Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Widely Assumed

Hey all,

Here's my first blog entry. It's rather informal and chock full of commentary, but it illuminates part of my thought process for this upcoming article. Would love to hear comments.

At the end of a 45 minute rally in Washington Square Park in New York City on September 27, Barack Obama, contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, told an anecdote about a specific woman. She was from some small town in some state, far from New York, in the middle of nowhere who chants “Fire it up!” and “Ready to go!” before each town meeting. Obama was preaching to a choir of over 20,000 people and seemed to strike a chord because he had us chanting to the tune of “Fire it up!” with him.

While rallies are all well and good, they don’t matter unless you get that energy converted to results, which for Obama means votes on primary day. New Yorkers (upstaters included), who are registered with a party by October 12, 2007, can cast a vote on February 5, 2008 to determine their party’s candidate for the presidential election.

How in the world does the primary system work in the U.S.? Some states, such as Iowa, have caucuses. For my fellow plebeians, a caucus is “a closed meeting of a group of persons belonging to the same political party or faction usually to select candidates or to decide on policy” (Merriam-Webster). In the primaries, affiliated voters in each locality are selecting delegates to the national party convention to officially nominate a candidate. Those delegates are tied to the results in their home district. Traditionally, Iowa and New Hampshire go first. New Hampshire state law requires that their primary take place one week before the rest.

So what’s the deal in New York? Obama and other Democratic hopefuls, have to go up against the New York senator, Hillary Clinton. It’s widely assumed that Clinton will come out the winner in her home state. I’m trying to come to grips with the phrase “widely assumed.” It has somehow entered my vernacular, and I’m having a hard time tracing its origins. Did it come from the TV? Perhaps it was the newspaper. Or maybe it was mentioned in a conversation. It doesn’t matter now; it’s so widely used that I don’t have to footnote anymore.

What got me thinking about it was seeing all the Obama volunteers at the rally who don’t seem to agree with the widespread assumers. They are on the ground canvassing, phone banking, and getting people registered to vote in the primary and the general election. I talked to a few people last Saturday at an event at the Brooklyn Museum. They were there at the rally and even before that on the internet trying to convert energy into action. One of the volunteers I talked to, Ann Renda, did comment on the “widely assumed” factor and how it’s affecting the primary race. Referring to media attention around Hillary Clinton, she said, “People want to vote for a winner.”

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