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Change Has Come to America

November 5, 2008 · 1 Comment

Updated

I first saw President Obama at the Los Angeles Democratic primary debate with Hillary Clinton.  I went in neutral and left an Obama supporter.

The single thing that struck me then and has stayed with me ever since was his consistency in never making this election about himself, but about restoring the hopes and dreams of the people.

I attended the debate because it was being sponsored by and broadcast on CNN, and I run marketing for a company that spends a lot of money advertising on CNN and Headline News.  A colleague was with me whose brother-in-law is an ex-Republican turned Obama ward captain.  I thought that Obama held his own in the debate, and displayed a trait that in the end helped him win the Presidency more than any position or talking point – his cool but engaged temperament.   Hillary was also very impressive, and her candidacy was historic in so many ways.  But in the end the Clintons had, to my mind, simply done too much to win the nomination at all costs and they used up all of the good will they had built up with me, and then some.

My colleague’s brother-in-law waded down to the front afterward where Obama stayed for quite some time interacting with anyone who waiting around long enough.  He shouted out to Obama “I believe in you,” and Obama said something back that he has repeated time and time again to supporters – “No, I believe in you! This is about you.”

Obama has inspired the hopes of a new generation.  While Obama won the support of most of the identifiable groups used for polling, there is no denying that symbolically this contest was about race.  While Obama never made race the main thrust of the campaign, if anything his campaign was the anti-identity politics, because of our nations history the campaign was about the ability of an African-American man to become President in a country that continues to struggle with a legacy of racism.  His nearly monolithic support in the black community (over 90%) and his very strong showing with Hispanic voters (70%) were most certainly deciding factors.   While the Obama win is undoubtedly about race, it is equally about the passing of the torch to a new generation.  Obama won in the 30 and under age groups by a huge margin (in most states well over 65%).  In addition to his lopsided support, Obama energized new voters – especially among racial minorities and younger voters.  A few times every century leadership passes from one generation to the next.  We have witnessed that hand-off.

Race continues to be an entrenched and horribly difficult issue (just look at the vote tallies in the South), and racism continues to block millions of Americans from equal opportunity.  We must not fall victim to the naive belief that the election of Obama means that racism has been defeated.  But neither should we underestimate the enormity of this achievement and of this moment.

And yet all is not rosy.  Virtually every anti-gay ballot measure on State ballots across the nation passed.  Most denied gays and lesbians the right to marry, by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  Some denied the right of single people to adopt as a way to discriminate against gay people.  While one barrier to equality has fallen, others are being reinforced by the small-mindedness of the self-righteous.  Anti-gay discrimination is now on the front lines of ensuring equality of civil rights.

One telling contrast struck me last night.  McCain’s concession speech was gracious; the reaction of his audience was as ugly and petty as the campaign had been, booing at the mention of Obama.  By contrast the crowd in Chicago’s Grant Park listening to Obama’s declaration of victory applauded the mention of McCain.  It’s always easier, I suppose, to be gracious in victory than in defeat, but I was struck again by how rhetoric and tactics reveal character and are replicated in the reaction of supporters.  One seeks to unite and break the politics of division and rancor.  The other sees only its own loss.  Let us hope that we all seize this historic moment as a time to renew our commitment to stay involved, to improve our nation and our communities, and to unlock the potential of all of our citizens by providing the basics of a society of opportunity:  education, health care, and economic mobility – especially if it means self-sacrifice.

Obama has a steep hill to climb.  Two wars going badly and a military overstretched.  An economy in decline.  Nationalized mortgage institutions.  Huge amounts of public money pumped into a failing banking system.  An equity market that has lost over 35% of its value.  A world of disappointed allies and emboldened adversaries.  And yet climb we must.  And hope is the one thing that can bring us through this tough time.

Congratulations to Obama-Biden and their steady, disciplined campaign.  The hard work is over, now comes the even harder work.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Politics
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Phillies Win World Series, Right to Pick President

October 30, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Now that the Philadelphia Phillies have won the World Series, it only seems fitting that we just let Pennsylvania pick the next President.

Think about it.  It would save a lot of money.  Both in running all of those polling stations and in legal fees.  The Republicans wouldn’t have to go through the nasty business of challenging and disenfranchising voters.  And the Democrats wouldn’t have to bring in Mickey Mouse to vote.  We wouldn’t have to go through the agony of post-vote challenges, missing ballots, court cases, and finally waking up the Supreme Court Justices from their afternoon naps to pick the winner.

It just seems so much simpler somehow.

But I suppose this being a “democracy”  and all (see McCain and his famous air quotes), we need to let everyone vote.  Instead, I’m just going to assume that whoever wins Pennsylvania on election night (and since it’s on the East Coast, we should get the results early here on the Left Coast) wins the whole sha-bang.  Given the “many paths to victory” of Obama-Biden we may all get a good night’s sleep, which would be a nice change for the large group of people who will remain nervous right up until January.  And beyond.

I’ve heard rumors that there have been another five assassination plans/attempts on Obama’s life in addition to the two bumbling rednecks that were recently announced.  It’s sad that at a moment when we all – regardless of who we support, or our political outlook or party affiliation – ought to be celebrating a milestone in the history of this great country – the election of a black man to the highest position in the land – we are instead worried about the worst happening.  So clearly we’ve come a long way, and we still have a long way to go.  Some have further to go than others.

So congratulations to the Phillies, from far and wide.  Well played.

Now go vote.

Categories: McCain · Palin · Politics
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Alaska's Biggest Newspaper Endorses… Obama?

October 27, 2008 · 1 Comment

Poor Sarah Palin.  She has gone from approval ratings as Governor that once soared like an eagle.  Now they’ve plummeted as if she’d been shot from a helicopter.

And now this.  The Alaska newspaper with the biggest circulation, the Anchorage Daily News, has looked past Palin’s ticket to endorse Obama-Biden.

Sarah’s popularity in her own state has been hurt by the negative style of campaigning of the McCain-Palin ticket, the concern that she looks foolish and unprepared in the harsh glare of the national spotlight, worry that she reflects badly on Alaska, and the revelations of petty vindictiveness from the Troopergate scandal.

Republican pundits like Ed Rollins believe that after a presumed McCain-Palin loss that Sarah Palin will work the national rubber chicken circuit to raise money for Republican candidates, and gain some seasoning that could position her for a run again in 2012 at the top of the ticket.

Personally I think there’s little chance of that.  I still think that the Republicans will bundle her off back to Alaska.  I’m sure she’d continue to play well to the Christian Right, but that the establishment wing of the party will see her only as a reminder of one of the main reasons that the party lost the White House.

But I’m willing to concede that I may have (in the words of George HW Bush) misunderestimated her.  For the sake of more material about which to write and continued interest in this site, I almost hope she sticks around for a while.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology · Politics
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Sarah's Future

October 18, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Sarah Palin may be the one person out of the four at the top of the ticket with the most at stake.  Win or lose McCain will be a senior leader in the Republican party.  Win or lose both Obama and Biden have increased their national stature and will figure in Democratic politics for a long time to come.  Sarah Palin, on the other hand, will either be vaulted into the heights of national leadership, or bundled off back to Alaska, largely blamed for the Republican loss, and shunned by the Republican party.

We need look no further than Katherine Harris of Florida for how the Republican party will treat Palin in the future when her usefulness is done.  She will go from being the toast of the party to being an embarrassing relative pushed to the background, and erased from memory.

Katherine Harris, of course, is the former Republican Secretary of State of Florida whose actions had an enormous impact on the outcome of the 2000 election.  Harris entered politics with her election to the Florida Senate in 1994.  As early as 1996 she was caught up in a scandal when a company called Riscorp made $400,000 in illegal political pay-to-play donations, including over $20,000 to Harris.  The CEO of Riscorp did prison time after confessing guilt; Harris was never charged.  In 1998 she won the race for Secretary of State of Florida, which would give her a pivotal role in the 2000 Presidential election.

Harris leveraged her new found recognition to a seat in the US Congress in 2002.  She then ran for the US Senate in 2006.  Unfortunately for Harris she had more political funding trouble, as she was involved in the MZM defense contractor scandal that had led to the conviction and resignation of California Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham.  The Republican establishment which had come to power because of Harris now turned against her.  Jeb Bush publicly speculated that she couldn’t win and encouraged others to run against her.  Karl Rove soon followed suit.  The entire Republican establishment rushed to find a replacement candidate, and even recruited conservative commentator Joe Scarborough to step in.  The flow of Republican money soon dried up, and when her father left his sizable estate entirely to her mother, she was left without the money needed to compete.

In another eerie parallel to Sarah Palin, Harris was another evangelical Christian who apparently believed in Christian Reconstruction – the belief that Christians have a duty to God to make America a theocracy.  That’s right, they have the same approach to government as fundamentalist Muslims – just a different theology.

Here’s what Harris said to the Florida Baptist Witness on August 24, 2006.

“We have to have the faithful in government and over time, that lie we have been told, the separation of church and state, people have internalized, thinking that they needed to avoid politics and that is so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers. And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women and if people aren’t involved in helping godly men in getting elected then we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s certainly isn’t what God intended. … we need to take back this country. … And if we don’t get involved as Christians then how could we possibly take this back? …If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians then in essence you are going to legislate sin. They can legislate sin. They can say that abortion is alright. They can vote to sustain gay marriage. And that will take western civilization, indeed other nations because people look to our country as one nation as under God and whenever we legislate sin and we say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong.”

If the positions seem eerily familiar, it’s because Palin shares them lock, stock, barrel and “Jesus loves the NRA” bumper sticker.

In the Florida Senate race in 2006, the Republicans got their replacement candidate, Vern Buchanan, who eked out a victory by only a few hundred votes.

Sarah, I feel for you.  Right now you’re the toast of the Jesus and Guns circuit.  You’re being told that you not only have to try to help McCain overcome difficult odds to win the election, but you also have to think about your own future should the ticket lose.  You’re even thinking that you could become President one day.  I’d suggest you give Katherine a call, and see how solid and lasting that Republican embrace is.  If there’s one thing that Republicans hate more than a Democrat, it’s a loser.

Categories: Bush · McCain · Palin · Palintology
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Survey Says… Biden Wipes Floor with Palin

October 2, 2008 · Leave a Comment

The much anticipated debate recently ended.  Expectations for Palin were so low that the only way she could have surprised on the downside would have been to sing “Bomb bomb Iran” to an open microphone to the tune of Ba-ba-bra-an like McCain did previously.  There was no crash and burn.  In the largely scripted “debate” there was no atrocious gaffe – by either side.

Biden clearly had more to lose in this debate than Palin.  Would he be condescending?  Would he come off as scolding?  Would he use his experience as a bludgeon?  Would he make some ridiculous statement (FDR reassuring the nation on TV – which wasn’t invented – as President – before he was elected – about the Depression?).

Good for Joe, he was disciplined, he didn’t wander too much, and above all, he demonstrated a familiarity with specific facts, which is something that Palin has struggled with enormously.  So Joe avoided the downsides and in fact, I think, gained significant ground.

On all counts, you have to say that Biden won.  While Palin probably exceeded expectation by more than Biden, that’s only because people were expecting Palin to trip on her way to the stage and then a utter incomprehensible puree of talking points.  And she only half did that, so she exceeded expectation.

But according to all polls I’ve seen, Biden won the debate (51% to 38%), and improved his favorables by 10 points (42% to 53%).  Here are some specifics:

CNN’s insta-poll: Biden, 51 to 36.

CBS survey of uncommitted: Biden, 46 to 21.

So I have to give this to Biden by a wide margin.  I’m sure the Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief that she didn’t do something totally YouTube worthy.  But neither did she come off as someone that any thinking person could – outside the glare of the television camera and without the benefit of RNC provided talking points – think of as President and Commander In Chief without a serious shudder racking their very being.

Palin only proved that, contrary to her performance in the Couric interviews, she could speak a form of English, even if it’s delivered in that annoying nasal Fargo accent with an “also” thrown in with annoying frequency, and especially at the end of sentences, also.

Here are some actual quotes from the debate:

“And I’ve joined this team that is a team of mavericks with John McCain, also.”

“Also, John McCain’s maverick position that he’s in, that’s really prompt up to and indicated by the supporters that he has.”

“There have been times where, as mayor and governor, we have passed budgets that I did not veto and that I think could be considered as something that I quasi-caved in, if you will, but knowing that it was the right thing to do in order to progress the agenda for that year and to work with the legislative body, that body that actually holds the purse strings.”

Wow.

There were times during the debate that I actually felt sorry for Sarah.  She was so clearly out of her league.  It seemed almost unfair, even though Gwen Ifill was imminently fair.  It’s just that any format that requires a candidate to show familiarity with issues, an ability to provide thoughtful answers, and a mastery of the English language inherently puts Palin at a disadvantage.

I watched the debate on CNN.  At first I found those minute-by-minute reaction graphs annoying.  But I quickly became fascinated by the fact that women loved Biden and hated Palin, while men were much more positively disposed to Palin.  Fascinating.  So Biden did a great job appealing to women (at least the “influenceable women” in Ohio who were on CNN’s “squiggle meter”).

One more CNN observation.  All the pundits, including the Republicans, scored it in Biden’s favor (what is this, a boxing match?) except for Rollins.  Poor Ed Rollins.  What a tool.

The best commentary line from a body language expert as reported on CBS:  “One of the things we look for is comfort and discomfort,” Navarro explained. “He made us feel comfortable. He looked presidential. She looked mayoral.”

Here are the results of a poll reported in The Swamp – the Chicago Tribune’s Washington Bureau that also shows that Biden wiped the floor with Palin:

Biden did better with Democrats than Palin did with Republicans, and Independents were with Biden by a huge margin.  So, yeah, Biden pretty much wiped the floor with Palin.  Nothing a little scrub-down with a bloody moose fur wouldn’t clean up.

Categories: Palin · Palintology · Politics
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Palin-Biden Debate and NASCAR

October 2, 2008 · 1 Comment

The big Vice-Presidential candidate debate happens tonight.  I know I’ll be watching, will you?

I hate to admit this, but I will watch largely for the same reason that I occasionally watch auto racing:  the chance that someone will hit the wall and explode into flames.  Or maybe an accident at high speed sending the car into an end-over-end cyclone of destruction, with parts strewn all over the raceway (remember that opening sequence on the “Wide World of Sports” back in the late 1970’s?).

Certainly Palin has given us all some precious moments of awesome crashes.

  • What magazines or newspapers does she read regularly?  All of them.  Whatever is put in front of her.
  • What Supreme Court decisions other than Roe vs. Wade does she think were wrong?  Ummm a lot of them, just none that she can remember and cite.
  • We should invade the sovereign borders of Pakistan.
  • Her foreign policy experience is being able to see Russia.
  • She has seen evidence of human footprints inside dinosaur footprints.
  • A Kenyan witch-doctor is largely responsible for her becoming Governor of Alaska.

Now good old Joe Biden is also prone to put his big foot in his big mouth.  So that kind of adds to the thrill.

Sadly the format supports scripted talking points (at the insistence of the McCain campaign), so the chances for really high speeds and hot temperatures that are a necessary precondition for spectacular crashes will be low.

But we can watch and hope.

Categories: Palin · Palintology · Politics
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