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  • Follow the lead!

    Write to voters in Clark County:
    The British are sending letter to Clark County, let's see:

    Ian Katz: Were we right to team readers up with Clark County, Ohio

    Letters to Clark County

    Dirty tricks return to the sunshine state

    Letters to Clark County

    Wednesday October 20, 2004
    The Guardian

    In a bid to give the rest of the world a say in the US election, the Guardian is urging non-Americans to write to voters in Clark County, Ohio, one of the most marginal areas in a key swing state. To receive the name and address of a Clark County voter, visit By last night, more than 14,000 people had requested the name of a voter.

    Ronald Reagan famously asked the American people: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" You will have to ask yourselves that question again on November 2.

    For the wealthiest, the answer (in economic terms at least) is clear: "Much better off." And Bush has already been rewarded for the $0.5 trillion in tax cuts that he gave America's richest 1% - his election war chest is the biggest in history. More rewards are undoubtedly forthcoming in terms of their votes.

    Of course, for the average Joe, the picture is not quite so rosy. Bush's spending sprees and tax cuts for the rich have led to the worst budget crisis the US has faced in half a century. Which means not enough money for teachers: in Oklahoma and Oregon and Idaho we see them having to mop floors, drive school buses, and rely upon the proceeds of cake sales to be kept on staff. Not enough money for healthcare - 45 million Americans no longer have health insurance. And economic policies so flawed that George W has become the first president in 72 years to lose Americans jobs.

    For the average Joanna, life has got even more fraught. Childcare budgets have been cut, and funds for after-school programmes frozen. The administration, meanwhile, has publicly disparaged sexual harassment laws, claimed the pay gap between men and women is phony and has been making federal bench and recess appointments that risk overturning Roe versus Wade.

    Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Think before you answer that.

    And are you more secure now than you were four years ago? Is a president who waged a war in Iraq under false pretences; who is responsible for 13 young American soldiers returning home in body bags each and every week and has never attended a funeral or memorial service for any of them; who never made good his pledge to deliver Osama bin Laden "Dead or Alive"; and has lost the support of other countries all over the world, making you safer or less safe at night?

    Are you better off today than you were four years ago? And are you more secure? These are the questions you must ask yourself on November 2. If I were an American, I know who I would not be voting for.
    Noreena Hertz

    Noreena Hertz is an economist and author of I.O.U: The Debt Threat and Why We Must Defuse It


  • #2
    How come everybody else in the world seems to understand?

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by masucci79
    [B]I read your post and between the lines too.

    I posted a post regarding voting and cheating?? in Politics

    I do not know what the citizens of the US will do??

    Are the citizens really brainwashed? all the subliminal advertising such as a photo of Bush with the number 1 and one written too????? on posters.The photo calls?? the spinning keeps spinning but the track record id the track record.

    Facts are facts, liars lie and any man with blood on his hands must be watched.Is that man going to be allowed to continue this world nightmare.


    Here is my question:

    How come the Brits and everybody else understands what
    George Bush is all about except 48% of the voters in
    the USA? True, facts are facts and liars are liars but, it seems, in US politics, with all the struggle to shift the anchor point of people who have no time to find out what is going on in the world, that has never made any difference!

    Re. are people in the US really brainwashed? Yes they are!
    How do you think this stupid consumer economy keeps on rolling along?

    One week ago Clark County was just another county in Ohio. Then came a campaign from England to pair a newspaper's readers with the undecided voters and suddenly the world knew the name of a County in Ohio because it could make the difference on who will be President. Have the Blacks taken sides, you bet, Clark County is the battle ground in Ohio.

    The question one must asks is: were the journalists of a British Newspaper right to get involved in US politics?

    I think they know that the ideas that come from England are like the idea of Dr Frankenstein creating a monster. Since I do not know how it felt to create a monster, I checked the Guardian. This is how they feel:

    By the beginning of this week, a quixotic idea dreamed up last month in a north London pub had morphed into a global media phenomenon complete with transatlantic outrage, harrumphing over journalistic ethics, grave political predictions - and thousands of people from every corner of the planet writing personal, passionate letters to voters in a tiny American district few outside Ohio had heard of 10 days ago.

    I realised just how much momentum our project to match concerned non-Americans with voters in a marginal US county had acquired when I arrived in Shanghai on Sunday to be handed a message from a local reporter. I rang back expecting a few desultory questions about why a group of Guardian journalists were visiting China but the reporter had a bigger story in her sights: "Is it possible to make interview about Operation Clark County?" (There was no sign in her voice of the mild irony with which we had chosen the project's quasi-military name.) When I rang a colleague in London the next morning to tell him about the strangely surreal encounter, he reported that he had just said goodbye to a crew from Japanese TV. CNN were on their way.

    It's been like that for the best part of a week: Canadian newspapers, Irish radio, US TV networks. Fox has been frothing. Rush Limbaugh has been raving. A quick Google search as I write this produces the Washington Post wondering, "Can the Brits swing Ohio?", and the New York Times reporting, in unusually demotic voice, "British Two Cents Draws, in Sum, a Two-Word Reply: Butt Out". Elsewhere, detailing the robust response to our campaign, the Arab News in Saudi Arabia asks gravely: "Can the 'special' US-UK relationship survive?".

    Even before the Springfield News Sun of Clark County splashed our campaign across its front page (the paper's charming crime correspondent was assigned to the story because, "There was no crime in the county today"), it was pretty clear that we had touched off something bigger than we had anticipated. In the first 24 hours after we published details of the campaign, more than 4,000 people visited our website to be matched with a Clark County voter. A day later the figure had reached 7,000, and by this Sunday, when the site was attacked by a (presumably politically inspired) hacker, we had sent out the names of more than 14,000 undecided voters. Not all of them will be acquiring foreign penpals; rightwing bloggers have been urging Republicans to sign up themselves, and prevent names falling into the hands of Euroweenie leftists. But extrapolating from the hundreds of people who have gone to the trouble of copying us their letters, it's a good bet that several thousand will.

    The letters have made rather stirring reading - sensitive, thoughtful and warm, if occasionally prone to propaganda, too. "I'm a cartographer who specialises in digital mapping," began one Welsh correspondent. "Parts of the US are almost as familiar to me as Wales. It's a small country but it was the ancestral home of 18 out of the 56 delegates who signed your Declaration of Independence." Another, from Leicester, wrote: "Please forgive this intrusion. I am writing to you because I care about America a great deal. Let me tell you why. I lived and worked in the USA for 22 years. My dearest friends are American and some of my best memories are of July 4 parties, Memorial Day picnics, and the Thanksgiving feasts partaken with the welcoming families of friends. I close my eyes and I still see the woods and lakes of Connecticut."

    At first the letters came almost exclusively from Britain but as word spread, our inbox began to look more and more like a UN telephone directory. In one of those bits of casual alliteration to which journalists are prone, I had introduced the project with the suggestion that it would offer a way for "people from Basildon to Botswana to campaign in the presidential race". Suddenly, they were. "My country is a new democracy," wrote a South African. "When we set about building our nation from the ruins of apartheid, we looked long and hard at the lessons the people of the USA have learned from more than 200 years of self-government and democracy." From Chile came this: "As someone who has lived in the United States and loves it dearly, events over the recent years have caused great concern to many of us in the world." They kept coming, from Norway, and Germany, and Morocco, and Australia, and Uruguay, and Sweden, and Singapore, and China, and Brazil, and Italy, and, yes, France, too.

    Then came the backlash. We had expected it, of course. Fox-viewing America was never going to embrace our modest sortie into US politics and we knew full well that any individual voter might take exception to the idea of a foreigner writing to offer some advice on how they should vote - our website explicitly urged participants to "imagine how you would feel if you received a letter from an American urging you to vote for Tony Blair ... or Michael Howard." But you couldn't fail to be a little shocked by the volume and pitch of the invective directed our way. Most of it was coordinated by a handful of resourceful bloggers - the ringleader of whom is fittingly published on a site called "spleenville" - and much of it was eye-wateringly unpleasant. "I hope your earholes turn to arseholes and **** on your shoulders," was one, more repeatable example of the scatalogical genre. Another memorable mail asked:

    "How secure is your building that contains all you morons???

    Do you have enough security??

    ARE YOU SURE ??? Are you VERY sure ??"

    Interestingly, one of the recurrent themes running through the onslaught was an ardent admiration for Tony Blair from the kind of people who might feel slightly out of place in even the biggest of New Labour big tents. Another was a curious obsession with the state of British dentistry: "MAY YOU HAVE TO HAVE A TOOTH CAPPED. I UNDERSTAND IT TAKES AT LEAST 18 MONTHS FOR YOUR GREAT MEDICAL SERVICES TO GET AROUND TO YOU." At times, it felt as though whole swathes of America had suffered an epidemic of Tourette syndrome.

    So far, so bad. The email onslaught was pretty unpleasant and inconvenient for the 53 Guardian colleagues whose addresses were targeted by the rightwing spammers - several of us received more than 700 mails - but by and large they were the sort of missives that left you feeling relieved you were not on the same side of the argument (indeed, any argument) as the sender. The same could be said of the news this week that Rush Limbaugh had devoted virtually all of one of his three-hour shows to our Clark County project. But a much smaller number of responses demanded to be taken more seriously. Some of them, a trifle portentously, questioned whether something such as the Clark County project is an appropriate thing for a newspaper to be doing at all. Others, a small but increasing number of Democrats among them, suggested that our campaign could be dangerously counterproductive. Americans don't like being told what to do, the argument went. If a load of foreigners write telling the voters of Clark County to vote Kerry, they are liable to do precisely the opposite. Or, as Sharon Manitta, spokeswoman in Britain for Democrats Abroad, put it with preternatural confidence: "This will certainly garner more votes for George Bush." Yikes.

    It's not as if we didn't consider the possibility that our project might have precisely the opposite effect to that intended. The feature introducing the project included notes of caution from Manitta's colleague, Rachelle Valladares, and a University of Columbia professor. It's just that we didn't believe it. For one thing, it seemed unlikely that our campaign would ever reach a scale that would have any real impact on the election, one way or another. For another, it seemed spectacularly patronising to suggest that the people of Clark County would be so volatile that they would vote one way simply because an individual several thousand miles away had suggested they do the opposite.

    Finally, there was the special nature of the Anglo-American relationship. I suppose it might be possible, after that nasty business in the run up to the Gulf war, to imagine a less internationally minded American voter taking umbrage at the very idea of receiving a letter from a Frenchman, but aren't we the staunchest and most longstanding of allies? Surely a letter from a concerned Brit would be received more like a plea from an old friend. (And surely it was important that Americans, who have been reminded repeatedly during this campaign of Tony Blair's legitimising support for George Bush's Iraqi adventure, should know that a majority of the British public did not share their prime minister's analysis of world affairs.)

    Well, it's true that we may have underestimated the number of people willing to put pen to paper and shell out 47p for an airmail stamp, and it's true, too, that one or two residents of Clark County may get a letter from a cheese-eating surrender monkey, but I would still bet my last 10 that none of them will make their election decision by reversing whatever our long-distance lobbyists suggest. Consider the first reports of Clark County residents receiving Guardian-inspired letters. "When Dawn Brink went to her mailbox and found a letter from Germany, she was surprised because she knows no one from there," relates the Springfield News Sun. "When she opened it, she was even more surprised to find someone asking her to vote for Kerry. "It caught me off guard," she said. "But I'm always open to listening to other points of view." And here's James Chapman, who got a letter from a woman in Yorkshire on Saturday: "She said it was an important election and asked me to vote for Kerry. It was very nicely written." Chapman already planned to vote for Kerry so the letter was pushing at an open door. Two other residents were less thrilled by their missives but did not think anyone would vote differently as a result of them.

    As for the question of whether any newspaper should be attempting to influence a foreign election in the first place, I'm torn between answering, "Yes," and, "Puleeeeeese". Yes, because I can't see any qualitative distinction between what newspapers have always done without controversy - attempt to sway the few foreign readers they have with leaders urging them to back one candidate or another - and our Clark County project. Some time in the next 10 days or so, the Guardian will run one urging its American readers - several million of them now, thanks to the long arm of the internet - to back John Kerry. In what way is Operation Clark County any more than an inventive way of empowering individuals to do the same?

    Puleeeese, because we're in danger of taking all this too seriously. It's always tricky, and usually disingenuous, to suggest when something has been taken very seriously indeed, that actually it was all a bit of a joke. Operation Clark County was not a joke, but neither was it entirely po-faced - it was a lighthearted attempt to make some quite serious points. There were plenty of clues to its intended spirit in the feature which launched it. The cover, among other things, featured a bumper sticker "Kentish Town for Kerry" - a gentle joke at our own expense, given the London district's reputation as the heartland of Britain's liberal chattering classes. The introduction to the project itself, meanwhile, began: "Where others might see delusions of grandeur, we saw an opportunity for public service ..."

    Somewhere along the line, though, the good-humoured spirit of the enterprise got lost in translation. It's easier perhaps for British readers to recognise that a project launched in G2 - the same section which sought to save Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith by persuading him to pose in front of a poster which read, "It rained less under the Conservatives" - was not to be taken in deadly earnest. Reading some American correspondence, you might believe that the editor of the Guardian himself was secreted in a subterranean war room plotting George Bush's demise.

    Oddly, it seems that it is the folks in Clark County itself who have best recognised the spirit of the enterprise. Local media coverage has been consistently fair and good humoured. Even the spokesman for Ohio's Bush-Cheney campaign replied to the first query about our effort with a wry reference to the events of 1776: "The last time the Brits tried to persuade us to do something, we started a revolution." Nevertheless it feels as if the time has come to let the good people of the county make their minds up in peace. Since sending a Guardian delegation to the county in the last week of the campaign would be bound to prolong the media brouhaha, with unknowable consequences, and since some of the mail we have received brings to mind the old joke about unenviable holidays (first prize one week, second prize two weeks), we have decided that our competition winners will be watching the last days of the campaign from another, more tranquil, corner of the American electoral battlefield.

    We set out to get people talking and thinking about the impact of the US election on citizens of other countries, and that is what we have done. For the Guardian to have experienced such a backlash to an editorial project is extraordinary, but the number of complaints are thoroughly outdone by the number of people who engaged positively with the project. What other lessons can we draw from Operation Clark County? I guess we will have to wait till November 3 to find out for sure, but here's a provisional stab: there are a huge number of people around the world who are profoundly dismayed by the prospect of another four years of a Bush White House and who are desperate for a way to do something about it; Guardian readers are a reassuringly engaged, resourceful and largely charming bunch; parts of America have become so isolationist that even the idea of individuals receiving letters from foreigners is enough to give politicians the collywobbles and, perhaps, in the digital age little acorns can turn into big trees very, very quickly."

    I say, puleeeesss, when you deal with a bunch like the Arbustos, and all their power and resources, their dirty
    tricks, EVERYTHING GOES!!!!!



    • #3
      Spin for Kerry

      Your post is spin for Kerry. President Bush, in my analysis, is the only Presidential Candidate for these times. Kerry and Mrs. Kerry appear not to belong in the White House for any reason. Their liberal platform absolutely make no sense to me. Every time they open their mouths You will never convince me. I will be voting for President Bush on Nov 2. Can't wait to vote!


      • #4
        Don't blame me, blame the spin on your English friends!

        ... You will never convince me. I will be voting for President Bush on Nov 2. Can't wait to vote!

        Dear Rivera. Yes, you are right, very right! But don't blame me for the spin, blame your British friends from Europe! And it aint like los arbustos are not spinning!!!!

        As far as Clark County is concerned, it is really the rednecks in that part of the heartland that will decide. Judging from the stats, you need not worry!

        Like you, I am sure, they are concerned with issues of everyday life, such as "Football and mowers."

        So I suggest YOU get a brief guide to Clark County, and like the Brits:

        Get the name of a US voter! Get a stamp and send out your
        letter! Find out who are these people that need to vote like you. I'll get you started in case, you haven't the foggiest on how to Google The Guardian:

        Wednesday October 13, 2004
        The Guardian

        Even Ohio's proudest natives concede that it doesn't have the rough-hewn glamour of Texas, or the evocative pull of states such as Louisiana or Mississippi; it isn't particularly central to US history, like Massachusetts, or even notably eccentric, like Utah. It is flat. It is temperate: it is the heartland.

        "It's a balanced place," Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political scientist, says simply. As a result, Clark County, the focus of the Guardian's election project, offers about as representative a cross-section of American life outside the big cities as it is possible to find in such a kaleidoscopic nation.

        The area's vital statistics underline that: in 2003, the population of 143,351 had a median income of $40,340 (22,500) - just a sliver below the US average. Eighty-eight per cent of them were white, compared to 77% nationally.

        With an Air National Guard base in Springfield, the county's major town, and the Wright-Patterson air force base, one of the nation's most important, not far away, there is a strong military influence; that will account for much Republican support, and has kept Iraq at the centre of local pre-election debate. But the soldiers and their families are balanced by the blue-collar workforce at Navistar, Springfield's biggest local employer, which makes agricultural equipment. (Clark County's famous sons may include James Thurber, and president William H Taft, but it was another local boy, William Whitely, who made the biggest difference, by inventing the first combined self-raking reaper and mower.) Navistar has been forced to lay off hundreds of workers over the past four years; economic issues, Asher says, will be crucially important in swaying undecided voters.

        When they're not working, plenty of Springfielders are watching football - the Ohio Buckeyes football team absorbs much of the state's attention, while closer to home, the focus is the longstanding crosstown sporting battle between the town's North High School and South High School. As across the midwest, antique buying and selling is also massively popular; Springfield is home to three of the region's largest antique malls. The Springfield Museum of Art is one of Ohio's finest; the picturesque campus of Wittenberg University is home to 2,000 students.

        "We do have our social problems," says Tracy Figley, the general manager of WEEC Christian Radio in Springfield, and a 17-year veteran of the area. "I can't compare it to bigger cities, because I've never lived in bigger cities, but we do have gangs, we do have drug problems. I'm not sure you're even safe in what you'd traditionally call the good side of town: it depends on what mischief is lurking in the hearts of people."

        Gay marriage has become a central issue for the town's sizeable evangelical community, Figley argues: he says he knows many who would have voted for Kerry despite differences on abortion but who plan to vote for Bush because of the candidates' differing positions on same-sex unions. But the key national issues of Iraq and the economy will still dominate the closing weeks of the election race.


        Write letters, my friend. And spin away, spin away to your heart's content, after all, we are not talking about getting Martin to become the Mayor of San Juan, are we?



        • #5
          I'm going to paraphrase something I heard on a cable TV opinion show, that I think sums up the truth about these leftist Brits trying to influence people to vote for Kerry.

          It went something like this:

          "If it wasn't for the U.S. you'd all be speaking German right now. If the U.S. had a president the likes of John Kerry during World War 2, you'd all be goose-stepping around Buckingham Palace."

          It was sheer poetry.