On a blasting hot Saturday afternoon in Tempe Arizona, a group of journalists from around Asia (plus one from the United States) are learning what ground-level politics looks like in the American West.
The journalists are part of the latest group of Jefferson Fellows at the Center, on a trip to the U.S. heartland to experience the Presidential campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama from the inside.
After a week of seminars and briefings in Honolulu, the Jeffs are off to Arizona, then on to battleground states Pennsylvania and Ohio and finally to Washington, D.C.
It has been an eye-opening experience.
In Arizona, which is seen as “Ground Zero” for the contentious but little -discussed issue of immigration, the journalists met with migrant workers, immigration reform activists, farm interests and others who know that immigration is a cornerstone issue in this sun-bleached part of the West. Later, they will hear about jobs and the export of American manufacturing as they tour the “Rust Belt” of the Midwest.
On this Saturday, though, the journalists tagged along as Tim Nelson, a personable Democratic candidate for county attorney (a big job in these parts) walked door-to-door to promote his candidacy against a strong Republican incumbent, Andrew Thomas. While Arizona is seen as “McCain Country” (he represents this state), Democrats hope Obama candidacy will have enough oomph to pull some down-ticket Democrats into office.
The journalists offered a somewhat odd sight as they trooped along with Nelson as he knocked on the doors of identified independent or undecided voters in a middle class Tempe neighborhood. It was more barking dogs and no one home that anything else, but it was a good example of the grueling work candidates must do to get elected in the United States.
This group of Jefferson Fellows includes: Samantha Bennett, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Anubha Bhonsle, CNN-IBN India; Fan Ling-Jia, United Daily News, Taiwan; Mariam Grace A. Go, Newsbreak, Manila; Tony Hotland, the Jakarta Post; Li Xueying, Straits-Times, Singapore; Muhammad Nasir, Khyber News Television, Pakistan; Timothy Pankhurst, Dominion Post, New Zealand; Sun Wan Park, Korea Economic Daily; Jonathan Pearlman, Sydney Morning Herald; Makiko Takita, Sankei Shimbun, Tokyo; and Wang Tian, People’s Daily, China.
(More to come!)