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And I wonder where these dreams go, when the world gets in your way, what’s the point in all this screaming, no-one’s listening anyway — Goo Goo Dolls

Posts Tagged ‘democrat’

Sanity prevails in the USA

Months and years of campaigning, more than$2.2 billion in election spending, over 100 million votes cast… and Americans in their wisdom decided to essentially maintain the status quo. President Obama returns to the White House for a second mandate. The Senate stays blue; the House stays red. But lest anyone was thinking that this whole thing was a giant waste of time, remember that it beats the hell out of the alternative.

I was on a plane for most of the evening, and while I was able to watch the results come in on satellite TV (thanks, WestJet!), I didn’t have internet access so no liveblogging of results. It was like a throwback to the pre-Web 2.0 years when you actually had to rely on traditional media sources for information. Well, unless you’re Barack Obama, author of the Tweet heard around the world.

The big vote

The race was close all night, but the nail-biter didn’t materialize. While both candidates were neck-and-neck in the popular vote for much of the evening, most of the highly contested swing states went one by one to Obama: New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia were called one by one for Team Obama. You could see the wind go out of the sails in the Romney camp as each one was declared, but Ohio finally solidified things shortly after 11pm ET. At that point, it was all over but the fat lady, whose singing will be heard in Florida just as soon as all those folks standing in line have a chance to vote.

Latest US election results 2012, as of 2:30AM ET on Nov 7th. Source: CNN.

So what happened to give the Obama team such a wide margin of victory, despite a 7.9% unemployment rate and widespread anger and disillusionment with the status quo?

Read the rest of this entry »

The man behind the words

The Guardian profiles Jon Favreau, the 27-year-old head speechwriter on the Obama team largely responsible for most of the speeches he has given on the campaign trail, as well as for yesterday’s inauguration address:

When Barack Obama steps up to the podium to deliver his inaugural address, one man standing anonymously in the crowd will be paying especially close attention. With his cropped hair, five o’clock shadow and boyish face, he might look out of place among the dignitaries, though as co-author of the speech this man has more claim than most to be a witness to this moment of history.

Jon Favreau, 27, is, as Obama himself puts it, the president’s mind reader. He is the youngest chief speechwriter on record in the White House, and, despite such youth, was at the centre of discussions of the content of today’s speech, one which has so much riding on it.

The full text of the inauguration speech is available here.

And on the issues front

The sweeping gains made by Democrats tonight only tell half the story. There were also a number of issues votes that, if nothing else, indicate that the country is feeling more anti-Bush right now than pro-Liberal. For example:

  • Constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage won approval in South Carolina, Tenessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, with similar amendments on the ballot in 4 other states also expected to pass once the votes are tallied. This would mean that a total of 28 states – more than half – will have banned gay marriage in the U.S., delivering a serious blow to the hopes of people in favour of equality and civil rights.
  • Arizona passed measures against illegal immigrants, including making English the state’s official language.

On the other hand:

Some analysts have further noted that, though Democrats made significant gains, they may have done so at the expense of ideology, since many of the newly-elected Democrats are much more moderate than Liberal while many of the defeated Republican incumbents were on their party’s more moderate wing. So the House (and possibly the Senate) may have shifted to the left, but both parties actually shifted to the right in the process.

What will it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine.

It’s not the size that counts, it’s how you use it

Democrats have to be drunk with power tonight. With a decisive victory to take back the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, and even a narrow victory in the Senate within their sights, the overwhelming emotion among Democrats tonight must be one of feeling invincible.

But, for the sake of the United States, I hope that drunkenness subsides soon, or else all they’ll be left with is a giant hangover.

All of the planets aligned for the Democrats right now. Increased frustration at Bush’s policies – namely, the war in Iraq – combined with ill-timed sex scandals and a lot of general weariness led to a sort of protest vote against Republicans as proxies for Bush. But Democrats would do well to note that there’s still two long years until 2008. That’s enough time to either put up or shut up, so to speak.

It’s easy to gain popularity by pointing fingers in opposition (well, for everyone but John Kerry, anyway). It’s a lot harder to make excuses once you’re in the hot seat. A lot of eyes will be on the Democrats now, looking to see what they do with these two years of limited power, in order to decide what to do about 2008. If tonight’s vote was against Bush, the next presidential election will be about some sort of vision for the country… and despite the Democrats’ victories tonight, they haven’t conclusively demonstrated that they have one.

The Democrats, therefore, have a choice to make. They can either spend the next two years dragging the country down into myriad scandal investigations, handing out subpoenas like tissues and clamouring for time on TV. That’s door number one, and it leads to a path of increased cynicism, frustration and disillusionment with politics in general.

Or, they can take the tougher road and start taking a stand on issues and trying to once again define a voice for the party. Door number two means taking whatever limited power you’ve been handed and trying to actually do something with it. Agree or disagree, voters will generally have a lot more respect for someone who leads than for someone who blames. This is what the Democrats didn’t figure out in 2004, and from many of the interviews I’m seeing tonight with key Democrats, I don’t think they’ve figured it out in 2006 either.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the Democrats weren’t the big winners tonight. Not because a serious backlash could still result in a resounding Republican victory when it counts, in 2008′s Presidential election – though it’s certainly possible. But because we haven’t seen anyone try to raise the standard of debate with this election. It’s the same old corruption scandals, negative campaigning, negative issues, finger-pointing about Iraq and threatening of congressional investigations that we’ve seen a million times before. And it’s coming from all sides.

In reality, there may be no true winners in tonight’s election, only losers: the American people.

The halfway-there elections

Tomorrow’s U.S. midterm election is garnering way more attention than this non-event typically gets. The prospect of the Democrats taking back one or maybe even both houses has got a lot of people talking, but it’s really the same old nonsense, rehashed.

If the Democrats take control of the House (somewhat likely) and/or the Senate (highly unlikely) tomorrow, will that mean Bush will be relegated to lame duck status? Is tomorrow’s vote pivotal for gays/women/minorities/Iraq, or will it really not change very much? If the Democrats win some power, will they use it to legislate, or will they use it to launch a bunch of costly and pointless probes and investigations into Republican behaviour that will make voters sigh and roll their eyes at the endless scandal circus?

What will the results spell for 2008? Will it scare Republicans into a voter backlash, or will it energize the Democrats and give them momentum?

Personally, I hope that the Democrats gain control of Congress at least, not because I’m particularly disposed to favour one side or the other (I’ve already spelled out my objections to the giant either-or wedge in American politics numerous times) but because, on principle, I believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I’ve seen what happens too many times with the lack of a strong enough opposition. The Canadian Liberals, for instance. Even my years at Concordia were instrumental in demonstrating the pitfalls of having too much power concentrated in too few hands. The Bush administration has had a blank cheque for quite some time now, and it’s time to instill some checks and balances in the form of a more powerful opposition.

Basically, what it boils down to is my belief that the more handcuffed a government is, the less it will be able to do… and, hence, the less harm it will be able to do. Like doctors, government officials ought to be required to swear an oath of office that begins with “first, do no harm”. But, since they don’t, the next best option is to limit their power as much as possible.

What if . . .

Gore had won the 2000 election?

The game of “what if” can be endless and pointless but it can also be fun. So I was thinking about what might have happened if the outcome of the 2000 election was different. What if the whole Florida ballot scandal never happened and Al Gore was voted into office in 2000?

In light of the events of the past few years, a lot of people might think that this would have been the worst possible thing for the US. But I’m not so sure. Because September 11th, 2001 would have happened no matter who was in the White House. Clearly, the US government had to strike back. Republican or Democrat, no US president could have reacted otherwise to an attack on American soil. The speeches might have been worded differently, but ultimately the reaction against Al Qua’eda and against the Taliban would have been military, just as it was – swift and decisive.

Where the difference might have come in is in events since. Oh sure, you could argue that a Democratic government might not have attacked Iraq. There’s no way to really know but I somehow doubt that’s the case. Faced with the same situation, the same set of facts, and the same military procedures, I have a feeling any government would have come to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein needed toppling. The world is a different place than it was in 2000.

So then what? Right now we have a polarized US – indeed, a polarized world. Bush is, to all but his supporters, only about a step worse than the devil incarnate. The decisions of his government are easily attacked and dismissed as hawkish, right-wing, gun-slinging Texas cowboy acts, when in truth Bush is merely acting on the advice of the experts 99% of the time. But as a Republican, he’s an easy target.

But a Democrat making those kinds of decisions? Well, he’d be a bit tougher to attack, wouldn’t he? For one thing, there would probably be a lot of money directed to CYA reports on politically-correct issues to try to appease the naysayers. For another thing, where would the Left go, after abandoning Gore? To the Republicans?

Ironically, it would probably have been a lot easier for Gore to get United Nations support and backing than it was for Bush. And as a result, the anti-American sentiment that is so heightened right now in Europe and around the world might not be nearly as prominent. It’s one of the paradoxes of politics, that a dovish leader has an easier time making war, just as a hawkish leader has an easier time making peace.

Is this what would have happened if a few hundred ballots in Florida were counted differently in 2000? Short of inventing a time machine and changing the past, we obviously can’t know. There are too many variables. But with the next election coming up in a little over a year, it makes interesting food for thought.

Rightward shift for American Jews?

The Canadian Jewish News has a story about how increasing numbers of American Jews are breaking the traditional alignment with the Democratic party and moving rightward.

We are now experiencing “a very explosive moment in Jewish politics,” one that is rocking the traditional Jewish affiliation with the Democratic party and creating an undercurrent of anti-Semitism, said Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic magazine.

[ . . . ]

For the left, the methods employed are of secondary importance to the otherwise justified anti-imperialist struggle, so the Palestinian use of suicide bombings are seen as no more than a “misguided tactic,” Beinart said.

Beinart described how traditionally liberal U.S. Jews have recoiled from that view and how they are moving away from their traditional liberal affiliations.

[ . . . ]

With the outbreak of the current intifadah, “this consensus started to crack. The liberal media have gone in one direction and the Jewish community has gone in another. The liberal media have gone left and the Jewish community has gone right.”

One of the reasons I find this so interesting is that I don’t think much has changed on the side of the Republican party. All the reasons that many Jews didn’t vote Republican before still exist. If anything, the party has become even more conservative. The party is still heavily mortgaged to interest groups such as the NRA and the far-right Christian lobby groups.

But now the same people who were wearing Gore-Lieberman kippot in shul on Rosh Hashanah 2000 are switching sides. And to me, what that indicates is not so much a shift in the population, but a shift in the issues.

Nobody agrees with a political party on every single issue. It’s impossible. So people tend to focus on the issues most important to them at the time, and vote for the party that is closest in position to their take on those issues. There’s no question that in the wake of September 11th, the outbreak of mideast violence, the escalating situation in Iraq, and the general shift in international politics, we’re living in a different world. So while four years ago, people might have chosen the party they felt most closely reflected their views on social and domestic issues (i.e. the Democrats), now suddenly foreign policy is the key issue and the Republicans seem to have the more sensible position on that score.

Lieberman will run

Lieberman announces candidacy for a run at the Democratic nomination for 2004.

Look for comments from the usual antisemitic suspects about the “Jews taking over the world” in, oh, about 30 seconds.

Gore for President . . . not!

Al Gore has announced he will not be running in 2004.

“I’ve decided that I will not be a candidate for president in 2004. … I personally have the energy and drive and ambition to make another campaign, but I don’t think that it’s the right thing for me to do,” Gore said, in an interview on the CBS news program “60 Minutes.”

In other words, the powers that be in the Democrat party flat-out told him to get lost and make way for some new candidates.

Among the names being tossed around as possible candidates is Senator Joseph Lieberman, Gore’s running-mate in 2000. But I don’t know why they’re bothering. Lieberman has about as much of a chance of winning the nomination as I do. America is simply not ready for a Jewish President. A woman for President? Sure. A Black or Hispanic presidential candidate? Very soon. But there’s simply no way a Jew is getting anywhere near the Oval Office . . . at least not in the near future.

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