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Thursday, October 21, 2004
Guardian's attempts to influence the election in Clark County backfiring?

People don't seem to be taking too kindly to the Guardian's plan to influence the election.

Dan Harkins, a political activist in the vital swing state of Ohio, was excited when he first heard that the Guardian newspaper was recruiting readers to write to voters in his state in the hopes of giving foreigners a voice in the American election.
The first letters to be made public all urged Clark County voters to reject Mr Bush. As he watched the reaction of friends and neighbours, Mr Harkins was delighted.

He is the chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, and his neighbours' reaction was outrage. "It's hysterical," laughed Mr Harkins, showing off sheaves of incensed e-mails and notes from local voters.

The Republicans' delight compares with the gloom among local Democrats, who fear that "foreign interference" is hurting Mr Kerry.

Terry Brown had received a letter from a Scottish Guardian reader. The navy veteran and retired lorry builder was "offended" as he read the polite note, from Nicola Smith of West Lothian, with its denunciation of the Iraq war as a "farce", and closing plea to remove from power "the parties responsible for this war".
"I feel very strongly that this was an invasion of my privacy," he said. "The right of my wife and myself to decide whom to vote for should not be affected by any other country. That was a freedom we fought for many years ago. It was 1776."

Ms Smith's letter was addressed to Mr Brown's son, Sean. Mr Brown opens the mail because his son is in the army in Missouri, pending a possible posting to Iraq.

"My son will have choice words to say about this that you can't print," said Mr Brown.
Many local Democrats expressed sympathy with the desire of British voters to have a say. That does not mean they are happy the letters are coming.

Particular gloom has been spread by letters to Clark County from chosen Left-wing celebrities, published on the Guardian website and widely read in Ohio.

Ken Loach, the film director, began his letter: "Friends, you have the chance to do the world a favour. Today, your country is reviled across continents as never before. You are seen as the greatest bully on earth."

Antonia Fraser, the historian, suggested: "If you back Kerry, you will be voting against a savage, militaristic foreign policy of pre-emptive killing, which has stained the great name of the US so hideously in recent times."
Across America, the Guardian project has sparked disdain from the Right, and dismay from Kerry campaigners. Coverage in the US media has stressed the risks of offending voters. Furious e-mails have reached the Guardian, such as this one from Texas, stating: "Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions."

--The Telegraph

Posted by Rob Bernard on Thursday, October 21, 2004 at 3:34 PM in Politics/Government

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