Barack Obama, snow, and technology

Des Moines is cold this morning. Strong wind, with wind chill taking last night's sub-zero Fahrenheit levels down twenty more degrees.  Warming to ten degrees, possibly twenty later in the day.

Then, voting in caucuses. Then, amazingly, a shift in American and world politics.

After eight days of walking through Iowa snow to talk to possible Barack Obama supporters, here's the report:

Unanimous rejection of George Bush by Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. Republicans are disgusted by mismanagement, lying, and waste. Independents are the same, with an additional scorn for corrupt Republicans and Democrats.

A large number of Independents, and a smaller number of Republicans are re-registering as Democrats to support Barack Obama, perceived as a unifier, not tied by hatreds and partisan divides to the past.

Interestingly, as Huckabee has strengthened his appeal to religious fundamentalists, some have called to say they are sorry, but they are leaving Obama to support Huckabee.  And when the Des Moines Register, two days ago, ran the headline that Obama and Huckabee were leading in Iowa, a group of Huckabee workers came over from Huckabee headquarters to Obama headquarters to congratulate Obama, saying they respected him greatly. So there is an appeal by Obama to voters motivated by perceptions of character, integrity and fairness.

Obama's appeal cuts across old divisions.

430 houses visited: in the past two days, significant movement of Independents to Obama.

Solid support from anyone under thirty; some movement of union members who, it turns out, are not following their union's support for Hillary Clinton.

In the newest McMansion areas of suburban Des Moines, people have been hit  hard by the mortgage crisis and are deeply concerned about the economy.  They want change, now.

People are uniformly depressed about living for one more year with George Bush as President.

I've only talked to two people who were specifically concerned with science and technology policy...both concerned that there was a significant decline in the desire of the world's smartest people to come to the United States for school. No more Andy Bechtolsheims or Vinod Khoslas. Everyone else focussed on ending the war, on America's declining position in the world, on reforming health care coverage, on the declining economy.

And the recurrent theme was character; consistent, believable character.

It is startling to be in a state where almost everyone you talk to has thought about what kind of government they want. 

Maybe it's because they see they can have an immediate personal impact, in contrast to states where one person's vote is lost in a huge pool.

Here, one person can change the balance in a caucus of fifty people.  People feel a personal responsibility, so they spend the time to learn. So far, I've only met a few people with the banal comments too common in California or Silicon Valley: "the market will solve the problem", or "I'm just not interested in politics" or "It really doesn't affect me". 

Here, verbs are active, not passive.

It affects all of us.  That's why I'm here.

People here, most people, have a position, usually informed, on how to reform the health system,  how to manage the withdrawal from Iraq or whether an open Internet helps small business....everyone has thought about what would work and what would not work, many have made an effort to meet all the candidates, in this state where it is actually possible to meet them face-to-face.

This is practical democracy. And this is a political experience so far from the California or New York experience. After Iowa and New Hampshire, very few people will be able to spend time with any of the candidates, pose thoughtful questions, and receive direct answers...which, in Iowa, go directly to YouTube.

 Forty-seven more houses this morning, then more calling.

The snow is squeaking.....we're below zero...but things are heating up. 





So, will we see you here in NH this weekend stomping for Obama? If so, drop an email - I'm in Nashua and would be happy to have you (and your Obama friends who are traveling w/ you) over for dinner!

Posted by SandyB on January 03, 2008 at 05:37 AM PST #

Hi John,

From France, Remember me ? Ted Global, Tanzania. I spent hours to read anything concerning this caucuses, on and elsewhere. You have a gift to tell stories. I know much more with your blog than anything I red before. Great immersive experience I would had love being there.
Take care

Posted by Patrick Aglaé on January 06, 2008 at 12:21 AM PST #

hi john,
i came across an old letter from you the other day, written on a brown paper bag not long after you went off to harvard. i decided to look you up, and enjoyed reading your blog and intelligent comments re goings-on in iowa. i knew you were with Sun (i grew up in palo alto) but didn't know you were one of the prime movers----bravo to you! with fond regards, mimi

Posted by mimi mott-smith on January 08, 2008 at 06:56 AM PST #

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