Thursday, January 10, 2008

I've Got Friends in Low Places . . .

A good friend, Susan, sent me this snippet of an e-mail in the aftermath of the New Hampshire primary:

"I don't have a blog, so I'm sending this to you! (I also sent versions of it to Oprah, Lou Dobbs, CNN and MSNBC): As I listened to the morning pundits grasping for a reason for the discrepancy between the polls' predictions and what happened last night in N.H., a more sinister explanation than any I've heard occurred to me:
The day after the Iowa caucuses, I began receiving forwarded emails from friends from Michigan and Alabama, resurrecting the old defamations about Obama being schooled in a mudrassah, but also a new one (to me): that the Trinity Unity Church to which he belongs is African-based, has a completely black agenda, etc. (If you haven't read these, go to and type in "Obama". It quotes the emails verbatim and also examines their truthfulness, point by point.) What I'm wondering is this: Is it possible that voters in N.H. were also bombarded by these emails? Is it just a coincidence that I began receiving them Jan. 4th? (and that is also the date that Snopes first responded to the Trinity Church slur.)It seems to me that this kind of inflammatory "information", disseminated right before the vote, with little time to be vetted, might lead to Obama-leaning voters changing their votes or simply staying away from the polls. It also occurs to me that people who were turned off because of these charges might not reveal during exit polling why they changed their minds, out of fear of seeming racist. Is this too paranoid? I just can't buy the "gender gap" or the "tearing up" explanations. Neither, nor both, seem dramatic enough to me to explain the roughly 15 point difference b/t poll numbers and actual votes. Especially when those same polls got the Republican numbers right. What is your view?"

I listened last night to several experienced pollsters describe a phenomenon they have observed in other elections. The gist of what they described (they had a name for it, but I cannot recall it) is that there is a frequent racial reaction when a black person runs against a white person. During polling, pre and post voting, white voters will lie about how they voted to avoid the discomfiture of indicating that race played a role in their decision. In other words, they will say they voted for the black person, but actually had voted for the white person. I too had received on a couple of occasions the same hateful e-mails about Obama that Susan describes, including the most recent on Jan. 4th. I concur with Susan's thinking that this latest attempt to besmirch this man is the internet equivalent of the Swift boating of John Kerry during the last presidential election. In a conversation about this yesterday on the golf course, another friend, Ron, indicated that the source of this e-mail originally was from Hillary's camp during the Iowa campaign and the individuals responsible had been fired. When that e-mail was circulated a few months ago, Ron had the integrity and courage to stand up to the local sender, another fellow golfer, by suggesting the sender check his facts before doing something like that in the future. He took a little heat from it, but otherwise emerged unscathed. But I digress. It is not difficult for me to see how this e-mail timing, in light of the racial effect when white meets black, could have caused the unusual deviance from the polling results. It doesn't matter who's playbook originated this deed, it would be a sad day for Americans if our next president was chosen as a result.

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