Red Grandma Blues: Readers Respond (with Great Ideas!)

11/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Tuesday we told you about Claire, who is trying to swing her 94-year-old Grandmother from a red Reagan Republican to a born-again blue voter. We asked you for your advice on how to "swing" fence-sitting friends and family around the country. Both at Pinko Magazine and here at OffTheBus we received so many great responses, ranging from anecdotes and proposed strategies to inspiring success stories. To all of you except that angry commenter who seriously hates Jimmy Carter, thank you!

Here were some of the most interesting suggestions:


Rovian tactics worked for Bush. Can they work for beleaguered lefties trying to swing their relatives?

* Over at Pinko, our friend Sandy went after a friend in Ohio hard, invoking a doomsday scenario with suicide bombings in the Middle East, the president stuck airborne on Air Force One, and the Vice-President running the situation room. "Who do you want in that room," he wrote, "Biden or Palin?" (We vote Morgan Freeman.)

* OTB reader LK chose to guilt her aunt from beyond. After trying to make a case on the issues, LK "[was forced] to tell her that her mother (my sister) would rise up out of the grave and smack her upside the head if she voted for McCain/Palin. This may not have helped to convince her since she is surrounded by conservatives and racists, but it made me feel better."

Pinko commenter Craig proposed cutting our losses and inducing a heart attack, which neither Pinko nor Huffington Post (or Claire's grandmother!) can endorse.


* Norma wrote that she was despondent her sister might vote McCain until she sent her the transcript of neo-con Ken Adelman endorsing Obama. "If he doesn't think McCain should be president because of his choice of Palin, she feels she has to agree!"

* A number of readers urged people to send fence-sitters the seven minute statement Colin Powell made on Meet the Press. "It's logical, eloquent, moving," said commenter WVMCL, "I don't think it would be possible to make the case for Obama better than Powell did."

* A lot of people suggested sending the Christopher Hitchens endorsement. Personally I don't have a lot of patience for Hitchens, but if that's what it takes, fine.

Some people instead plugged celebrity endorsements. Eastcoast1103 plied her relatives with everything from an Eve Ensler testimonial to sending interviews with Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel. Did it work on her brother? "It'll take more than aging rockers to get me to change my vote" he told her. Ouch. No movement there yet.


Huh. This came up a few times, some printable ... some not so much. But if we're in a do-whatever-it-takes election than maybe. (?) Mike made an interesting case:

I am 55 and from north Alabama, growing up in the George Wallace - MLK march years. My mom is 79 and at first when anyone mentioned Barack Obama she went a little goofy eyed, and said "I can't vote for a BLACK guy. We'll be going back to slavery and this time the blacks will be in charge!"

So I said "Mom, look at it this way. Barack is also white, if that matters. Imagine that white grandmother and if you were her. Your daughter comes to you and says I met this terrific man, and we are going to get married. He is a very smart man, with a lot of promise, but mom, he is from Kenya. And there is a baby boy. He is your grandson ... throughout your life you and your husband teach him all the important values you share ... Then, through his own vision and principles, early in adulthood, he breaks through one barrier after another to become the candidate for President of the United States. Would you then be able accept it one of your friends told you they wouldn't vote for your grandson because of the color of his skin?"

When we went to the polls in Florida on monday, mom voted for Obama

Well put! Vote again! (Don't vote again.)


This was a recurring theme at Pinko and OffTheBus. No gimmicks; no games. Lay out the facts and be polite.

* Jamie sent his Aunt Gwen in Santa Fe a very long, but very organized email broken into sections: character, Character; personal background; management style; etc.

* A few people mentioned The Talk, which is the Obama Campaign's official talking points to help people have "the talk" with their family members. I will spend some time on this in a later post but it's linked here and has been a good starting point for a few of you.

* Tomiko sent a calm, respectful email to his friends linking to The New Yorker endorsement and to, so they could fact check the completely true, right? Obama-headed-to-Hawaii-to-destroy-evidence-he's-a-secret-Muslim smears for themselves. His email was smart and short.

* Commenter NancyOk is being bold, hitting "Reply All" on those crazy, Obama is a muslim emails. "Have I gotten a few hateful responses in my inbox...sure. But I've also gotten back 8 that have thanked me ... strangers in Missouri who have said my response really made them question all this nonsense they'd been getting.

The saddest email we got? A commenter whose parents had died. "I would have loved to discuss this election with my elderly parents as they were lifelong Republicans. They lived in Tucson, Arizona, but unfortunately they committed suicide together three months after 9/11, convinced that the country was about to be taken over by Islam."

Yes We Can!

The best thing about this entire project has been hearing from people who took the time to talk to their families about voting Republican and succeeded. From OfftheBus Reader Ellie:

My dad and his new wife live in Florida. He's a life-long Republican and has never cast a vote for a Democrat in his life. During my growing up years, we've had more than a few discussions where he would try to bait me with his semi-racist rhetoric. When we were very little, it was a huge moment when my dad allowed us to watch Bill Cosby on television. Even bigger when he bought the album. Now that my mom is gone (a closet Liberal) my dad has softened on all issues of race and wealth. He hears me tell him the heartbreaking stories of the children I work with in our poorest school in Maryland... Over time, I talked to him about the environment, about big oil and McCain's ties to W and big oil. He agreed. On September 20, 2008 my dad brought me to tears when he told me he was voting Democrat for the first time in his life. I was stunned. "You know Dad, so many people say they won't vote for a black man. What do you think about that?" My dad said, "Who gives a crap about the color of his skin? My doctor is black and he's a darn good doctor."

There was a Cosby Show album? We got this response from Barbara, an Obama supporter whose mother, a "lifelong blue collar Democrat" but die-hard Hillary supporter was leaning towards McCain.

I asked her to take a walk down memory lane as she had taken me on many times during my life when she discussed the transformative FDR administration that "saved this country". I also asked her to ask herself why she really questions Obama's patriotism and commitment to her and other blue collar white folks. Was it merely his odd name and fear of him being "Muslim? and an Arab?" And finally when I asked the ultimate question: whose philosophy and policies were closer to her hero FDR: Obama or McCain? After careful thought and some snide asides, she agreed it was Obama. "For the sake of the country I guess I have to go with the lesser of two evils. " The moral of the story is: Good people need to be reminded of who they really are at heart. We are better than the hate baiting Republicans think. (at least my Mom is)

After the jump over at Pinko (where we have a jump!) I'll publish some of these emails in full. More ideas? We'll be publishing the best right up through Election Morning. Write them up, and send them to with "Swinging Grandma" in the subject-line. And keep at it!