Assaulted Canvasser Speaks With Obama

Nancy Takehara, the Chicagoan who was assaulted while canvassing for Obama in Caledonia, Wisconsin, was contacted by the candidate himself on the day of the incident. By the time Takehara had returned home, there was an answering machine message from the campaign. She called the number and Obama spoke to her personally with words of moral support. Takehara said this morning, "All I have to say is Mr. Obama is a wonderful man" who was very supportive.

On Saturday, Takehara was going door to door in Caledonia with another canvasser when she was verbally assaulted and then grabbed by the hair on the back of her neck and reportedly pounded on the head. (Watch a news report here.)

The Obama campaign's statement on the matter was very polite, calling the incident "isolated and extremely rare." In my original post on the incident I came to the conclusion, criticized by some, that "McCain supporters are dicks." Their criticism was correct. Not all McCain supporters are dicks, and I have decided to fall in line with the general sentiment of the Obama camp that the high road ought to be the one taken in response to such lashing out by McCain/Palin supporters.

However, before I commit myself to the nosebleed path, I'd like us all to take a look down the more subterranean one: It isn't hard to imagine what Sarah Palin's reaction would be to a McCain/Palin volunteer being assaulted. It would no doubt sound something like this:

"Some of these people just don't get democracy. They don't get that you have to be accepting of others' right to disagree. That's the American way. But they don't get it. So, like Bill Ayers, they lash out violently at what they don't understand."

Let me just ask, is it not so?

I know this election isn't going to be about who ran the most respectable campaign. But does it not speak to a vast difference in viewpoint over the responsibility of a collective organization to its individual members that the Obama campaign was organized enough to find out what happened to one of its thousands upon thousands of volunteers throughout the country, and that the man at the top of the organization, the candidate himself, before the end of the day, had spoken to the volunteer personally to express regret for what happened to her and offer gratitude for her support?

And that the volunteer in question and the campaign she works for come away, not with the urge to make a federal case out of the event, or to capitalize on it rhetorically, but speak in reasonable tones about getting past the polarization that's developed in our political discourse.

I am still not sure about going up that high road. Because I believe such an event is symptomatic of the kind of political culture deliberately cultivated by the leaders of the conservative movement in the Republican party over the last 28 years.

Which is probably what I should have said, rather than "McCain supporters are dicks."

But, uh, I was in a hurry.

Another canvasser in the carpooling caravan, which met Saturday morning at 7 a.m. at Chicago's Hideout tavern, noted that normally they worked in more working-class parts of Racine, but the particular neighborhood where the incident took place was more upscale by comparison.

The canvasser remarked, "The guy was screaming about Acorn, so you know where he got that from."

He also said the Republicans they had come across were mainly very nice people, and many of them expressed positive feelings about Obama but couldn't support him because he was, in their view, pro-abortion and anti-gun-rights.

The Hideout, which is a performance venue and bar that has often played host to progressive events, has become an unofficial hangout for many of the young folk in the Obama organization.

According to Tim Tuten, who with his wife Katie is the proprietor of the Hideout, about twenty to thirty people have been meeting Saturday mornings to carpool to Racine for the past few weeks. They may be going to Indiana next week, Tuten says, as Wisconsin now appears to be leaning toward Obama.