This election edition of the BAGnewsSALON, an on-line discussion series, included moderator Cara Finnegan; producer Ida Benedetto; host Michael Shaw; professors Paul Lester; Nathan Stormer and John Lucaites; photographers Alan Chin, Nina Berman and Aric Mayer, as well as members of the BAGnewsNotes readership. It took place on Thursday evening, October 30th, from 5-6:30 p.m. PST, 8-9:30 p.m. EST.
“ The arc of my political coverage has been "demographic" -- in, who are the activists, the people who go to rallies? Most people, of course, are happy to watch it on TV. So who shows up?” -- Alan ChinConsidering the images above, we came to this discussion with the question:
While recent American elections have been governed by identity politics and moral concerns, Barack Obama's campaign has marked a notable shift toward an inclusive national project of change. As a result, do we read these photographs -- taken by BAGnewsNotes contributer Alan Chin in the final weeks of the '04 campaign -- in a different light than we did before?
Summary:Conversation about Alan Chin’s photographs from the 2004 election revealed shifting expectations about identity politics as well as continued concerns about enfranchisement and participation in the 2008 election. Discussants in this BAGnewsSalon often saw the visual landscape of the 2004 elections as awkwardly theatrical in comparison to the 2008 election. They commended the recent campaign for more nuanced treatment of issues like religion and socialism, even if others issues, such as gender, were disappointingly caricatured.
Alan Chin: what I liked about this image were the eyeglasses case and the ladies' handbag, obviously belonging to one of the older African-American congregates. ...It evoked for me, the older, civil-rights era, sense of religion being a politically progressive as opposed to right-wing dominated issue.
Cara Finnegan: Yes, especially in the context of 2004 you would think church=republican, but no.
Aric Mayer: I remember the 2004 election as giving a cartoon quality to religion in general. This time around there seems to be a much more diverse and nuanced conversation around faith.
Michael Shaw: Yes, in this election, we liberals wouldn't even think to make fun of the bible as a symbol.
Cara Finnegan: I keep thinking "failed youth vote?" even though my recollection of the numbers is that the youth vote was very high in 04.
Nathan: Her face has an energy to it. We will try again.
Cuban with Sign
Alan Chin: The guy holding the Communist sign is a Cuban-American, clearly part of a conservative community, but he's gone over the top.
Cara Finnegan: It/him/the sign is so coarse it seems silly, especially from 2008 perspective and obama/socialism stuff
Alan Chin: kind of like McCain calling Obama a socialist
Paul Lester: Socialism is the new communism!
Nathan Stormer: Even for 2004 this kind of stuff was just looney.
Cara Finnegan: gets at the question of identity, though: for whom is this an issue?
Alan Chin: in 04 it was looney. in 08 it's gone mainstream!
Early Voting In Car
Nathan Stormer: As a "demographic," the value of her vote is surely against Republicans. I see her voting as the front line in the struggle over effective suffrage right now.
Ida Benedetto: It's also possibly a literacy issue. The ability to read was a huge issue with who could vote in the 20's and 30's. Now it's technological literacy that's an issue.
Michael Shaw: I'm really proud of the Dems that I can't think of an '08 corollary for the MM image -- at least, not immediately.
Republican with Bush Signs
Cara Finnegan: Many folks are arguing the conservative coalition is cracking up, so maybe what we're seeing in this guy is the beginning of the end.
For a transcript of the full discussion, please drop us an email.