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
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.
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
http://danielpwelch.com. Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch
lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde.
run The Greenhouse School (http://www.greenhouseschool.org) 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 danielpwelch.com. New CD
available through the website at http://danielpwelch.com/dansshop.htm#CD: Let It