I highly recommend this article about abortion and gender inequality in Latin America:
Abortion is illegal throughout Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico, and this report gives us some incredible numbers. There are over 5000 deaths per year due to botched abortions, and another 800,000 hospitalizations due to complications. In addition, there are an estimated 4 million abortions across the region every year. As an example of the high rate of abortion, the report notes that Chile has roughly 200,000 abortions per year, compared to 100,000 for Canada, which is twice its population size.
The report gives gender inequality as the most likely reason for the high rate of abortions, noting that the culture is such that men have strong inclinations to control female reproduction, not to mention the sexual double standard between men and women. We are all familiar with it – sex happens and women are the ones who bear the overwhelming responsibility as well as the stigma and poverty of single parenthood. The report notes that countries in which abortion is legal have a lower rate of abortion than Latin America probably due to the other services that come along with abortion provision: contraceptives, family planning, education and better public health services.
This article offers interesting data for our own debate about abortion here in the U.S. In the aftermath of the election, many have wondered where we have gone wrong in our discourse. I think this gets at what it means to be truly progressive, recognizing the intersection of race and gender with CLASS and not being afraid to talk about CLASS. I’m not interested in emphasizing the right to abortion so much as I am the right of women and children to live in a secure and stable environment. If we were to tackle the enormous problem of male violence towards and control of women as well as the fact that so many single mothers live in poverty, and also how these issues intersect, we would be truly promoting “family values” and making it easier for women to have their children. Of course, we should continue to emphasize the right of women to have an abortion. But being pro-choice is about the right of women to have their children as well and I don’t think the national women’s organizations emphasize this enough. If they did, they would have strong policy agendas focused on the desperation of poor single mothers and the stress suffered by poor children. We would hear about these things just as vociferously. But instead we let the right wing determine the discourse by spending all of our limited resources and energy reacting to their narrow framing of women’s issues in terms of whether or not abortion should be legal. Rather we should be throwing it in their face and saying that if they truly wanted there to be less abortions they would pay attention to these other issues rather than taking a punitive approach toward abortion.
Monday, November 29, 2004
Sunday, November 28, 2004
I just had one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had up in the Colorado mountains with Marjorie and Mikaela. It was an M3 holiday with (and I’m not making this up…) our trusty sidekicks J3. Lots of snow and even more food. And lots to be thankful about.
It sounds predictable and a little corny to say that us progressives should be thankful that we have each other. But it’s true. The combined brainpower and creativity of M3/J3 is nothing to dismiss, and it’s comforting to think that over the next four years the six of us (and millions more like us) will be out there doing our thing and making steps toward positive change.
For lots of reasons, I know this Thanksgiving will be one I’ll always remember. After all, good friends, good laughs, good food, and passion for what you believe in are all any of us really need, aren’t they?
Saturday, November 20, 2004
No, not that kind! This is the party with beer kind of politics.
On Friday night, I went to a friend's house for a little shindig and had an interesting conversation about public education (what's left of it). We started, of course, with No Child Left Behind, or as my friend Shelle calls it, No Teacher Left Standing. She was pointing out the inherent problem of an educational policy that mandates all schools to improve every year by a measurable standard, even if that school is doing well already. Bush said something idiotic (big surprise) about wanting every school in America to be "better than average." Okay, that's ... well ... impossible. By definition, there have to be some schools above and some schools below in order for ANY school to be "above average."
Okay, so far, none of this is news, right?
But that's when someone else (a hilarious gay chicano who jokingly referred to himself as a 'mujer de revolution' -- you get the idea of just how funny he was!) pointed out that the whole policy is set up to ensure that public schools fail. And if all public schools fail, guess what? That's the end of public education, a social program that some Republicans and most conservatives have been trying to do away with since its inception. Think about this. Education isn't a right; it's a privilege. You earn a scholarship to a good school if you happen to be poor and smart. Otherwise, why spend public money educating a bunch of poor dumb people? Why not just teach them as much as they need to know in the factory? The problem with this, of course, is that America soon won't have factory jobs. I guess Bush is banking on most of us flipping burgers, since all the computer jobs will be outsourced to India, anyway.
None of this was shocking to me, but it was a moment of clarity in reinforcing -- AGAIN -- just how strategic the Right is at the moment and how far ahead of us they are. We're ten years away from the end of public education. Think about that! We have to convince America -- AGAIN -- that education is a basic right, like health care, like voting, like free speech.
I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but these days, conspiracy theorists are the only ones thinking broadly enough to begin to see the extent of the Right's program.
I have to hand it to these people; they're revolutionizing America, alright.
It's time for the left to get real really fast. It's hard to overestimate what's at stake.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
This afternoon, House Republicans approved a change in their governing rules that allows members to retain leadership posts if indicted for crimes that carry a prison term of 2+ years. At the center of this decision is House Majority leader Tom DeLay, who is involved in a Texas political corruption case that already indicted three of his colleagues and who himself may soon face indictment. After all, who cares if the leader of your party may be carted off to prison soon? That doesn't take anything away from his great leadership skills and role as the face of the Republican Party!
It's probably too naive to expect the Republicans to blow steam at their own leader in self-righteous tirades similar to those they've targeted at Democratics for perceived ethics violations. It should probably be expected that they would protect their leader throughout his indiscretions, despite the outrageous hypocrisy of doing so given that they sell themselves as the protecting party of this country's delicate moral fiber. But incredulously, House Republicans are feigning outrage at anyone who claims there's a double standard on Capitol Hill. They say that defending DeLay's leadership post amounts to a protection of "partisan attacks" at those "scheming to make a name for themselves and destroy the name of the Majority Leader."
What's at stake here if the media does not take hold of this story (which I'm not holding my breath they will) is the unchallenged arrogance of Congressional Republicans who believe they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want... and that we shouldn't question any of it. Making them accountable to standards of common decency is harder than ever now, given what they believe is an electoral mandate to do whatever they please. Who cares about common decency, after all, when you actually believe your elected office was a gift from god to spread the word of "good values?" Give me a break.
The incredible Molly Ivins recently wrote “I can’t think of anything more likely to convince the people not to vote for Republicans again for a long, long time than four more years of George W. Bush.” This line of thought was paralleled by my dad right before the election, who wondered if a Kerry presidency would be doomed from the start by having to “clean up all of W’s mess.” Wouldn’t, my dad wondered, W’s fate as a miserable president be sealed if he was the one who had to answer for all the huge problems he’d created in the first place?
Obviously, this approach overlooks some of the practical dilemmas (and a possible apocalypse) we’re now faced with as Bush gears up for his second term. And they assume that there will in fact be a cleaning up or making amends of sorts, which this bullheaded administration has shown no signs of inching toward. But in between our hand-wringing about how much worse things might get, it is kind of refreshing to think that Republicans might be digging their own grave over the next four years. A bit morbid, maybe. But it sure would make things easier for us…
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
There's a really good article on the Center for American Progress site with statistics and facts that problematize the Right's claim that all Liberals are godless heathens.
The truth is that Christian traditions support more than one moral approach to the world and our fellow men. The Right has seized on the Old Testament damning sacrifice-loving God, while many Progressive Christians believe in loving our neighbors and living a life of service, not because "poor & weak" people (as the Right would say) deserve help simply by virtue of being "poor" and "weak," but because we are all equal. While the Right believes being poor proves some kind of inherent weakness in those individuals, Progressive Christians believe structural inequalities -- in economics and in the distribution of power -- account for differences in class status. According to these beliefs, Progressive politicians must address structural inequalities, while the Right works to maintain them, justifying their actions with the mantra, "Let the weak fall away; let the strong prosper."
We forget that religion is philosophy, and all philosophy contains inherent religious implications. It's all connected; follow the logic and find the ethics.
Monday, November 15, 2004
CIA plans to purge its agency
Sources say White House has ordered new chief to eliminate officers who were disloyal to Bush
BY KNUT ROYCE
November 14, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The White House has ordered the new CIA director, Porter Goss, to purge the agency of officers believed to have been disloyal to President George W. Bush or of leaking damaging information to the media about the conduct of the Iraq war and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to knowledgeable sources.
"The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House," said a former senior CIA official who maintains close ties to both the agency and to the White House. "Goss was given instructions ... to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats. The CIA is looked on by the White House as a hotbed of liberals and people who have been obstructing the president's agenda."
One of the first casualties appears to be Stephen R. Kappes, deputy director of clandestine services, the CIA's most powerful division. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Kappes had tendered his resignation after a confrontation with Goss' chief of staff, Patrick Murray, but at the behest of the White House had agreed to delay his decision till tomorrow.
But the former senior CIA official said that the White House "doesn't want Steve Kappes to reconsider his resignation. That might be the spin they put on it, but they want him out." He said the job had already been offered to the former chief of the European Division who retired after a spat with then-CIA Director George Tenet.
Another recently retired top CIA official said he was unsure Kappes had "officially resigned, but I do know he was unhappy."
Without confirming or denying that the job offer had been made, a CIA spokesman asked Newsday to withhold naming the former officer because of his undercover role over the years. He said he had no comment about Goss' personnel plans, but he added that changes at the top are not unusual when new directors come in.
On Friday John E. McLaughlin, a 32-year veteran of the intelligence division who served as acting CIA director before Goss took over, announced that he was retiring. The spokesman said that the retirement had been planned and was unrelated to the Kappes resignation or to other morale problems inside the CIA.
It could not be learned yesterday if the White House had identified Kappes, a respected operations officer, as one of the officials "disloyal" to Bush."The president understands and appreciates the sacrifices made by the members of the intelligence community in the war against terrorism," said a White House official of the report that he was purging the CIA of "disloyal" officials. "The suggestion [that he ordered a purge] is inaccurate."
But another former CIA official who retains good contacts within the agency said that Goss and his top aides, who served on his staff when Goss was chairman of the House intelligence committee, believe the agency had relied too much over the years on liaison work with foreign intelligence agencies and had not done enough to develop its own intelligence collection system.
"Goss is not a believer in liaison work," said this retired official. But, he said, the CIA's "best intelligence really comes from liaison work. The CIA is simply not going to develop the assets [agents and case officers] that would meet the intelligence requirements."
Tensions between the White House and the CIA have been the talk of the town for at least a year, especially as leaks about the mishandling of the Iraq war have dominated front pages.
Some of the most damaging leaks came from Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, who wrote a book anonymously called "Imperial Hubris" that criticized what he said was the administration's lack of resolve in tracking down the al-Qaida chieftain and the reallocation of intelligence and military manpower from the war on terrorism to the war in Iraq. Scheuer announced Thursday that he was resigning from the agency.
Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.
What to feel about Colin Powell today? The last four years I've felt a mixture of sympathy and anger for him. Sympathy because I felt that he was the only moderate in an administration full of extremists, that at every turn he was getting shutting down by Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld when he asked reasonable questions about the justification and plans for war in Iraq. But at the same time, I felt anger that Powell didn't take more of a stand - regardless of the costs - and speak out against administration policies he personally felt were wrong for the country and the world.
And now he's gone. Had he finally had enough? Was he pushed out by the Bush hawks? Time will tell. But what is clear is that this administration has a take-it-or-leave-it philosophy with regard to their approach to foreign policy that is only getting more dangerous. When Powell was in there, I couldn't help but be outraged at the way he let everyone step all over him. But now that he's gone, I'm wondering how much his quiet protests - however useless in the end - did amount to small pauses of thought and conscience by those who most needed to have them.
Friday, November 12, 2004
It's been a quiet week for me. As much as I'd like to, I'm not in the mental space to ponder capitalism and imperialism today. Maybe I'm finally feeling fallout from the election, or maybe I'm on a mental vacation. Whatever it is, I've been reading novels and listening to a lot of music this week - two things that seem to be increasingly rare for me these days.
My relationship with music is constantly changing. In the past five years, I've been more disconnected from it than ever before. The guy who cuts my hair and I were talking about music a couple of weeks ago - how being a teenager was all about closing yourself off in your bedroom and living in another world of lyrics and (almost always) depressing songs. I, for one, was deeply entrenched in that world. But, as David put it, "who has time to sit around and just listen to music anymore?"
Sadly, it's true. Times at home when I could be listening to music, I usually have talk radio or news on instead (perhaps contributing to my need for a mental vacation?). But things might be looking up for my shaky relationship with music. Two months ago, we bought a car with a CD player in it (I know, I know - just wait for the press release when I finally get a cell phone!). Since then, I've been doing exactly what David and I were lamenting the loss of: sitting and listening (admittedly, with minor traffic distractions), just being closed off all alone with a song. And from this, I've become obsessed with these three CDs:
1. Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head. It's not new. It's not cutting edge. But it's beautiful. I could listen to it forever. "Green Eyes" and "Warning Sign" are my favorites.
2. "Garden State" soundtrack. Anyone who has not seen this movie is really missing out - it's my favorite in a really long time. And the music is such a part of it. I swear this CD is already almost worn out from being played so much. It introduced me to the Shins, who I now love, and never would have taken the time to listen to otherwise, even though they're from Albuquerque. The Shins' "New Slang" is one of the best songs ever written. I could talk about every song on here, but I'm currently replaying Remy Zero's "Fair" the most. It wraps you up as you listen to it.
3. Damien Rice, O. I finally bought this CD because every now and then I would hear his songs on Radio Free Santa Fe and would just be haunted by them. For those two songs alone - "Volcano" and "Cannonball," this CD is worth it. I feel like I'm in a small coffee house listening to him play when I have this CD on - his guitar sounds like it's right next to you. But it's his voice and his songwriting that are so amazing. The lyrics of "Cannonball" are some of the most clever and intimate I've heard. The perfect quiet rainy day CD.
So here's to my hopefully budding reconnection with music... let's just hope I'll pay attention to driving, too.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Thanks for bringing this up Mikaela! One of my fave topics. Here are my thoughts, briefly.
Power has always sought to expand through conquest - we can see this throughout history. This has been the case regardless of the economic system. Sometimes it’s been fueled by religion; but mostly through the impetus for more power and more riches.
I think capitalism serves as an engine to imperialism in an unprecedented fashion because it's inherently a growth machine. Without expansion and growth it stagnates. Therefore, it's inherently expansionist. That is why some view it as inherently imperialistic...because it isn’t an egalitarian system. For there to be winners there have to be losers. And those nations with more resources and more power are able to use the capitalist system to dominate others and enrich themselves. And it becomes a vicious cycle that never ends. The debt crisis is a perfect illustration of this.
We live in an overwhelmingly capitalist world. We don't know what works "better" (which is a quite value-laden word btw; who is to say that everything that came before was “worse”). I certainly hope we evolve towards something more humane. Capitalism evolved out of something else, it didn't happen overnight. And I bet no one could imagine what it would look like before it happened. To move on requires engagement in the world in which we live (as you suggest), agitation, struggle (a lot), and imagination.
For privileged U.S. citizens, particularly white folk, it can be profoundly difficult to stay on track with being anti-imperialist, and anti-racist. This is in large part due to the national discourse, which inculcates a sense of manifest destiny, of righteousness, into our psyche from very early years. A structural analysis of social, economic and political events and conditions can help us stay on track.
Marjorie, that website (http://www.underthesamesun.org/) is amazing! And scary. Did I mention scary?
I had breakfast with a friend this morning, and our conversation underscored your underlying message about there being a difference between the Democratic Party, who benefit from and work to champion imperialism, and Progressives, who by definition do not support and actively work to fight against imperialism.
At the same time, I think it's important to note that within progressives, there's a spectrum of belief about the cause of empire. As my mucho-wise friend pointed out to me, there’s a difference between capitalism and imperialism, although these days, it’s hard to see the seam. But I think that within Progressives, there are some of us who believe that capitalism itself inevitably leads to the program of empire, while others believe capitalism itself is not to blame for our present mess, but the lack of government regulation.
I've been reading Lakoff's book and trying to synthesize my own messy, ambiguous, and noncommittal political reveries into talking points that reflect my core values. In this case, I would say something like the following to locate myself on that spectrum:
As a progressive, I believe in the process of democracy, and I believe that checks and balances are the best way to ensure a democracy that’s fair and actually works for the benefit of all citizens.
Although there are many many problems with capitalism as a system and as a reality in the U.S., theoretically, I don’t know of an economic system that can better answer the question of incentive for hard work. My guess is that structural changes would have to happen socially, politically, and economically to allow a different system to work (a point I think Marjorie originally argued to me). As it is, I don’t think capitalism is going anywhere, and until it does, we have to do a better job of balancing corporate power, government, media, and citizens.
Corporations must be legally and financially liable for their impacts on communities and the environment. Government is responsible for regulating and watching them, and we the people are responsible for regulating and watching the government, with the help from a watchdog media. That’s the way I think it should work. For now.
(If someone can describe a better economic system that still offers incentive to work hard when survival is not a daily worry, I would really appreciate the education! I’m definitely feeling the pain of my ignorance. I can already feel the welts from the whipping I’m about to receive from all of those who’ve spent a lot more time thinking and studying this than me.)
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
While most of us are still consumed by post-election stress disorder, the U.S. and its lapdog Britain continue to occupy and bomb Iraq. At this moment, the city of Fallujah is being bombed and destroyed.
A friend and I were wondering the other day whether or not the Iraqi people would look back on this historical moment and consider the Iraqi provisional regime as similar to the Vichy regime in France which collaborated with the Nazis. And this morning, I came across an article that describes the pull-out of the Sunni political party from that provisional government. The leader of that party, Abdul Hamid, said in a telephone interview with the San Francsico Chronicle that "After the attack on Fallujah, we decided to withdraw from the government because our presence in the government will be judged by history.”
Have any of you noticed a lack of reporting on what is going on in Fallujah? Talk about media propaganda and euphemistic verbiage of almost unparalleled proportions. I went looking for photos and real numbers of civilian casualties this morning and couldn’t find *anything* in the mainstream press. I read a lot about “fire” and targeted attacks, about how civilians would not be harmed, nothing about “bombing.” Aren’t we bombing the hell out of Fallujah? How can civilians not be killed in such conditions? So, I kept wandering around and finally made it into the blogosphere. Folks, this is where real news resides. And I found this blog that some of you might like to check out: http://www.underthesamesun.org/. Great analysis, great photos. Particularly, scroll down till you get to the photo of the handcuffed doctors and the destroyed hospital. I guess these doctors are our enemy. At one point, this blogger makes a point that some of us have made in the past, an important one for us to reflect on. He notes that the U.S. urged all civilians to leave Fallujah before the bombing began, except for males under the age of 45. No males under the age of 45 were allowed to leave. If we were citizens of Fallujah, would we leave our husbands, our sons, our brothers behind…simply because they were male? If no males under the age of 45 can leave, does that mean that we are at war with ALL males in Iraq? And why, again, are we occupying Iraq?
Speaking of morality and family values...within the context of U.S. power, and as U.S. citizens, where do each of us stand? Who are we?
In the context of the election, I suggest that neither party gives us options when it comes to imperialism. Both are imperialistic, both pursue U.S. hegemony, and both implicate their members in these pursuits.
Read the San Francisco Chronicle article at:
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
According to news reports, John Kerry is fired up about getting back to the Senate and becoming the Bush administration's #1 critic. I think this is great sign. The last thing we need is a defeated attitude heading into this (I'm shuddering...) second administration. We need to be organized, outspoken, and on the offense - starting NOW. Having nationally recognizable, charismatic critics of the Republican agenda who will not remain quiet and will not be walked all over is absolutely critical. I agree with Erik Loomis over at Alterdestiny, that having Nevada senator Harry Reid as Senate Minority Leader is a terrible choice given how desperate the need is for strong, progressive leadership. Erik takes this thinking a step further, offering up Kerry himself as the next Senate Minority leader. Any thoughts?
I'm thrilled that Kerry isn't ready to slip into the shadows a la Gore and, as much as I love him, Dukakis. (Not that any Northeastern University polysci grad would ever consider Dukakis a man in the shadows...) We need to remember that Republican talk of a supposed mandate and an overwhelming defeat of progressive ideas is nothing more than an attempt to bring us down, to make us slip into the shadows. As I see it, our job is to ensure that never happens.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Friday, November 05, 2004
New Mexico started counting provisional ballots today ... and there are thousands of them. Kerry and Bush are very, very close right now, with Bush leading by roughly 3000 votes.
We can watch the vote tallies change almost in real time on the Secretary of State's website. It is being updated every 15 minutes. Here is the link: http://184.108.40.206/County0.htm
I don't about you all, but I will feel a lot better if NM goes blue.
Cassy Smith (Chicago) writes:
I voted for John Kerry and John Edwards. And today, two days after the election, I would like to thank both men and their families. Thank you for believing in us, and thank you for showing us what is possible. You are our heroes. On Tuesday November 2 2004, with a heart full of anticipation, I--as did more than 50 million other Americans--cast a ballot for hope. On that day, Americans came together and showed up to the polls in record numbers in order to elect a new President and Vice-President of the United States. Sadly, it was not to be, as we all found out early yesterday afternoon, our hearts broken.
We hoped things would turn out otherwise, and given the results of the many exit polls on Tuesday, we believed they would be. However, as we have all bitterly learned, the exit polls were wrong, and while exit polls may not provide the most accurate information for predicting the outcome of an election, they do provide other information for consideration. Many of the exit polls on Tuesday showed that one concern trumped all others in Americans' choice for President; above the war in Iraq, the war on terror, the economy, education, or health care, "moral values" was the reason given more often than any other by Americans in describing to the pollsters why they had voted for one candidate over another. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of the voters who cited "moral values" as their primary concern in casting their ballots in this Presidential election voted to re-elect George W. Bush. I say "not surprisingly" not at all because I agree that President Bush embodies and acts upon a higher sense of moral conviction than does John Kerry, but because this is simply further proof of a trend that has been developing in country since the advent of the "culture wars" in the late 1960s, when terms like "moral majority" and "middle America" first began to be bantered about. Since that time, a peculiar and potent code has developed in which the fundamentalist, right-wing conservatives of our country have usurped and hijacked the "moral values" discourse as the exclusive domain of the Republicans, and most disturbingly, they seem to have done so with the apparent permission of the Democrats. As a culture, when we hear a term like "moral values" being used, we assume it to mean one very particular, very narrow set of conventions and ideas-a set of conventions and ideas that, at their core, are divisive, judgmental, and without mercy. How has this come to happen? Why have we allowed this? And what can we do to reverse this dangerous misuse of language? Is it not true that many of us who voted for John Kerry and John Edwards on Tuesday did so because of what we understood and knew and trusted and hoped to be their strong moral values? Did we not see grace and humility in their actions; did we not hear hope and mercy in their words?
The Republicans have won the Presidency. They have also won decisive majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and they are responsible for the appointment of a majority of the Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. They control all three branches of the federal government, and they want more. As early as yesterday morning, before John Kerry had even made the decision to concede the race, political pundits were speaking of the very clear possibility of the Republicans' plans to relegate the Democrats to the status of permanent minority political party. If this is to happen, they say, it is to be done without any substantial increase in the real number of Republicans versus the number of Democrats in this country, but rather with "the tools of government"-that is to say, through rezoning and other such deceptive methods. We cannot and will not let this happen, and one way of insuring that it does not is to remind the rest of America of who we are and what we stand for.
In his concession speech, John Kerry called on George W. Bush to unite America and to take it upon himself to help this country find a way to heal the deep fissures that have formed along partisan lines, and he called upon us, his supporters, to do the same. I am trying, and in my heart, I want to believe that at least some measure of healing and unity are possible over the next four years in this country. But I am afraid. I am afraid because when our President spoke yesterday afternoon and responded to John Kerry's plea, his talk of unity sounded perfunctory at best. When he spoke at his press conference today, again echoing the theme of unity and insisting that agreement across party lines was and will continue to be his goal as President, he sounded petulant, dismissive, and accusatory. I am afraid because this President seems to thrive on divisiveness; in his first term, George W. Bush has fostered a culture of divisiveness more dangerous than any I've known in my lifetime.
Looking ahead to the prospect of four more years with this President and the current White House administration is deeply concerning to me. George W. Bush and his surrogates have been speaking of nothing the last two days but a hypothetical "mandate" with which their margin of victory is supposed to have authorized them. Voter turn-out was extraordinary this year, and it is true that President Bush was re-elected to a second term with more votes recorded than any other candidate has received in the history of American presidential elections. However, the number of Americans voting for John Kerry and John Edwards was phenomenal, and they received the second-most votes in the history of American presidential elections-more than any other Democratic ticket before them, and more votes than their opponents received in the last election. All this is to say, the number of votes received by George W. Bush does not give him a clear "mandate." George W. Bush would like to have the rest of the world believe that my vote was his and that he speaks for me. But the fact is, my vote was not his, it has never been his, and he has not yet spoken for me. What he fails to understand-in fact, what I fear he has no interest in even beginning to understand-is that it is his job, as President of our country, to listen to me.
I voted for John Kerry because he is a man who listens. I voted for John Kerry because he is a man who understands what it is to listen to another and to hear what is being said. I voted for John Kerry because he is a man who understands the complexities involved in committing oneself to speak for another, to act on behalf of another. I voted for John Kerry because he understands that this, above all else, is what forms leadership and that this responsibility to listen first and to listen well is both the great duty and the great privilege of all leaders. I voted for John Kerry because he is a leader. Let's pray that George W. Bush, in his second term, can learn to lead our country in this way.
(Written on Thursday, November 4, 2004 in Response to Marjorie's Nov. 3 post)
Thursday, November 04, 2004
I don't want to bash the Kerry campaign. I don't feel up to it, I don't feel that that's the point this week. I think the Kerry campaign should be proud. We lost, but could Kerry have possibly fought harder in Ohio? I don't think so. This was a hard-working campaign that fought until the end. And I don't want to waste time wondering if another candidate could've done better. I don't want to buy into conspiracy theories, either. It seems seductively easy to think that the Republican-created voting machines were rigged. Maybe they were. But how does that help us now? All votes deserve to be counted, and all rumors about voting machines need to be investigated to reassure the public that the system actually works. But I don't think this line of debate helps us - it only plays into the hands of Republicans who want to label us as desperate, crazy, and out of touch with reality. I think that the independent voting commission will be taking another look at all these machines, anyway, and hopefully making some major changes.
But I do want to pick apart some other campaigns. This year's crop of prospective Democratic senators is a clear example of why our message has got to change. To me, these losing candidates represent how much we've got to shift our approach to middle America voters.
For a series of Sundays this fall, "Meet the Press" featured debates between Senate
opponents in various tight races. I saw the debates between the South Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and South Dakota candidates. In all four cases, the Democratic candidate often sounded more conservative than their opponent. And on Tuesday, we saw how miserably that tactic failed: Democratic candidates lost to Republicans in Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Dakota (and those are only the ones I remember…). Two Democrats did win Senate seats this week: Colorado's Ken Salazar (the only of the group to win using these Republican copycat tactics) and Illinois's Barack Obama, the single Democratic Senate candidate who actually sounded like a Democrat this year.
By trying to play right, these candidates not only completely ignored their base of voters, but they sold out the very ideals those voters stand for. On "Meet the Press," some of these Dems were offering better reasons than their opponents for why Kerry is "too liberal." I mean, what is the point? Why, after all, would someone vote for an imitation of a conservative ideology when they can just vote for the real thing?
In so many ways, I see Obama as the future of the party. Here's a guy who's probably the most popular Democrat in politics right now - and he just walked onto the scene. Here's a guy who is everything we believe in - and who's not ashamed to say it. Here's a guy who can win.
Now we're stuck with a very Republican Congress. But we also have an opportunity. I really think that getting Tom Daschle out of office was key to us moving forward in Congress. I know - that gives us a lot of time with this terrifying Republican majority. But to make gains, we're going to have to be outnumbered for a while. We need better leadership than Daschle, stronger, truly progressive voices there who won’t be shamed into thinking their values aren’t mainstream. This Senate loss gives Democrats everywhere time to reorganize, rethink, and reenergize. It gives them time to reclaim their progressive souls. It gives them time to remember how to win again, to win the right way.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I woke up this morning dejected. I rolled over and stared out my window and didn’t want to get up. And, my friends, I knew I was in good company. The day has taken me along, through several stages. This morning, I wasn’t analyzing it all that much. Rather, I was just being with my feelings, of having lost, of what an emotional letdown it was, and feeling a little silly too. Silly, because why did I have so much of my emotions invested in the first place? I have often said that the electoral arena wasn’t the place for me, and here I had gone and gotten all caught up in it. Well, I guess I do that a lot. The electoral process often feels like a diversion to me, although I do understand that engagement with it is important. It’s just that so often it feels like a big merry-go-round that never ends, and the difference in the options isn’t always that great.
Much of my life has been about feeling ok with being an underdog, of various sorts. This has taken a long time to understand on a personal level. Until we live in a cooperative and egalitarian future I will be ok being on the outside of power. I’m not talking about trying to affect structural change, to increase the ability of the poor and disenfranchised to control their environment, to be in struggle. These are good things. I’m talking about being ok with being outside the historic and omnipresent center of power. That is good and ok. Today has been one of those days for reaffirming this sentiment, for myself.
Today, many of my friends and co-workers have been expressing that they are so disgusted that they are going to look for ways to move out of this country, this awful country that is full of Christian evangelicals who are evil. I also have seen this sentiment all over the internet. I have to admit that it is a compelling thought…who wouldn’t want some relief, after all? We all want to be with fellow travelers – that’s why I left Texas. But having left Texas, I’ve often reflected that life is more complex than this. People are more complex, and many of these right-wingers are people I love. I can’t leave them, and I can’t leave this U.S. political environment. I am here for good or worse, because I was born here and I am of here. This might seem like a misfortune at times, just like other unavoidable facts about the position in life I was born to. But there is a lot of good here, and I can’t deny that my environment, my family, and my religious childhood have provided a lot of positive aspects to the foundation that my life is built on.
I think that if folks want to leave, it is ok. You should do so. But do it for something positive, that you are moving towards, rather than as an escape. I don’t think you can escape who you are or where you are from. And we should recognize the struggle of the people who stay, who have to be content with finding solace right here in the middle of the crud, and who fight their own internal battles to stay engaged in the face of the consumerist, militarist, evangelical onslaught.
Finally, regarding the Democrats, there have been problems for a long time. When I think about the so-called "moral" Republican base, many of them working class folks, I don’t see people all that different from myself. I’ve noticed many times that conversations with these folks outside a political context can veer into topics that show a lot of common beliefs. But when it comes to the parties, people are increasingly entrenched. Ultimately, I think the Dems need to get back to the basics and shore up a core progressive base. And then build on it with a long-term view. Find a way to connect on values that the vast majority of us hold. The Republicans have done a great job of dividing and conquering with a values-based agenda. As a friend noted this morning, the Dems have rolled over on the values topic…it just doesn’t come up. We need to be forthright and unashamed about our values. Our trepidation doesn’t allow us to shift the national discourse on these issues. And we need to find a common way to talk about them. We did a great job of increasing enormously the numbers that turned out...we just didn't communicate with the folks we were turning out.
So...onward we go, friends. Onward we go.
So after a morning spent with my head under the covers in total denial, I've made one small step toward outrage (better than depression because outrage can lead to positive change). I had been thinking that if W won, I really wanted a "Not my President" bumper sticker. But I couldn't find one. So I made one on Cafe Press, along with shirts and coffee mugs. Check it out and let's all start expressing our outrage on our chests and bumpers. The shop is called MagMae Merchandise. (They get the $$$, not me!)
Analysis to come... but for now I'm too pissed off and shell-shocked.
The following link is the first article I've seen today that begins to talk about what the hell Democrats have to do to scrape together what's left of their party.
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Living Poor, Voting Rich
Watching the election returns last night, I kept wondering how I could be so out of touch with 51% of America to the extent that I'm honestly baffled about what the average voter thinks will be gained by voting Republican for any office. I'm not sure the above Op-Ed piece is right, but it's a start, and I think the basic assertion that Democrats and liberals are seen as elitist and condescending has the ring of truth to it.
If it's true, how do we argue for the positions we believe in without replicating the arrogance of Social Reformer, liberal planner types, such as those arguing for Unification of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, who ask fellow voters to trust them and swallow the bitter pill for their own good? This attitude of we-know-better-because-we're-smarter-and-better-educated may make many of us feel smugly superior, but it's cost us almost every contested seat in Congress and possibly the Presidency.
So how do we change our approach and begin to reconnect to working-class America? Whether we like it or not, the Christian base is not going away, and if this election taught me anything, it's that the only message Democrats are conveying successfully is the importance of getting out to vote. We got them to the polls; we just didn't get their votes.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
After crunching the numbers one last time, I'm ready to make a final prediction: Kerry 311 - Bush 212. Getting to that number involved grimacing as I colored NC and CO red on a map and crossing my fingers as I colored almost all the swing states blue, but I'm going with my gut. Let's hope I'm right!
Monday, November 01, 2004
In what might be perceived as a sign of doom for the election tomorrow, some pro-Bush vandals paintballed our car and our Kerry bumper stickers while we were gone. No big deal or anything - the paint wipes right off. But I refuse to take it as a bad sign. Here are some other non-practical, superstitious items that I believe cancel out this negative one and are helping me to stay optimistic about our chances tomorrow:
1. The Red Sox just won the World Series. I mean, come on! If that can happen, anything can happen. They won it during a lunar eclipse and everything - how's that for destiny? To me, this is proof of the power in believing anything is possible.
2. Every time the Redskins have lost the last home game before the election, Democrats have won. When the Redskins win the last home game before the election, Republicans have won. On Sunday, the Redskins lost at home.
3. When we landed in Albuquerque this afternoon, snow was falling from the sky. Snow in New Mexico on November 1 - that's a good sign if I've ever heard of one.