Tag Archives: Election

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.

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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.


Great Society

After watching President Obama’s Ohio Speech on the Economy last week, I structured my Black Politics lecture around the contributions and obstructions of federalism – the union of state and federal power – to the “African-American quest for universal freedom.” In that context, we discussed four episodes in our nation’s history which speak to the expansion of federal power, and the utility of “Big Government.” They are: Reconstruction, The Great Depression and the Great Recession, and the Civil Rights Era.

Reconstruction was the first national effort at not only physical, structural renewal, it also was an attempt to redefine society – to no longer affirm the institution of slavery, and the indignity of human bondage. Whatever your feelings about Abraham Lincoln’s motives in supporting abolition, the decision to go to war over it required courage. Lincoln’s efforts stated firmly that the United States is, and not that the United States are. We were one nation committed to a singular destiny – namely, life, liberty, the pursuit of prosperity and happiness for all Americans.

The expansion of Federal power via FDR’s New Deal programs following The Great Depression signaled that government took seriously its social contract with the consented. It would indeed work for the people.

As in the Great Recession, which began somewhere around 2007, and from which the U.S. economy hasn’t completely emerged, the expansion of federal power after the Great Depression served to protect the people against thrill-seeking investors’ risky financial decisions. In the event that great risk did not result in great reward, and instead, exploded into calamitous, wide-ranging collateral damage, only the federal government had the economic fluidity and the moral imperative to lead the rescue.

The moral imperative to do what’s right for most people is what defines the role of government and distinguishes it from the private sector. Thus, during times of national economic crisis, “relief” from steadily rising unemployment and poverty is proffered by the only entity with the power and financial liquidity to do so – government. Social welfare programs like the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the stimulus of 2009 (formally known as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act) helped save the nation’s economy not from calamity and disaster, but from deepening calamity and disaster. I know that nuance doesn’t play well politically, but sometimes the best answer to “are things better?” is, in all honesty, “things are better than they could have been.”

And then there’s the matter of reform. Neither the Great Depression nor the Great Recession happened as a result of private industry’s concern for common folks. Business – corporations – have as their primary aim increasing the proportion of profit to loss, by any means necessary. The banking industry, through subprime mortgage lending and credit derivatives, exploited the natural aspirations of the American people. The prevailing narrative purports that home ownership is a critical component of achieving the American dream. The industry capitalized on our inability to discern wants and real needs. And for that, we share partial responsibility in the global financial collapse. It’s like this: the haughty aspirations of the American peopled had poisoned the well. And the banks saw an opportunity to capitalize on that thirst – selling back to us water from the poisoned well, an American dream that had an expiration date on it.

It was no problem for banks to approve loans for folks with credit scores of 500 and below because when or if they defaulted on the loan, the bank had already made its share of profit from the fees associated with having scores more applicants and approvals. The industry knew the game was rigged against the consumer, so it insulated itself against the potential fallout. In other words, if the house of cards ever fell, those responsible for brokering the shitty deals would get away relatively unscathed. If the consumer defaulted, the bank had already split up the risk a hundred ways, all across the globe.

FDR’s New Deal programs and President Obama’s Wall Street Reforms were government answers to private industry’s on again /off again relationship with public exploitation. Government gives a shit about you because that’s its job. Corporations make money; that’s their job. Government-imposed regulations on business practices are used to remind business that people are more than just dollar signs. It’s the caveat to caveat emptor – buyer beware; seller be fair. (dope. I just made that up…)

Be fair. This brings me to the Civil Rights era and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Think, for two seconds, about what a “great society” looks like, how it functions, what it’s priorities are. The Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Head Start Program, among many others, made proclamations about who Americans are, and what we value. We decided we didn’t like the idea that minorities bore unequal treatment in our society, we weren’t comfortable with the idea that our elderly and underprivileged should simply limp away, out of sight and out of mind. And we understood that education – as early as possible and as much as possible, offered opportunity and advancement to the individual, to her community, and to society at large.

Great societies recognize the connection between the individual, the community, and society. And government’s role is to ensure that society’s rules of operation are reasonable and fair, such that the individual is able to flourish, and give back. That’s the positive feedback loop. It works the same in reverse. Now that we get to view President Obama and Governor Romney side by side, I see one candidate who understands that vision, and one who does not.

There’s a quote I love that goes: to the hammer, every problem’s a nail. For me, Governor Romney and the Tea Party Republican Party embody this perspective, constructing every solution from the position of privilege. Don’t raise taxes on millionaires who can afford it, and don’t dare regulate business, removing the hard-on it has for risk and exploitation given an opportunity. No, no. Instead, cut spending on services for people who need them most. Reduce or eliminate funding for programs in education, the arts, infrastructure, and science and research – all aspects of society that make it, well, great.

So I guess the question going forward isn’t who you’ll vote for in November. It’s bigger than that. It’s more like, what kind of society do you want to live in? Raise kids in? Grow old in? What values do you honor? Who advocates a “great” society for all of us, and whose position is summed up this way: “great society for me and my cohorts and we’ll make it great for you. Trust me.” Once you answer those questions, who to vote for in November becomes a no-brainer.


5 Things I Hate About 2012 Politics

In advance of the punditry sure to bubble up and over in the next several months, I’ve gone ahead and drawn my line in the sand. What follows below are issues that will likely play a significant role in the 2012 election. I loathe them, and I thought you ought to know about it.

Apathy

You’re “disappointed” with politics. You’re sick of selecting “the lesser of two evils.” You feel like government is “corrupt” with a gang of “career politicians.”

You know who’s to blame? You are. Because Citizens United is barely a toddler, and all the high-office offenses which guide your disaffection with politics, are remedied by you –your political consciousness, your political presence, and your political action. Action via apathy in this regard is inertia. It’s spinning your wheels and chasing your tail; it’s a way to get you nowhere fast. In other words, let it be known for all time that closed mouths don’t get fed. It would behoove you to speak up.

Voter Disenfranchisement Tactics.

…particularly those voting-day- switch-a-roos. I’m convinced they prey upon the weakest among us. You don’t have to know why American elections are held on Tuesdays, but you should know that our elections are generally held on Tuesdays. We musn’t be so easily disenfranchisable. A asshole patriot puts up a scrawled, misspelled note announcing Election Day has been postponed to Friday the 13th to dupe test the waters, and some sucker falls for it. Ignorance aint no ways bliss, policy-wise.

“The American People”

In every election cycle, the pandering politician will defer to the sage, rational psyche of “The American People.” The American People know what they want…the American People are tired of…the American People are smart enough to…. No they don’t, and no they aren’t. Collectively, the “American People” is a C student who struggles with separating fantasy from reality. We are consumers for whom happiness is measured in things.  And for whom consciousness is, you know, nerd shit. And through it all, we feel entitled to be outraged when irrationality and irreverence begin to pervade our politics.    Indeed, deferring to us is a tremendous, albeit unavoidable, risk. We were once worthy of such a grand vote of confidence, weren’t we?  …we are who we elect.

The “Taking Advantage of the Black Vote” Meme

I bristle at the assertion that Black people should vote Republican simply because Black people have historically voted for Democrats, and because Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. (presumably God and Jesus, respectively, to Black Americans) number among their ranks. To string together the philosophies of “the party of Lincoln” with those of the Republican party that exists today is to completely misconstrue history and to undervalue the evolution of Republican/Conservative ideology. The phrase, “40 acres and a mule,” was commentary on the failure of Reconstruction efforts to redress Black economic underdevelopment resulting from slavery. Not to be outclassed by General William Tecumseh Sherman, Andrew Jackson, Lincoln’s successor, rescinded Sherman’s Special Field Orders, No. 15 (the military order which actually secured for free Blacks 4o0,000 acres of land around South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida).  As a result, them 40 acres, and the opportunities for economic parity that came with them, went back to the previous white owners.  I’m not suggesting that Black Americans should never vote Republican; a good idea is a good idea no matter the camp from which it emerges. What I demand is that the GOP work for the Black vote, and “…but you always vote Democrat” isn’t convincing enough. Al Sharpton colorfully stated a few years ago that, “We never got the 40 acres. We went all the way to Herbert Hoover, and we never got the 40 acres. We didn’t get the mule. So we decided we’d ride this donkey as far as it would take us.” Given the party representatives vying for executive office in 2012, I agree with Reverend Al completely.

Independents

I think it was Bill Maher who first drew my attention to these perpetual and farcical fence-riders. These cats aren’t carefully deliberating their political choices. Instead, it seems they feed off the attention of pandering partisans. The Independent beats his chest extolling the virtues of military might while watching carefully to ensure that his Medicare and Social Security checks make it to the mailbox on time. In 21st century politics, you can’t have it both ways. Ideologically, you’re either realist-progressive, or a nostalgic conservative, seeking desperately to turn back the clock on social and cultural progress while quietly concentrating opportunity in your hands, and yours only. Andrew Bacevich writes in The Limits of Power that “When it came to ensuring … every American should get a fair shake, the contribution of modern conservatism has been essentially nil.” One more time for the slow kids in the back: You cannot have it both ways. And the choice couldn’t be clearer. Grab your balls and Pick a side.

Like it or not, election season is upon us. Choose wisely, ladies and gentlemen.