Obama Platform Meeting Held in Tiny White City, Kentucky

July 21, 2008

Statue of President Abraham Lincoln Which Dominates Downtown Hodgenville, KentuckyIt’s impossible not to notice the presence of Abraham Lincoln in downtown Hodgenville, Kentucky. The Great Emancipator, arguably the single most famous Republican, was born in LaRue County in South Central Kentucky in February 1809. Although his family fled for greener pastures when Lincoln was a child, two statues of him are the focal point of the downtown “square.” Main St. is named Lincoln Boulevard. Lincoln National Bank anchors one corner of the square, which also boasts a Lincoln museum and the headquarters of the annual Lincoln Days festival. (The festival date was wisely moved to October some years ago, as February in Kentucky isn’t such a great time to hold a spring festival. Just ask Laura Bush, who couldn’t land here for Lincoln birthday celebrations this February, due to an ice storm.)

Subdivisions are named Lincoln Heights and Lincoln Hills. There’s an Abe’s Market convenience store of modern log construction — recently renamed as an IGA Express — and Ruthie’s Lincoln Dairy Freeze, although the improbably named Lincoln Putt-Putt Golf (our personal favorite) featuring Lincoln in a top hat is no more. It was hard not to appreciate the irony, as we drove four miles east from the square and the ultimate Republican to the improbably named White City, to attend a Democratic platform meeting for Barack Obama, the first black presidential candidate.

The meeting was part of Senator Obama’s nationwide “Listening to America” campaign, a grassroots effort seeking input for the Democratic platform, which will be announced at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado in late August. “Listening to America” meetings are being held from July 19 through July 27 throughout the country.

White City, Kentucky Sign Calling for End to Iraq WarRussell Hinkle’s ranch-style home in tiny White City (population approximately 32) is impossible to miss. You can sense the exhuberance and enthusiasm for Barack Obama. An Obama yard sign and other Obama materials decorate his yard, and a sign calling for an end to the Iraq war fills much of the living room picture window of the veteran’s brick ranch house. Inside the Hinkle home, an assortment of chairs was set up for the meeting in a vine-bedecked kitchen. (The vines originated in a kitchen cupboard and have spread across the kitchen and dining room ceilings.) The atmosphere was relaxed and informal; in a county with a population of 13,000, almost everyone knows everyone else. Help-yourself diet soft drinks were available in the kitchen refrigerator, with a modest buffet set up in the living room where the eight attendees could snag pretzels, Cheddar cheese, sausage, celery sticks and chocolate. Pajamadeen gazed lovingly upon the Hershey bars.

LaRue County, Kentucky Farm at White City, KYThe eight people present were notable for several reasons. Despite Obama’s appeal to younger voters, everyone at the platform meeting with the exception of local economic developer Bob Sims was looking at age 50 through the rear-view mirror. Where were the young people? And, atypical of agricultural LaRue County was the high educational level of those warming the kitchen chairs; with the exception of perhaps one person, everyone had a college education. These were achievers, movers and shakers in the county.

Retired Democratic State Senator Kaye Bondurant was present, as was Phinis Hundley, the local UAW union president. Hundley, an alternate delegate at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, also serves as the Democratic Party Chair for LaRue County and was elected to the State Central Committee of the Kentucky Democratic Party. We especially warmed to Hundley when we learned that his is the “Support Our Troops/Bring Them Home!” sign along U.S. Highway 31-E which had long reassured us that we weren’t the only people here who objected to this quest for oil war. Retired schoolteacher Buzz Turner is also the brother of County-Judge Executive Tommy Turner. Mary Jackson is active in Women for Obama, which meets in Radcliff, Ky., an Army town located 24 miles northwest of Hodgenville.

But the biggest surprises were yet to come. Senior and rural issues never made it out of the starting gate, although senior citizen Paul Civils, a retired government employee, commented on the high price of food. The pitiful state of the economy was the big issue, followed by Iraq, which everyone wanted out of yesterday. The comments about Iraq were startlingly pointed:

  • “. . .disguising corporate greed and calling it a war.”

  • “. . .no accountability.”

  • “. . .a blank check since Day One.”

  • “. . .the privatization of our country.”

Immigration, the nationwide hot button last year? Not a peep. Homeland Security? Nope. The final platform picks, sent to Obama headquarters, were:

  • The Economy: Consumer driven and NOT corporate driven.

  • Iraq: Develop and expedite an immediate exit strategy.

  • Trade: 1. Trade will not take place with countries that do not have comparable environmental and labor laws, i.e. child labor. 2. Revenue adjustment must take place for companies that relocate their factories/businesses in other countries. (The “revenue adjustment” idea was a result of discussing Canadian economic policies, in which companies who outsource jobs to other countries are penalized for doing so, not rewarded. Rarely does one hear of a Canadian company sending jobs overseas.)

  • Health Care: Quality health care is a basic right as a citizen.

It was like a hit of oxygen — refreshing, stimulating, a relief. At last. The fundamental feeling that something is broken in America, given a local voice.

The intensity of the meeting was perhaps best summarized by Hinkle, who wrote the following when submitting the LaRue County platform to Obama headquarters: “The participants at our meeting felt that our meeting was truly historic; both in the national sense as [has] been widely reported but also at our local level. Meetings like this did not take place, by and large, until Barack Obama. Meetings like this have not taken place here in Hometown, U.S.A., a.k.a. White City. Although my (Russell Hinkle) mailing address is Hodgenville, I actually live in a small village named White City. . .Obama has rekindled both pride and participation in our political process.”

Read more political news emanating from White City, Kentucky.

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