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A letter to a new grandson

Myers' Musings

Posted: November 8, 2008 8:23 p.m.
Updated: November 9, 2008 4:30 a.m.
Dear Brayden Jay:

You came into the world on Nov. 1, 2008, exactly 20 years after the birth of your Uncle Chip. Poppa appreciates this since it makes it easy to remember the birthday!

I view your baby pictures available on the Internet and see the determined look of your mother, our beautiful and intelligent second daughter, and feel the great joy at the second grandchild brought into the world.

Our children and grandchildren provide our connection through the ages, so I write this letter to you today to provide the context of the cataclysmic changes that surround you during the week of your entrance into the world.

A few days ago, the United States of America elected a man president who 150 years ago could constitute the property of his opponent. One hundred years ago this individual could not vote without paying onerous poll taxes or meeting bogus literacy tests.

Forty years ago a disgrace to the human race gunned down a leader with this same skin color because he dared to support striking garbage workers in Tennessee. Even one year ago many smugly stated the United States was “not ready” for a black president.

A few days ago, anyone who doubted the United States possesses the most robust democracy and belief in pure meritocracy in the history of the world saw this improbable candidate not just win the presidency, but win in a decisive way.

Barack Obama consistently led in the polls for the last six weeks, but many wondered about the so-called “Bradley” effect. Named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost statewide California elections after leading in polls, the effect came to mean a sad fact that closet racist white voters would lie to pollsters about their positions, or well-meaning white voters could not bring themselves to actually push the lever for a black man. (The actual technical argument relates to an under-sampling by pollsters of people with racist feelings.)

It pleased me to no end that not only did the “Bradley” effect not materialize, with Barack Obama’s popular vote percentage holding close to a pre-election poll average, but an “Obama” effect may have reversed votes the other way, with enlightened mainly white folks in the upper northern tier of states from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota and my own home state of Iowa giving Barack Obama high single-digit or astounding double-digit victories.

Coming into the election, the Democrats — whose nominee John Kerry came one state (Ohio) short of victory over the incumbent President George Bush in 2004 — knew they only had to hold the states won in 2004 plus gain Iowa and one other intermountain state (New Mexico) to secure the presidency.

Well, Brayden, not only did Barack Obama turn your Poppa’s home state of Iowa blue, he won New Mexico by 15 percentage points, and for good measure picked up Colorado and Nevada with impressive margins.
Additionally, Barack Obama switched the battleground states of Florida and Indiana from red to blue (we used to refer to Republican states using “red” and Democratic states using “blue”). Indiana stood particularly notable since it had not voted for a Democrat since 1964.

Most astoundingly, Barack Obama captured Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, and will probably capture North Carolina, two states once reliably “red.”

And Barack Obama won Pennsylvania comfortably by nearly double digits. Your Poppa felt most proud when the people of Ohio rejected the false “everyman” Joe the Plumber, put forth by the Republican candidates like some perverse symbol of reverse meritocracy, and decided to vote for the “smart guy” instead of the opportunistic yahoo.

If you read this 20 years from now I wonder if people will still use the middle name “the” with their occupation to deride someone.

Brayden, I want you to know that your Poppa participated in this historic event. I and your “Ya” (grandmother) contributed money to the Obama campaign and phone banked to battleground states including New Mexico and Iowa.

On Election Day itself I made several telephone calls to Iowa to make sure the good, sensible people of my home state would turn themselves blue.

Last night I actually cried during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, proud that I, a person of European descent, could enthusiastically vote for this man of color, solely on the basis of his leadership qualities without influence from an inherited memory of hate and suspicion.

What great things will you see in your life, Brayden? I only know you came into the world at a pivotal moment when a great ray of sunlight shown on this nation, even as you shined a ray of sunshine into the life of your Poppa, your Ya, your uncles and aunts, and your young cousin.


Poppa Myers

Tim Myers is executive vice president and chief financial officer of Landscape Development Inc. in Valencia. His column represents his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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