Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nightmare on Fascination Street: ACORN is coming to get us all!

Via TKC, reports of "Obama staffers Impersonating, Lurking and Lying at Cleaver Town Hall Meeting." Raven summarizes and shares an email:
According to persons attending the Cleaver Town Hall Meeting, Washington-based Obama staffers were in attendance and impersonating local school teachers. In this guise, they would strike up conversations with baiting words about anger and socialism.
Off the top, it wasn't a Town Hall Meeting, it was a regularly scheduled "Coffee with Cleaver" event designed for constituents to show up and share (complain about) local constituent concerns. I attended this event, and Jim (the emailer/witness) was not alone, many people present thought that the event had been re-rigged from an open season Town Hall to a series of one-on-ones limited to parochial concerns because of all the heat coming out of Town Hall meetings. These people are incorrect. Cleaver stuck to the regularly scheduled plan. I have numerous criticisms of how the event was managed, but I'll limit my comments directed towards Cleaver as follows:

1. When hiring aides, please find at least one person with strong customer service skills. At a retail politicking event, it's irritating having to deal with a young man whose demeanor is distracted, intense and brusk.* It kind of puts me in a "Listen, you snot-nosed punk" mood. This isn't just a Cleaver thing. In my experience, it's a very common attitude problem for young frontline political workers. Get over yourselves, you ambitious little twits. You're in the people business. At least pretend to care about people.

Yes, I realize the young man was probably set upon by dozens of people with varying degrees of intensity and hostility. But, as any service worker with an ounce of professionalism knows, you have to stay calm and you can't use one person's rudeness as an excuse to be rude to others.

2. Had I had the opportunity to talk to the Congressman, I was prepared to share my excitement and appreciation for the Green Impact Zone, and, time permitting, reference the recent "Life Changers" funding controversy and encourage him to use his position and experience to negotiate truces in these self-defeating "respect" battles. (That's another post entirely, so I doubt I would've had enough time to make much sense to Cleaver, and, really, probably could've filled my alotted three minutes talking about the Green Impact Zone).

Ok, back to the trigger of this post, silly republicans and how they behaved at this Cleaver event. Perhaps Raven edited the part of the email where Jim demanded identification from the alleged Obama staffer and determined that the woman was "Washington-based." But I'm guessing not, and there's no reason to believe the woman wasn't local. (Or really, as Tony pointed out, no reason to believe the woman exists). I've also noticed that one can earn the title "Obama staffer" by having spent one afternoon phonebanking last summer. For the record, even by that lax standard, I am not an Obama staffer. The idea that the Obama campaign operation would have to pay people to attend these events is silly. They just send out an email to their big fat list telling people to show up and support health care reform.**

Jim the emailer took exception to the suggestion that there was talk of socialism and anger. Speaking for myself, I didn't make it ten feet from the car before I could hear a guy going on at length about how Obama's health care plan was socialism and how angry he was about it. Did I mention this event was held in Lee's Summit? At a coffee shop on the distractingly named Fascination Drive. Yeah... Lee's Summit was alive with the sounds of socialism. It was on the (hand-printed) signs. It was on the lips of half the people surrounding me. It was everywhere. Socialism was a very grave concern. I'm not sure how far removed one has to be from reality to think that republicans have to be "baited" into describing health care reform as socialism.

As for anger, I'd describe the crowd more as agitated. We are still midwesterners, after all. The event was held in a small coffee shop. On one side of the building you had a crowd, holding signs (912 "We surround them" on a flag was my personal favorite) and basically protesting. Around the corner you had a line that eventually led to aforementioned distracted staffer and a form to fill out if you wanted to get a line number to talk to the Congressman. People standing in line basically discussed amongst themselves. I witnessed a few cordial conversations between people who disagreed on the issue of health care reform. I witnessed many loud old white guys proclaiming the Truth about health care reform to anyone within earshot under the pretense of discussing the issue with their one buddy.

But my favorite part was the guy hunting for ACORN workers. He was convinced that they were there. He scanned the crowd and did perimeter checks. He spoke of ACORN as if they were Bolshevik infiltrators of the G dam American Dream. I'd like to say his search parameters were more complex than "spot the black person," but that's truly all it seemed to be. In what was surely an evil ACORN plot to trip him up, the nearest black person was actually a republican. Eventually, he managed to spot some black people with professionally printed signs, and having identified and assessed the current threat level, he calmed down about ACORN.

I agree with Jim the emailer that the entire event was pretty much a waste of time, outside of the people watching. But then I didn't show up expecting a grand debate about health care. I don't think Jim did either. I suspect Jim showed up looking for validation that his side is the majority and the opposition is sneaky and rigged. The Lee's Summit location guaranteed his satisfaction of the former, and his imagination (despite slim pickings) satisfied the latter.

I'm not sure what the namers of Fascination Drive hoped to evoke, but it reminded me of The Cure song Fascination Street, hence, the picture of Robert Smith.

* Apparently there were at least two staffers present. I'm talking about the white guy.

** I have quibbles with how the Obama email list is used for this sort of thing - "action" requests designed to make people feel involved but that are relatively meaningless. It wasn't a health care Town Hall. If my knowledge of the event had been based on the email I got from Organizing for America, I would've been irritated.


  1. You have a great perspective, and thank you for posting your thoughts.

    We need a little bit of clarity amidst all the bullshit flying around.

  2. there's a glitch that I encounter every time I post - posts fail unless you select "preview" first" - ONLY after selecting "preview" then selecting "post comment" works.

  3. Huh, yeah I posted a comment yesterday and it ain't here. Oh well, it wasn't very smart anyway.

  4. Ok. I've got no clue as to what's going wrong with the comment function. Only apologies.