Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Eve

And now we come to it..

The arguments have all been made.  The odds that I'm going to sway anyone's vote, small in September, unlikely in October...are now infinitesimal in November.  Decisions have been made and tomorrow they will be implemented.

By some.

Why? Why do people not vote?  I can honestly say that I have missed voting opportunities...rarely, but it has happened for various reasons.  But when it has happened I have been regretful and perhaps most importantly, noticed the fact.  Which meant I could plan to avoid repeating the mistake.

But I know people who blow it off.  Who just don't do it.  And it isn't, for the most part, that they think it unimportant.  They will tell you, if confronted, that voting is important.  So why don't they vote?

The reasons are legion.  Yet the one thing they share is that all of them are less reasons than they are excuses.

Vote.  Maybe you'll vote as I do, maybe not.  Maybe you will vote for Barack Obama.  Maybe for Jill Stein.  Maybe for Roseanne Barr (yes, she is on the ballot in many states.)  Maybe you will even vote for Mitt Romney, in which case it could be said that my telling you to vote worked against my own purposes.  But vote, no matter what.

It is important.  People have sacrificed for the opportunity, even died.  You have this moment, this moment of power. You have a voice and it will be heard, even if only momentarily.  That is something almost unique in history, especially if you are a woman or a non-property owner.

VOTE!

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Staying Power of Hate

It's amazing, really.

Every time I read a post on a site like Politico and venture down to the comments, I find the same thing. And I hear it and notice it every single day outside the domain of the internet as well.

The hatred of the right for Barack Obama is all but mind-numbing in its complexity and longevity. I have seen comments that defy description. The reach that some people are willing to make in their attempt to rationalize their own dislike is both confusing and, in a disturbing way, admirable.

I wonder if it was like this in 1962? Now, fifty years later, the common thread is that Kennedy was beloved. But I know from reading sources that were contemporary to him that this was not universally true. Comparisons between Obama and JFK were very popular four years ago, but I haven't seen any lately.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that the kind of talk you find in the comment section of political websites today was very much in existence during Kennedy's time. However, it wasn't recorded for posterity the way almost everything is in the internet era.

We do know that JFK was a radically polarizing figure, and that those who disliked him often had deep-seated and all but unaddressable reasons for it. Reasons that had far more to do with the belief structures they were raised with than any sum of factual information.

This seems to be true for Obama as well. The Obama haters are devoid of any interest in providing the slightest edge for an alternate opinion. It is as though the core of their own self-image is reliant upon this need to see the President as evil and unamerican. They dismiss anything and everything remotely positive about him and emphasize and trumpet anything that feeds their delusions.

It is enough to make me actively wonder about our ability to provide enough medication to help these people through the next four years if Obama wins.

Judge it for yourself. Dismiss the most extreme comments from either side...because edges do exist for every point of opinion. Then look at the mass that remains.

From those fervently opposed to Mitt Romney, I find a lot of comments that sound something like, "Oh, I'm sure Mitt loves his family but I just don't want him running the country because I think he is wrong." At worst, the comments are "He is just like the rest of them." (Them meaning anything from Republicans to big business to political opportunists, depending on the speaker.)

From those opposed to Obama, it is more like, "Well, he might not ACTUALLY be the anti-christ, but I'm not so sure..."

And that is barely an exaggeration. Out of the 35-40% of America that forms the Republican base, I honestly believe that three fourths of them actively hate the President. Not dislike or disagree with...HATE.

That isn't rational.

On the positive side, if we could isolate the chemical behind it we could probably revolutionize medicine. Because something that able to kill rationality ought to be at least partially effective against cancer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Quick Word About Advertising...

So, just after I publish my last post, I go and look at the blog page. And the ad above my post is for Mitt Romney.

First impulse, find a way to opt out. Then I thought harder.

Go for it, dude. *grin* Because the one thing I would absolutely love is to get in a discussion on this blog about the "real facts" of Mitt Romney's record. Like how as Governor of Massachusetts he was for gay rights, a woman's right to choose, universal healthcare... well, basically the Democratic Platform.

So, yeah. Let Google Adwords put Romney stuff on my page. The irony is sweet.

A Change in Demographics?

I was reading something earlier from a G.O.P. point of view that was expressing disbelief in how they could be losing an election when the incumbent was saddled with an economy that is still in horrible shape.

The conclusion was that if Barack Obama wins re-election, it will show that there has been a dramatic change in what they referred to as the demographics of the country. That term, in this context, primarily coming from South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who gave us this immortal observation:

"The demographics race we're losing badly.We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." (Washington Post quote)

That's a fact, but it is short-sighted. Yes, The GOP has most definitely narrowed its focus far too much and they are undeniably most appealing to "angry white guys." But there is far more to it.

The Republican Party is focused on the problems of its leadership, and despite their attempts to run every member with the slightest pigmentation, anatomy or surname that hints of diversity in front of a camera, that leadership is angry, white, male and both upper class and middle-aged.

And to an upper-class, middle-aged white male, this election should be about the economy. And if you are against Barack Obama, you want it to be only about the economy. Because if this election is only about the economy and you look at indicators of past performance in presidential elections as they refer to economic conditions at the time of the trip to the polls, it isn't even close. Obama should lose. Especially if he is up against a man with a strong business record, indicators of religious piety and a history of bipartisanship. All of which is true about Mitt Romney.

But Americans seem to have learned something. The President does have some power economically, but he is helpless without the assistance of Congress --- and that means not just the Senate, but the House. And the Republicans have quite successfully denied him that cooperation, very publicly and without excuse or even any attempt to conceal why. To defeat the President in 2012.

Apparently, America has noticed. And the result of noticing is that they aren't blaming the President for the economy. They are dividing the blame equally.

Which means that other factors are of equal importance. And this is where the demographics kick in. Because the President has far more power over some other things...especially what the GOP likes to refer to as "liberal social issues."

They call them "liberal" social issues because they are trapped in their pandering to one extreme of the social strata...the religious right. And of course, in our nation that means Evangelical Christianity.

In the next four years, we may have as many as four new Supreme Court justices. We will probably decide the legality of gay marriage. We will see significant challenges to the existing definitions of legal immigration and abortion. We will see the end of U.S. direct involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan. We will see consistently escalating fossil fuel prices as India and China continue to expand their consumption of these limited resources. We will continue to see the growth of retired Americans as a percentage of population, which means increased need for health care and income that does not rely on physical labor. We will see dramatic upheaval in the way the people of the Middle East govern themselves.

All that is far more within the influence of a President than the simple focus on budget and unemployment numbers.

It isn't demographics that have changed, Mr. Graham. After all, the majority of the country hasn't been angry, white and male...ever. And the majority of the voting population hasn't been white or male since all Americans became eligible to vote, including those formerly in bondage, both literal and domestic. I may concede that, at times, the majority of the voting population has been angry.

No, what has changed is that they are educated. And though you would dearly love to return to a time when they believed what you and your ilk told them because they had no other source of information, that isn't going to happen. Indeed, the likelihood of it is about the same as that of you discovering a new, inexhaustible supply of angry white guys.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Relative Silence Broken

As most of you who have read this blog know, I lean slightly to the liberal side in political thought. I know, right? I mean, who would have ever imagined that was true based on my prior posts?

I've never been shy about it. But I haven't posted much on the election this year...in sharp contrast to 2008. True, in 2008 I was still living in California and I was motivated by my almost desperate opposition to Prop 8, which I always felt had a scary possibility of passing. Fears which were, of course, ultimately proven to be prescient.

This year, there is no Prop 8 to post about and I have also fallen prey to a bit of the ambivalence that many of my liberal brethren have. Four years ago, Barack Obama was not just a candidate, he was an impossible dream. Not only his race, although that was undeniably a part of it. No, it was his appeal to the positive side of us that helped generate so much enthusiasm.

I am much more motivated by hope than I am by fear. I know that may sound a little off based on the fact that I just invoked Prop 8, but I still believe it to be true.

The other thing is that while I bitch and moan about negatives as much as anyone, I rarely want to write more than a soundbite on them. And this 2012 campaign seems to be all about the negative. Obama is not preaching hope and change, he is attacking Romney... and Mitt? Oh, wow. I have so little positive feeling about the man. The last time I posted, it was about the bullying that had come to light. And now, I am writing on the heels of his 47% gaffe...

Only, it is hard to call it a gaffe when the attitude behind it has been so consistently made clear.

I am amazed that this is still a race. Yet, it is. There is a long time to go before the election. We haven't even had any debates yet.

I started out today thinking I was going to express my feelings about Mitt and his abhorrent comments... but there is time for that still. Now, as I type, the thought most in the forefront of my mind is bewilderment.

How have we, the grass roots who drove Obama to the White House, managed to show so much apathy this year? Mitt Romney makes John McCain look progressive. I went into 2008 thinking that it wouldn't be the worst thing ever if McCain won. I had far more confidence in him than I do in Mitt. Yet, I fought hard for Obama. In words published and spoken to friends and strangers alike.

I haven't been motivated to do that as forcefully this year. And I am not sure I understand that, because I think Mitt Romney would be an absolute disaster for this nation.

I need to speak out more. And all of us who look at the possibility of a Romney presidency with the same trepidation I do need to join me.

In 2008, despite all I did do, I spent the weeks after the election wondering if I could have done more to defeat H8. And that was after I could honestly say I had worked at it and sacrificed much, including a friendship that had lasted since 1982 and has never recovered from the hurtful feelings exchanged over that election.

I don't want to do the same with Romney. So, polls that show a widening Obama lead don't comfort me. They scare me. Because I think the worst enemy we have, and the thing the Republicans are counting on, is complacency among those who swept Obama into office.

It's time to get off the couch.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Marriage: Facts vs. Emotion

We hear it all the time, and we slap back with examples all the time.

"The Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman." Or "Marriage has been about one man and one woman for (insert number of thousands of years.)"

Which supporters of same sex marriage, certainly including myself, respond to with facts. About the institution of marriage, about the Bible, about anything that makes us feel better. Because that is what it is...we are addressing how we feel about their statement. Because while the things that we are stating are completely true, their truth and the fact (that word again) that they invalidate the argument make absolutely no difference in the mind of the person who made the original statement.

Because their position has, in reality, nothing to do with what the Bible says. Or what the tradition is. Or whether or not the "traditional" view of marriage they espouse is actually less than two hundred years old.

It has to do with emotion. It has to do with how they feel about same sex marriage, not about whether or not it makes logical sense.

They can't bring up a logic argument, at least one not involving religion (logic and religion are a whole separate conversation,) that supports their position. We know it, and deep down most of them know it too.

But what we can't dispute is how they feel. A cartoon I saw this morning had a gay marriage opponent admitting in the final panel that "Gay people are icky." And that is what we are fighting.

Because, if we are going to truly believe in the freedom of personal opinion, we can't tell them that they aren't allowed to feel that way. We can tell them why we feel they are short-sighted, bigoted, insecure, fearful, insular and dozens of other things. We can not tell them they are wrong to have an opinion. We can only disagree with it based on our opinion.

There are thousands of young people out there who think Tupac is still alive. Thousands of middle aged people who feel the same about Elvis. Thousands who believe that aliens are among us. Millions who think the GOP has the best interests of the people at heart. You will not win a single one of those arguments with facts, and we won't win this one with facts either.

It's emotion. They can deal with the fact that faceless people in California or Massachusetts or Iowa are gay and married and that their position is threatening those couples happiness...because they don't have any personal feelings about those people like they do about the pastor that is nice to their kids or comforted grandma when grandpa died. They don't care about denying happiness to people they don't like or know. (The morality of that when most of them follow a religion that specifically tells them they are, above all, supposed to care about that...is, again, a separate conversation.)

They care about disappointing people they love or admire. And let's face it, most of the older generation are never going to know or care about any gay people.

Except Doogie Howser. Yeah, that one gets to them. (Go Neil!)

They are too isolated. The people they listen to and discuss these things with all think the same way they do. The percentage of the people they knew that are gay either fled their little circles for the edges of the country thirty years ago or are so deep in denial that they punish themselves with self hate and express it outwardly as just plain hate. (Until they get caught in an airport bathroom in Minneapolis.)

Which is not say there isn't hope. Or that there aren't ways to reach them. It is just difficult. And facts will only help after we reach them emotionally enough to get a little bit of doubt in there with all that anger and hostility.

So I'm not saying to leave behind the facts. But remember that it isn't logic you are talking to. It is "Gay people are icky."





Monday, May 14, 2012

Why Romney's Bully Past Matters

Last week, the Washington Post reported an incident in which GOP Candidate Mitt Romney engaged in a scene out of teenage nightmares.

Some might call that statement a bit strong.

I disagree. The report from the Post was corroborated by five of Romney's classmates, including at least one who actually helped. The details of that incident are available freely around the net and I encourage you to Google them. But let's talk about why those details are still important, rather than what they are.

First, there is the denial from Romney that he remembers the incident. Admittedly, I would find this only mildly troubling if it were not for the fact that his time at Cranbook has been pointed to as the genesis of his leadership skills. Romney learned not only to fit in but to fit in despite being, in many ways that mattered a lot in 1965, "different." Also, our senior years in high school tend to be rather memorable, as anyone who makes teen angst comedies can tell you while they count their box office dollars.

The problem with that is how Mitt Romney was handed an opportunity to be forthcoming and to stand up and say, "fifty years ago I did something wrong, and I am sorry." And instead, he played it off with the political equivalent of "boys will be boys."

Really? So, holding down a screaming kid and hacking off his hair is just good-natured fun? In Mr. Romney's words, "hijinks?" No. This was not putting a picnic table on the school roof or green food color in the cafeteria eggs. This was a violent attack on a young man who was different and forcing him to conform despite his protests, fear and the very real possibility of permanent injury. (Yes, I consider wielding scissors near the ears of a struggling victim a risk of disfiguring injury.)

What makes it worse is that Romney himself had overcome issues about being different. He was of a different religion than his classmates, one that has always struggled with being perceived as almost a cult. He was not very athletic yet hung out with boys who clearly were (Thomas Buford,who assisted Romney, was the school's wrestling champion.) Romney, to his credit, found ways around these things and rose to become a school leader. But that also means, he should have known how the boy he attacked felt. Either he did not, which indicates a lack of empathy, or he ignored those feelings, which is cruelty.

So why should this matter, fifty years later? Romney has a lifetimes worth of seasoning, and it seems self-relevant that he is probably a far wiser and less violent person today. And, after all, how many of us didn't do something stupid in high school we later wished we could take back?

Certainly, we all have adolescent regrets. Those times form the people we are now. And I certainly do not feel Mitt Romney should not be allowed some of them.

The problem I have is this: his behavior has become less dramatic, but his rationale for it seems to have remained.

Romney attacked the boy because he was different and he didn't want to allow that to go unpunished, perhaps especially after Romney himself had made the effort to change. According to the article, Romney said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!” And that is incredibly characteristic of this man's behavior even today.

Mitt wants to force people to conform to his perception of right and wrong now, just as much as then. He wants you to pursue the same reproductive choices as his family and friends, he wants to define social institutions in favor of his friends perceptions. He thinks you should meet his expectations, or the expectations of his society, and if you don't, you "can't" be allowed to get away with it.

That's a bully. And whether he is wielding scissors or the power of the executive office, it is still a matter of him imposing his will on you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santorum Bows Out

So now its set. Romney vs. Obama.

I saw an article yesterday that called Romney the weakest candidate since Dukakis put on a helmet and sat in a tank. And that's true. So why?

Why do I feel like this is going to be close? Mitt Romney, who created the blueprint for "Obamacare" in Massachusetts. Who is a poster boy for "rich and out of touch." Who couldn't put away Gingrich and Santorum without spending a ridiculous amount of money. Who some doubted would win the GOP primary in his home state.

Obama should win this in a walkover. He won't. He'll have to fight for it. I wish I could understand why. He's accomplished more against worst resistance than any President I can remember. Reagan and Clinton accomplished things, but didn't have this opposition. Carter had the opposition, but all his successes were in foreign policy. He couldn't get his own party to cooperate domestically.

Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. He got Bin Laden. He restored much of the good will the U.S. lost among our allies during Bush's foreign policy "adventures." He signed landmark domestic legislation regarding equal pay for women, health care, consumer credit protection, and was appeal to finally remove the barriers against gay Americans serving their country. Many of those were things Clinton tried and failed to achieve.

I wish I could believe that race wasn't the issue.