The Great Chapel Hill Obama Bumper Sticker Hunt

by johndavis, October 29, 2012

The Great Chapel Hill Obama Bumper Sticker Hunt; If he has lost Chapel Hill, he has lost the race.  “Four years ago it was cool to be for Obama.  Today, it’s cool to be independent.”   Student in Hodding Carter’s Public Policy 70 Seminar at UNC-Chapel Hill Monday, October 29, 2012       Vol. V, No. 37          
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The Great Chapel Hill Obama Bumper Sticker Hunt; If he has lost Chapel Hill, he has lost the race.

 “Four years ago it was cool to be for Obama.  Today, it’s cool to be independent.”  

Student in Hodding Carter’s Public Policy 70 Seminar at UNC-Chapel Hill

Monday, October 29, 2012       Vol. V, No. 37           10:13 am

Last Thursday, October 25, I had the high honor and distinct pleasure of speaking to Hodding Carter’s Public Policy 70 seminar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

A high honor.  Hodding Carter was U.S. State Department spokesman during the Iran Hostage Crisis from November 1979 to January 1981; one of the most recognized faces in America during the ordeal.  He briefed the nation nightly on network news broadcasts.

A distinct pleasure.  I was surrounded by 24 very intelligent, uninhibited, diverse, inquisitive and suspicious leaders of tomorrow.  Suspicious because I am from another time.  They share the here and now together; staring out with great concern at the pieces being left behind by my generation.  Justifiably uncertain.  Of our value to them.

I was early.  Hodding Carter said to meet him at 1:50 in front of Graham Memorial Hall next to Morehead Planetarium.  It was 1 o’clock.  I was at the light at South and Country Club Road.

I decided to ride around campus and look at all of the political activity.  After all, it was a presidential election year.  If 2012 was anything like 2008 in Chapel Hill, there would be Obama posters in dorm windows, signs of Obama enthusiasm everywhere; students wearing Obama tee shirts, bumper stickers on every car.  Hope. Change.

I turned right on Country Club Road.  The Department of Dramatic Art.  Battle Park.  The Forest Theatre.  Cameron Avenue.  Hummmmmmmmmmm.  No sign of political life.

On past the Old Well; student crossings.  No Obama tee shirts.  Through the intersection at South Columbia Street.  Left at The Carolina Inn onto Pittsboro Street.  No bumper stickers.

I continued straight at the light to Manning Drive; the hospital complex.  Students coming up the hill.  No sign of political life.

In 2008, my twin sons were university seniors; one at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and one at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Both campuses were hotbeds of Obama enthusiasm.  Over 5,000 students at NC State in Reynolds Coliseum to hear Michele Obama; 18,000 in the Dean Dome at Chapel Hill to hear Barack Obama.

I spent a lot of time on both campuses that year, witnessing first hand the excitement among young voters for Barack Obama. There were signs everywhere; folding tables and chairs around campus and on Franklin and Hillsborough Streets as young volunteers urged their fellow students to register and vote early.  For Obama.

I turned right into Hinton James Dormitory.  It was my son’s freshman dorm.  I wanted to count the Obama signs in the windows.  Hundreds of windows.  Hummmmmm.  Not one Obama sign.

I glanced around the parking lot.  No Obama bumper stickers.  Curious.  Very curious.

Back out onto Manning and right into the parking lot at Koury and Ehringhaus.  Hundreds of cars.  No Obama signs in windows.  No Obama bumper stickers.  Not one.

Right on Ridge Road and left on Stadium Drive.  Parker.  Teague.  Kenan Stadium.  No signs.  No tee shirts.  No bumper stickers.  No sign of political life.

Right on to South Road.  UNC Student Stores; Student Union.  Student crossings.  Nothing.

I began to feel like the Greek philosopher Diogenes with his lamp in search of one honest man.  Surely there was one Obama bumper sticker in Chapel Hill.  One tee shirt.  One sign.

Left onto Raleigh Street.  Winston. Conner. Alexander. Lewis. Everett. Stacy. Graham. Aycock.  Past the Coker Arboretum.  McIver. Kenan. Alderman. Spencer.  No signs.  No tee shirts.

Left onto East Franklin Street.  Surely in downtown Chapel Hill, the fulcrum of liberal activism in North Carolina, there will be plenty of Obama signs and tee shirts and bumper stickers.

I parked in the parking lot at the planetarium, right next to Graham Memorial Hall where I was to meet Hodding Carter at 1:50.  It was only 1:20.  I had plenty of time to count the Obama bumper stickers in downtown Chapel Hill.

I walked towards downtown across the street from McAlister’s Deli and the Post Office, careful to look back at the bumpers of cars parked in the other direction.  Nope.

Then I spotted one of those message boards where everyone posts flyers about upcoming concerts and study abroad programs.  Hummmmmm.  I see Delta Rae is playing at the Carolina Theatre on Friday, November 16.  Justin Townes Earle and Tift Merritt are at Cat’s Cradle on Thursday, November 15.  Not one Obama poster.

Newspaper racks. Bus stops. Trash cans.  Parking meters.  No Obama signs.  Students coming and going.  No tee shirts.  Cars in every metered spot.  No bumper stickers.

Hummmmmmmmmmmm.

I crossed Franklin Street at Spanky’s and walked back towards Graham.  A street preacher handed me a “Are you right with the Lord” tract.  Cold Stone Creamery.  Varsity Theater.  Trees.  Benches.  Bikes.  Julian’s.  No Obama signs.

Chapel Hill was a political ghost town.

Another message board.  Swing Dance lessons Wednesdays in November at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro.  Study Abroad Scholarships at www.goabroad.com.  Eat at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn in Wilmington.  Not one Obama sign.

I crossed Franklin Street near Graham Memorial Hall.  There among the giant oaks stood Silent Sam, the statue of a Confederate soldier erected in 1913 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  I waited there for Hodding Carter, a great American journalist and Civil Rights pioneer; pondering the waning political fortunes of America’s first African-American president.

Just four years earlier, Barack Obama had inspired thousands of young people on more than 100 college campuses across North Carolina to do the hard work of winning campaigns.  They registered and turned voters out in record numbers.

Exit polling in North Carolina showed that voters between 18 and 29 chose Obama over John McCain by a whopping 74%-26% margin.  Obama carried the state by only 14,177 votes out of 4.3 million cast.  Without enthusiastic young people, this state’s 15 electoral votes would have gone to McCain.  But, where are the signs in the dorm windows today?  The bumper stickers?

My NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill twin sons went to President Obama’s inauguration.  Drove all night and stood in the freezing cold for hours from sunup to noon just to witness the historic occasion.  I was so proud of them.  Proud about how far we have come since my Great Grandfather, John Davis, fought along side Silent Sam.

At precisely 1:50, Hodding Carter came walking up the sidewalk.  We chatted a minute about our children and friends we have in common in Mississippi.  He told me about his class.  He said that it was the most interesting group he had taught in six years.

Soon I was surrounded by 24 very intelligent, uninhibited, diverse, inquisitive and suspicious leaders of tomorrow.  Suspicious because I am from another time.  They share the here and now together; staring out with great concern at the pieces being left behind by my generation.  Justifiably uncertain.  Of our value to them.

 Unlike my generation, there is not a racist sentiment in any of these students.  Diversity is not a goal for them.  That’s old school.  Diversity is today’s social norm.  Today’s generation does not merely tolerate differences, they celebrate differences.

If President Obama loses his race for a second term, it will be because he disappointed his base on matters of the economy.  Jobs. Unemployment. Debt.  Disappointed his base.

I suspect that most of Hodding Carter’s students will vote for President Obama.  I also suspect that they are not volunteering their time to turn out voters in record numbers this year; that they do not have Obama posters on their dorm walls.

I asked the class why there were no signs of life for Obama on campus.  One student replied, “Four years ago it was cool to be for Obama.  Today, it’s cool to be independent.”

For whatever reasons, the enthusiasm that I saw four years ago on the campuses of North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for Barack Obama is gone.  The campuses look like political ghost towns.

I never found one Obama bumper sticker last Thursday in Chapel Hill.

If President Obama has lost the enthusiastic support of Chapel Hill, he has lost the race.

 - END -

Thank you for reading the John Davis Political Report

John N. Davis, Editor


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