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Obama’s Success: The Philadelphia Difference

 article about US Elections

This article belongs to Theme: US elections 2008 theme.


Whether Americans love Democratic nominee Barack Obama or simply want to see him fail, most of them are surprised at Obama's steady and continuous popularity in the party. Rallying behind a relatively young and idealistic candidate, the Democratic Party selected Senator Obama over rival Senator Hillary Clinton in a close and dramatic race to secure the party ticket.

I support Obama, and not just because "Hillary sent me." I support Barack Obama on his own merit. He earned my vote, and here's how:

The Early Midwestern Rally
I first heard about Barack Obama when I was working as a Starbucks barista in Michigan, using my Bachelors in English to serve coffee for less than nine bucks an hour—and that's including tips. At the time, I was working three jobs, and my hope rested with Hillary Clinton. She was my own personal heroine and I thought she could hear my voice and the voices of people like me fighting the same daily struggles.

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Black people lived on one side of Saginaw and white people lived on the other.
Overall, I was mainly exposed to a segregated, 1950s-like community. Black people lived on one side of Saginaw and white people lived on the other. Everyone was fighting over jobs in the failing local economy; due to the auto industry's failures, it took a dive years before the national economy even began to waver.

In the midst of the annual "I'll say Merry Christmas and you'll like it whether you're a heathen or not" debate came to our local Obama campaigners. I wondered about this man with a funny sounding name and whether he could ever cause some effect in my political party, but at the time, I was too focused on surviving day to day to have enough time to care. However, I never forgot the early and enthusiastic devotion of Senator Obama's supporters in the heartland - an area which widely supported President Bush and his fundamentalist ideals.

Direct Approach to Supporters
Two years later, I find myself back home on the East Coast in Philadelphia. I'll admit it: It's cosy being surrounded with other people that think and act like me. They might be bizarre as hell, but we all accept each other and take steps to live together harmoniously in a way I typically did not experience in the Midwest.

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Politicians have to play dirty.
Barack Obama directly campaigns here. However, he doesn't just talk about his voter base or the demographics, he takes action. Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and his running mate Joe Biden have all campaigned heavily in the area as expected—with one difference. These political figures have been stopping in places many people would rather pretend didn't exist, such as Southwest Philadelphia and the Northern part of the city. These aren't posh fundraisers with rich supporters—Obama and his campaign clearly reach out to the many individuals who have offered small bits of money and support to the campaign, proving that we do stand united.

Campaign Ads
Politicians have to play dirty. It's part of the game. Shortly stated, McCain's ads offer negativity; his campaign first attacked Obama on inexperience, then nominated an inexperienced running mate. Obama's ads feature the candidate speaking directly to me, addressing my concerns American to American, explaining how he will change the health care system rather than denouncing his opponent.

The Philadelphia Speech
One of Barack Obama's early campaign speeches touched me on an emotional level. Even though I was still a steadfast Clinton supporter, I believed in Obama's message. In Philadelphia, my own dear city, Obama directly addressed the race issue. He said that white Americans should understand the trials of black Americans; civil rights did not happen overnight. I've heard this many times before, preached to me in class rooms by privileged white teachers teaching privileged white faces which looked just like mine.

What he said next made all the difference in the world. Barack Obama asked black Americans to understand that many white Americans are living the immigrant experience, constantly expected to do better than their parents and grandparents. This struck me as the truth; it's not that I disliked another group of people or thought they disliked me. Obama identified the chip on my shoulder and gave it a voice.

My Irish ancestors didn't flee from hunger and oppression without difficulty, nor did they do so to see my children pay for a war begun with a false reason when they don't even have health insurance!

Obama addressed me directly once again - it was then I truly started to listen to what he had to say about the African-American struggle. He had done what others had failed to do before—he addressed my difficulties and concerns, and now I am far more open to hearing what he has to say about others in general.

The Campaign Difference
Obama's primary season campaigning was simply different than Clinton's. One evening after work, I rushed to get a train so that I could head out to the suburbs to see Former President Bill Clinton speak at a Hillary rally. En route, I encountered hundreds of Obama fans in Philadelphia preparing for a rally, working together, hawking pins to raise money for the campaign, and offering good spirits.
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It is often said that Americans will elect someone with whom they'd picture themselves sitting down to dinner and sharing some drinks.

Out at the Hillary rally, supporters were hungry and eager to buy food, pins, and more—but nothing was for sale. A few dozen pretzels, bottled water, and a van full of merchandise could have certainly raised a great deal of money for Hillary, but that grassroots enthusiasm just wasn't there.

It is often said that Americans will elect someone with whom they'd picture themselves sitting down to dinner and sharing some drinks. I'm not sure if I'd ever want to party with Obama, but I know one thing for sure: if I cried out for help, he'd hear me.


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