The Blue Raccoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hot Topic
The "7-Election" of Obama and McCain

So the ruthless commercialization and trivialization of the present predicament known as the election season is no better illustrated by the offering of 20 ounce coffee cups by 7-11.

Sure, let's take the most divisive election since 1860 and reduce it to a paltry act of commerce.

I wonder how many yelling matches or fist fights have been caused by this visible display of party loyalties? Standing in the wending lines at these understaffed and poorly managed so-called convenience stores is difficult enough. Why now add this disconcerting element to the scent of refined sugar and burning sausage-like snacks?

The election-themed cups began in the distant, hazy days of 2000 and I thought it was a little odd then, and even more so now. These days of zero sum, fifty-fifty electioneering that does more harm to the nation than good is given a far starker example at 7-11 than even cable television.

At my office, around 3 p.m., a group of us go on a collective hike down to the corner for a "Mandate." It was called this originally because just two of us guys went, then others decided they wanted to join the later afternoon break. So the Mandate is intergender and bi-partisan.

We've had an informal relationship with the clerks at that 7-11 for more than a year of Mandates, day after day, for weeks. We seldom solicit more than "Next!" but on a rare occasion, "Can I help you, dear?" Now, our 7-11 is on a gritty corner with a share of homeless and addled who gravitate to the place and I don't know what it's like to deal each day with the exigencies of providing minimal service to those for whom society has little use. I'm sure it's vexing, and, at times, outright dangerous.

That said, I did, once, make the mistake of picking up an Obama cup, only because I'd not looked enough to see that there are unflagged 20 ounce cups to choose from. Another colleague did the same, and she went ahead of me. I'm not sure how the exchange started, but soon my friend found herself at one end of a long pent-up frustration on the part of the clerk about the kinds of Obama supporters who come into the store.

My friend is white, and the clerk -- from her accent -- perhaps from one of the Caribbean islands, and of African descent and she appears to be somewhere in her 30s. I cannot quite classify what happened next.

The clerk regaled us on how the young black people who come into her store -- this is her talking, not me -- wearing their pants down around their knees and their baseball caps sideways, and their big Obama T-shirts, she continued, couldn't name a single thing Obama stood for. "Nine out of ten can't say why they want him President!" the woman exclaimed. "Sometimes more than nine out of ten!"

She sneered, "No, I'm voting for McCain. I tell you why. I know how these black people think. They'll vote Obama in, and they think everything's gonna be fine by Christmas."

She shook her head, clicking her tongue against her teeth. "They don't know nothing."

My friend to whom this speech was delivered was, herself, speechless and those of us who heard the talk walked out into the afternoon sun, blinking, and not sure what to make of the clerk's disdain for my friend's choice in coffee cup.

I'm not sure how to figure out how this plays into the statistics, and the so-called "Bradley Effect" or "Wilder Effect" that holds that black candidates who seem to be running ahead in the polls, come election day, are either elected by very narrow margins or not at all.

The other aspect is that the black voting bloc is no more monolithic than the white. And there could be some anomalous (depending on your perspective) voting patterns come November 4 that will puzzle some analysts.

All I know is, the non-election cups are on the other side of the 7-11 coffee island and a couple of times on the coffee girdle you slide on to keep from burning your fingers, I've written "KUCINICH."

But my handwriting is hardly legible. The past few Mandates, I've not emblazoned my coffee girdle with a political preference. Which sort of sums up for me the stupid situation the country is in: offered no other choices, and even trying to give some kind of alternative gets no attention. And that choosing a President is only as important as deciding on a coffee cup. These candidates are just empty vessels into which are poured the expectations of the under half of the registered to vote who bother to.

You can read the official 7-11 take on its civics lesson, here; a blogger view on the fairness of these choices here; pro-McCain snideness -- also showing the potential for violence, here; and a more newsy explanation from BNet, here.

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