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Conversation in Line for the October 2008 Obama Rally in Columbus: Obama, War and the Surveillance Society

What do you call a resident of Columbus, Ohio? I’ve lived here for three years and I still don’t know. On the radio, they call us “Columbus residents,” but there’s got to be a single word out there. Columbusser? Columbian? Columbusite? Columbusonian? Columbine?

Columbusish? Heck, I’ll just pick one.

Last Friday, October 10, a Columbusser heard me utter the name “Nader,” assertively walked up to me and started up a conversation while I was standing in line for a rally featuring Barack Obama. I had my voice recorder on. Here’s a transcript of what she had to say:

Anonymous Columbusser: I have a question. Where’s Nader been the last four years?

Jim: Well, Ralph Nader’s been doing a lot of what Barack Obama Obama’s been doing. He’s been talking to the American people in various outlets, going around the country. He’s been suggesting solutions. What he hasn’t been doing is getting the press that Obama’s been getting. Nader was recently in Bexley, Ohio, talking to groups of people. When you asked me that question, did you have something in mind?

Anonymous Columbusser: Well, I’m just… I totally get the press thing, because that’s an issue. I just feel like… I agree that we need something bigger than a two party system. I totally get that. My issue with most of the third-party and independent candidates is that I don’t feel like… I feel it’s a lot bigger hurdle to work from outside of the system. I feel like you’re going to make a lot more change if you work within the system. To just jump into the presidential election every time it rolls around? I don’t think you’re going to be taken seriously.

I’m a pretty politically active person here in Columbus, and I had no idea that Nader was in town. None. There’s a press issue there, but I don’t think the press was covering this rally here today very well either.

Jim: What made you aware of the Obama rally and put you first in line?

Anonymous Columbusser: I go to OSU and there was a flier at OSU. I haven’t seen any Nader fliers.

Jim: So that’s an organizational issue, that Obama has an organization putting out information.

Anonymous Columbusser: Yeah.

Jim: You’re voting for Obama, I take it?

Anonymous Columbusser: Yes, I am.

Jim: What is the issue, the issue in the center of your mental radar, putting that decision over the top?

Anonymous Columbusser: I have a six year old son, and I don’t want him to go to war in twelve years. I have a husband who just got out of the military, and I don’t want him to be called back up.

He’s not perfect. Obama’s not perfect. He has many flaws. Everybody does. But I feel like he listens to people. I have a friend who met him at a function; his girlfriend is a political person, he’s in the Army, and so he got to meet him. He said, “You know, Obama sat down and talked to me, and we had a discussion and I felt like he was really listening.” That impressed me, but not that much. And then he saw him several months later, and Obama remembered who he was. He remembered his name. He remembered what they talked about. How many people can you say that about? This is a really down-to-earth guy who’s normally been a Republican, he’s in the Army, and he was just like, “That is the real deal.”

While I don’t agree with some of the things that have happened, I feel like he’s taken time. He didn’t come right out right away and have a statement, but I’m OK with that. I feel like he’s taking his time and really taking in everything that’s going on first and figuring out what needs to happen next.

Jim: Have you been an Obama supporter since the primaries, or did you support someone else during the primaries?

Anonymous Columbusser: I voted for, um, Edwards in the primary, so no.

Jim: Did your allegiance switch pretty quickly to Obama when it became clear he was going to be the nominee, or did you have a period when you thought, “Oh, I might vote for someone else”?

Anonymous Columbusser: No, it was pretty quick, because at that point it was down to Obama and Clinton. I’m young! It’s not that I have anything against Clinton herself, but pretty much there’s always been a Clinton or a Bush in office for a majority of my life. I had a really big problem with that. It felt a little bit too much like a dynasty, I guess.

Jim: So no more dynasties?

Anonymous Columbusser: No,

Jim: Does that mean you wouldn’t vote for Michelle Obama in 2016?

Anonymous Columbusser: Probably not. That bothers me. There’s a reason that we have term limits. There’s a reason.

Jim: Are there any areas of Obama’s platform with which you disagree?

Anonymous Columbusser: I was disappointed in his vote for FISA. I understood why he felt the need to do it, but I was disappointed in that vote, and I feel like it was a thing he needed to do to… I don’t know. He’s a constitutional law professor, so I’m going to give him a little bit more leeway on that because I don’t feel like he wants to destroy the constitution. But that was probably the hardest thing for me to swallow. I do have an issue with that.

Jim: Let me follow up with you: what is it that you think he had to do? Why did he have to switch from promising that he would oppose the FISA Amendments Act to then going ahead and supporting it, voting for it?

Anonymous Columbusser: Because there are so many people who don’t get it, who are so afraid of the “terror” issue and would vote against him for not supporting it. Because of the way it would be spun with the media. I don’t think the media is right- or left-leaning; it just goes with whatever it thinks is most sensational. They would spin it depending on the mood. It had the potential to be spun very poorly for him.

Jim: So what was your problem with the FISA Amendments Act? What was the thing that made you really upset about it when you were obviously paying attention and knowing what was going on?

Anonymous Columbusser: The protections for the telecom companies was a big one — that they allowed these illegal wiretaps and didn’t ask for a warrant. I mean, they could have gotten a warrant after the fact, and the Bush administration just didn’t bother! And I don’t feel like we even have that possible protection now. It’s allowing them to tap our phones without having to do much of anything in a court. That’s not OK.

Jim: Following up on that, there’s been recent news about the National Security Agency and what they’ve been up to there. What did you hear and what’s your reaction to the revelations?

Anonymous Columbusser: Well, I’m a full-time college student and I work part-time and I’ve got four kids, so I haven’t heard it all, but what I know is they were listening in on “adult” phone conversations! That makes me think that the NSA is not actually doing what it’s supposed to be doing. That they’re having fun on the clock at our freedom’s expense, which really pisses me off. I mean, my husband works for the state and gets in trouble if he goes to our banking website during the day, and they’re getting off — literally — while tapping people’s phone lines!

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