I'm very glad to hear about all the endorsements Barack is receiving from the various unions around the country. But after an interaction I had last night, I'm left to wonder ~ what does it mean in terms of actual votes?
I met a steelworker in a bar last night. He had gone there straight from work ~ still wearing suspenders with the local Steelworkers Union emblem printed on them.
He was sitting with another guy, drinking beers and chatting about nothing in particular. Occasionally, he'd say something loud enough about the Rays-Red Sox game, hoping to get a response from my wife and I. We'd give a quick, courteous answer, then go back to our conversation.
Then an Obama commercial came on, and he loudly slurred, "I'll tell 'ya this ~ I ain't votin' for that asshole."
Neither my wife nor I said a word. We just quietly sipped our beers and waited to hear what else he had to say. His buddy didn't say anything, either.
"And I ain't votin' for that other guy, either. He's too much of a dick."
At which point, my wife looked at him and asked, "So, who are you voting for?"
"I ain't votin'."
She smiled and said, "Well, if you're not voting for Obama, I'm happy to hear you're not voting at all."
His reason for not wanting to vote for Obama?
"He's too young."
I tried telling him that both Kennedy and Clinton were younger. He didn't believe me about Clinton, and I'm really not too sure it would have mattered if he did. But the mention of Kennedy seemed to light up his eyes. Granted, he was already pretty well lit up at that point, anyway, but it did make him think.
Here's the thing: When I heard, "he's too young", I thought, bullshit. It's the same reaction I have whenever I hear that someone hasn't made up their mind yet, or that they just don't know enough about Obama.
I mention this because when I hear about unions "endorsing" a candidate, I always assumed that the unions made sure that their members were duly informed about the candidate they backed.
Now, it's possible that they do, and that this one particular guy just never bothered to read any of the literature that was put out for him. But I also thought that unions tried as hard as they could to ensure that their members would actually vote for their choice of candidate, too. I know times have changed, but I vividly remember growing up and hearing family members saying that they were voting for "X" because, "the union said to."
I realize that it's illegal and immoral for anyone in a position of power to force or willfully manipulate an employee to vote for a particular person. But I do know that the Steelworkers Union backed Obama, so I ask: How will that translate into votes? Is the endorsement by a Union powerful enough to overcome the individual concerns of the union's members? Or, it's latent racism? (if that's indeed what it was).
In hoping for an Obama landslide that will override any potential Republican "shenanigans", I wonder what we can actually count on when we see organizational endorsements. On the surface, it looks fantastic, but when you get a peek inside, it may not be what it appears to be.