Whether or not Chicago is Obama country largely depends on where you are and who you’re talking to. As anyone who’s ever met a Massachusetts Republican will attest, there’s ignorance and insanity no matter how blue the turf may be.
Last night I grabbed a drink before dinner at a hole outside the downtown loop. The joint – simply called Richard’s Bar – is the sort of spot where you’d expect to find McCain supporters, or at least Obama haters.
The walls at Richard’s are covered with generic mob memorabilia and a sign that reads: “Hard Boiled Eggs – Only 75 cents/each.” The regulars here are genuine alcoholics; less than one minute after we walk in a drunk falls off his bar stool, smacks his head against the wall, and stumbles out the door.
At the bar I meet an older ignoramus named Jimmy who tells me that he plans to pack heat on Tuesday night. “No matter which way the election goes,” he says, “I’ll have my gun on me. And I recommend that you watch where you park that car of yours – they’ll be out in the thousands.”
Since Jimmy likes to speak ambiguously, I’ll assume that by “they” he means black folks. I can’t, however, understand why he thinks I have a car. He’s one of those typical 70-something urban blowhard racists who justify bigotry: “You’re not from around here kid. You don’t know what they have planned for Tuesday night.”
Back at my friend’s apartment I watch a local pundit forum called “Beyond the Beltway.” Of the host and his three guests, half agree that there will be a riot if Obama loses. The more people I speak with – the more I realize that this is the general assumption.
This show is a refreshing break from Olbermann and those other cable jerks. Chicagoans have stakes in this election that outsiders might not realize – particularly, they’re sure that an Obama presidency will secure their city the 2016 Summer Olympics.
My first stop this morning is Letizia’s Vegan Bakery about two miles outside of downtown. I’m supposed to meet some canvassers before they take off for Michigan and Indiana, but the dude behind the counter tells me that most left early on account of the cars filling up fast.
It’s cool – they make a serious cup of tea and the best bagel that I’ve ever had outside of New York City. On a table I find a copy of today’s Chicago Sun-Times – the tabloid that ran Bob Novak’s column until karma blessed him with a brain tumor this past August. The paper endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket, but somehow left him off page one today.
Letizia’s is a lefty sanctuary, complete with “Obama ‘08” pastries and George Bush “bizkits” for your dog to chew on. I talk to a middle-aged hipster couple that is leaving to canvass in Indiana in a few hours. According to the woman: “You wouldn’t believe how many people out there really, actually, still think that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.”
Her husband adds: “When they say that I just ask them: ‘Don’t you think that McCain would have made kind of a big deal out of that?’” I couldn’t put it better myself. No wonder conservatives believe that people who sip mocha lattes should be stripped of voting rights, tarred, feathered, and politically silenced. Some of us are smart enough to swing their morons to the left.
(For more election updates, go to the phoenix.com's election blog.)