DANVILLE, Va. – President Barack Obama stunned voters here after the results of the 2008 election poured in.
Voters learned that this mostly right-wing working class city had turned full-circle, as Obama trounced John McCain and Sarah Palin by almost 20 points – 12,352 votes to 8,361.
Danville honors itself as the “Last Capital of the Confederacy.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. singled out the city’s police department for its “brutality and viciousness” during the 1963 civil rights movement.
The local Obama victory was a mirror of what happened across the nation. Grassroots effort won out over Super PACs. Dozens of volunteers made phone calls and canvassed neighborhoods that previous Democratic campaign could have only hoped to reach.
The same is true this time, as volunteers continue to register voters and persuade people why Barack Obama deserves re-election.
Volunteers are young people, older people, African Americans and whites working shifts to make personal contact with voters.
With Virginia as a battleground state, Danville benefited from a visit by Vice President Joe Biden this summer. More than 1,000 people heard Biden make his famous comment that Republicans want to “‘unchain Wall Street” and “They’re going to put y’all in chains.”
Media reports were right that hundreds of African Americans were in the audience when Biden made that statement. However, the media failed to grasp that the audience knew what Biden was talking about. Lose your job and you’re going to lose your home. One emergency room visit could bankrupt a family even if they have health insurance.
Paul Ryan came to Danville and praised the business he visited as the perfect version of the American success story. What media outlets failed to report was the taxpayers’ incentives that helped this machine company achieve its success.
Republicans draw support in wealthy and middle class neighborhoods in Danville. It is not uncommon to see GOP support in poor white neighborhoods. The Danville African American community is the backbone of the base for President Obama, some white supporters admit.
One local restaurant took down Republican campaign signs after a group of mostly African American customers complained. The local tea party holds meetings at this establishment.
One of the saddest situations Danville Obama volunteers talk about is the large number of felons who have not had their voting rights restored due to Virginia’s strict requirements. This includes ex-prisoners who have not been in trouble for more than 15 years. The Virginia law says individuals convicted of a non-violent felony must wait two years after they complete their sentence, payment of any fines and restitution before they can apply. People convicted of violent crimes, drug sales or manufacturing and other must wait five years to apply to the governor for restoration of rights.
Photo: Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders (left) and former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., applaud Vice President Joe Biden at the Institute for Advanced Research and Learning in Danville, Va., on Aug. 14. Steven Mantilla/The Register & Bee/AP