McCain’s Desperate Supporters

I know, I know. The candidates can’t be held responsible for the acts of a few crazy supporters. But does anyone doubt that this sort of thing is far more common among McCain supporters than among Obama supporters? Can anyone deny that this sort of thing arises naturally when you run a campaign centered on flinging the nastiest possible smears at your opponent?

After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that’s what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.

The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone. Only FiveThirtyEight tracked the two men down for comment, a quarter mile down the street.

“People were screaming ‘Terrorist!’ ‘Communist!’ ‘Socialist!’” Sorando said when we caught up with him. “I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me.”

Asked what had precipitated the event, “We were just chanting ‘Obama!’ and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy.”

Comments

  1. #1 Valhar2000
    October 29, 2008

    No, can’t say I’m surprised. It is quite easy to get a mob in a frenzy, and quite useful if you want to win an election by any means necessary.

    I don’t know what Heddle will say to all this, but I’m sure it will very good.

  2. #2 dean
    October 29, 2008

    Just a guess on Heddle’s tone: “Why were those trouble-makers there? What do they think there is, free speech? Especially for a socialist’s backers?”

  3. #3 dean
    October 29, 2008

    Darn, hit Post rather than preview. I was going to add that I’m not sure that rabid behavior is more common at the Republican rallies than at those for Senators Obama and Biden – people on both sides can get extremely whipped up. I do have a feeling things getting this far out of hand is quite rare, for either side, and that is why this is such a prominent story.
    Shouting, excited, yes: threats of violence: maybe I’m naive, or extremely optimistic, I don’t believe occur so often.

  4. #4 caerbannog
    October 29, 2008


    Darn, hit Post rather than preview. I was going to add that I’m not sure that rabid behavior is more common at the Republican rallies than at those for Senators Obama and Biden – people on both sides can get extremely whipped up.

    If that were the case, we’d see plenty of youtube evidence. Obama rallies are much easier to get into than are McCain rallies. So you can be sure that plenty of opposition operatives are at Obama’s rallies to record any instances of Obama-supporter misbehavior. Aside from the one incident involving the Palin effigy in California, I can’t think of any serious misbehavior in the Obama camp. Like I said, if there were such misbehavior, it would be all over youtube by now.

  5. #5 mk
    October 29, 2008

    But does anyone doubt that this sort of thing is far more common among McCain supporters than among Obama supporters? Can anyone deny that this sort of thing arises naturally when you run a campaign centered on flinging the nastiest possible smears at your opponent?

    Jason,

    I don’t doubt there are crazies of all political stripes, but just to follow on your comments I’ve posted a link to the Daily Show where John Oliver goes to two rallies, one for Obama the other for McCain, and gets people saying things that… well it doesn’t make them look too swift. But what I kept thinking as it went on was that the McCain folks clearly were a whole ‘nother level of stupid.

    Check it out:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=189163&title=obama-and-palin-rallies-of-fear

  6. #6 dean
    October 29, 2008

    “Darn, hit Post rather than preview. I was going to add that I’m not sure that rabid behavior is more common at the Republican rallies than at those for Senators Obama and Biden – people on both sides can get extremely whipped up.

    If that were the case, we’d see plenty of youtube evidence.”

    Possibly – I’m not much of a YouTube user – actually, unless there is video posted on one of these blogs, or my son wants to show me something, I don’t look at Youtube at all.
    How many times has something like this been posted from a McCain/Palin rally?

  7. #7 Jim Harrison
    October 29, 2008

    The two sides are not comparable. Obama’s campaign is largely positive while McCain’s basic strategy is to promote a culture war by every means available. I don’t hear anybody on the Democratic side claiming that people in the South ought to be read out of the nation the way any number of Republicans denounce people in New York or Chicago or San Francisco as not really American. It’s astonishing how lopsided the rules of public discourse are in this country. McCain is yelling fire in a crowded theater over and over again. Whether he wins or loses, he has made America a worse place; yet he is still considered an honorable man in some circles.

  8. #8 notedscholar
    October 30, 2008

    Wouldn’t be so sure. By a social science application of the transitive property I think you can make an assumption about McCain based on his supporters. After all, “You will know them by their vegetation.”

  9. #9 Tim
    October 30, 2008

    The basic rule of politics is; when trailing in the polls throw dirt. The further behind the more dirt you throw. The two parties aren’t that much different, if the polls were reversed the Obama campaign would be just as negative and rabid as McCain’s. Some people think if their candidate loses it is the end of the world.

  10. #10 J. J. Ramsey
    October 30, 2008

    I think that what is happening is the by-product of a couple things:

    * The Southern Strategy, where the Republican party has made itself into the party that condones racism and uses it to excite its base

    * The rumor campaign to paint Obama as Muslim and, by lazy implication, a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer

    Both those things prime the audience to fear and hate Obama, and once that priming is in place, it doesn’t take much to spur the audience to the kind of rabid displays that we’ve seen. The Southern Strategy precedes McCain, and the rumor campaign wasn’t started by McCain, either, AFAICT. Where McCain can be faulted is in (a) associating terrorism with Obama by using Ayers, which stoked the pre-existing rumors associating Obama with terrorism (albeit the kind from Islamists), and (b) underestimating the heat of the hatred that had been laid down well before he even started campaigning.

  11. #11 Greg Esres
    October 30, 2008

    But does anyone doubt that this sort of thing is far more common among McCain supporters than among Obama supporters?

    I want to believe it, which makes me suspicious of my own observations. It’s too easy for perceptions to be guided by wishes. Before I would claim the above, I would ask for some objective data that supports it.

  12. #12 mk
    October 30, 2008

    @greg esres

    I’m not sure what that “objective data” would look like, but I would say this: it has been a long and well covered campaign. Media events, rallies, conventions, debates, commercial ads, etc. There are plenty of media outlets who would love to find examples of Obama supporters threatening or attacking or calling out violent insults towards McCain or his supporters so as to juxtapose them against the ones we’ve seen on the McCain side. Now, I have not seen nor heard anything like that. If it exists I doubt it would be hard for some young enterprising FOX News cub reporter to find it and get it out there, make a name for himself… I would think.

    As I mentioned in my comment above there certainly are overly emotional and not terribly well informed folks on both sides. But all available information suggests a different and deeply unpleasant level of ignorance on the Republican side.

  13. #13 Jason Rosenhouse
    October 30, 2008

    Tim -

    The two parties aren’t that much different, if the polls were reversed the Obama campaign would be just as negative and rabid as McCain’s. Some people think if their candidate loses it is the end of the world.

    I don’t agree with this. The two parties are much different. Just compare, for example, the way the Obama campaign has treated McCain’s military service with the way Bush treated Kerry’s military service (not to mention Gore’s service before that). Throughout the campaign the Obama folks have been falling all over themselves to praise McCain for his service, to the point of calling him a national hero. Bush and his supporters mocked Kerry’s purple hearts, and hired a group of lying thugs to spread misinformation about him on the air.

    Democrats do not challenge the patriotism of their opponents, they don’t accuse their opponents of palling around with terrorists, they do not run ads morphing their challengers into Osama Bin Laden, and they do not set one part of the country against another by passing judgment on who repreents the real America. Republicans do such things instinctively.

  14. #14 Kevin
    October 30, 2008

    [same comment from Tim]

    you start with a false premise, move to a wrong conclusion and end with a non-sequitor.

    Elections do have meanings; look at 2000. Many people are dead because we elected a frat-house cheerleader. instead of a real leader.

    I think Obama would have run the same ground game that is giving him the advantage now, and hit the airwaves with even more specific and uplifting-type messages. not trash about Cindy’s drug use and McCain’s plane crashes.

    Wasn’t the race close in the summer? Who went negative? ..oh wait that was because Obama wouldn’t go to 50 town hall meetings so McCain HAD to get nasty….

  15. #15 Tim
    October 30, 2008

    [comments from Jason & Kevin]
    I will expand my statement that both parties are very similar in their negative campaigning especially when the polls show them behind. The Clinton campaign went negative when it was clear she was losing to Obama. I don’t think the Democratic Party has changed just because Obama is the candidate. He is running a more positive campaign because he is enjoying the luxury of leading. My non-sequitur refers to McCain supporters who feel the world is ending if Obama is elected president. I believe Democrats would behave the same if the polls were reversed.
    Negative campaigning is a huge distraction from the issues. I thought it was terrible what the Bush campaign said about Kerry’s war record. I also remember the democrats questioning Bush’s service record in the Air National Guard. There are plenty of examples of negative campaigning to tar both parties and I despise it. Polls show that Americans hate negative campaigning but from what I read it works. That is why neither party can claim high ground.
    I will make my voting decisions on the issues. I don’t care that McCain is a war hero or that Obama promises hope and change. I will vote for the candidate who “promises” better economic policy although I see the two as only marginally different.
    Should Obama prevail I see many positive things happening in his Presidency, foremost, a huge increase in world opinion for the US. Also, a reversal on stem cell research policy and securing a women’s right to a legal abortion. I hope his positive policies exceed his negative policies as I’m sure he will have the best interests of this country at heart.
    Wow, this is a long rant. Now stop all the fighting and bickering about negative campaigning and vote on the issues.

  16. #16 Kevin
    October 30, 2008

    “Now stop all the fighting and bickering about negative campaigning ”

    good good. so you agree with the common position? and promise not to fight anymore?

    exxxcelent.

    I believe that wilderness is necessary for man’s survival and happiness. I think that republicans would cut down every last tree, flattop every mountain and drill in every valley, ocean or anywhere they can make a buck.

    dems, obama… not so much. think ANWR and Tongass.

    ” I also remember the democrats questioning Bush’s service record in the Air National Guard”

    and you further agree that Bush did not serve out his required commitment and was legally AWOL when he went to Georgia or wherever it was. more exxxcelent.

    and yet, you compare the two and make a false equivalence. Kerry went to Vietnam, was actually on a boat, in combat, and maybe killed someone at close range. Bush pulled his strings to get into a “champagne” outfit and most likely had too much cocaine in his system to pass a medical.

    One got trashed in the press, and the other skated. (even if the docs were fake, the story was true, and then it was well buried)

  17. #17 JimCH
    October 30, 2008

    and you further agree that Bush did not serve out his required commitment and was legally AWOL when he went to Georgia or wherever it was. more exxxcelent.

    I think it was Louisiana & further, to ensure that it was completely disgusting, it was to campaign for some Republican senate hopeful.
    Kevin makes another good point. Kerry served, changed his view about the war then spoke out against it. Nothing to be ashamed of there, in fact it was added courage. Bush, like other chicken hawks of his generation (Phil Graham, Dick Chaney, etc.), needed other people to go fight a war that they themselves wanted, but wouldn’t serve in. How can anyone not see that as disgusting. Pointing this out was far from mud-slinging. In 2004 we were in another pointless adventure abroad orchestrated by someone who had already proven a willingness to nonchalantly sacrifice other people for something he wouldn’t be physically harmed in. It was a relevant issue to bring up. The fact that Dan Rather is a lazy journalist & followed a false paper trail too easily negates nothing (incidentally, a false paper trail that was purposefully laid down by the Swift-boaters eagerly trying to be obscurantists of the truth.)

    I’m sorry Tim, you may have a point here but not with these examples.

  18. #18 Scott Hatfield, OM
    November 1, 2008

    Jason: on the heels of Palin’s unfortunate policy speech, an endorsement of her opponent by your friendly neighborhood theist.

  19. #19 jo5ef
    November 2, 2008

    The practice of “dogwhistling”, first so christened here in Australia, seems to be a mainstay of conservative politicians around the world. This is where you make seemingly innocuous statements that can be easily be correctly interpreted by right wing bigots as supporting their views. I think an example is McCain constantly asking “who is Barack Obama?”.
    After all, Barack has written 2 autobiographical books and his views and character should be familiar now to all Americans not living in a cave. What the question implies is that he is deliberately concealing his true character and is “not one of us”. Would this line of attack be used if Obama wasn’t black? I doubt it.

  20. #20 JimCH
    November 2, 2008

    jo5ef…
    Excellent point! But they will deny it, sometimes to themselves, with their last breath. Along a similar vein, there was a story in the US papers this week about an aunt of Obama’s from Kenya(?) who overstayed her visa (because it’s continuance was denied). It’s a stretch for me to believe that had Obama been a Senator of European origin & his Danish aunt were trying to obtain a similar visa continuance it would have been denied. Notice: Favoritism for the families of prominent politicians is a separate issue.

  21. #21 Robert O'Brien
    November 2, 2008

    Would this line of attack be used if Obama wasn’t black?

    Yes. He came out of nowhere and his record is paper thin.

  22. #22 Robert O'Brien
    November 2, 2008

    Bush and his supporters mocked Kerry’s purple hearts, and hired a group of lying thugs to spread misinformation about him on the air.

    Democrats do not challenge the patriotism of their opponents, they don’t accuse their opponents of palling around with terrorists…

    Kerry infuriated other veterans with his “Genghis Khan” speech. And it is considered bad form to brag about one’s medals, especially in light of those comments.

    Anyway, I have to give Kerry credit for jumping in the river to help a guy. That is more than Chappiquidik Kennedy was willing to do.

  23. #23 JimCH
    November 2, 2008

    Anyway, I have to give Kerry credit for jumping in the river to help a guy. That is more than Chappiquidik Kennedy was willing to do.

    …or Chaney, or Graham, or [insert name of favorite chicken-hawk here].

  24. #24 Collin Brendemuehl
    November 4, 2008

    Jason,
    Your partisanship is not surprising, but it should be.
    Those anti-Palin “news” items which were plainly and demonstrably fabricated, where “suppoerters” were shouting racist remarks about Obama.
    This trash happens among the True Believers on all sides and distracts from the real issues at hand.

    JimCH,
    Three of the last 4 Republican nominees have been war heroes. George HW Bush, Bob Dole, and John McCain, two of whom have sustained permanent injury from that service. Only W had minimal service.
    Meanwhile Gore was a photographer (though he did serve honorably), Kerry went into Cambodia when he didn’t and killed innocents when he didn’t, and Clinton went over to, and sided with, an E. European Communist country to protest his own.
    You can talk “chicken-hawk” if you want, but we know where the candidates themselves have stood in their sacrifice.

  25. #25 Troublesome Frog
    November 4, 2008

    I’m almost ready to come out in favor of mandatory military service. As others have pointed out, maybe it will get us to stop fetishizing military experience and ascribing magic powers and moral clarity to those who have engaged in it.

    Watching the average American assuage his guilt over letting a volunteer army serve on his behalf by frothing at the mouth about how great politicians who have served in the military are is getting disturbing.

  26. #26 JimCH
    November 4, 2008

    Collin…
    It seems you missed my main point. I didn’t state “chicken”, but “chicken-hawk“. As for the rest of your entry it would just be easier to compare W.Bush’s Vietnam years with Clinton’s (since you brought him up). As is well documented, W. Bush used connections to remove himself from physical harm while promoting the same conflict. Clinton also didn’t put himself in the conflict but he wasn’t promoting it either. At the very least he avoids hypocrisy on this issue. At best he showed courage of his convictions & is a real patriot for doing so in the face of an unjust war. As to where he chose to protest the war, even if it’s true (I’ll take your word for it — although wasn’t he a student in the U.K. at the time? — no matter), what difference does that make?
    Also, I noticed that you stopped your history lesson before mentioning Ronald Reagan. Unless you are limiting this discussion to presidents perhaps you’d like to defend the treatment of Max Cleland of Georgia. But of course Troublesome Frog is correct, why are some folks so obsessed with military service as moral &/or patriotic credentials?

  27. #27 kemibe
    November 4, 2008

    Something no one has pointed out yet: This happened in Miami, a shithole like none other. Partisanship takes a back seat to general craziness in that town.

  28. #28 slpage
    November 5, 2008

    “Yes. He came out of nowhere and his record is paper thin.”

    And W?

    His record was a bit thicker – C student, AWOL, several failed business ventures (all bailed out by friends of his daddy), a love of executing people, a drunk, a dope fiend – not a thicker record to brag about, though.

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