Election 2012: *points and snickers*

You get to make this face when you’ve trounced your opponent, and he never saw it coming.

Since President Obama’s reelection Tuesday night, Republicans’ reflections on their embarrassing loss, ironically, have been a reflection of the exact reasons why they lost. In the aftermath, the $400,000,000 question is this: Who lost the election? Conservamoderate Mitt Romney or the Party itself?

First, I feel compelled to disabuse the premise. Barack Obama won the Presidential election. His campaign reached out to the people it needed to reach, and The People (I use this term broadly because, literally, it was every group except white men) responded. And you have to appreciate that they didn’t have to. I learned Wednesday night that one of my good friends sat it out this election. “Just not feelin politics right now,” he said. So folks could have stayed home, could’ve checked out altogether, but they didn’t. In fact, in some states, voters showed up in even greater numbers than in 2008. Barack Obama won 50.5% of the popular vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 48% (wouldn’t it have been poetic justice if that figure was 47%?). Make no mistake, President Obama wasn’t the winner by default. He got chose.

Toward the end of the campaign, amid sure signs of an improving economy and mounting evidence of the President’s consistently rational and well-intentioned leadership, GOP narratives about the President’s “failures” began to unravel. It took just under 4 years to expose the flaws in today’s Grand Old Party and about 3 weeks after the first debate to expose Mitt Romney as a fraud. In the end, I think it was clear that the Republican Party, embodied in the candidate it nominated for President, was out of touch and unfit to occupy the Oval Office.

So, who lost the election? Both Romney and Republicans did. On Wednesday, Bill O’Reilly sagely opined that the Tea Party backed Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, would have been the better candidate to defeat Barack Obama, proving that they don’t get it what had happened the night before. Republicans still think they can simply match minority for minority and no one will be the wiser. Run Rubio and Latinos won’t notice that DREAMers can pay in-state tuition for college but still won’t have access to affordable healthcare. Or, run Susana Martinez and women won’t notice that she represents a party who wishes to end their right to choose, but give equal protection rights to their unborn fetuses. Republicans have a policy problem, and trotting out token minorities to champion bad policies won’t make the policies themselves less bad.

Mitt Romney never convincingly stood up to his party’s nonsense. Instead he was opportunist about it, and reveled in misleading low information voters with base tactics. For Romney, if it meant he would win 50.1% of the electorate, the end would justify the means. Yet, social issues (which are also economic issues, for the record) alone didn’t spell Romney’s demise. President Obama also defeated conservative budgetary philosophy by winning the argument on taxes and “fairness*.” The writing on the wall read that “job creators” prospered in this environment, but they aint create no jobs. In terms of domestic economic policy, Mitt Romney’s economic plan offered more of the same. There was no bold new idea, and changing things back to the way they were before they caused calamity isn’t exactly “change” as I understand it.

Thing is, President Obama’s detractors have always underestimated him. They dismiss him as a novelty deliverer of pretty speeches with few real accomplishments. But in the end, it was they who were undone by the soft bigotry of low expectations. It was Republicans who were exposed as one-dimensional, race-baiting, and small-minded. And Americans soundly rejected that vision for our future. Republicans lost both on demographics and on policy. Their nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ that never were engendered them to a view of the world that just isn’t real. Americans are not all Christian, and we’re not all straight, we don’t all have disposable income or access to good schools, and we don’t all live and die by the same traditions. But we all want the same thing: to be validated by our government, and visible to the people who represent us. If Republicans intend to be a relevent party going forward, they have to do more than practice the aesthetics of diversity. The People need substance too.

Finally, I don’t usually like to gloat because everybody with the courage to play, loses at some point. But there are times when winning really is the sweetest revenge. Indeed, revenge for the foul and failed campaign that Republicans ran this election year warrants a little irreverence for their discomfort at this trying time. I promise not to wallow in their misery. But I will share this hilarious tumblr posting, and delight in it.

This is for the John Sununus and the New Gingriches and the Donald Trumps of the campaign. Click here and enjoy, if you can: White People Mourning Romney**

*I guess Occupy Wall Street wasn’t just a gathering of pissed off hippies after all, eh?

**Seriously, there were, like, NO non-white people at that victory rally in Boston. It is what it is.


Poor Mitt

I feel bad for the guy. I really do. “Gaffes,” “unforced errors,” and a general sense of meh…i guess have confounded his political campaign.

In fairness, it is true that Mitt Romney’s failings aren’t entirely his fault. It seems the modern GOP is in an ideological tailspin. At one end of the Republican spectrum is nostalgia for a bygone era where only white men enjoyed access to the full bounty of freedom. And on the other end is greed disguised as “success.” The moderate, reasonable faction of Republicans seems drowned out by irrational, obstructionist activists and corporate shills. So Mitt kinda has to be some combination of “that guy” to win over a significant portion of his party. And that sucks.

But as I said, Mitt’s campaign failings aren’t entirely of his own making, but mostly they are. I can’t let the good Governor off the hook for the 47% comments. There’s just no way of spinning the dearth of his smug mischaracterization. Whether “inartfully worded” or eloquently stated, it was foul. And wrong.

And even if that hadn’t happened, there’s the matter of the tax returns — it’s not about how much money he made; it’s about the tax he paid. This point is critical to the discussion of presidential policy when the proposed solutions are a.) cutting social services; or b.) lowering taxes on people who are already well-off. This is a no brainer. But for Mitt, it’s a non-starter. I take issue.

And even if that wasn’t happening, there’s the disreputable-although-effective appeal, through invoking and expanding the Southern Strategy, to win white resentment votes from backlash to our country’s perceived to be parasitic minorities.

And the knee-jerk reaction to matters of international importance to gin up votes from war hawks and the cat who’s always the recipient of this advice: “dude. just think for a second.” But he never listens and his life is a constant … quagmire.

All politicians pander though, right? Right. But to me, Mitt’s approach seems transparently disingenuous. After a while, even John McCain had to tell that crazy lady that, “no ma’am. Barack Obama is not a Muslim” I won’t mention that, like, 30% of Republicans STILL think he is though, and they still expect us to treat them as intellectual equals. No, I won’t mention that. I’m not sure Mitt Romney has the stones to stand up to the willfully ignorant in his party. The way he’s played it so far …

The jury’s still out.

Most accounts of Governor Romney show that he was in the past a moderate, practical politician. He supported pro-choice polices and championed health reform that included a nod to personal responsibility. Yet, he has decided that to be a viable Republican Presidential candidate in 2012, although it could have been divined, it was also politically expedient to grow more “severely conservative.” And the waffling has made Mitt look weak. Former Republican Presidential candidate (and fellow warrior in weak), John Huntsman, described Mitt as a “perfectly lubricated weathervane.” His position on issues is pretty much contingent upon which way the political winds blow.

Likewise, a man I love and loathe, Joe Scarborough, penned a tough criticism of Mitt Romney in his “Politico” opinion piece, “the problem with Mitt.”

Craven calculation, on the other hand, does not pay off for conservatives. Romney needed to decide long ago who he was: the last of the Rockefeller Republicans (and thus somebody who probably wouldn’t have gotten through Iowa) or a genuine movement conservative with detailed ideas about how to right the country. Instead, we have a nominee who represents the worst of both worlds. Any swing voter attracted by moderate Republicanism can’t vote for a man who ran away from his core convictions. And conservative voters don’t believe Romney has any core convictions.

Authenticity is everything.

In discussing ideas, I think the calculus goes like this: even if folks disagree on substance, folks should be arguing points based on what they feel in earnest, in testament to their unique personal experiences. The challenge is to defend it, not to ignore it. For better of for worse, you gotta be who you are.

So even if I really could get down with Mitt Romney’s ideas, I couldn’t respect the way he’s run his campaign. I recognize that part of it isn’t his fault, as his party dangles precariously off the edge of sanity. Yet, Mitt Romney has lacked the courage of conviction in embarrassing and obvious ways. That part is his own. Perhaps, if he loses this election, it’ll put an end to this second act as The Perpetual Presidential Candidate. Perhaps, we will be forever spared from watching him suffer through the awkward contortions of Mitt as anything other than the cat he his: a wealthy business and family man. It’s really too much to bear. But a girl can #hope for #change.

Poor fella. Although not … literally. Which, of course, isn’t a bad thing. But I guess he proves it can be sometimes.

Ha! Look at me, pulling a Mitt.


“Eat Mor Chikin” – Nah, I’m good.

First, here’s the thing:  my immediate goal in life is to finish my dissertation.  This means everything that isn’t my dissertation is on the back burner.  Everything.  “Doing what I have to do so that I can do what I want to do” – I’m all about that life right now.

Over the next year, I suspect this is how things will go.  I’ll interrupt your regularly scheduled program with bits of social and/or political commentary, and I’ll slip back into seclusion.  My friend, who finished his Doctorate a couple of months ago, calls it “the bubble.”  The bubble is my reality from now until graduation day.

But before I go, here’s a nugget I’ll just leave here for your consumption.

My Beef with Chik-fil-A

Today is my early day.  Ideally, I’d go home to drop off my things, and head to the Chik-fil-A on Exit 13 – it’s my favorite location.  The nuggets there are always fresh, waffle fries are always crisp, and when I order a ‘half and half, more tea than lemonade,’ they make it perfectly every time.  The customer service is also great there – they respond to all of your ‘thank yous’ with ‘my pleasure,’ and they call you by name before bringing your tray over to your table.  And they’re always so well-stocked in those after dinner mints I love.

I don’t eat fast food often, but when I do, I eat Chik-fil-A.  It’s been my favorite fast food joint since I was in high school.  But I can’t go there anymore.  I can’t spend my money there.  And I’m not being petty about it; I don’t care that Truett Cathy doesn’t support marriage equality.  As long as the recipe for the nuggets and fries didn’t change, he and I could coexist at opposite ends of the spectrum just fine.  What eats me up is that Chik-fil-A has taken personal opinion into the political realm.  In politics, money contributed to campaigns translates into politicians who push policies that have real consequences for people’s’ quality of life.  As a general principle, lawmakers are supposed to create policies that expand opportunities for individuals, and ensure their liberty and dignity.  This idea is the most fundamental element of American citizenship and spirit.  We are free to disagree, but we don’t use religion disguised as tradition to impose our will.

Chik-fil-A and those who are misguided in their support of these supposed “traditional Christian values’ are doing exactly the opposite of what our Founders intended – blending church, state, and commerce to elevate their position.  I said in a Facebook status last week that  it’s important to remember when it comes to arbitrary moral designations, the pendulum swings both ways.  In other words,  one day someone’s arbitrary moral compass will devalue something or someone you care about and you’ll understand why claiming allegiance to ‘values’ which strip folks of their dignity just doesn’t square.

As it stands today, despite having the same qualifications and levels of experience, women in certain types of jobs are still paid less than their male counterparts.  For every $1 earned by their male colleagues, they make approximately $0.70.  If you support the logic of Truett Cathy, then support it all the way.  Technically, traditional Christian values affirms this inequality.  Eve is of Adam’s rib, right?  Thus, in all things, and for all time, She is His subordinate.  You’d be hard pressed to find a woman as qualified as her colleagues, who works as hard as her colleagues, who’d be willing to accept being compensated less than her colleagues, gender differences notwithstanding.

I’m sorry folks, the logic just doesn’t bear out for me.  Chik-fil-A’s political contributions equal outright discrimination that’s permissible only because it’s couched in the terms “traditional,” “Christian,” and “values”.  I don’t have the patience for this.  I’m sick of fighting these culture wars because progress wins, or society loses.  In that regard, I’ve lost the taste for the kind of chikin-shit Chik-fil-A serves.


Ocean of Emotion

Ocean of Emotion

I don’t think Frank Ocean’s recent revelation about his first love is the ‘coming out’ story we’ve tried to make it.  I’ve maintained since the first time a woman’s love pulled at my own heartstrings, that sexuality is more fluid than fixed.

Frank Ocean’s is the first voice you hear on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch the Throne’ album.  He’s a rising star.  So when I read his tumblr post yesterday morning, I knew right away it would shake things up in the hip hop world.  Folks talked themselves in circles and worked themselves into a fury trying to define Ocean:  oh, so that n*gga gay now; he’s bi; he’s on the down low.  I don’t know if he is any of those things, but either way, I don’t think that was the point of the post.

Frank’s  “thank you’s” speaks to the complexity of human emotion.  His letter was a love story, not one of homosexual discovery.  That the object of Frank’s affection was a man isn’t inconsequential, I can admit that.  I understand how difficult it is socially and culturally for a young Black man in the hip hop world to admit feelings that his contemporaries would probably never admit to themselves, or find the courage to share with the world.  Frank took a tremendous leap to let a piece of his truth live.

The intimacy shared between Frank Ocean and his male friend is more layered than the one-dimensional identity public opinion is trying to force.  Frank’s letter offers a more interesting take on love, namely that it isn’t picky about social variables.  It doesn’t take race, religion, income, gender, or political affiliation into consideration when it settles in.  When it hits you, it hits you.  And there’s nothing you can really do about the feeling, or that you felt it.  Frank said it beautifully:  “By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.”  Yep, that’s how it goes.

The implications of same-sex attraction are always the hurdle.  But the attraction itself usually happens naturally.  And if you’ve never had one before, then your opinion lacks credibility on what it is, or what it feels like.  No one gets to decide for all of us what is and isn’t “natural.”  You just don’t.

Frank Ocean’s personal testimony is powerful because it’s so basic, and so common to the human experience.  Cats fall in love.  And for whatever reason, sometimes the cats they fall for can’t handle the pressure.  Frank’s story didn’t have to be activist to resonate.  It was a love story.  It was just a dude exposing his truth with personal freedom being the ultimate end.  That’s what makes the story all the more engrossing and courageous.

Frank’s letter and the reactions to it, also expose a few blind spots in our perceptions about sexuality and intimacy.  Attraction, in my experience, hasn’t been just about gender.  I accept that for most folks it is.  But sometimes gender is merely a variable, like good skin or pretty eyes.  Sometimes you fall for the person first, and his or her gender is an afterthought – a bridge you’ll cross when you come to it, if you ever have a need to.  Sometimes the love is all that matters.

Frank fell for a person who couldn’t fully reciprocate.  For Adam and Eve, or Adam and Steve, rejection is hard to take.  But four summers later, Frank had grown strong enough to share his secret and strong enough to move through it.  He’d grown strong enough to show, through his experience, that people are just people.  We have emotions and feel things we don’t expect.  But whether we expect them or understand them, doesn’t change the fact that they are.  They just are.

The ocean of emotion is vast.  If you find love out here – if you find someone who makes you feel genuine love and affection – you don’t look the gift horse in the mouth.   I’m grateful to Frank Ocean for being an ambassador of this idea.  I’m proud of him and I love him for his honesty and vulnerability.  In telling his story, he gives voice to many people who’ve experienced the same, but never had an ally.  Now they know.  People are just people, and we feel what we feel.  We just do.

 


BET Awards

Was it just me, or was last night’s BET Awards more respectable than they’ve been in years!?  In the past, I tuned in mostly to make jokes about how far from grace the network had fallen.  I haven’t been a regular BET view in a while, but I can say my experience with it last night left me more like “Ok.  I see you, BET” as opposed to “Really, BET?  Really?!”  They attempted to mix ratchet with a tish more respectability.  I’m wasn’t mad at it.

Here are a few observations that stood out.  In no particular order:

  • I can’t believe Samuel L. Jackson hosted that joint.  How’d BET pull that off?
  • The rendition of ‘Niggas in Paris’ performed by SLJ and Spike Lee was pure torture/comedy.  It reminded me of when my uncles first heard rap music and exaggerated everything about it.  It was absurd but hilarious. But whatevs, it was Spike Lee and SLJ – two cats I kinda love – cuttin up on tv.  There are way worse ways to spend 5 minutes of your life.
  • Speaking of SLJ, Django Unchained looks good!  Could this be my people’s ‘Inglorious Basterds‘?  I.  Can’t.  Wait.
  • It was dope to see Jay-Z and Beyonce, Kanye and Kim K in attendance.  Seems like they usually call it in on the BET Awards, like they too cool for that.  So it was a nice surprise.
  • Oh, and Jay’s “scuse me, Kanye,  I’ma let you continue but…” jab was pretty great.  Whatever your feelings about whether Taylor Swift or Beyonce should’ve won that award that year, Kanye was a dick about it.  The moment last night was a collective get back.  Gotcha, ‘Ye.
  • Looks like D’Angelo might be back, y’all.  Dude sounded and played pretty good.  My fingers are crossed that this is an actual come back, not  a Lauryn Hill style tease.
  • So Lauren London’s the new character on The Game,eh?  Yeah, that’s incentive to at least watch the season premier.  But I’m out after that if the show otherwise still blows.
  • I get what y’all see in Kevin Hart.  He’s funny.  I like him.  The divorce stuff from his acceptance speech was awkward though.  Funny/sad isn’t the same as funny…
  • I’m so glad the great work of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly was honored last night.  Those cats are so smooth.  Maze’s music has been part of the soundtrack to some of the best moments of my life.  My college band, the Marching Crimson Pipers, used to play ‘Before I Let Go’ in the stands between plays at football games.  And no proper cookout is complete without  ‘Happy Feelings’ and ‘Golden Time of Day’ to wind it down.  Here, get to know Maze ft. Frankie Beverly.  You can thank me later.

  • I was nervous about the Whitney tribute after BET had completely dropped the ball on Michael’s in 2009.  But it turned out nicely.  Short, sweet, and sincere.  Well done.
  • Now I, too, thought it was wack to end the show on Tyga’s Rack City, and not Whitney’s swan song.  But I remembered that it was Mindless Behavior,  a group whose music I don’t think I’ve ever heard, that won the viewer’s choice award.  Their song, ‘Hello‘, beat out Jay-Z and Kanye ‘Otis,’ Beyonce’s ‘Love on Top,’ Wale and Miguel’s ‘Lotus Flower Bomb,’ and Drake, Lil Wayne, and Tyga’s ‘The Motto.”  In other words, R.I.P. Whitney, but life goes on.  And the show must go on.

C’est la vie, I guess.  Last night’s awards show was definitely Black entertainment television, and with a lot less cringe.  I enjoyed it, and I could still face myself in the mirror this morning.  I’d say that’s progress.  I see you, BET.

One last thing:  SLJ did shade the shit out of BET though.  “I did my job.  Now I gotta go back to being professional.”  smh…


Why care? Because if you don’t, you still lose.

“I work hard. Why do I have to pay for other people’s misfortunes? Why must my hard-earned tax dollars go to support lazy leaches who have only themselves to blame for their lot in life?”

“Why should I care?”

In last week’s Great Society post, I tried to answer this question. The reason you should care, in short, is because it’s the right thing to do. But for those who need a better reason, consider the incentive. Without social safety nets (like social security, medicare/Medicaid) that all of our tax dollars pay for, individuals fall further behind the socioeconomic curve and are wedged more deeply between the cracks. This is relevant because people left to their own devices to survive don’t simply disappear from society. You still have to deal with them.

Individuals who don’t have health coverage that show up to receive emergency care, will receive care and somebody still has to pay for it. People who don’t have enough money for adequate food and housing still gotta eat, and still need shelter. And someone will pay for it.  Through the normal channels or the alternative ones, someone has to pay for it. Self preservation is a universal value. Thus, if you choke off folks’ access to a better life, they’ll find another way to take opportunity. Both the French and American Revolutions proved that people won’t stand to be ruled indefinitely by aristocrats and elites who look out for their social class alone.  We can choose to participate on the front end, like civilized people who’ve learned the lessons of history, or we can wait for revolution to persuade us.

I know some Americans yearn for an existance that mirrors a 19th or 20th century one, where folks engage each other on Sunday at church or once a week at the general store. You could connect to your fellow Americans on your terms because it was likely that the patch of land you lived on was sufficient to your survival. Well, friends, that reality no longer exists. There are more than 300 million Americans; you can’t escape us.  And you can’t escape the fact that our fates are connected.

When face to face with the decision to save lives vs. teaching a lesson in personal responsibility, saving lives is more important. The lesson can wait.  Great societies prosper when they acknowledge the value in cooperation; the value in each other; the value in helping each other.  And you don’t stop helping folks because a few are ungrateful for it.  And you don’t stop helping folks because your method of dissemination is flawed.    You make it better, you make it work with what you’ve got.  This ‘me and mine’ only approach has been, on almost every occasion, disastrous. Remember that failing to heed the lessons of the past dooms us to repeating them.

So why should you care?  Because it’s in our best interest for you to.  Our best interest – yours and mine.  And because if you don’t, we all lose.  We all do, you included.


Fantasyland

Fantasyland is where suspension of reality is reality. Whether you engage it – pop its g-string and tip it, or you dream it – seeing Idris Elba’s face giving you the business, instead of that bamma, Clyde, that you married, Fantasyland is your mind’s playground. Where wonderment can freely roam.

I was at a drag show recently and there may be no greater suspension of reality anywhere than that which exists at drag shows. Make no mistake about it, drag queens are dudes in dresses and makeup. Wearing heels and purses and sequins and things. But drag is also art, creativity, courage, and skill. You have to respect the work that goes into beating one’s face the way these queens do.

Ms. Jujubee, Ms. Kenya Michaels, Ms. Nina Flowers

I’ve seen linebacker-built queens move with remarkable poise and grace in absurdly high heels .  I’ve even seen them drop into a split and pop it like a stripper with ease and precision. Drag queens are masterful at pushing the boundaries to create their perfect illusion. And the experience is especially dope if they have a personality dazzling enough to really pull it off.

I think what’s most fascinating to me about drag culture is folks’ reactions to drag performances – which sort of represents the success or failure of the queen’s illusion. My granny says the eyes never lie, and she’s right. What happens with fans at a drag show is the same thing that happens with fans at a concert – how, in my their fantasy, I they pretend that Beyoncé’s really singing ‘Speechless‘ to me them and me them only. The shoulders sway from side to side and the eyes are locked, all hazy and shit. Before you know it, it’s happened. You’re under her spell.

To me, there’s something deliciously intriguing about drag because no one studies women (for non-sexual purposes) like gay men and drag queens.  See the documentary film, Paris is Burning, if you don’t believe me.  It tells the story of drag and ball culture in the New York City’s Black and Latino LGBT communities during the late 1980s.  You can watch the entire film using the link above, and you really should.  The culture  and characters are so engrossing, you feel like you’ve gained insight into a whole other world.  In one ball scene, the emcee advises emphatically, “It is a KNOWN FACT, that a woman do carry an evening bag at dinnertime.”  How could you deny yourself this pleasure?  Go on and watch.  And the next time you see a professional queen lip syncing for her life to a Beyoncé tune, understand that only Beyoncé herself could do Bey better.

At drag shows, I also love watching folks stalk the stage, and stride up with their stack of ones in hand, ready to make it rain on a queen for being so fucking fierce. They think they got all the power, but soon find themselves up close and realize she’s this stunning projection of masculinity and femininity at the same time – stunning, maybe in the way women are.  But stunning, definitely, in the way a work of art can be.  In any case, the eyes are locked, and before they know it, they’re under her spell. The queen looks em in the eye, takes their lil ones, strokes the hand a bit. And keeps it movin. The power has been transferred.  The illusion was successful.

I suppose this magic is what all great performers hope to achieve – the ability to suspend reality and forge some connection in Fantasyland.  Or, perhaps, to be able to make the fantasy real and tangible for a moment.

Or maybe it’s enough just to wanna have a good time.  Whatever the case, Fantasyland allows you that freedom.  You get the green light to go ahead and go in.