Facebook Badge

Toll Free Numbers To The Washington Switchboard

1-866 338-1015
1-866 220-0044

Monday, June 30, 2008

Willful ignorance confounds some Obama skeptics - The Carpetbagger Report

The widespread confusion about Barack Obama’s religion, background, and patriotism continues to vex me. The WaPo has a front-page item on the subject today that didn’t make me feel any better. The piece focused on a small town in Ohio called Findlay. On his corner of College Street, Jim Peterman stares at the four American flags planted in his front lawn and rubs his forehead. Peterman, 74, is a retired worker at Cooper Tire, a father of two, an Air Force veteran and a self-described patriot. He took one trip to Washington in 1989 — best vacation of his life — and bought a statue of the Washington Monument that he still displays in a glass case in his living room. He believes a smart vote is an American’s greatest responsibility. Which is why his confusion about Barack Obama continues to eat at him. On the television in his living room, Peterman has watched enough news and campaign advertisements to hear the truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service. But on the Internet, in his grocery store, at his neighbor’s house, at his son’s auto shop, Peterman has also absorbed another version of the Democratic candidate’s background, one that is entirely false: Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay Muslim racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “It’s like you’re hearing about two different men with nothing in common,” Peterman said. “It makes it impossible to figure out what’s true, or what you can believe.”Peterman sounds sincere, and inclined to vote Democratic, but conflicted. A friend told him that Obama refuses to wear an American-flag pin. Another friend told him that Obama is a radical Muslim. Peterman’s friends, in other words, are lying to him, but he doesn’t realize it.“I’ll admit that I probably don’t follow all of the election news like maybe I should,” Peterman said. “I haven’t read his books or studied up more than a little bit. But it’s hard to ignore what you hear when everybody you know is saying it. These are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?”Leroy Pollard, who lives in Peterman’s neighborhood, added, “I understand [Obama’s] from Africa, and that the first thing he’s going to do if he gets into office is bring his family over here, illegally. He’s got that racist [pastor] who practically raised him, and then there’s the Muslim thing. He’s just not presidential material, if you ask me.”I have no idea what anyone can do about this.A friend of mine emailed me recently, mentioning that he and I have a mutual acquaintance who believes all of the same nonsense about Obama (and then some). When he tried to set our friend straight, it was pointless. Any and all evidence was simply rejected out of hand.He asked what to do. I’m at a bit of a loss. Someone who hears a lie, is given evidence that proves it’s a lie, but chooses to believe the lie anyway is being willfully ignorant.But what happens when voters in a swing state reject the better candidate precisely on the basis of those lies? In the Post piece, Peterman has seen the ad with Obama talking about the country he loves, explaining where he was born and how he was raised. In the ad, Obama is actually wearing a flag pin. And yet, Peterman isn’t sure. He wants to do the right thing, but doesn’t know what to think. He hasn’t “studied up,” and there’s no way to know if he will or not before November.Obama created a “Fight the Smears” website, but for the willfully ignorant, it’s just another outlet with inconvenient facts to be ignored.Maybe it really will come down to going to each of these folks’ homes individually. For the past month, two students from the University of Findlay have spent their Tuesday nights walking from door to door in the city to tell voters about Obama. Erik Cramer and Sarah Everly target Democrats and swing voters exclusively, but they’ve still experienced mixed results. Sometimes, at a front door, they mention their purpose only to have a dozen rumors thrown back at them and the door slammed. “People tell us that we’re in the wrong town,” Everly said. Soon, on a Tuesday night, they’ll walk down College Street — past the American flags, past the LeMasters, past the Pollards — and knock on Jim Peterman’s front door. They will ask for two minutes of his time, and Peterman will give it to them. He will listen to their story, weighing facts against fiction. For a few minutes, he might even believe them. Then he’ll close his door and go inside, back to his life. Back to his grocery store, back to his son’s auto shop, back to the gossip on College Street. Back to the rumors again.To be sure, it sounds discouraging. The good news is, it’s certainly possible that Findlay, Ohio, is not a typical competitive town in a battleground state — but rather a very conservative community where Obama would struggle if he were blond with blue eyes. Though the article didn’t mention it, in 2000, Bush enjoyed 69% support in Findlay, and in 2004, that number went up to 71%.Is Findlay common or unusual? Here’s hoping it’s the latter.
Willful ignorance confounds some Obama skeptics - The Carpetbagger Report