fayetteville, NC after an Obama rally there. Elsewhere, a black bear was found shot to death, the carcas dumped on a campus lawn with an Obama sign next to it. Still other early voters whose cars sported Obama signs reported having their tires slashed.

Though Obama seems to have a solid lead in the polls and in the electoral college, no one in the campaign is taking anything for granted. The Senator cautions his troops against overconfidence, urging them to remember two words: New Hampshire. He may have chosen two different ones: Mike Connell, who, if whistleblower Stephen Spoonamore is to be believed, is responsible for the "man-in-the-middle" technology that facilitated data meddling--and outright vote theft--in past elections. Mike Connell is working for John McCain.

While many on the left are wary of the centrist positions of the Democrats, there can be no doubt that electing a man of mixed race to the Presidency will be some sort of victory in a country in which racism has played such a dominating role in its history. Democrats have held power and sold out the people who voted them in time and again, and many fear this time will be no different. Still, it is very obvious that the forces of reaction see it as a very great threat, despite the timidity and caution of his approach. The hatred behind the vehemence of opposition to Obama is a scary and remarkable thing. The constant undercurrent of references to untrustworthiness (read: shifty?) and the "he's not one of us" innuendo are getting sharper and more virulent.

The right wing has proven it will do anything to win; combining this religious fervor with a touch of race hatred is a volatile mix. With their backs to the wall, it is no wonder the mask is coming off: even in a sleepy Boston suburb, the enemy is everywhere to these types. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that the enemy of my enemy is always my friend, it is a powerful motivating force, stiffening the spines of those more determined than every to see Obama through to victory. People are desperate for their vote to mean something, to strike back against powerlessness they have felt against the juggernaut of the last eight years. Obama may well be the vehicle that allows them this relief. Undeterred, M the Voter is looking forward more than ever to voting for Obama. But she is a bit more careful when she parks, and still doesn't want to be named.


© 2008 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they
run The Greenhouse School ( and run workshops and seminars on music and history. Translations of articles are available in over two dozen languages. Links to the website are appreciated at New CD available through the website at : Let It Snow

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