Category Archives: Politics: US: 2008 Elections

Snapshot

Only 43 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the United States has elected a black man as President.

As is often the case for a trail-blazer, he had to be twice as good as the other candidate for the job.

Progressive candidates also won a number of important victories around the country — they did not sweep the table, and did particularly poorly in South Florida, but won enough nationwide to claim a substantial mandate nonetheless.

I would take even more pleasure from all this were it not tempered by the enshrinement in law of a different bigotry: although not all the votes are counted it seems that Amendment 2 passed in Florida, with more than 62% of the vote (60% was required); similarly, California's Proposition 8 seems to have passed narrowly also. Enshrining discrimination in state constitutions is not what makes a country great.

We will come to regret these votes, and to see them as the same sort of stain as we now know Jim Crow to have been. The only question is when.

Posted in Politics: US: 2008 Elections | 1 Comment

VOTE! (Preferably for Obama)

If you are a US citizen 18 years old or more and have not yet voted you really should do so.

I hope that this is the most important election in a generation; I fear that may have been 2004.

Barack Obama was not my first choice in the primaries, but he has run a truly admirable campaign on multiple levels, and he has earned your vote the hard way.

The most admirable aspect of Obama's campaign has been its organization, both internally and externally. A disciplined staff, a clear and consistent message (right down to the typography and iconography). Smart use of both old and new media. Restrained and modulated use of an incredible gift for oratory. Mass organization of volunteers all over — all over — this country.

The next most admirable aspect of the campaign has been what it has shown us about the candidate: thoughtful, disciplined, decent, very intelligent, and politically canny. What he lacks in experience he makes up for in book smarts, street smarts, and a worldview that this a product of a cosmopolitan, multi-racial experience blended with close study of issues.

On balance, this canniness is an asset in a President. Those who lacked it — Carter comes to mind — were soon roadkill. But the canniness comes at a price, and that price is seen in the third most admirable aspect of the campaign, and that is its policies. Make no mistake: Obama's policies are much more likely to improve the lot of the average American than McCain's continuation of trickle-up economics. Obama's health plan will protect millions more people. Obama's commitment to technologically enhanced openness in government seems deep and sincere. I hope he will close Guantanamo; I'm certain he will end US state-authorized torture.

But…the health care plan has holes. They're canny holes — they allowed Senator Obama to describe the plan in terms that made it seems nonthreatening to those looking for something to be threatened by. And that may in fact be only way to pass something large. I'm prepared to believe that. Less easy to swallow was the ducking on FISA. Again, the politics are clear; but here the price is essential principle. And I'm still waiting to see some “clean coal”. Again, canny. But at a price. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The least savory aspect of the Obama campaign was its embrace of the role of money in politics (there's that canny again). On the one hand, the money came from people, not PACs. But on the other, the incredible sums raised and spent seem all too likely to open the door wider to future corruption of the process by the relentless demands of fund-raising.

In this campaign, Obama has managed to connote JFK, FDR, Reagan and Lincoln (and maybe Constantine I, too), sometimes all at once. Heady company indeed. Each great, each with real flaws.

Senator McCain, in contrast, has embraced his inner Atwater, and run a campaign that is most kindly described as reckless if not desperate, and more cruelly if accurately described as irresponsible and ugly. It has lurched from theme to theme, and few of them have made much sense. Ready, shoot, aim is not a good method for a President. And the McCain's campaign inability to execute on either simple matters or major ones (Sarah Palin) suggests that whatever the value of his various experiences it does not translate well into management, and that indeed the Senator is more maverick than statesman, more gimmick than leader. The decision to focus on innuendo and character assassination rather than substance may have made tactical sense, but it served the nation poorly. McCain ran a campaign without honor and with little substance. And when there was substance, it wasn't detailed, wasn't convincing, sometimes wasn't coherent (especially as regards the economy). McCain's one clear policy — foreign policy belligerence — is appropriate neither to times nor to our diminished capabilities. The signs point to only one conclusion: for whatever reason, be it age, the corruption of ambition, or the real man exposed at last, as a President John McCain would be as bad as George Bush and in some ways worse.

This country has been mis-governed hideously for the last eight years, and erratically for many years before that. The task of reform is too great for any one man. It requires a leader who can attract a strong team, give it its head, and can lead — yes, that sometimes mean persuade — a nation.

The choice in this election could not be clearer, the stakes have rarely been higher, and the conclusion (even if you don't buy the hype) could not be clearer.

Obama.jpg

To succeed, the new President will need a Congress that is not in the grip of obstructionists bent on destroying him and exterminating any progressive opening that he might represent. So don't forget the rest of the ticket, please, either.

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

[post time adjusted]

Posted in Politics: US: 2008 Elections | 1 Comment

Evil Flier Being Handed Out at Coral Gables Polling Location

I have a lot to say about my experiences Friday and Saturday at the Coral Gables Library polling location. I spent many hours handing out Taddeo literature and answering voters' questions about her stands on the issues. And just before seven p.m. on Friday I joined the end of the long line in order to vote.

Much (but not all) of both experiences were good, and in the end, after a couple of scares, I think I did get to vote.

But I'd like to start by putting up a copy of a particularly disgusting leaflet that someone else was handing out. I never got a look at him, but many voters told me how horrified they were by this. (My reaction was to laugh very loud, and to encourage others to do the same.)

I'm copying just as it looked — it appeared to be a photocopy literally copied crooked on a 8.5 x 5.5 sheet of paper.

click for bigger copy

You can click on the picture for a bigger copy.

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

Posted in Politics: US: 2008 Elections | 3 Comments

What to Look for on Tuesday

FiveThirtyEight.com: Electoral Projections Done Right, What A McCain Win Looks Like…

…there are some states that truly do appear to be “must-wins” for McCain. In each and every one of the 624 victory scenarios that the simulation found for him this afternoon, McCain won Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Indiana and Montana. He also picked up Ohio in 621 out of the 624 simulations, and North Carolina in 622 out of 624. If McCain drops any of those states, it's pretty much over.

Florida. Necessary but not sufficient for McCain.

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

Posted in Politics: US: 2008 Elections | Leave a comment

The Right Wing Unhinged

People who begin with the premise that the Democrats must be wrong find inexplicable the electorate's apparent embrace of the Democratic message on healthcare, the economy, the war(s), social security, and energy security.

Comes now one “Dr. William D. Horton” (with an assist from Dr. Rush Limbaugh) to explain this seeming contradiction between what they take to be the natural order and the consensual reality we seem to inhabit.

Can you guess what they say explains Barack Obama's national appeal?

No, it's not the substance — that's ruled out by hypothesis. It's….wait for it…..hypnosis.

Yes, in this demented worldview, the US of A is being subjected to nearly diabolical mind control as the soothing slow voice of Barack Obama gently eases the viewing public to surrender its reason and its freedom via the application of neurolinguistic programming. It's so controlling, so clever, so soothing, that it's JUST LIKE HITLER. (As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up. The video being circulated by these guys culminates with footage of Hitler and jackboots.) The only way to survive is DON'T LISTEN TO HIM.

I know all this because I'm on some weird mailing list I didn't ask to be on in which something called “special guests” writes me all the time and offers me guests, one loonier than the next, for the talk show I don't happen to have. But today's email promoting Dr. Will B. Horton (wasn't he a character in Kudzu?) must surely take the cake.

Links to a nutty article and crazier video for those strong of stomach.

Less than a week to go. Expect even more stuff to crawl up out of the woodwork.

Posted in Politics: US: 2008 Elections | 8 Comments

The Miami-Dade Ballot

Thanks to some quality time with my Sample Ballot I think I've figured out how to vote. Although I'm a little shaky on the County Property Appraiser race…

President:

We have twelve sets of candidates on the Florida ballot for President/Vice-President. I've actually heard of half of the Presidential candidates: McCain, Obama, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, Alan Keyes and Ralph Nader. I've only heard of two of the veep candidates, however: Binden and Palin. And if you needed any further reason to vote for Obama, surely Palin is that reason. Obama

Congress

We are graced with three strong Democratic candidates for Congress, all running against Bush rubber stamps who vote for the Iraq war, against health insurance for poor children. My Representative wanted 50% privatization of Social Security, a policy that would have horribly impoverished this community. I'm voting for Annette Taddeo (FL-18); she'd be a wonderful Representative. In FL-21 the candidate is Raul Martinez; in FL-25 it's Joe Garcia.

State Senator and State Representative

Not all the races are contested — but this time in addition to uncontested Republicans in State Rep District 102 and 117, there's an uncontested Democrat in 106. While I'm glad to see a little balance for a change, none of this is terribly good for democracy. I don't have strong opinions in the other races, which tend to go by party line.

County Clerk

Harvey Ruvin unquestionably deserves re-election.

Judicial Retention Elections

Vote YES on all of them I don't believe in the inevitable retention of incumbent judges, but I do think the current crop all deserve a vote in favor of retention. Some of them emphatically so.

Contested Judicial Election

There is one contested judicial election, for the 11th Circuit, a race between Asst. Public Defender Yvonne Colodny (FSU '98) and former Asst. State Attorney Stephen T. Millan (Northeastern '90). The Herald endorsed Colodny, whose record and endorsements are encouraging. On paper Millan looks credible too, but if I had any doubts some of the names endorsing Millan on his web site put me off him.

Property Appraiser

This is the first time this has been an elected office. I was against making this an elective office when the charter amendment was on the ballot in January, but the majority thought differently. The race has proceeded completely under the radar. The Herald has done an appalling job covering this race (and the state rep races too, by and large).

The Democratic party has endorsed both Eddie Lewis and Gwen Margolis. The Miami Herald endorsed Pedro Garcia and Gwen Margolis. Eye on Miami, the best local politics blog, argues (weakly) for Gwen Margolis. But I'm no great fan of hers. So I'm conflicted.

If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held before the end of the year on a date that would be set by the County Commission.

State Constitutional Amendments (numbers are not consecutive as some were taken off the ballot)

YES on 1 (removes discriminatory language from state constitution, material long ago declared unconstitutional)

NO on 2 (would introduce homophobic language into state constitution in guise of 'marriage protection')

YES on 3 (allows legislature to give tax breaks to hurricane protection and renewable energy)

YES on 4 (allows legislature to give tax breaks to land not developed in hopes of increasing conservation; this will be badly abused since beneficiaries don't have to commit to long-term conservation, but even so)

YES on 6 (tax breaks for working waterfront property)…but I could see an argument against.

NO on 8 (would allow counties to use extra sales tax money to fund community colleges). Most people I know (who care) are for this. Even though I'm rabidly pro-education, after much thought I'm against it for three reasons:

  • Every time the legislature promises us that it won't reduce education funding to compensate for new revenue, it goes back on its word. I've had enough Lucy and the football, thank you very much
  • Sales tax is regressive, I'd prefer a progressive tax.
  • Will increase disparities between counties.

County Charter Amendments

• Question 1 NO. Q1 would transfer the powers, duties and responsibilities of the county manager to the county mayor. This changes charter wording to acknowledge voters' approval of a strong mayor. Where the charter now says ''the county manager shall'' the word ''mayor'' is substituted. The Herald recommends “yes”. I'm voting “NO” because I think having the manager strong and the mayor not as strong makes accountability a little more likely in that the Commission has more of a say. Not that I have high hopes in either case.

• Question 2 YES. Q2 would raise commission salaries according to a state formula based on population. It would prohibit commissioners from having outside employment. Annual salaries would increase to about $92,000 from $6,000. The Charter Review Task Force recommended the pay hike, but included term limits as a counter-balance. The Commission took the pay raise but rejected the term limits. As a result, the Herald recommends a “no” vote. I'm voting YES, on the theory that in the long run higher salaries make corruption a little less likely. I know people who feel strongly that the pay raises should be held back until the Commission votes for term limits, and I understand that argument.

• Question 3 YES. Q3 would allow candidates for the commission or county mayor to qualify for office either by submitting a petition signed by a specified number of registered voters or paying a $300 filing fee. This adds the petition method to the charter. The Herald and I agree on YES.

• Questions 4&5 YES. Q 4 & 5 would alter the initiative-petition process by having the county clerk approve petitions instead of the commission. As it is, the commission can refuse a petition not to its liking; the clerk will be more neutral. Question 4 also requires the commission to hold a public hearing on the petition once it's approved. Question 5 deals strictly with the clerk's approval. The Herald and I agree on YES.

• Question 6 – NO. Q6 would require that all but five Miami-Dade cities use the county's fire-rescue service. Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne could keep their fire departments, while everyone else would have no choice. The argument for is that it prevents cherrypicking by richer areas, leaving a patchwork of poor areas to the County. The argument against is that its not fair to grandfather the bigger cities and discriminate against the smaller/newer ones. On balance, I agree with the Herald on NO but understand why someone might disagree.

Posted in Politics: US: 2008 Elections | 7 Comments