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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hanging With the Hard Working White Folk

posted by on May 8 at 19:32 PM

Inside the arena at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in southern Oregon, a not exactly full house one hour before Hillary Clinton is scheduled to arrive…


…while outside the light fades on a warm day here in this overwhelmingly white (as in 93 percent white) corner of the state.




Earlier I spent some time talking to Hillary supporters as they arrived, waited in line, and headed inside the arena. Here’s Philip Frisby, 84, a retired cement delivery person from Grants Pass, Oregon.


“I think it’s just great that she’s staying in,” Frisby told me. He isn’t a big fan of Obama. He’s heard Obama won’t sing the national anthem, that he considers it a war song. “How good an American could he be if that’s his way of thinking?” Frisby asked. “His patriotism goes one way—that’s his way.”

How did Frisby hear about Obama’s dislike of the national anthem? You guess it: By email.

Now meet Margaret Roper, 74, a homemaker from Grants Pass.


“I don’t think she should drop out,” Roper told me. “I think she should stay in until the last.”

She’s also not a big Obama fan. “I don’t think he’s got the qualifications she does,” Roper said. “I think she’s a better person.”

One reason: “I think you should be proud to be an American. I think he should defend our country in every way, shape, and form, and I would not have listened to the things his preacher said.”

Can Hillary even win the nomination at this point?

“It’s possible,” Roper said. “She’s a fighter.”


Deanna Rogers, 43, arrived with McKyla Crowder, 14. Rogers could not explain how Hillary Clinton still has a viable path to the nomination. “She can give it a try,” said Rogers, who works as a real estate agent in Medford. “She can’t give up now. It’s not over until it’s over.”


“I hope she will win,” said Balaman Poorkhomani, 52, of Ashland. “Because I like her husband. We had a great country when he was president.”

And if she doesn’t win? Is the country ready to vote for a black man for president?

“Of course.”


Roger Caldwell has been to 11 states on the proceeds of his button and t-shirt sales, and he’s made a study of Hillary Clinton and her devoted followers, who he calls “Hillarians.”

He thinks Clinton is staying in the race for two reasons: To gain leverage for bargaining for the VP slot and (in a rather generous take that I haven’t heard before) to keep the spotlight on the Democrats rather than allowing it to shift to McCain.

He hadn’t heard of Clinton’s recent bragging about her prowess at drawing “hard-working, white Americans,” but, he said: “It’s true. That’s just a fact.”

Consider North Carolina, Caldwell said. There, Obama won by 14 points and blacks (over 90 percent of whom voted for Obama) made up 34 percent of the electorate. “If you took the blacks out of it, she would have won by 14,” Caldwell said.

So does Obama have a problem with white voters?

“I don’t think he has any problem that any black man wouldn’t have among white voters. That’s just the world we live in.”

Is Clinton exploiting this reality?

“You can’t fault her for exploiting it. Anyone running opposed to Barack is going to exploit it. And Hillary has barely done it.”

Is there a way for Clinton to make a graceful exit at this point?

“If she wins in West Virginia and Kentucky she’s going out strong. It won’t be that she has a chance. It’ll be that she’s going out strong.”

Want to see more posts in this series? Start here and scroll, scroll, scroll. Or here, where there’s a little less need for scrolling.

RSS icon Comments


I wonder if high school kids are citing emails in their reports. Most of the spectacularly uninformed seem to take them as real.

I also wonder how many have sent their bank account number to African officials.

On second thought, I wonder if they make high school kids write reports anymore?

Posted by Steve | May 8, 2008 8:18 PM

They do still have to write them, but as far as I know, most high school kids just go to and change the words around.

Posted by quisone | May 8, 2008 8:28 PM

I have a friend who is a lovely person, but incredibly naive. She forwards to me every chain e-mail she gets (always with an appropriate number of other people copied), and every, single, blessed e-mail with any rumor about Obama. She believes them all. It's gotten to the point where every time I get an e-mail from her, I automatically open because I know I'm going to have to send her a link to the real story.

And as for whether high school kids use these kind of things in reports...I don't know about high school, but when I taught middle school they tried to. I had to devote two entire classes on how to recognize a legitmate source on the internet.

Posted by Sheryl | May 8, 2008 8:29 PM

It's pretty much a known fact that Hillary's base is made up of chain email forwarders, people over 65, unmarried women over 45, and cat ladies.

Posted by Mike | May 8, 2008 8:46 PM

I love the way the Clinton fans just nod their heads and say "She's got to keep trying!" when you ask how she can possibly win.

Good old hard-working white Americans! They never let facts get in their way.

Posted by bob | May 8, 2008 8:47 PM

hahaha. people who aren't from cities are so stupid and precious. thank god democrats don't need anyone but urban liberals to win presidential elections!

Posted by josh | May 8, 2008 9:04 PM


Sorry dude. I only got about halfway through this post then had to give up because it's soooo depressing. And these are Democrats who actually care enough to go to a political rally in the first place, nevermind 90% of Americans who are all "Barack who? Are there any fresh lies for us to believe without question today?"

Posted by Original Andrew | May 8, 2008 9:06 PM

Josh - These "hard-working white Americans" are the root cause of much of the problems in this country.

These are the type that will switch their vote to Republican based on some stupid email chain or because they like the way a leader (Reagan, Bush) talks.

And the amazing thing is that they're voting against their own interests in just about every way, since the Republicans they elect just screw them even worse financially.

But they just smile stupidly and point out that such and such is wearing a flag pin and the other candidate isn't, so it's an easy choice. And of course they take the rest of the country down with them.

Posted by bob | May 8, 2008 9:15 PM

Bob -- you know, I don't love that Democrats need some of these apparently poorly-informed people either. I'm not saying that Obama (or other Democrats) should pander, but treating them like garbage and ignoring them doesn't do a thing for winning elections.

(And it's not as if it's only Clinton supporters who have ill-defined rationale for their preference. I lost count of the number of people at my caucus explaining their support for Obama as some version of: "I like him because, you know, he's hopeful and for change.")

Posted by josh | May 8, 2008 9:38 PM

I forget--did the school system in Oregon go to shit and then the state was overrun by gullible morons, or was it the other way round?

Posted by Tiktok | May 8, 2008 9:38 PM

Josh -

Sure, people have a lot of reasons for choosing candidates, rational and otherwise. The difference is that I think you could make an argument that those Obama candidates are voting in their own interests.

Something that doesn't seem to occur to the "hard working white Americans" when they vote for a Republican because he wears a flag pin or because they got a chain email claiming Obama is a secret agent of Al Queda.

Posted by bob | May 8, 2008 9:50 PM

I just watched McCain on The Daily Show. That guy is going to be a Republican Hubert Humphrey, too craven to do the necessary thing and throw Bush under the bus. That alone will be enough to cost him the election.

Posted by keshmeshi | May 8, 2008 10:18 PM

(did you add a whole bunch a bit after the original posting? maybe I missed it the first two times, but it seems a whole lot more balanced now.)

Posted by josh | May 8, 2008 10:23 PM

You know, even though the last guy you talked to seemed the most resonable, "if you take the blacks out of it" is a terrible way to look at the electorate. Black people help keep Democrats in office because they can often understand and sympathize with those who see an America worth fixing. We can't win without them, and the way Obama has registered and inspired the often disenfranchised, we will win with them.

Posted by V | May 8, 2008 10:25 PM

Yeah, I noticed that too "if you take the blacks out of it." Because that's like completely plausible right?To just remove a portion of the electorate that you don't like from the equation.

Posted by D. | May 8, 2008 10:30 PM

Well, it worked for the Republicans in Florida in 2000.

Posted by Dan Savage | May 8, 2008 10:43 PM

American Gothic.

This country is so depressing sometimes.

Posted by Trevor | May 8, 2008 11:05 PM

Did people just start completely making up names in the 1990s or something?

Posted by The CHZA | May 8, 2008 11:06 PM

Eli, great photos and interviews. Utterly depressing. Gave me that feeling you get on a road trip, when you stop at some little podunk town, thinking "this looks cool."

But then you get out of the car and the cute little diner serves the shittiest food ever, and there is a lot of thinly veiled racism, and everyone seems to be wearing a slightly different version of the same outfit bought at Wal-Mart or Target.

It is clear that Hillary has no chance of getting the nom. Her refusal to back the fuck down is embarrassing and painful to watch. Just as embarrassing and painful as some of the words you chronicled today.

Barack Obama has his work cut out for him, but I still firmly believe he will be the next President of the United States.

Posted by kerri harrop | May 8, 2008 11:23 PM

Soooo, having lived in Southern Oregon and worked in Medford, I can tell you that it truly is or was (to borrow from Edie Beale Jr) a mean, nasty republican town... I'm kinda amazed that Hil' is trying to reach out in the traditionally gop-heavy Jackson County. The responses you got do not surprise me in the least however. When I was there - it was very much red-state values. Just to give you an idea: It had an old boys network [uhhh - Bob Packwood anyone?], was a hotbed for the Oregon Citizen's Alliance, and had a few huge industry giants that had an economic stronghold on any growth or development [which favored only big box stores and bland sprawl], and still had some ties to a fading agriculture industry which got gobbled up by Harry and David...

Granted, it is freaking gorgeous country and there are some dems' interspersed with the Hank Hill types. Ashland, Jacksonville were pretty much liberal, collegiate-type towns... Also, some very freaky hippie enclaves (Wolf Creek, Crescent City).

Eli - if you need some sanity, head down to Ashland. It's somewhat liberal and there's quite alot of good bars. I think the region's only gay bar (if it's still there on Main street) that has dancing on Thursday nights.

Posted by yerbamatty | May 8, 2008 11:32 PM

Sorry, folks, anybody who's walked around Seattle with a clipboard and something to sign knows that you can hear pretty much the same right in the heart of Emerald City.

And really, none of the Oregonians in this post said anything reprehensible, except for the first guy about Obama's patriotism.

I caucused enthusiastically for Obama, and really want him to win, but I think this tut-tutting is a little too precious.

Posted by scotto | May 9, 2008 12:11 AM

Her supporters haven't seen anything yet. Hillary and her hard working lunchbox ride the elephant to Denver. Harvey Weinstein pistol whips Howard Dean, someone turns on the sprinklers, but she still loses the nod. There will be no back room deal. She may be nasty, but she's no Lyndon Johnson.

Posted by WenG | May 9, 2008 2:21 AM

It took me awhile to realize this, but she not only called black people lazy, but - in implying they'd never vote for Obama, even in the general election - she also called white working-class people racist. Isn't that worse than "bitter"? I'm sure the racist among them won't mind this, but I suspect that a lot of them aren't racist, and are tired of being profiled as such, even if it's kind of justified.

Just as I mind being profiled as a Hillary supporter just because I'm a 43 year old, white "cat lady". We're not ALL sexist, you know, even if most of us apparently are.

Posted by Phoebe | May 9, 2008 5:06 AM

once again proving 'common sense' isn't all that common.

Posted by monkey | May 9, 2008 7:57 AM

hee hee aren't people who live in towns smaller than ours rubes? They get their news from the internet! Unlike us, who only read the print editions of the Times, Guardian, and Harpers!

You smug fucks, unless I read this post incorrectly, these people are Democrats. You know, the people who mostly agree with you?

Posted by gillsans | May 9, 2008 11:22 AM

All these people and their old ways of thinking will pass. Barack & his supporters are simply the conduit for this process. It will take time. We may not succeed this time, but there can be no doubt that the ball is rolling in the right direction. It's only a matter of time. Their children are with us.

Posted by dave | May 9, 2008 3:01 PM

The collective IQ of those dimwits above is 76. What a bunch of freakin MO-RONS!!

Posted by Small town MO-RON | May 9, 2008 3:03 PM

I live in Ashland and I have seen one Hillary sign and about 1000 Obama signs. FWIW.

Posted by mkultra | May 9, 2008 3:14 PM

C'mon guys - there's no need to beat these people up. The people represented in this pastiche of southern Oregon Democrats represents a slice of America. I'm sure that if we all sat down for a Saturday afternoon picnic in the park, we would all get along just long as everyone avoids the topic of politics, of course. I'm willing to bet that most of us have aunts and uncles, brothers-in-law and cousins just like these folks.

Do some (many) of these people have illogical or specious reasons for supporting Clinton? Sure - but that's no different than any other slice of America. Rather than indifferently dismissing these people out of hand, criticize and denigrate them -- the better option is to engage them in a reasonable, calm and rational discussion about Obama. Don't beat them about the head for their faults and biases -- instead focus on convincing them of the *positives* of the Obama presidency. Dispel those rumors, inform them of the facts, and remain upbeat. There are definitely lots of 'Hillarians' out there that could be coaxed or convinced that Obama is a better choice than McCain (perhaps not their preferred choice, but we're past that point now). So please, keep it civil and nice -- we will need all the Democratic unity we can get come November. The time for dragging Clinton through the mud is over (c'mon folks, it's completely unnecessary since Obama has it pretty much locked up, so why keep doing it?) - time to start the healing.

Posted by M. High | May 9, 2008 3:17 PM

I was encouraged today by talking to a Hillary supporter in Portland today. A friend of mine mentioned to her that Obama was in Portland, and then said, "Oops I know you don't like him, sorry about that." She said, "What do you mean? I think he's great! I would just rather see Hillary win it." Oh God...if we all could be as level-headed about our preferred nominee! As an Obama supporter, I am very angry with Clinton's campaign and its tone, but after all of it I still would vote for her over McCain. I really think that unless Clinton tries to drags this on into August, (this is, if she concedes sometime in early June) it will be plenty of time for everyone to chill out and realize that we (Dems) can't have a McCain presidency. I think Clinton supporters do need some time to blow off some steam, be snarky, angry, etc...I mean, I know I would feel the same way if the roles were reversed. I don't mean this to sound condescending, but as long as they get over it by August, let them vent as needed!

Posted by Kevin | May 9, 2008 3:28 PM

Had dinner with Dad last night. Former state finance official here in Alaska. Big Hillary fan. Why? Obama is a Muslim. Well, if he's not today, then he'll "go back to his roots--they always do." Because his mother sent him to a Muslim school and married two Muslims. Doubt he'll vote for McCain though. In his heart of hearts, I bet he'd like to write in Ronald Reagan.

Posted by valley | May 9, 2008 3:48 PM

Those dumbf*cks quoted in the article don't deserve any understanding or respect. They deserve derision and ridicule. They're poison and the primary reason Americans are seen as fools by much of the world. Screw 'em.

Posted by Jay | May 9, 2008 4:13 PM

These were people at a Clinton rally, dyed in the wool Clinton supporters. I don't think they're a valid sample of Clinton voters.

Posted by The Bag of Health and Politics | May 9, 2008 4:20 PM

If you took the black people out Bill Clinton wouldn't have won either. But I'm sure the working class white people won't let that stop them from discounting the black vote now.

Posted by deb | May 9, 2008 4:57 PM

If you took the black people out Bill Clinton wouldn't have won either. But I'm sure the working class white people won't let that stop them from discounting the black vote now.

Posted by deb | May 9, 2008 4:57 PM

If you took the black people out Bill Clinton wouldn't have won either. But I'm sure the working class white people won't let that stop them from discounting the black vote now.

Posted by deb | May 9, 2008 4:57 PM

Hey, let´s stop pilling on these people. You can´t win the WH without the dumb redneck vote.

Posted by Vlad | May 9, 2008 5:07 PM

Hillary's gonna win.

You just take away the blacks, the white elites, the caucus states, the plain states, Virginia, NC, South Carolina, young people, and anyone who isn't "hardworking," and——VOILA!——Hillary wins.

It's simple!

Posted by tinisoli | May 9, 2008 5:13 PM

Maybe these ignoramuses need to be informed about the McCain-Hensley brewing empire's shady past?

On the other hand, I am curious if any of Obama's supporters have been motivated in the same way.

Posted by DBX | May 9, 2008 5:34 PM

It is depressing to think that so many people basically agree with Obama on issues but can't get past him being black. The Jeremiah Wright brouhaha just gave people a convenient excuse for not voting for him that they won't have to defend too much when pressed on it.

I grew up in a white ethnic working class area in Philadelphia and now live among the latte sipping, volvo driving, etc, etc folks in downtown Philly. And it was depressing watching my state's primary a few weeks ago. Exit polls showed something like 17% of the voters saying race was an important factor in their decision and those were just the ones who admitted it.

Obama basically did really well in Philadelphia thanks to the city being nearly 50% black and also the center city areas where us "elitist" types supported Obama in big numbers. And also in a few other suburbs. But Hillary basically crushed him in just about every other area of the state.

I was saying to a friend after the election, "if Obama isn't 'white enough' for a lot of these voters, what black candidate ever will be?"

I think he needs to make this election about the future vs. the past. McCain is the past. Hillary to some extent was the past. He is the future. Unfortunately, there are a lot of older voters and white working class voters in these big swing states who seem to prefer some vague faux-utopian memory of the past instead. Oh well, he has 5+ months to re-re-reintroduce himself and help them get more comfortable with him. If anybody can do it, he can.

Posted by JME | May 9, 2008 6:45 PM

Have you noticed its almost exclusively poor and older White voters who believe all these Obama unpatriotic rumors and email smears? Doesn't this prove they are just looking for a reason not to support Obama - some cover for their bigotry? I wonder how many are still AOL users?

Posted by Read A Book! | May 9, 2008 7:35 PM

You don't have to love Obama to vote for him in the Fall...You just have to be ready to turn the page on the incredibly depressing Bush years.

Posted by Let's Turn The Page America | May 9, 2008 7:39 PM

Some people grow on you. Like Barack Obama. Others, like Hillary, shrink on you. Think about it: a year ago he had virtually no name recognition outside of really dialed-in political set. He was behind Hillary in every state, amongst every group (including African-Americans). She had the money, the name, the former president, and all the advantages. She also had staggeringly high negatives for anyone considering a run for President.

And where are we now?

She's broke and he has built a massive network of over 1.5 million independent donors.

She's behind in the popular vote, the number of states one and in super delegates.

She has lost her integrity by spouting off every racist and elitist and jingoistic republican smear while he has stayed above board. (Just think how many times they've raised race as an issue compared with not one single occasion of him raising the fact that she's a woman.)

And her negatives are now higher than when she started while his popularity is soaring.

The more people got to know Barack, the more they liked him. The more people have been exposed to Hillary the more she repels them. I'm not talking about her died-in-the-wool loyalists. I'm talking about most of the people.

She's the kind of person that inspires a lot of hatred in people. That's why she's losing.

There's a word to describe her but it's to rude to use here. And no, it's not "bitch."

Posted by James | May 9, 2008 7:50 PM

I own a video production company in Ashland and was tempted to video all the people who went to Hillary's $2,300 meet and greet function in Ashland. There was a second $250 option. I don't know what the difference was, but I am sure there was one. I decided not to cover it because I had a Barack moment and decided to take the high road and not ridicule the people who would give this woman money. My original intention was to put the tape on public access to let the town know who were the fools with their money. FYI Ashland is an incredibly international community that I have been a part of for over 30 years. The residents use this as home base and do quite a bit of traveling all over the world. We have the oldest Shakespeare Festival in the country and actually have a good time here. I am a white, hard-working guy who shook Barack's hand when he came to Medford and told him, "You are teaching us manners". He said thank-you. The choice is pretty easy, let's see, do we want a Harvard law graduate, or my high school shop teacher for president, or should I say Grampa Munster.

Posted by Steve Brown | May 9, 2008 8:49 PM

This post is about southern Oregon...where gun running for the Confederacy was not unknown during the Civil War. Oregon, west of the Cascades, and in some parts of southern Oregon, is a true Blue state. No worries for Obama here.

A middle-aged white woman who has already voted for Obama.

Posted by Kay Phillips | May 9, 2008 8:51 PM

Maybe it's just me...but am I the only one who seems to notice that calling someone a Muslim is now considered an excusable racist remark?

Posted by ??? | May 9, 2008 10:04 PM

Hillary must be darn tootin proud to have such a solid base of white hard workin low-information white elderly rural white womenfolk.

Did I mention they're white? Hillary would want me to remind you in case you weren't aware.

Posted by roberto | May 10, 2008 12:51 AM

A crude propaganda hit piece. The first dramatic picture of empty seats is designed to make the event appear marginal. An hour before any event the seats are half empty. It went downhill after this blatant pathetic opening. Joe Goebbels wouldn't have given you a passing grade.

Posted by felipeb | May 10, 2008 3:02 AM

New to this site: I'm a 73 yr old, white lady, two cats, single this past quarter century, very politically active....and I think Obama is going to be a great president. Hillary doesn't have my demographic in lock-step by a long shot and it's wonderful to see so many young and middle-aged people (representing all demographics) joining us creaky old-timers by getting involved in the campaign, registering and voting. Barack Obama is going to win this one, but I agree with blogger above who advises that all of us must pull together after the fur has been smoothed down. Re the interview and photos: Ely seems to have selectively chosen people who typify the most disappointing qualities of some voters. I know there were many intelligent, thoughtful people at the rally who believe as strongly about their candidate as I do about mine. But I'm glad they didn't quite fill the arena. Cheers...

Posted by Elder Lady | May 10, 2008 5:33 AM

As to the half-empty photo at Hillary's event. I watched it live on tv here, and the event never filled those white chairs. By comparison, an hour before Barack showed up in a different venue in March the place was filled to the brim, with an overflow crowd in the next room with a big screen tv. I agree with Elderly Lady, it is time for us to come together. The Clinton-Obama battle has created a miracle in this country. Two great charactors that together created a dynamic that actually got the American Electorate interested in politics. Who woulda thunk. I happen to support Barack but we love Hillary for the strength and courage she has exibited. I look forward to the day she is stumping for Barack. I just have one request... could you please leave Bill home? We love him too, but he has a weak heart and we want him to not leave the planet due to stress.

Posted by ashland guy | May 10, 2008 7:01 AM

I'm with you, Elder Lady. I'm over 60, white, single (but with a dog) and thrilled with the thought of having Obama as our president. The idea of having a POTUS focusing on education is reason enough to vote for him. It's my belief that he is more in touch with what has happened to our country and how best to correct our eroding position in the world -- not by words, but by action, sacrifice and a change in mindset. It'll be a long, difficult climb, but I think Obama is the best person to lead it. Old passions and ideas are difficult to give up, but it seems once people get to know Obama up close and personal rather than through sound bites and emails, they begin to let go. It will be up to him to convince them that he is more like them than they now realize -- that by giving him the opportunity to lead, they'll be giving our country a new course for a better future. It'll take more than one or two terms to undo what Bush et al. have done, but we have to begin. HC is the past (as exhibited in her campaign.) Obama is the future.

Posted by DT | May 10, 2008 8:36 AM

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