"This is kind of like a homecoming for me," Black Thought mused at the start of his set with the Roots. "I graduated from the high school right across the street there, just like my father before me." At Robert Fulton elementary school in Germantown, Philadelphia, the crowd loved every minute of it.
Philadelphians, already roaring for their hometown musician, were fired up by the time President Obama took the stage to make a heated delivery of his midterm stump speech. The rally was a resounding success, but it’s going to take more than a presidential appearance if Democrats want to hold on to Pennsylvania’s open senate seat.
Across the political spectrum, the idea that Washington is out of touch with real Americans is repeated to the point that it has become simply another piece of mind numbing, meaningless campaign rhetoric. I have always been an apologist for the elitist rebuttal that "real Americans" do not understand the nuance and complexity of governance and, for that reason, America is a representative republic and not a direct democracy. When I signed up for a DC College Democrats campaign trip to Pennsylvania, my rationale was even less substantive: we need to increase voter turnout in low-income urban areas, I thought, so that the Democratic candidate will be elected in order to maintain a majority in the Senate.
The lead up to campaigning did little to challenge my assumptions. The campaign literature featured a door hanger with a picture of three African-American professionals frowning at a photo of Republican senate candidate Pat Toomey, who seemed to have gained a John Boehner orange tinge somewhere in the photoshopping process. Outside the bus window stood a crowd that looked different from the people in the campaign literature. A predominately black crowd in traditional Islamic dress gathered around a sign that read "Revolutionary Workers Party." We had work to do.
En route to our assigned neighborhood, my canvassing partner Sam and I practiced the painstakingly crafted script. I knocked on the first door in a seemingly endless line of dilapidated row houses that compose most of North Philadelphia. There was no answer. I turned to see a pair of hijab-clad schoolgirls peering curiously from their adjoining porch at the confused Chinese boy who had wandered into their neighborhood. Figuring no one was home, I slipped a flyer under the door and was turning to leave when the door creaked open and a man in a stained XXL Phillies T-shirt emerged, frowning at me with suspicious annoyance. I looked down at my information sheet.
"Uh, Marvin?" I asked hopefully. He grunted something that I assumed to be a yes. I launched into my pitch: "Hi, my name is Mike and I’m a volunteer for the Sestak for senate campaign." I paused, waiting for a response before adding, "He’s the Democrat."