Obama in Virginia, and the 47 Percenters

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 21 2012 12:20 PM

Obama in Virginia, and the 47 Percenters

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WOODBRIDGE, Va. -- Presidential events are tightly controlled festivals of messaging, security, and cant. A crowd full of people holding home-made signs looks nice, but incoherent. Better to give all of the faithful identical banners, so the cameras capture nothing else.

In the overflow section of today's Obama rally, some wily supporters got past the strictures by messaging on their hands and event tickets. The preferred message: WE ARE THE 47%. Basu Shrestha and his wife arrived early at the rally, then stuck "WE ARE THE 47%" tickets above their eyeglasses.

"I pay income tax," said Shrestha, "but I'm holding this up out of solidarity. The president's looking out for a lot of people."

Obamanians can't get enough of the 47% message. Diminga Gomez, a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. from Gambia, told me that she'd voted for George W. Bush in her first election, 2004. "And what did I get? I'm homeless now." She lived with a friend as she got her nursing certificate and paid for her kids' from her salary as a bus driver. "Romney, he writes me off. Obama, he's given me opportunities. My kids look up to him. They go from B students to getting As."

Standing at the other side of the baseball diamond, I met a voter who introduced herself as "Beverly Reader, M.D.," and wanted everyone to know that she was one of the 53 percent. "I make $300,000, and I'm ready to pay more taxes. I don't think people who make less than me are lazy."

(Photo by David Weigel)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.