The Great Schlep: using Jewish social capital to lead Obama to Florida victory

A migration of younger Jewish voters is going to the battleground state of Florida in what some have termed ‘The Great Schlep’ (borrowing the Yiddish for a long and arduous journey) to convince their grandparents to vote for Barack.  It’s a consummate use of social capital (familial social capital) to change votes; and studies show that face-to-face appeals by friends (or family) work better.  [I blogged about the Obama iPhone application along these lines.]

When Mike Bender, one of the Great Schleppers, “brought up the idea of voting for Obama over Thanksgiving dinner last year, he was met with an uncharacteristic silence…..[His grandparents’] reaction was, as they said, ‘I’m a little meschugah.’ (crazy)  This despite the fact that Bender’s grandparents were lifelong Democrats.

The idea gained momentum when Ari Wallach (co-executive director of Jews Vote) and others enlisted comedian Sarah Silverman. See her humorous video here where she explains all the commonalities between Barack or African Americans and elder Jews (including their love of track uniforms)

(Note: Viewer discretion advised; lots of 4 letter words, some offensive)

“The Silverman video quickly became a Web sensation, garnering about 2 million hits in the two weeks since it was posted on thegreatschlep.com, organizers said. Thousands of people pledged to call their relatives in Florida and more than 100 people volunteered to pay their own way to travel to the Sunshine State to campaign for Obama among Jewish voters, Wallach said.”  There are 650,000 Jews (with very high voting rates and high affiliations to the Democratic party) living in Florida.

Note:  for the etymology on schlep, see William Safire’s column where he explains that it originally came from German meaning “to drag, haul, lug.”…”Earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from James Joyce’s 1922 novel, Ulysses: ‘She trudges, schlepps, trains, drags . . . her load.’ The closest synonym is drag, but schlep has a greater connotation of exasperated weariness on the part of a person clumsily trying to cope with an unwelcome burden. This has given rise to a second meaning to the noun: ‘an arduous journey.'”

It’s interesting because,  even beyond Jews, there is much higher support for Barack among younger generations than Baby Boomers.  This came out during the primary where Baby Boomers were far more likely to support Hillary than Barack.  And it fed into the ‘Mom won’t you vote for Barack” effort.  Maybe there need to be a lot more schleps.  Could we get Latinos to convince their parents to vote for Obama and find a catchy name for this as well?

See CNN story on the Great Schlep here.

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