Friday, February 29, 2008
Equality is a moral imperative. That's why throughout my career, I have fought to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans. In Illinois, I co-sponsored a fully inclusive bill that prohibited discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity, extending protection to the workplace, housing, and places of public accommodation. In the U.S. Senate, I have co-sponsored bills that would equalize tax treatment for same-sex couples and provide benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. And as president, I will place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
As your President, I will use the bully pulpit to urge states to treat same-sex couples with full equality in their family and adoption laws. I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage. Unlike Senator Clinton, I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) - a position I have held since before arriving in the U.S. Senate. While some say we should repeal only part of the law, I believe we should get rid of that statute altogether. Federal law should not discriminate in any way against gay and lesbian couples, which is precisely what DOMA does. I have also called for us to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and I have worked to improve the Uniting American Families Act so we can afford same-sex couples the same rights and obligations as married couples in our immigration system.
The next president must also address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. When it comes to prevention, we do not have to choose between values and science. While abstinence education should be part of any strategy, we also need to use common sense. We should have age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception. We should pass the JUSTICE Act to combat infection within our prison population. And we should lift the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. In addition, local governments can protect public health by distributing contraceptives.
We also need a president who's willing to confront the stigma - too often tied to homophobia - that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. I confronted this stigma directly in a speech to evangelicals at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church, and will continue to speak out as president. That is where I stand on the major issues of the day. But having the right positions on the issues is only half the battle. The other half is to win broad support for those positions. And winning broad support will require stepping outside our comfort zone. If we want to repeal DOMA, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and implement fully inclusive laws outlawing hate crimes and discrimination in the workplace, we need to bring the message of LGBT equality to skeptical audiences as well as friendly ones - and that's what I've done throughout my career. I brought this message of inclusiveness to all of America in my keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention. I talked about the need to fight homophobia when I announced my candidacy for President, and I have been talking about LGBT equality to a number of groups during this campaign - from local LGBT activists to rural farmers to parishioners at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King once preached.
Just as important, I have been listening to what all Americans have to say. I will never compromise on my commitment to equal rights for all LGBT Americans. But neither will I close my ears to the voices of those who still need to be convinced. That is the work we must do to move forward together. It is difficult. It is challenging. And it is necessary.
Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.
I want to say something about Barack Hussein Obama's name. It is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages!
Read the entire article.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
But at least on Cleveland's east side, Obama's surging grassroots success has stolen Clinton's establishment base right out from under her. Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell came out early for Clinton, winning a trip to the national convention to vote for her.
Then Conwell's constituents sat him down for a little chat. "I met with my residents and tried to get them to go with Hillary," Conwell says. "Not one of them would move. All of my volunteers, all my block club presidents, every last one of them was going for Barack."
Conwell was forced to relinquish his seat at the convention. He spent last Saturday canvassing his ward for Obama.
"Now that I've been with both campaigns, I see that Obama's has a lot more volunteers, and they're all grassroots people from the neighborhood," Conwell says. "I didn't think this movement would grow. I was wrong. It's strong."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Civil rights leader John Lewis has dropped his support for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid in favor of Barack Obama, according to a newspaper report Wednesday.
Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Atlanta, is the most prominent black leader to defect from Clinton's campaign in the face of near-majority black support for Obama in recent voting. He also is a superdelegate who gets a vote at this summer's national convention in Denver.
"It's been a long, hard difficult struggle to come to where I am," Lewis told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview. "But when I am, as a superdelegate, I plan to cast my vote at the convention for Barack Obama."
One of the most important pieces of theater I've ever seen was Anna Deavere Smith's startling performance of Fires in the Mirror which dealt with the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
So, during last night's debate, when Tim Russert asked Barack Obama about the recent pseudo-endorsement he received from Louis Farrakhan, I braced. Obama denounced it out of hand. He denounced Farrakhan's anti-Semitism out of hand. He denounced Farrakhan himself out of hand.
If you are one of those who believes Senator Clinton's claims that the media was giving her opponent a free pass, that pass expired last night. Ironically, Clinton exploited Obama's denouncement hoping to score points by presenting an anecdote that she was more against anti-Semitism than Obama by claiming she rejected (not denounced) support from an alleged anti-Semitic group in her 2000 bid for the US Senate.
I'd like to say I was shocked by her petty but insulting pandering, but I wasn't. But enough about Senator Clinton.
I was more concerned with how Jewish-American voters who watched the debate perceived Obama around Jewish-Black relations and the state of Israel. Today, Shmuel Rosner provided an answer:
Obama spoke about this same issue a few days ago as he was meeting a group of Jewish activists in Cleveland. Some who attended the event and do not belong to his camp said he was very convincing. "At his best," one of them said. But in the debate he was even better and was able to score again on the same topic, elaborating on something of great importance to Jewish liberals.
Just recently we were all watching The Jewish Americans series on PBS, in which the story of Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement was front and center - and the part describing how the bond between black Americans and Jewish Americans was breaking was almost puzzling.
Obama, talking about Farrakhan - and about anti-Semitism among African-Americans, which he also denounced in his speech on Martin Luther King Day - touched a sensitive nerve when he was talking about one possibility that's inherent to his candidacy: he has the chance to restore the alliance between blacks and Jews.
This will not necessarily get Obama the votes of every Jewish liberal in this country. But it is also one promise that no American liberal Jew can simply ignore.
Here's the sermon Obama gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to celebrate Martin Luther King Day. It's long but it's worth it.
—Dick Morris, a former Clinton political adviser
The social death of slavery has cut off many black Americans from our ancestral narratives. During Black History Month we adopt our collective accomplishments and our common heroes as a salve against our lost personal stories. This is critically important, but there is something special about naming your own ancestors and encountering yourself in their reflections.
Yet here in Black History Month, Obama's own black history is being used as a weapon against him. President Bush can traipse around the motherland safely encased in his armor of whiteness. No one can mistake him for a "native". His role is simply to dispatch the White Man's Burden with billions in abstinence-based HIV/AIDS programs and malaria-fighting mosquito netting. In a single photo, Barack can be painted as indelibly tied to a deep and mysterious, exotic and dangerous Dark Continent that produced the shame of slavery and the fear of Islamic radicalism.
Obama is vulnerable. This is the assassination that we should fear, because the Secret Service cannot protect him from it. The voters of Ohio and Texas will have to be the armored vest against these attacks. South Carolina voters soundly repudiated the Clintons for their race-baiting strategies. I believe that Ohio and Texas voters will ignore this revival of fear-based politics and embrace a new direction for American elections.
[via Jack and Jill Politics]
IT WAS some irony. On Oscar night, military personnel introduced via satellite the nominees and the for best documentary short. One of them also announced the winner, a documentary about a lesbian married couple's battle for the New Jersey cop's pension to go to her wife after the Lieutenant's impending death from cancer.
[via Daily Dish]
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents. John Anderson, a rival in the Republican primary who ran as an independent in the general election, complained that Reagan offered little more than "old platitudes and old generalities."
Conservatives understood that this Reagan-as-a- simpleton view was a caricature (something made even clearer in several recent books, particularly Reagan's own diaries). That his opponents never got this is what led to their undoing. Those critics who giggled about his turn alongside a chimp were considerably less delighted when Reagan won 44 states and 489 electoral votes in November.
Let's say that the Democratic nomination battle had been winnowed down to two candidates, and that one of those two candidates (let's call him Barack Obama) was a huge favorite to win. Meanwhile, the GOP nominee has been all but decided. (We'll call him John McCain.)
Now let's imagine that Obama's opponent (we'll call her Hillary Clinton) was desperately slinging every piece of mud she could at him without regard to whether or not her attacks would help John McCain.
Finally, imagine that you found out that Clinton's chief strategist was not only her campaign's leading advocate for these attacks -- but was also the CEO of a public affairs firm whose DC-based lobbying subsidiary was headed up by John McCain's top adviser.
Would you say this posed at least the appearance of a conflict of interest for the strategist in question?
What would you think if you found out that it's all true?
Click here to find out if it's true.
Monday, February 25, 2008
For the first time since the 1965 ceremony, all the acting awards went to foreigners. See their acceptances speeches. France's Marion Cotillard was named best actress for portraying singer Edith Piaf, the first French woman to win the award since Simone Signoret at the 1960 ceremony. Javier Bardem became the first Spaniard to win an acting Oscar for his role as a murderer with bad hair in Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men. British-Irish dual citizen Daniel Day-Lewis took his second statue for Best Actor for his unanimously acclaimed turn in There Will Be Blood. Tilda Swinton, also from England, was the surprise winner of the Best Supporting Actress statue for her portrayal of a cut-throat attorney in Michael Clayton.
One paragraph, two references to the 60s. Where have we been hearing that recently?
In an article in the Suffolk University student newspaper, Andrew Favreau compared Obama's campaign to "the movement that my parents lived through back in the 60s, and that I had wished I had the opportunity to experience. ... What I'm interested in is that millions of people believe again. They believe in America, and they believe in one another, but more importantly they are filling themselves with hope."
Last night, Jon Stewart allowed Marketa Irglova, the second writer of the Oscar winning song "Once", to say something after the music, which was supposed to end the winners' acceptance speech, died down.
This is such a big deal, not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling, and this, the fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, it's just to prove no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And, you know, fair play to those who dare to dream and don't give up. And this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are.
I couldn't have said it better.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Carr died Friday night, said Baptist Health hospital spokeswoman Melody Ragland. She had been hospitalized after a stroke Feb. 11.
Carr succeeded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1967, a post she held at her death. It was the newly formed association that led the boycott of city buses in the Alabama capital in 1955 after Parks, a black seamstress, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to whites on a crowded bus.
A year later the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation on public transportation.
"Johnnie Carr is one of the three major icons of the Civil Rights Movement: Dr. King, Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr," said Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "I think ultimately, when the final history books are written, she'll be one of the few people remembered for that terrific movement."
As the Improvement Association's president, Carr helped lead several initiatives to improve race relations and conditions for blacks. She was involved in a lawsuit to desegregate Montgomery schools, with her then-13-year-old son, Arlam, the named plaintiff.
"She hadn't been sick up until she had the stroke," Arlam Carr said Saturday. "It was such a massive stroke that she never was able to recover from it. She was still very active - going around and speaking - but it was just one of those things."
She played a prominent role in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat, speaking to thousands of schoolchildren who marched to the Capitol.
"Look back, but march forward," Carr urged the huge crowd of young people.
On Tuesday, I got a sarcastic e-mail from a Hillary supporter. She forwarded a crack made by Howard Wolfson, Clinton's media man, about Obama. "Senator Clinton," he scoffed, "is not running on the strength of her rhetoric." To which my friend added: "Unfortunately."
By evening, the Wisconsin blowout was serious enough that the posters in last-chance Ohio read: "We've Got Your Back Hillary." Clinton's speech sounded ominously shopworn: "One of us is ready to be commander in chief . . . One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past."
These are disheartening days for Hillary supporters. Not just because of the string of losses but because of the kind of loss.
This was nothing if not a careful campaign. Neither the strategists nor the candidate had illusions about the hurdles that would face the first woman president in American history. They knew women have to prove and prove again their toughness. They knew women have to prove and prove again their experience.
They began as well by framing Clinton as the establishment candidate. But then the establishment became "the status quo" and the historic candidacy became "old politics." She even got demerits for experience.
Something else happened along the way. If Hillary Clinton was the tough guy in the race, Barack Obama became the Oprah candidate. He was the quality circle man, the uniter-not-divider, the person who believes we can talk to anyone, even our enemies. He finely honed a language usually associated with women's voices.
I found this editorial only after I penned my recent rant and it puts some of my feelings about Senator Clinton in perspective.
And so does Derrick Z. Jackson:
It was not just Hillary Clinton's welling up in New Hampshire, and Bill Clinton's racial put-down of Obama in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton has displayed a periodic reliance on white women as her safety net in town halls, saying things like "being the first woman president is a very big change."
That would be no big thing, except that the nation's demographics and racial history dictate that Obama dare not employ a parallel tactic by saying "being the first black president is a very big change." Obama has automatically had to run as a more universal representative of the people, with one fruit being his current 10-state streak.
When I toured the country presenting my solo performance art, I often wondered why women seemed to connect with me more than any other demographic. My work was intensely personal, relentlessly spiritual. But no matter where I performed, from Seattle to Atlanta, Providence to San Francisco, no matter who came to see my work, it was women who approached me and shared some of their most vulnerable moments with me.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the middle of middle America, I came to believe I was in the incest capitol of the nation. At the artist reception after my show, woman after woman told me about the uncle or the father or the older cousin or the brother who had stolen their innocence in a way no innocence should be stolen.
I stood speechless.
I've always embraced my female energy. The voice of my creativity is female. Literally. When I write, the voice I hear is that of an elderly woman. Before I found her, my birth mother came to me as one of my theatrical alter egos, a wise Black woman who would counsel your soul while weaving your hair.
I'm certainly not trying to suggest that I'm Barack Obama but I connect with him in a way that makes me feel as though I am. I sense that many of the women who told me their secrets connected with me in much the same way.
That is divinity. We are all divine and when we connect with one another so much so that we become one another, we experience our shared divinity.
It's no wonder why some have taken to calling Senator Obama "The One" while others express outright disgust at the religious fervor some of his supporters convey. Shared divinity will do that to you. That's why it's called inspiration.
Sometimes I wonder if Senator Clinton exists in some kind of no-space as she relates to Senator Obama. She has to be inspired by him doesn't she? Or is she as cold and rigid as people think? In the Austin debate, there was a moment where she laughed like I've never seen her laugh and it came after Obama masterfully countered her own rhetoric that he isn't real.
She's going to fight to the bitter end because that's how she gets down. But I'm convinced she has to see who he is even if she doesn't want to accept it. And even if she doesn't scores of women certainly do proving once and for all that words do indeed matter.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
In my reverie—
April and Lisa,
Sheila and Gina,
All my girlfriends!
Yall was jealous (yes you was)
Cuz I was better than you:
Chalkin up 24th Street
For some fierce hopscotch.
Humph! Or simply throwin attitude.
—I pay tribute to thee.
I’d always be
Fasten up that robe,
Girls let their robes
flare all behind them
like that, not boys.
What did I raise?
Guess they were afraid
I might lose my masculinity
that you girls were a bad influence.
They were wrong.
I am man (snap!)
I am fierce (two times!)
I am faggot (maxi-snap!)
But I will always
the little black girl
from Fumbling Toward Divinity, the book
The Danbury Democrat ended widespread speculation about his sexuality during an interview with the Danbury News Times.
"For me the decision came down to why not now," Bartlett told the paper. "To me this is about having a conversation with my larger family - the people of Greater Danbury who voted for me."
The 41-year old Bartlett was first elected to office two years ago.
"I've always considered my life private," he said. "But at the same time we are also living in a digital age and I'm in the public eye. People are always interested in you and your family."
Bartlett has owned and operated his own mortgage company for the past 13 years and has raised two sons, now adult men. Most recently he co-chaired the Hillary Clinton Connecticut Steering Committee.
In an interview with the National Black Justice Coalition following his announcement to the News Times Bartlett discussed coming out to his family.
" I remember coming home one day and asking both my parents to sit down and talk with me. I told them I was gay. Then I changed it to bisexual. Then I changed it back to gay," he told NBJC, the nation's largest organization for LGBT African Americans.
"It was a difficult talk because I didn't want to disappoint them. They were both very supportive. When I told my dad it was going to be in the paper the other day, he said, 'I love you. I've never cared what side of the fence you played on.'"
[via Mad Professah]
Friday, February 22, 2008
Last night's debate between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton in Austin, Texas, wasn't all it appeared to be. And it wasn't Obama who proved unauthentic.
I won't summarize the debate here. A quick Google search will reveal countless links in the blogosphere where (over)analysis about what happened can be read.
But I want to point out two points that struck me when watching. The first is that Clinton completely dodged the question about the seating of delegates as something that would work itself out, a nominee would be elected and the party would be unified in its march to taking back the White House.
Pundits took this to mean that Clinton agreed with Obama's premise that the will of the voters ought to be the ulitimate decider and that Clinton wouldn't contest any delegations that had been denied by the rules or fight for a brokered convention where superdelegates would have to decide the outcome.
The second point regards Clinton's much touted closing statement where she reached out to Obama, stating how honored she was to be sitting on the stage with him, and then in John Edwards fashion let the world know that she would be fine with whatever happened in this election. She backed that up with her Bill Clinton moment. If you click here you will also see that Senator Clinton is as much a "political plagiarist" as is Obama by lifting lines from speeches both Edwards and her husband have given. I don't think either Senator Obama or Clinton are plagiarists, but if you're going to call out your opponent for it and then turn right around and do it yourself within the hour....
Many thought her tone in her closing statement was so genuine and conciliatory that she was planting a seed to concede gracefully if she wasn't able to win in Texas and Ohio, her all-eggs-in-two-baskets approach to attempt a comeback.
Viewers took Clinton's words and their apparent meaning quite well. Some thought she might have read this eloquent and impassioned plea from a devout supporter to step aside. Pundits couldn't stop talking about how valedictory her remarks were. Party unification is exactly what we want heading into November. The sooner it happens, the better our chances of reclaiming the White House.
But this morning, Clinton had an about-last-night moment. In an interview with Evan Smith of Texas Monthly that will air next week just before the Texas primary, Clinton informed us:
There’s been a lot of talk about what your campaign would do should it get to the convention. Would you commit today to honoring the agreement made earlier not to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations?
Let’s talk about the agreement. The only agreement I entered into was not to campaign in Michigan and Florida. It had nothing to do with not seating the delegates. I think that’s an important distinction. I did not campaign--
The press seems to have missed the distinction if that’s the case. The talk is that you agreed not to seat the delegation.
That’s not the case at all. I signed an agreement not to campaign in Michigan and Florida. Now, the DNC made the determination that they would not seat the delegates, but I was not party to that. I think it’s important for the DNC to ask itself, Is this really in the best interest of our eventual nominee? We do not want to be disenfranchising Michigan and Florida. We have to try to carry both of those states. I’d love to carry Texas, but it’s usually not in the electoral calculation for the Democratic nominee. Florida and Michigan are. Therefore, the people of those two states disregarded adamantly the DNC’s decision that they would not seat the delegates. They came out and voted. If they had been influenced by the DNC, despite the fact that there was very little campaigning, if any, they would have stayed home. But they wanted their voices heard. More than 2 million people came out. I mean, it was record turnout for a primary. Florida, in particular, is sensitive to being disenfranchised because of what happened to them in the last elections. I have said that I would ask my delegates to vote to seat.
So your intention is to press this issue?
Yes, it is. Yes, it is. It’s in large measure because both the voters and elected officials in Michigan and Florida feel so strongly about this. Senator Bill Nelson, of Florida, early on in the process actually sued because he thinks it’s absurd on its face that 1.7 million Democrats who eventually voted would basically be disregarded, and I agree with him about that.
I try not to bash Hillary Clinton because she's a brilliant and determined woman who's taken more than her share of irrational criticism. But this about face turns me off just as I was thinking about warming up to her.
No wonder why she dodged the delegate question and then got all warm and fuzzy at the end.
I don't know that I've ever seen a presidential campaign so duplicitous in my entire adult life. One pundit called it schizophrenic. I'll buy that.
Either you're going to be negative and divisive or you're going to be positive and unifying. She's trying to do both things at once and it's pure folly.
Here's my thing: If she were that concerned about enfranchising voters in Michigan and Florida then why didn't she protest against the DNC, whom she practically owned, before she started losing, and tell them to take their rules and shove them? She calls herself a fighter, battled tested and ready to take on her opposition. Well, why not fight for what you believe among your allies?
Because she thought she'd have the nomination wrapped up on Super Tuesday with no plans to do anything beyond that.
I despise entitlement.
All potential presidents must have huge egos and a thirst for power. I get that. Can't rule a nation without it. But being addicted to power for power's sake and trying to wrest it and keep it at any and all costs is simply not what I'm looking for in the next leader of the mess this country is facing.
I think it's time for Senator Clinton to look in the mirror and get real.
A commenter who went by West_Virginian_in_Texas had this to say: "I don't agree with this tactic and I told a Clinton staffer that yesterday at the Watch Party. However, this Obamamania has gotten a little out of control, and I fear it has become more of a bandwagon to be a part of history than a reasoned decision."
I couldn't hold back anymore, so I responded as follows:
The only thing that has gotten out of control is the media's coverage and perpetuation of the myth of "Obamamania." As Obama himself pointedly stated, it's an insult to him, his supporters, his voters, his endorsers.
Somehow only those who support Hillary have reason, and yet when confronted with stuff like this, she's defended at all costs.
You know what's really out of control? The cult of the Clintons as America's Democratic Royal Family.
Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Clinton.
There's the rivalry right there in two words. That's what this election is all about for the Clintons. They want to even the score with their rival Republican Royal Family at the expense of what's best for the nation and it goes against everything they say about being in it to bring about change for the American people. But then again, she announced at the very beginning that she was in "it to win it." Enter the senator from Illinois. When victory wasn't achieved quite as she expected, well, here we are.
I'm fed up with the American political stage being hijacked for 20 years by two families determined to fight out their personal and professional battles.
Texas vs. Arkansas.
Enough is enough. Close the curtain.
I hope the voters in Texas and Ohio and Vermont and Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, etc... haven't been duped by Hillary's duplicity, jump off the Clinton bandwagon of entitlement and just due and cast a vote for real change.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
“She is 60. She left Yale Law School at age 25. Evidently she considers everything she has done since school, from her years at Little Rock's Rose law firm to her good fortune with cattle futures, as presidentially relevant experience.
“The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to the rank as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow.”
—George Will, Playing the ‘Fair’ Card
[Hat tip to The Daily Dish]
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
LAST NIGHT, I was nervous. Among friends, I had been predicting a Hillary Clinton upset in Wisconsin. But that was before I recalled that Wisconsinites don't like negative politics. Something I didn't remember until the elections returns starting rolling in, indicating that Senator Clinton was about to take her ninth loss in a row. And then her tenth in Hawaii. Both by landslides.
But my anxiety revealed just how emotionally invested I am in the presidential primary race. How strongly I've embraced Barack Obama as my candidate for the next leader of the free world.
I outlined here how I came to this place. But as people on a spiritual path are fully aware, the more we look, the more we see.
Yesterday I stumbled across a serious of stories on the importance of the narrative in a presidential campaign.
It was among the best political writing I've read in a long time. Certainly because it spoke to me as a storyteller. The three enlightening articles are linked below.
The Power of the Campaign Narrative
Seventeen Candidates in Search of a Story
The Triumph of Narrative
Friendly Advice for Hillary: The Best Way to Play a Losing Hand
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
While my recollection is vague (I'm aging), she was one of the first people to tell me that Senator Barack Obama was the real thing. My husband was the first, but as much as I trust his opinion on most matters, I wondered if something other than Obama's realness compelled him to pay attention.
But, like Job, my birth mother would also have known a year or so ago when she told me about the emerging political star how disillusioned over the past decade I'd become with politics in general, national politics in particular. Would have known that my passion for politics was merely in hibernation. That anything on the political landscape with the potential to awaken it was something I'd love, almost need, to know about.
The seeds were planted. Cliche, I know. But I'm a farmer so the metaphor has more merit for me than a mere figure of speech.
I went on about my business. The next thing I know, I'm caucusing in Maine for Senator Barack Obama.
Today I've been reflecting on when I had my Obama Moment and I haven't come up with anything. Probably because I haven't had one. Quiet as it's kept, some of us became let the seeds germinate and sprout slowly and used our logic, not or passions, to decide to jump onto his side.
In Sunday's New York Daily News, Michael Goodwin writes:
In amassing a large coalition of young and old, black and white Democrats, independents and some Republicans, Obama offers the possibility that America can finally get beyond its partisan stalemates. If that happened, a united nation would be better equipped to move forward on everything from the economy to the scourge of Islamic terror.
How has this "inexperienced" phenomenon who was "hatched", as my best friend Gail says, run a presidential campaign against the well-oiled machine of an American political dynasty, a campaign that is able to build such a large coalition, a coalition his allies are calling a movement, making a member of that dynasty resort to Machiavellian tactics to try to take back a nomination she never even thought she'd have to fight for from jump?
Because he's an inspiring orator, most will tell you, full of rhetoric, where rhetoric is a four-letter word.
I'm a poet. You don't score any points with me by dismissing rhetoric as bullshit. Rhetoric is the art of verbal persuasion. The key word here is art, not persuasion. Senator Obama is an artist in the body of a statesman. It's easy to call him a "rock star" because the most influential rock stars are also among the best artists.
Artists are spirits of substance. They are creative, visionary, and courageous. But most of all, they are wise. It's the wisdom, not the rhetoric, that have drawn voters to him. And that wisdom conveys a profound philosophy captured in a powerful message. Cast away fear, hang on to hope, believe in yourself, and actively participate in your own life. Then, and only then, can we come together to bring about the change we're starving for.
My wise mother, the one who adopted me, has always said, "Wisdom knows wisdom when it sees it." You either have it or you don't.
Senator Obama has it. And sometime between when he won Iowa and lost New Hampshire, when I came down from my sister's wedding, when I was finally able to pay attention to him, I saw it. Doesn't mean he won't make mistakes. But wise people admit their mistakes, learn from them, and move on. Their moral judgment remains clear.
Don't hate him because he's charismatic. Charisma is the skin that covers the flesh of wisdom. And the children, who always see more clearly than the adults they look to for guidance, see it so clearly they're convincing the adults they look to for guidance to cast a vote for wisdom.
I'm grateful my birth mother and my husband saw it too. Grateful they planted those seeds in the fertile soil of my mind/soul. It's high time a man of wisdom and moral judgment leads our nation out of the paralysis of fear and terror, out of polarization and partisan politics, out of corporatocracy and warmongering.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Michelle Obama was never much interested in calling attention to herself. As an undergrad at Princeton in the 1980s, she was interested in social change, but didn't run for student government. Instead, she spent her free time running a literacy program for kids from the local neighborhoods. At Harvard Law, she took part in demonstrations demanding more minority students and professors. Yet unlike another more prominent Harvard Law student who would later take up the cause, she was not one to hold forth with high-flown oratory about the need for diversity. "When [Barack Obama] spoke, people got quiet and listened," recalls Prof. Randall Kennedy. "Michelle had a more modest, quieter, lower profile." Barack won election as president of the Law Review. Michelle put her energy into a less glamorous pursuit: recruiting black undergrads to Harvard Law from other schools. For her, politics wasn't so much about being inspirational as it was being practical—about getting something specific done, says Charles Ogletree, one of her professors. "She was not trying to get ahead."
She no longer has the luxury of keeping a low profile. Now a very public figure, Michelle has accepted the role of aspiring First Lady and the sometimes uncomfortable scrutiny that comes with it. On the campaign trail, she is sometimes slated as the opening act, introducing Barack to the audience. Direct and plain-spoken, with an edgy sense of humor uncommon in a political spouse, she complements her husband's more grandiose style...She wants to change the world, but she also wants to win this thing now that they're so deeply invested. If his loftiness can set him apart from the crowd, her bluntness draws them in...
From the beginning of the campaign, Michelle made it clear to her husband that she would give the effort her all ("We need to be in there now, while we're still fresh and open and fearless and bold," she told Vanity Fair last December), but not at the expense of family life.
...At the meetings, Axelrod and the other aides addressed each of Michelle's questions. "Suffusing these discussions was, if we did it, she and he both wanted to make sure it was consistent with who he is and what he thinks, and wouldn't distort that," says Axelrod. She has expressed fears that the nastiness of presidential politics could wind up sucking the idealism out of her husband, leaving him just another soulless, cynical Washington pol. "Michelle has always been in the camp of, 'Let's not forget what we're fighting for'," Axelrod says. After the meetings, Michelle gave Barack her blessing.
...Part of Michelle Obama's appeal—she routinely draws audiences of 1,000-plus supporters even when she's campaigning on her own—is that she comes across as so normal despite the withering glare of a national campaign. As a political spouse, she is somewhat unusual. She isn't the traditional Stepford booster, smiling vacantly at her husband and sticking to a script of carefully vetted blandishments. Nor is she a surrogate campaign manager, ordering the staff around and micromanaging the candidate's every move. She travels the country giving speeches and attending events (her mother watches the kids when she's on the road), but resists staying away for more than one night at a stretch. When the couple catch up several times a day on the phone, the talk is more likely to be about their daughters than the latest poll projections. Michelle has made it her job to ensure that Barack, who now lives full time inside the surreal campaign bubble of adoring crowds and constant attention, doesn't himself lose sight of what's normal.
Onstage, Obama has introduced Michelle as "my rock"—the person who keeps him focused and grounded. In her words, she is just making sure he is "keeping it real."...She insists that Barack fly home from wherever he is to attend ballet recitals and parent-teacher conferences. When the couple host political gatherings at their home in Chicago's Hyde Park, Michelle asks everyone to bring along their children. To help bridge the physical distance between father and daughters, Michelle recently bought two MacBook laptops, one for Barack and one for the kids, so they could have video chats over the Internet. Last Thursday, she cleared his schedule so he could return home to Chicago and spend Valentine's Day with her and the girls.
Those who know her invariably describe Michelle as poised, relaxed and confident. "There is no difference between the public Michelle and the private Michelle," says University of Chicago law professor David Strauss, who sits with her on the board of the University of Chicago's Lab School. (The Obamas' daughters attend the school.) "There's no pretense."...
...In 1989, she was assigned to mentor a young, unconventional summer associate by the name of Barack Obama. Michelle was unimpressed by the office gossip about the hotshot Harvard Law student, a biracial intern from Hawaii whom she dismissed as "a black guy who can talk straight." But she was disarmed by his confidence. He walked up to her one day and said, "I think we should go out on a date." She resisted, thinking it was inappropriate. She dropped her guard after he asked her to go to one of his community-organizing sessions in a church basement, where he delivered a stemwinding speech about closing the gap between what he called "the world as it is, and the world as it should be."
She was smitten. "I was, like, 'This guy is different'," she says. "'He is really different, in addition to being nice and funny and cute and all that. He's got a seriousness and a commitment that you don't see every day'." She recalls thinking, " 'Well, you know, I'd like to be married to somebody who felt that deeply about things'." At this, she paused for a second. "Maybe I didn't say 'marry.' Scratch that part. It took him a little while." Each of them offered the other something they had lacked growing up—for her, a free-thinking outlook, for him, a sense of stability.
...After she worked for the city for a couple of years, Barack led Michelle closer to community activism. He was on the board of a start-up group called Public Allies, a nonprofit that encouraged young people to go into public service—just the kind of encouragement she felt she had never gotten. The organization needed a Chicago director. The job paid even less than her city post. "It sounded risky and just out there," she says. "But for some reason it just spoke to me. This was the first time I said, 'This is what I say I care about. Right here. And I will have to run it'." (Michelle jokes that she took a pay cut with every new job. The couple finally got out of debt when Barack's book, "The Audacity of Hope," became a best seller.) More recently, she inspired a program to send doctors from the prestigious University of Chicago Medical Center into community hospitals and clinics in poor surrounding neighborhoods...
...In her stump speech, she uses her own life as a rebuke to those who have said that she and her husband aren't ready for the White House. She tells the story of a 10-year-old girl she met in a beauty parlor in South Carolina who told her that if Barack wins the White House, "it means I can imagine anything for myself."
That story, Michelle says, was just like her own: "She could have been me. Because the truth is, I'm not supposed to be here, standing here. I'm a statistical oddity. Black girl, brought up on the South Side of Chicago. Was I supposed to go to Princeton? No … They said maybe Harvard Law was too much for me to reach for. But I went, I did fine. And I'm certainly not supposed to be standing here." Whatever lingering doubts Michelle Obama may still have, moving into the White House would go a long way toward putting them to rest.
To read the rest of the article about this phenomenal woman, click here.
If you want to see that Barack isn't the only inspiring orator in the Obama family, check out Michelle in action.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
As someone who believes Senator Clinton can win the state by a narrow margin, the Journal Sentinel endorsement might tip the scales in Obama's favor. Here's some of what the paper's editors had to say:
Our recommendation in Wisconsin's primary on Tuesday for the Democratic nomination is Barack Obama. That's our recommendation because change and experience are crucial to moving this country forward after what will be eight years of an administration careening from mistake to catastrophe to disaster and back again.
The Illinois senator is best-equipped to deliver that change, and his relatively shorter time in Washington is more asset than handicap.
The Obama campaign has been derisively and incorrectly described as more rock tour than political campaign and his supporters as more starry-eyed groupies than thoughtful voters.
If detractors in either party want to continue characterizing the Obama campaign this way, they will have seriously underestimated both the electorate's hunger for meaningful change in how the nation is governed and the candidate himself.
Wisconsin has such an interesting political climate it could be a decisive state in the general election in November. Especially if the race pits Obama against Senator McCain. I'm sure McCain Democrats are all over America's Dairyland. Independents love them both.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. In the meanwhile, I'm happy that the first newspaper I ever read has come out in support of Obama.
Now let me get on the phone and start calling everyone I know in the Badger State.
Barack Obama at the Founder's Day Gala
Barack Obama in Milwaukee
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Winter in Maine.
A close up of the major damage. Surprisingly, we never lost power.
The power lines on the frozen driveway.
Our vegetable stand littered with fallen branches.
A white birch in icy supplication.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Monday, February 11, 2008
One of those ways is that it held its democratic state caucuses on a Sunday. Imagine that. A Sunday. When the majority of Mainers who work don't have to. So we can easily go and spend time in our precincts to participate in the political process undeterred by having to jump through hoops.
I've lived in exactly three states in my lifetime: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Maine. Maine is the only state where caucuses elect delegates for the national conventions instead of primaries.
I couldn't wait to participate in a caucus, and I got quite a rush out of it. It's a community event. Like bingo. But you know what you're doing is far more important than trying to win the lottery.
The Winthrop caucus had 206 participants, almost twice the amount who caucused there in 2004. And there was a snowstorm to navigate this time around. There were several 17-year-olds who will be eligible to vote in November who could participate in the caucus based upon a new Maine law.
One person spoke for Clinton. Several others spoke for Obama, including a few Republicans who'd never voted for a Democrat in their lives and who changed their party affiliation in time to take part in the Democratic caucus. One woman who freely admitted an apathy that kept her from participating in the political process for years couldn't stay away this time. She's inspired for the first time in her life by a candidate and she wants to ride the Obama bandwagon all the way to Washington.
When we finally divided up into our groups, 130 people caucused for Obama; 80 for Hillary Clinton. He received 11 delegates to the state party convention; she received 6.
The Obama caucuses included the oldest person in the room and the youngest, including all those 17-year-olds who are still in high school. It included more women than men. And the only two Black men in the house.
I was so excited, I decided to run for one of the 11 precinct delegate to the state convention and I received unanimous support from the caucus. I guess it was my enthusiasm and theatrical personality that won me the votes? Or maybe it was the color of my skin. I mean, it's not like everyone who raised their hands knew who I was. Whatever the case, I'll take it and represent the town of Winthrop and the Obama supporters well.
And if I have my way after having my say, I'll win my campaign later this year for state delegate to the national convetion in Denver and be one of a handful of Black men from the whitest state in the Union to help select the first Black president of the United States.
Yes. We can.
Complete Maine Results