Friday, January 04, 2008

Neva Hoid a Him

Sometime around four or five years ago I was in my kitchen working on supper when the telephone rang. This was before we had our phone number put on the Do Not Call list and so I assumed it was a telemarketer – calling at an inconvenient time as usual.

To the contrary, the woman identified herself as being part of some Chicago area wing of the Democratic Party – perhaps Cook County, perhaps Chicago itself. She was taking a survey, she said, and would I mind participating. As a Democrat I felt rather obligated so I turned off the stove, tossed a few things back into the fridge, and told her to fire away.

Naturally enough, I don’t remember all the questions. Some were quite general about the Democratic Party – its direction, that sort of thing. But gradually her survey morphed into an increasing number of names. “How would you rate your understanding of ___ on a scale of …” something or other. Like that.

Gradually it became clear that what she was really doing was trying to gauge name recognition for a particular candidate. Maria Pappas, then, I think, a Cook County official running for a larger office, came up frequently, as did another name, a quite odd name that gave me images of some Chicago social worker sitting in a storefront office wearing a dashiki and finally deciding that the only way he could beat the system was to become part of it.

Again and again the candidates were thrown at me, nearly all of whom I’d never heard of. But in each group that same name would come up and, faithfully, each time it came up I’d say I never heard of him.

Far from feeling ashamed today over my ignorance back then, I like to think I was a bit of a help to Barack Obama as his pollsters reported back to him that he had very poor name recognition and that they’d have to do some serious work on that.

They did.