Saturday, October 25, 2008

worried? don't be.

It always happens the same way.

I'm talking with a friend, and we're chatting about whatever topic of the day happens to be on our minds, when the conversation–because it's late October and this is an election year–turns political. My friend will get this look on his or her face, a suddenly drawn, dazed, faraway look, and I know what is coming. The words vary, but the sentiment does not.

"I'm so worried that we'll blow it again."

Or a frequent variation:

"I'm so worried that the Republicans will steal it again."

It amounts to the same thing, I suppose. Either way, Sarah Palin is a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and the guy there ahead of her has sworn to appoint more "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court. Oh, and he has this nasty temper, makes kneejerk decisions, seems to think that the solution to any international crisis is the use of force, and supported Wall Street deregulation with more fervor than just about anyone else...until it crashed. Yeah, and he hates everything Bush stands now for even though he bragged again and again about doing everything in his power to get the guy elected and re-elected...and voted with him well over 90% of the time.

Nothing to be concerned about there.

So my friends look at me, shadows forming around their eyes and their skin turning pale from lack of sleep, and utter their deepest, darkest fears. Like Cubs fans, they see their side looking like champions, but know deep down inside that something, somehow, is going to go terribly, unavoidably, heartbreakingly wrong.

And I look back at them and smile.

"Not gonna happen," I tell them. I know all of the arguments. Heard 'em all a thousand times. And I do believe that the last two elections were stolen by Rovian machinations. And I do believe that eight years is plenty of time to put mechanisms in place to secure the outcome of this one as well. Yet I say loudly that I am not worried. I'm not complacent--not at all: I still believe we need to do everything possible to get out the vote, everything possible to prevent fraud, everything possible to call attention to the problems some people are already having at the polls, everything possible to counter the hate-filled campaign that McCain and the RNC are running. I'm just not worried.

I have many reasons for this, I tell them. First, there is the simple matter of scope. No one, not Rove or anyone else, could have predicted that the extreme swing of voter registration numbers combined with the dismal Bush approval ratings and the tanking economy would put so many "safe" red states in play and, not only that, but turn many of them quite solidly blue. If no one predicted it, no one would have needed to do anything to cheat to prevent it: this is just logical.

Then there is the magnitude of Obama's reach. Polls have him ahead by so much in some so-called "swing" states that unleashing an organized election day attack--even one involving paperless voting machines--would leave a stench that could hardly go unrecognized. Too many attacks would need to be unleashed simultaneously; someone would be caught, and Rove may be a scoundrel but he is a smart scoundrel: he knows this. He would never risk having the whole vote fraud operation found out in this way. I do not believe the "OK" will ever be given.

And even if it is: by Election Day, as many as 1/3 of the total number of votes cast in 2004 will already have been cast via early balloting. And a hugely disproportionate number of these early voters are the very ones that the GOP would love to disenfranchise come November 4.

Besides, there are several states sliding even now from solidly red to frustratingly (for the GOP) purple. I had a friend up from Georgia today who told me that, like Bob Barr, she actually believes that her state will vote for Obama on November 4. Whodathunk we'd even be talking about a thing like that?

Finally, and most importantly, I have two words that assure me any time I begin to have the same doubts that cause my friends' sleepless nights:

Barack Obama.

I have been supporting his candidacy since Kerry lost, believing even then that the freshman senator from my home state of Illinois would throw his hat into the ring this year. In the winter of '07, when he announced, my husband said "So what?" because it was of course going to be Hillary. I just said: Wait. When this is over, Barack Obama will not only be the nominee, but he will win the Presidency. His strategy has been letter perfect. The enthusiasm of his supporters has been incredible. His ability to harness the youth vote has added a dimension to the American political scene that has never before been witnessed. His campaign has been, to put it as simply as I can, among the very best of all time.

In June, I went on record as saying that this election would not even be close. I predicted a 15-20% popular win and an electoral blowout. Again, everyone said I was nuts. Sarah Palin's nomination has caused me to reassess the popular vote prediction, which is by far the less important of the two numbers, but nothing has caused me to doubt at any time that the national press would eventually get over its initial infatuation with the newcomer and get on with its vital task of vetting the candidate that McCain did not bother to vet.

Why would I give the press that much credit? Two reasons: bloggers, whose rise to prominence has been, again, something that the Rovian strategists have not foreseen (and McCain has not quite figured out even today), and who continued to beat the drums against the liars until someone in the traditional news media had to take notice of the rising noise; and (again) Barack Obama, whose campaign never met a smear, a lie, or a problem it could not face eye to eye and beat backward home. Palin, who started her national rise already under the shadow of Troopergate, was in retrospect pretty easy pickings, but the Obama campaign and its surrogates forced the vetting of this would-be VP to take place under the public microscope, and every disclosure looked that much worse for John McCain.

So my friends look all worried, but I smile. I point to, show them the latest polls and Nate Silver's insightful and comprehensive interpretations, and I ask what they are doing to assure an Obama victory. And every day I wear a different Obama pin. Today was "Unicorns for Obama." It makes me smile.

I have a costume I am going to wear to school on Halloween, the scariest one I have come up with in years. It consists of a blue wig, a red top, and red slacks. On the wig, I will affix a cardboard puzzle piece of Illinois. Elsewhere, on the top and slacks, I will affix the other 49 states. I'm calling this costume: Karl Rove's Final One-Finger Salute to America, or "It's the Voting Machines, Stupid." Undoubtedly it will give my friends more nightmares.

But isn't that what Halloween is for?

Monday, October 6, 2008

2008: The Year the American Voter Grew Up

I've been having this feeling for awhile now, and lately it has begun to be echoed by actual pundits: the American electorate in 2008 is not going to vote based on its typical diet of inanities like which candidate they'd rather have a beer with or who got in the most zingers at a debate or whether someone windsurfs or rides in tanks. This year, for the first time in a long time, the election is going to be decided based on things that matter. It is going to be decided by issues.

Michael Tomasky of The Guardian discusses this very matter in an article posted today. He says:
Superficialities and attacks...usually dominate. We understand this. In fact, more than a few liberals have spent the last four years trying to persuade Democrats to be every bit as superficial and nasty as the Republicans are at election time. But this year, something feels different. Voters are actually paying closer attention to issues.

Tomasky says that it is the Wall Street crisis and the ensuing economic breakdown that has brought this about, with a huge assist from America's declining standing in the eyes of the world. I agree that this is the filter through which it has found its most recent focus, but I do not think that our current crisis alone explains everything. In fact, I think this has been coming for quite a while.

Take a look back at the primaries. As Obama's forward-thinking campaign kept pushing Americans to use their brains, to consider issues and ideas and substance instead of platitudes and sound bites, his momentum increased, at first slowly, then like a steamroller wiping out everyone in his path until the only one left was the formidable Hillary Clinton. And what did Hillary, by then in a desperate condition, do? She went negative. She played by the Republican playbook, the old rules.

Arianna Huffington, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer last May, said that Clinton "has really taken a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook," and cited most specifically her successful, at the time, "3 AM" ad.

Huffington compared Clinton’s “3 a.m.” ad to advertising against Sen. John Kerry orchestrated by Rove during President Bush’s 2004 re-election bid. “The assumption was that if people elected Obama they would not be as safe as if they elected her.” “Their children would not be as safe,” added Huffington.

At first, the "kitchen sink" strategy improved her standing, but only at the cost of increasing her already high negatives. And the Obama campaign ultimately succeeded in countering all of the negatives effectively in the most unbelievable of ways: by presenting facts to the electorate. Yes, it took awhile for facts to sink in through all of the hubbub created by the right wing punditry (and the hillaryis44 folks), but it did sink in. Obama won the nomination.

Now this in no way is meant as a condemnation of Clinton's strategy or of her followers. She did what she felt she needed to do, and they supported the candidate of their choice with gusto, as indeed they had every right to do. But the negative attacks that have worked in other years--and indeed worked in the short term at times this year--actually redounded on the attacker, and the public chose the candidate who (though he can attack in response as fiercely as anyone) appeals to their intelligence, not their base animal instincts.

We've seen all of this playing out again with McCain's campaign. With absolutely no issues to run on, with America's economy in tatters after eight years of Bush policies (which he supported), with Bush's foreign policy, as evinced most especially by the war in Iraq, (which he also supported) a shambles, he pretended to run an honorable campaign while actually running a filthy one that fooled absolutely no one. He gained no traction at all until just before the conventions, when his "Celebrity" attack ad found an audience, but given the vicissitudes of the voters in this election year that traction soon slipped away.

As the "Palin bounce" dwindles into the Palin pit, it's only natural that McCain will try again, full force, with an attack strategy he has never paused (or even "suspended") since August. As Aiden Maconachy said last February about the Clinton campaign, "People who are losing tend to cry foul and shout louder." And indeed, the Huffington Post is now reporting that

The McCain campaign has now shifted virtually 100 percent of his national ad spending into negative ads attacking Obama, a detailed breakdown of his ad buys reveals.

And his surrogates, including the recently "freed" Sarah Palin, are attacking as well. Virtually all unbiased opinions (when you could find any) of the VP debate focused on the fact that her "answers" (which were rarely in fact answers at all but mini-stump speeches and talking points that often were completely off topic, as even she acknowledged) almost completely lacked any specificity. Instead, she spent roughly half of the time praising herself and McCain for being "mavericks" and the rest attacking Obama and Biden. Meanwhile, Joe Biden, who managed quite a few attacks himself against McCain, did so by at all times derogating the Republican's ideas and programs, not the man himself. And Biden's specificity and detail has never been questioned by anyone. He is a walking encyclopedia of Senate information.

And even as Palin talks about Ayers and Wrights, trying to resurrect old "scandals" that bubbled and popped last spring, the economy continues to tank. Today's Dow fell another 800 points, breaking last week's all time record for a one-day drop-off. And McCain's camp continues to smear and attack and lie and distract. And Obama? As reported by Mike Baker,

Obama said he would keep talking about the economy and didn't answer questions about the associations McCain's campaign has questioned.
"The notion that we would want to brush that aside and engage in the usual political shenanigans and smear tactics that have come to characterize too many political campaigns is not what the American people are looking for.

Barack Obama is not the candidate who would allow Rovian smears and swiftboating to derail him anyway, but the reality is that 2008 is not the year of politics as usual. We have entered a new political arena. Whether it is for now or forever remains to be seen, but right now the shift is evident: though a lot of folks remain easily swayed, the majority of American voters have grown up. And frankly, it's about damn time.


it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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