As it happens, I am the fortunate recipient of partisan campaign emails coming from all four fine folks on the Big Presidential Tickets!
So it was with great interest that Saturday’s electronic influx included an item from “Obama for America”, with the subject line saying, “Call Irish American voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio”.
So I read the text, followed the links, and, lo and behold, I was given a fistful of addresses and phone numbers of poor souls I am supposed to call, naturally with a suggested script in hand that never mentions how it was I got their name to begin with!
Now some of you reading this will immediately move into the mode of rationalizing why this is OK.
Don’t worry. A local Obama campaign worker did the same thing, (they had been asked to contact Asian-Americans) yet they couldn’t really say why this particular approach had relevance.
Well, what can we say we know? First, and for certain, the Obama partisans have looked at my name (at least) and made an ethnic assessment. Most likely they have done this with you as well. This is why the people I am supposed to phone up out of the blue have names like: Duffee and Mahoney and Farley… You know. We Irish have names like that.
Second, it would seem that the Obama folks feel that the Irish need some special convincing, and that we Irish Americans have a particular gift for knowing how to approach one another.
Why exactly is it that Irish Americans might require special handling? Is it perhaps because we are considered bigots? Do we cling to our guns and religion with particular and unique tenacity? Has Rep. Murtha become a special advisor to Sen. Obama?
Why is it not suggested that I should just call potential voters, regardless of their ethnic background? Even assuming I have similar national lineage, apart from love of country and kids and apple pie, why does being Irish mean I have something significantly in common with someone in Pennsylvania whose personal sitz-im-leben is likely, and literally, miles apart from mine?
The truth is, I am half Irish/half Italian. My dad, whose grandfather came to America from Eire to be a writer, openly detested racism and ethnicity based selective bigotry. It was, without a doubt, the most consistently expressed and lived value he espoused.
In my father’s mind, delineating according to ethnic lines, and politically approaching folks on that basis, would have been rightly seen as an insulting disgrace.
Imagine, just for a millisecond, the McCain campaign being caught asking Irish or Greeks to solicit within their “groups” to support the Republicans! My, my, what do you honestly think the reaction would be?
My reaction is, as an American, Irish or otherwise, I am offended and insulted.
The question put to me at the close of the Obama email is: “Can we count on you to contact Irish American voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio this weekend?”
My answer is, not exactly, and certainly not under cover.
I may, however, choose another option.