Voter intimidation in odd places
October 24, 2008
by Daniel Patrick Welch

Swampscott, MA isn't the place you'd pick for right-wing hate mongering. 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, a woman--we'll call her "M the Voter"-- was doing just that when she came face to face with the kind of right wing tactics that have become infamous in swing states.

She 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 red baiting-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.

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 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.

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