November 2008

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, M 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 seems like 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 ever 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.


Scan of actual pamphlet available on request


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