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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Waiting for Winfrey

posted by on December 8 at 12:55 PM

I’m in Iowa this weekend working on a piece about Barack Obama, and at the moment I’m in a large convention center in Des Moines waiting for the first of Obama’s four appearances over the next two days with Oprah Winfrey.

The hall is packed and Obama’s supporters are, as they like to say, “Fired Up.” I’m a bit frantic, running around trying to do interviews here, fretting about whether snow will prevent me from getting to eastern Iowa later today for a Hillary Clinton event, and stressing about my deadline.

But! I have time to dump an interesting interview out of my notebook and onto Slog. I was in a bar in Des Moines this morning (eating, not drinking) and talking to the bartender, Joe Jacobson, 22. Of the Oprah event, he says:

I really could care less what Oprah thinks. I just think it’s a big deal about something that really shouldn’t be a big deal.

His opinion is obviously not shared by the thousands of people here at the convention center. Nor do they seem to share Jacobson’s skepticism about an Obama candidacy, which is as revealing as it is (in part) wrong. Jacobson told me:

To think that the rest of the country is going to elect someone who’s in the minority in religion and in race just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

The man’s entitled to his opinion, of course, but can you spot the erroneous information in that statement?

UPDATE: For you commenters with trust issues: Yes, of course, I followed up and asked the bartender why he believed that Obama is a member of a religious minority group. He told me he’d heard that Obama is Muslim. (I now await that very rarest of all things on this blog, a commenter apology.)

RSS icon Comments


Someone believes the story about Obama being a Muslim.

Posted by Phelix | December 8, 2007 1:08 PM

or maybe he thinks primarily Black denominations are separate religions? doubtful

Posted by vooodooo84 | December 8, 2007 1:14 PM

According to somethings I read on Media Matters and Wikipedia, it looks like the Trinity United Church, at least in the Midwest, is primarily an afro-centric Church that is, "Unashamedly Black, Unapologetically Christian". Perhaps this man just equates this church with the minority.

Posted by Josh Mahar | December 8, 2007 1:26 PM

Are blacks really a minority anymore? Maybe in places like Seattle and Iowa.

Posted by M | December 8, 2007 1:27 PM

Don't all bartenders tell all reporters that everything is overrated? It's probably a side effect of spending all day enduring strident bloviating from drunks. They start to think everything is exaggerated.

As far as thinking Obama's not a Christian, well, bartenders drink. Everyone knows that.

A bartender-only tracking poll would be enlightening, though. I would bet they are not the ones with their finger on the pulse of the electorate.

Posted by elenchos | December 8, 2007 1:39 PM

Yeah out here in Iowa you can drive for days without finding a black person. Just corn-fed, blue-eyed, blonde-haired farm boys out here. Definitely. Please feel free to define Iowans by the quote of a 22 year old bartender in Des Moines.

He was out at my school here in Iowa, amidst the white people, for a rally sans Oprah. Very funny on stage and able to connect with militantly and blindly liberal college students, just pussied out about talking on things that would actually matter in a candidacy. Joe Biden was here, in a much smaller venue the night before and many more people were impressed by him than Obama. Of course, that's just because we're white, corn-fed 'mericans.

Posted by g | December 8, 2007 1:39 PM

uh, M, they're maybe 12% of the US population, so yeah, they are a minority.

Posted by dude | December 8, 2007 1:46 PM

That's just a technicality. I've always abhored statistics.

Posted by M | December 8, 2007 2:15 PM

The point is that the right wing "smear" that Obama's muslim have gained traction "out there."
Why can't we ever get ahead of this Swift Boat type bullshit?

Posted by Brian | December 8, 2007 2:43 PM

Is it possible that he was referring to the likelihood of an Obama presidency only in reference to race and of a Romney presidency in reference to religion.

Both are much discussed issues so it doesn't seem like it would be unusual for someone to group these ideas together into a more general comment about the voting habits of the majority.

Posted by BrinkleyBoy | December 8, 2007 3:03 PM

the problem that without context it might make sense, a Muslim sounding name, father was from East Africa, lived in Indonesia for a while. if you cherry pick your facts it might sound reasonable to an ignorant person, and Republicans are experts at cherry-picking facts

Posted by vooodooo84 | December 8, 2007 3:05 PM

B-b-b-but the guy didn't say he was a Muslim. You're putting words in his mouth.

All religions are minority religions. Roman Catholics are the largest group, and they're less than a quarter of the population. According to, United Church of Christ is the 11th largest denominational group, with 0.7% of the population.

Posted by Fnarf | December 8, 2007 3:25 PM

Bull Shit, Christians always aggregate themselves to make themselves more powerful. the only times they disaggregate is to gain power over those other sub-groups like Roman Catholics or Anglicans with whom they have a dispute

Posted by vooodooo84 | December 8, 2007 3:44 PM

welcome to the Brave New World of genero-evangelical worldviews

Posted by vooodooo84 | December 8, 2007 3:46 PM

SOME Christians do that.

Barely half of Americans are even Protestant.

Posted by Fnarf | December 8, 2007 3:52 PM

Someone working in Clinton's campaign supposedly forwarded that smear about Obama being a secret Muslim; she may have Rove helping her already.

Posted by isabelita | December 8, 2007 4:10 PM

for fnarf:
for a country with nominally christian beliefs, the u.s. seems to want to embody, promote and use for its' own ends the very same means and justifications for its' own bizaro behavior... not christian, umm yeah, right. keep splitting those hairs, and may you sleep like a good christian tonight. it fits you, you suck up christian-lite.

Posted by truth in adversting | December 8, 2007 4:38 PM

Do tell, do tell.

Obama is in a racial minority --and a reoig. minority. Because all denominations are in a minority in the USA.

So....what error?

what you "think" the bartender "meant"?

Posted by unPC | December 8, 2007 4:46 PM

if everyone is a religious minority why even mention it. he could have said that Obama wasn't in the plurality, but that doesn't seem like a relevant distinction to me. the only reason to call him a minority is to put him either outside Christianity or in a fringe group like LDS or Amish

Posted by vooodooo84 | December 8, 2007 4:56 PM

people with the name barak could never be a christian... and for that i hate him and "oprah", sure she makes the women happy with her giving away stuff and interviews with sexxy celebs and (so vibrant)book club...but those are not good american names. us christians are affronted by these two, and their silly names, besides they are demo(n)crats...right?

Posted by avg. dumb american | December 8, 2007 5:01 PM

Eli: Have you read the Washington Post's public editor's (non-)apology forcalling Obama a racist? Some of the anger about journalists screwing up that story might be unfairly landing on your shoulders.

Your profession is in ill-repute because of stories like the one in the Post. Thanks for highlighting how such stories misinform the people.

Posted by Kevin Lyda | December 9, 2007 3:24 AM

Eli: Have you read the Washington Post's public editor's (non-)apology forcalling Obama a Muslim? Some of the anger about journalists screwing up that story might be unfairly landing on your shoulders.

Your profession is in ill-repute because of stories like the one in the Post. Thanks for highlighting how such stories misinform the people.

Posted by Kevin Lyda | December 9, 2007 3:25 AM

Is it bad that all I really want to ask is which bar you were at?

Posted by Sara | December 9, 2007 7:37 PM

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