Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama Republicans Speak

John Dickerson in Slate has a welcome corrective to all the handwringing over the racist Appalachian Democrats who denied Barack Obama the electoral votes of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee.

The key to Barack Obama's success may lie with his least enthusiastic supporters. On Saturday, while the rest of America raked leaves and watched college football, 12 of them gathered in a windowless conference room to talk about the election.


Mark Parowski, who described himself as a "hard-core Republican," didn't pick Obama until the moment he was in the election booth. His wife had been to Obama's last rally in Manassas, Va., the night before, along with 90,000 others, and said it sounded as if Obama was talking right to her in her living room. His disgust with Republicans was a big factor in his vote, Parowski said, but he also saw backing Obama as a chance to make a generational change.

(More after the jump.)

These were not low-information voters—nearly all said they used the Internet to research the candidates—and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they were a gloomy bunch.


At the same time, they weren't gloomy about Obama. The word hope cropped up so often that they might have been Obama volunteers rather than late-deciding voters. But they were very patient. Obama has been careful to say change is going to come slowly, and they agree.


Their priorities were predictable—they want the government to help improve the economy and fix the health care system. Iraq did not come up very much at all. They do set a high bar, however, for Obama in one area: tone. They were willing to put up with slow progress on specific reforms, they said, so long as he ran a post-ideological, pragmatic, and honest White House.
They are watching him not just because they want the kind of White House Obama promised. They also think it will give them cues about whether he'll make good on his other promises. "We're expecting him to be a Reagan in a way that makes everyone proud to be an American," said John Bray. "And if he doesn't do that, people will lose faith in him."

The final question Hart asked was what each participant would tell Obama if he called to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Their thoughts were predictable—keep your promises, etc.—but none of them argued with the premise, which is to say: They all could imagine speaking easily to their new president. And it was clear from their remarks that they are listening to what he says. They think he is one of them, which suggests Obama has a reservoir of trust that might allow him to do the kind of bold things he says he wants to do, including asking Americans to sacrifice, but they don't want him to lose touch with his own past—and, by extension, with people like them.

Read the whole thing.

Cross-posted at They Gave Us A Republic ....