This simple statement is perhaps what separates me in a not so simple way from so many of my left-of-center friends and acquaintances these days. You see, I am first and foremost a Liberal. I have social, moral, and philosophical principals that are quite liberal. I then support economic and political policies that help promote those beliefs. And it so happens that on more occasions than not, political candidates who join the party called “Democrat” share my principals and policies. But not all Democrats do. And not every Democratic politician shares the complete set of liberal principals. As the party called Democrat gets pulled further to the Right, I find myself more often critical of those political figures who stray rightward, especially when their policies and principals clash with my own.
It is because I hold these liberal principals above that of party affiliation that I can criticize a Democrat. I know, I know, heresy! Party Unity! Democrats are better! Etc. Etc. But blind party allegiance, and/or blind allegiance to any single political figure is simplistic in the least and dangerous at the worst.
Don’t get me wrong. I still believe that by and large the Democratic Party, as bought-and-paid-for as it is, is still less evil than the Republican Party. One Party wants to destroy labor unions, eliminate the minimum wage, take away a woman’s right to choose, prevent gays from marrying, cut funding for the poor and elderly, destroy social insurance, and privatize every element of the common good. And the other Party does not. So in very fundamental ways the parties are still very different. However, that does not mean that they are not very much the same in some very troubling ways.
A most notable similarity is the parties’ stance on right to privacy in this Age of Terror. I call it the Age of Terror because the “terrorists” have won. By committing their horrendous acts on September 11th, they fundamentally changed our way of life and, our government, and eroded our ideals by striking fear into the hearts of Americans. Since that day we live in constant fear and are so afraid that the next downed plane will hit our town/building/loved ones that we are all too willing to sacrifice our rights to privacy enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Initiated under Bush and continued and augmented under Obama, the “protective” surveillance state has gone down a path with an undeniable Orwellian destination.
“Why worry if you have nothing to hide?” A false counter-argument. The argument being debated should be: “Why trust the government with this much information and power over their citizenry?” “But Obama is a good guy with good intentions.” While I agree with this assertion, this is also a poor defense of today’s unchecked surveillance state. We should never create a policy or institution because we happen to trust the person currently wielding the power of that policy or institution. Case in point: When Bush first started circumventing FISA to spy on suspected terrorists, Democrats were up in arms because they didn’t trust Dubya (or more likely they didn’t trust Cheyney and Rumsfeld and their neocon cadre). Republicans, however, spoke eloquently about how Bush could be trusted to use this spying power as our great protector to stop the bad guys. Today, the tables have turned. Today Obama has expanded Bush’s unchecked spying by building a massive storage facility that collects, monitors, stores, and analyzes data on ALL Americans (whether suspected of wrongdoing or not). Democrats, for the most part, have fallen into a HopeyChangey trance, parroting the Administration’s claims that Obama needs this information to stop the bad guys. A shocking poll released this week showed that a majority of Democrats polled support these spying actions, while a majority of Republicans polled oppose them. See what happened there? The people who once supported the extreme invasion of privacy and erosion of the Fourth Amendment suddenly stopped supporting it once their trusted protector was no longer the one with that power.
And that’s the most important point. We must create policies and institutions that don’t rely on someone who we trust and believe has good intentions to execute the policy or yield the power of that institution. I ask my fellow Democrats: What if some crazy Right Wing Republican gets elected after Obama? What if he manages to also have both houses of Congress on his side? Let’s be honest, this is not totally impossible (um, G.W. Bush 2001-2006). What if they decide that Liberals or Gays or Mexicans or Unions are up to no good and use the spying power that our guy helped create and augment, to spy on these opponent groups? It’s like the faux-IRS scandal but 100 times worse.
And the thing is, it’s not even hypothetical. This is what Watergate was all about. Nixon took advantage of the unchecked power afforded him. It blew up in his face and we the people, through our elected representatives in Congress, changed the system to prevent that sort of thing from happening ever again. Until, of course, one President and Congress came along and passed the Patriot Act and then proceeded to ignore the safeguards put in place post-Nixon. The downward spiral began. Then in 2007 and 2008 a voice cut through the silence on these abuses promising that if elected he’d put a stop to this unprecedented invasion of privacy, that his administration would be the most transparent ever. He said what he needed to say to get elected and promptly shucked the parts that didn’t work for him once in the big leather seat.
Now the government yields a power unlike any it has ever held before. And neither party is willing to put a stop to the reaches of that power. And that’s because both parties have come to be similar in at least this one important way: their need to gain and maintain power. So while some Republican politicians will go on TV denouncing this power to spy on all citizens, they won’t really mean it. They’re close to having both Houses of Congress and they came close to carrying the Big Stick in 2012 too. And they fully expect they’ll take all three next time around, and that power sure will come in handy then. Of course Democrats don’t want to sacrifice this powerful information tool they’ve created either. Not if their party leader tells them it’s necessary to retain the power they’ve secured.
It’s because I don’t hew to any Party label or blindly swear allegiance to any Party leader that I speak up. It’s because I’m mored by deep philosophical, moral, and social foundations that I stand up against this Democrat as he distances himself from those things I hold dear. The spying policies Obama has promoted and the institution of invasion into personal lives that he has supported are things with which I fundamentally oppose and disagree. Any Liberal, nay, any American, should oppose this slippery slope of privacy invasion in the name of the Fourth Amendment.
I leave you with this:
“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” – Thomas Jefferson
It’s so interesting how eight years changes the meaning of the word “mandate.” In 2004, George W. Bush won the election by 3,012,166 popular votes (a 2.4% margin over Kerry) and 286 Electoral Votes (a 31 Electoral Vote margin over Kerry’s). Bush said:
“I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.” source
Here’s how Vice President Cheney put it:
“President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation’s future and the nation responded by giving him a mandate.” source
Barack Obama won the 2012 election with 3,227,862 popular votes (a 2.7% margin over Romney) and 332 Electoral Votes (a 126 Electoral Vote margin over Romney). And yet the media was a flurry the next day over how Obama and his team should not take this as a mandate. My dad, no doubt echoing FAUX News, said to me that it was no mandate. I dropped the numbers above on him. Then I said, Obama isn’t even claiming a mandate. Obama’s own victory speech was about coming together to solve problems:
I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America. source
I’m not claiming Obama’s win was a mandate. I just find it amusing how the Republicans and the media to whom they distribute talking points, so easily changed the definition of “mandate” eight years later. Especially when the margin of victory in 2012 was larger than it was in 2004.
When I talk to many of my friends, they say that their interest in politics piqued when Al Gore had the election stolen from him. I was still young (just out of college) and having too much fun in the last year of San Francisco’s dot-com bliss to really care. I remember watching the results in disbelief with coworkers, but Dubya didn’t quite yet seem like the horrible country-killer he would soon become.
It wasn’t even the beginning of the unnecessary and unprovoked Iraq war that pushed me into political fanboy-dom. Though, at the time I lived in a warehouse with nine other people and we held anti-war seminars, stayed home from work, walked the streets in protest, etc. But that still wasn’t the tipping point for me.
I remember the pivotal moment vividly. I came home that Tuesday night in November of 2004, to a warehouse full of roommates and friends avidly watching the election results. We didn’t have cable or a TV, but were using our rabbit ears and projecting the results onto our wall in the movie room. The mood was somber amongst my friends. Florida, the source of so much drama four years prior, had been called for Bush. Ohio followed. And it was over. The bumbling idiot who had made a mockery of our country for four years was assured another four years to do even more damage. There was a lot of speculation in the warehouse movie room that night as to how this could have happened. There was also a call to action: All liberals needed to go make lots of liberal babies. I’m not sure if that work began in earnest that night, but eight years later, many of those same liberal warehouse friends are married with babies.
I remember walking out to the main room and noticing one friend lying on one of our six couches and staring blankly at the ceiling twenty feet above. I asked if he was okay–what was wrong? He said he couldn’t believe what had just happened. He was despondent over what another four years of The Decider would bring. And that’s when it really hit me. So much had gone wrong in four years and so much more was about to go wrong. And yet I knew relatively little about how or why things got to be this way. I was determined to understand more.
Immediately following that night in 2004, my friends and I walked around in a disillusioned haze. I thought that Democrats and Liberals had no hope. For about a month I was resigned to living alone in our little Liberal bastion bubble. Then around Christmastime my outlook took a turn for the better because of three books I read.
The first book was Robert Reich’s Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America. This book was instrumental in giving me hope that liberal ideals weren’t dead. Instead Liberals just needed to be more confident in owning their political beliefs. To this day, Reich remains one of my favorite political figures. He’s smart, witty, and committed to Liberal values that would make FDR, JFK, RFK, and LBJ proud.
The second book was The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, written by two conservative editors of The Economist. Of course, “conservative” outside of the US means something less absurd than it does here. I devoured their history of the rise of the Republican Party. Perhaps it was so palatable because of the mostly unbiased presentation of history. (I say “mostly” because the last chapter was so partisan/pro-Republican it felt incredibly out of place with the rest of the book.) That being said, I felt so much more knowledgable after reading this massive tome that laid bare the tactics and grand agreements that were made to bring about today’s powerful GOP. And, as G.I.Joe would say, knowing is half the battle.
The other half of the battle for me was about communication. I needed to understand how to convey my Liberal ideals to my less liberal friends and family members in a way that mattered to them. Thus, the third book I read was Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives by George Lakoff. In this handy guide, Lakoff succinctly provides a framework for promoting liberal values and how to stop falling into the Right’s devious framing of issues. For example, calling it “tax relief” implies that taxes are something you need relief from, aka a burden. Call them what they are: tax cuts, which is more neutral, and can even be painted negatively, if your goal is to pay for things instead of cutting services. There’s much, much more in this pithy guide, and it gave me a new vocabulary and improved my hopes that we Liberals, too, could compete with good messaging.
That same year my dad and I got in a discussion about taxes. I told him that Bush hadn’t cut his taxes, and instead the vast majority of the tax cuts had gone to the rich. And then I said, why are taxes so bad anyway? He and my mom both were state employees (Cal-Trans and a teacher) whose salaries were paid for by California taxes. He was also on our local school board for 12 years and cared deeply about education. Guess where that money came from? Taxes. Then I landed it. I said that every year on tax day I was proud to pay taxes, even in the face of my tax dollars paying for two wars I didn’t support. The reason I was proud is that I made my way through K-12 public education and went on to Harvard and was now making more money than he and my mom were. I was the embodiment of the American Dream (and, as a single male, paid more in taxes than they did). It was my civic responsibility to pay back into the system that educated me and gave me a bright future. I was proud to fund education for my niece and her cousins so they could have the same opportunities I did. I was proud to pay for the great California road system that he spent so many years of his career building and maintaining. In short, I was proud to be a citizen of the United States and pay my membership dues. Interestingly about a year later he was talking to me around tax time again and was relating a story about how he had encouraged his coworker to vote for a local tax measure because it would help pay for schools, something any proud American should be supportive of. Thank you, George Lakoff.
Of course, I read countless other important books in the subsequent years. Too many to count or list, really. But those three stood out and turned me into the political junky I am today.
Two years later, in 2006 I studied the Senate races and put out my first guide to Which Senate Candidates to Support to Take Back the Senate. Six of the seven candidates that I promoted and gave money to ended up winning and helping the Democrats retake the Senate, putting an end to George W. Bush’s reign of unchecked terror.
To this day, I eat, drink and breathe politics. It’s of fundamental importance to me, but also to the nation that I want to see the USA become (or rather, return to). I long for the day that the Democrats hone their message even more finely. That they embrace the populism that Obama has delicately courted lately. That a new progressive powerhouse candidate rises on the national stage and brings about changes that benefit the Middle Class in the way FDR’s and LBJ’s policies did. We shall see if this comes to pass. But until then, I’ll continue to learn as much as I can so that I can advocate and educate within my circle of friends and family members.
I’m no graphic artist, but I made good use of PowerPoint and jpegs to create the following map. You can print it out and use it as a guide for Tuesday night. You can even grab a blue and red crayon and fill in the states as the media calls them. (Just don’t color in Florida too early or else you might want to keep a bottle of white out handy too).
Of course there’s the Big Face Off between Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney. More specifically, you should keep an eye out for results from the following eleven swing states. We should have a pretty good idea who has won each of the following races by midnight in each timezone.
There are also eight Senate races and four Gay Marriage ballot measures to watch closely. Here’s a list of all three types of results to watch for: SS (swing states), SE (Senate races), and GM (gay marriage).
New Hampshire SS
Virginia SS SE
Wisconsin SS SE
North Dakota SE (A complicated one, because the Democratic parts of the state are technically in Mountain time.
New Mexico SS
Arizona SS (Not really “swing” but it’s worth watching to see if reduced Republican margins indicated that it’s headed toward swing territory in the future)
Nevada SS SE
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HMS Romney was commissioned in August 1762 under her first commander, Captain Robert Walsingham, but was paid off by February the following year. When she recommissioned in June 1763, it was under the command of Captain James Ferguson. Romney became the flagship of the commander of the North American station, Rear-Admiral Lord Colvill, and served in this capacity for the next three years. After a brief refit at Portsmouth The Romney recommissioned in March 1767 under Captain John Corner, as part of a squadron sent to North America under Samuel Hood. While serving off North America, Romney achieved a degree of notoriety after being sent to Boston Harbour to support the commissioners, who had asked Hood for help in enforcing the Townshend Acts. She arrived on 17 May 1768, but being short of men, Captain Corner began to impress seamen from the harbour. This was unpopular with the locals, who took to attacking the press gangs. Events escalated when the commissioners in the town ordered the seizure of the merchant vessel the Liberty, which belonged to John Hancock. When sailors and marines from the Romney attempted to seize the vessel, mobs attacked them and then turned on the commissioners. Many of the officials took refuge aboard the Romney, before transferring to Castle William. These incidents heightened tensions that would eventually lead to the Boston Massacre in 1770.
As promised, here’s an update to my voter guide with the addition of a whole slew of endorsements from organizations. And lest you accuse me of showing only one side, I have included the SF Chronicle’s center-leaning endorsements as well (even though it makes me soul hurt a little).
I watched the first 45 minutes of the debate. Then I had to switch to radio (hooray for the iPod Nano’s radio tuner) while I walked to a 7pm appointment. Unfortunately, I missed the final half hour when shit got real.
During the part I did watch/listen to, I was pleased to see Obama go on both the offensive and defensive, both of which he failed to do in the first debate. I was also impressed with some of Romney’s attacks. They were well-rehearsed and packed a punch. Thankfully Obama verbally sparred and didn’t just roll over.
I was also amused when only minutes into the debate, Romney challenged Crowley on the rules, and she shut him down. Then he did it again and she kindly informed him he had the rules wrong. BAM.
Apparently I missed the moment in which Romney lost the debate. I did go back and watch the Libya kerfuffle when I got home and, yep. Romney blew it. As Rachel Maddow’s blog put it, Romney laid the trap and then walked right into it himself. Here’s the clip:
My roommate and I watched the Bill O’Reilly vs John Stewart Debate this morning. It’s too bad that our politicians will never go head to head in this way. It was so refreshing to see tough issues discussed. Of course, the infusion of humor helped too. But watch it, seriously watch all 90 minutes. It’s very good and thought provoking.
Senate forecasts are looking favorable for the Dems lately. It appears the Democrats have a strong chance of holding the Senate. But there are still six weeks to go until the November 6th election and the conservative SuperPACs are starting to unleash a deluge of money and attack ads. The game is far from over.
In 2006 I wrote up a guide for my friends on which candidates they should support to help take back the Senate. Of the 6 candidates I recommended, 5 won, and the Dems took control of the Senate.
With the flood of information spewing out during this unending election cycle, it might be a bit confusing for those looking to donate money. And more importantly, where to spend that money so it will make the biggest impact.
The Senate is key. Although there is a distant chance the Democrats could take back the House, the Senate MUST BE HELD. To help you better understand where to focus your support and dollars, I’ve compiled the following hand chart. Candidates are ranked in order of recommendation. For details about the categories, the candidates, and information on how to donate, click to read more after the image.
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