A mid-April consideration on the political state of things

A bland title perhaps but there’s nothing else that seems to sum things up in a deft sense for me, so I won’t bother trying. Still, perhaps you can consider this as me seeing the end of Lent as realizing I inadvertantly gave up political posting for the season — though for good reason, simply because it kept my head from spinning each and every day.

It is important of course to reiterate the key point always missed in partisanship — the basic continuity of the system means things are neither as radical an improvement nor a disaster than one would expect. You wouldn’t know it from any amount of happenstance and rambling that’s out there these days, though. From the well-documented moronic theatrics of Glenn Beck to the mock-surprise from people who should know better — hi there, Glenn Greenwald — that electing Obama didn’t suddenly mean bunnies and kittens hopping around everywhere, if you added up everything from mass media points of view to endless blog rants to tendentious columns to whatever else and believed all of it, the republic is simultaneously collapsing completely and in complete lock-step with the previous presidency without change. Nice trick if you can manage it but I prefer to take slightly longer and calmer views.

It’s one reason why this post isn’t going to be that long in comparison to many similar ones I did last year. Yet what has ultimately struck me about the past few months is the sheer amount of what has happened, legislative decisions, court rulings, executive orders. Not simply on the national level alone, of course — thus the events in Iowa and Vermont the other week, which together probably are going to herald the eventual adoption of gay marriage on a wider scale, for instance (and a very good thing that will be — I strongly suspect this to be the straw that breaks the back of the religious right in its 20th century hangover sense).

In this mixture of actions I see little to draw a definitive bead on beyond the sense of new consensuses that are starting to slowly, carefully emerge. Even those are vague to me, though, and the danger of overcategorization — as I’ve long sensed as a problem in the realm of music — is just as relevant if not more so in the world of the sociopolitical. More important, therefore, to focus closely on matters at hand that one can have a direct say in.

Therefore taking a page out of my own book from last year’s posts — namely the need to remember the local as much as the national when it comes to politics — my next posts on politics over the upcoming weeks will look at the upcoming California special election addressing the variety of measures designed to finally do something about the ultimately ruinous financial situation of the state in recent years. Meantime I’ll be chiming in as per usual on various posts at Balloon Juice as amusing or idiotic or important national events of note occur.

So I’ll just end here to say that I’m going to be terribly amused by the cranks and fools that are going to pretend anything’s going to happen with their little protests on April 15th beyond openly-displayed self-loathing and paranoia plus a lot of purchase of tea. If I were an active investor, I’d buy stocks in Lipton.

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So there was this speech tonight

And a rebuttal and all that. But there’s no need to talk about that right this second, really.

Still, I am starting to feel a little more ready to poke my nose back into a little more regular political reflection, at least openly through the blog. I’ve had a couple of posts back in January but most everything since then has been on the level of general comments over at Balloon Juice and a couple of other spots, or private conversations. That’s all I felt I had to contribute at the time, really — a further stepping away from the obsessive tracking and all that, partially so I could concentrate on work, partially because I felt I just needed a little space in my head on the subject.

I’m pretty sure I muttered something about this before, but if not — I think part of the reason why I was so pleased with the election in November was the sense that while there will always be surprises and potential mistakes, I got the sense that Obama was deliberative rather than impulsive, an important thing. It’s not that impulse is always bad, nor deliberateness always good — still, I’d rather have someone deliberative in the role of president, whether as tone-setter or as decision-maker.

It is of course important to note that so much of what we ‘see’ in the role of the person in the presidency is a very mere perception, shaped in a mass media setting (and Twitter and YouTube and all that ARE mass media, they just aren’t always given the term that is deserved). For me to claim that Obama is deliberate is false; rather, my sense is that he is, a combination of distanced observation and recognition of a cultivated image. In combination with a variety of stances and beliefs that resonated with me far beyond anything McCain and crew could offer, little surprise that I was content enough with his victory. The proof would ultimately be in the pudding.

And so far? Well there’s all sorts of metaphors and comparisons being offered out there, positive and negative and whatever, but personally I think just all boils down to this for me — he still seems incredibly deliberate after a month in the job, and he plays for a very long game. This thrills some, frightens others (the paranoid of course assume he’s out to destroy the country, but the paranoid always assume someone’s out to destroy the country, and I’m tired of their willful disconnection — not so much from reality as from hope, since they run solely on fear).

What playing for the long game means for me is this, though — thinking about overall goals, testing out ideas, refining processes, acknowledging mistakes, getting called out by both friends and enemies as a way to see those mistakes and to fix them, sometimes getting overtaken by events, sometimes being totally able to dictate them. Furthermore, it’s one thing to play a long game just to win for oneself — it’s another play to win to benefit all, even if one doesn’t reap the full benefits.

Now, some people, I’ve noticed, take the measure of these kind of comments and assume that somehow this means a certain worshipful faith in Obama, like he is an instant solution just by existing. Nonsense, of course — I can’t speak for others, but I’m not into kowtowing. I just want the dude to do the job he was elected to do, and to speak about it frankly and clearly. Generalities are fine enough in certain contexts, specifics will be needed at other points, and realizing that of course it’s not just him but all those who work for him, I expect those people to provide those specifics too.

And so the speech and the rebuttal? A deliberate president faced off against a dullard governor. Is it any wonder that right now — allowing for the fact that perfection is impossible — I’m pretty content?

Roll on, whatever is next. Not ‘bring it on’ — roll on. It will be dealt with deliberately, and we’ll be the better for it.

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First week done and I am…amused

Highly, highly amused. And pleased. But not in the least surprised.

I muttered in a Facebook update a week back that I rather wished that the whole ceremonial part of the Inauguration could be over and done with just so the guy could get to work and, you know, be president. Obviously this is kvetching on my part, people like a grand entertainment and all. Still, much the same way as it’s always been with me given the course of Barack Obama’s striking career these past few years, I felt less like it was some huge massive historical moment for the nation — even though of course it was — than just a feeling that he looked plenty suited for the role, and things would probably go from there.

As we know now, they have. The blizzard of high profile executive orders coming out has captured a lot of attention right off the bat, covering as they did a substantial number of subjects. Meantime, there’s been the various coffee klatches and meetings and more regarding the economy, Joe Biden’s off to Europe doing the ceremonial rounds, George Mitchell’s off to the Middle East to do the harder stuff, Pentagon’s getting visited tomorrow, the cabinet secretaries are all settling in…it’s good stuff, if one wants to see people actually getting busy with the business of government, and I do. Hey, they are the ultimate public servants, after all.

But I’ve been a bit surprised at others’ surprise at it all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not seeing myself as some sort of figured-it-all-out oracle on the subject. Also, anybody complaining on the right about Obama’s executive actions seems to have forgotten who lost the election and all — hey, now you know how a lot of people felt over the past eight years, so my sympathy level is kinda low. So that’s not surprising, that’s just ‘eh, what are you going do’ type stuff. We could be in a stellar economic and geopolitical situation right now and they’d still be complaining, really.

No, what caught me a bit off guard were friends and acquaintances on the left (or the more thoughtful right) surprised that he issued so many orders and so forth that were in line with what he said he would do during the campaign. It got to the point where I had to say I was surprised at their surprise, and when I was called on that a bit — after all, I am a self-declared arch cynic about the process of power and its self-perpetuation — I reflected on that. Quite obviously I have a certain bias to my preferred candidate of the two on offer in November winning, and I didn’t want to assume that I was seeing things strictly through a rose-colored afterglow.

I had to conclude that, quite simply, I had already taken it as read that he would pretty much hit the ground running and do things straight out of the gate, as I hoped he would do. And so it’s proven. One week is still one week, but hey, he ran for the job, got it, and now he’s getting to work. A certain naivete on my part for making that assumption, which easily could not have been the case? I guess, but intellectually I really didn’t have any reason to assume otherwise — my surprise would have been if nothing had happened, or nothing much.

So I’m pleased rather than surprised, because to my mind there was no reason to be surprised if he did all this, and looked to doing more. And as for being amused? Well it’s already the talk of any number of websites, but the various zings, some understated and a couple more upfront, that have been directed by Obama and his crew to various political opponents have all been done with a mixture of deftness and icily precise aim. Both have had as their biggest target one of the biggest of all, a certain R. Limbaugh, who has somehow gotten it into his head that it’s 1993 again and he represents a new and fresh voice opposing all that doesn’t match with his vision of the world instead of, well, representing being a boring crank complaining into his cups. (Admittedly he’s attracted plenty of fellow cranks, but they seem to be drinking even worse rotgut.)

Now personally I’d always figured that the smartest thing to do with him would be to ignore him, under the presumption that engaging with the type of glory hound like that merely makes him all the more flattered. Instead, there’s been a taking-the-bull-by-the-horns approach on the part of the White House, done with this calculation in mind: “Hey, if the GOP wants to be represented by this guy while Obama stands for the Democrats, I don’t think it’s much of a contest.”

The end result has been talked about already in a few spots — try this link from the Moderate Voice for a good enough summary. Obama’s absolutely killer line to GOP opponents in today’s Congressional meetings about inevitable points of fundamental difference — “I understand that and I will watch you on FOX News and feel bad about myself” — is the kind of thing you almost figure only exists in novels and film scripts, and yet there it is. It’s a perfect dare that’s also a shutdown, because how can you react against it if your move has already been anticipated — and dismissed — by your opponent?

And for Rush? Well, more stories like this one, please — and I have a feeling they will increase. To quote from the Moderate Voice story:

…he’s getting lots of ink, Internet attention and broadcast time. But he’s unlikely to be the GOP’s ticket to regaining the support of the public — unless the party wants to write off many independent voters, Democrats who don’t like the Democratic party’s far left, and moderate Republicans who don’t like the way Limbaugh has demonized Republicans who aren’t conservative enough for him. A Rushuplican party would not do well as a thoughtful, bigger umbrella Republican party.

Obama knows this. Rush doesn’t. The contrast is illustrative (and the latter’s followers will need it outlined and explained in great detail in order for them to understand it, I suspect, but let that pass…).

But in the end, one week is one week. One month, one season, one year…we’ll all know more then. So far, though, one hell of a start. Best as ever to keep a line in mind from friend Mackro today: “…there’s less difference between Obama, Clinton, GWB, Bush I, Reagan than most Americans, especially Obama fans, realize.” Quite true, both positively and negatively, I think. The trick will be to see how much or how little difference in the end.

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An economic note, as such

Some time back I said I didn’t feel too well equipped to talk about the random sense of economic upheaval that kicked in back in September. Honestly, I still don’t, and any thoughts I have on the matter are underscored by something crucial that I offer as a slight foreword: as someone who is currently gainfully employed plus possesses access to a steady variety of freelance work, who has savings rather than debt, who does not own real estate and who has no family of his own to take care of, I’m not weighed down by the most common concerns one can read about out there right now, and which do affect a number of friends to one extent or another. The canard that if something happens to your neighbor it’s a recession but if something happens to you it’s a depression rings rather true to my ears at this point, and ultimately I feel like the best I can do is sit and wait on whatever concrete gets developed by the government — open for questioning, review, objections and more from that point forward — while continuing my general course of things as I’ve done, doing one’s best as one can and more, and trying not to take any of it for granted when others are not so fortunate.

So I observe and, of course, ponder. Living in Orange County, where early indications of housing bubbles and their collapse were plentiful — if not yet as scarring as what happened over in the Inland Empire — one key thing I’ve noticed is apparent to almost everyone. Minimalls are essentially the backbone of local business life around here, and every one has a spot open for lease now. Predictions on a couple of financial blogs and increasingly elsewhere are that commercial real estate is going to get hit hard in general but right now it’s apparent it already is here, with those leasing signs out on the street and the empty windows and so forth. Small businesses disappear, bigger ones contract and concentrate, this will go on for some time to come, I figure. Just today I noticed that a store’s left the Lab, the self-consciously arty minimall right next to where I live (I can look out from my apartment into its parking lot), and it’s big enough that there will be a notable hole there soon enough.

Still, I find myself looking at this all abstractedly from the viewpoint I’ve outlined above. Continuing the canard and extending it a bit, if your neighbors lose their favorite businesses it’s a recession, if you lose yours it’s a depression, and so far for me it’s…a recession. So far I’m lucky there.

Quality of life depends not only on you and your specific living situation but what you have to hand, and what’s important for you. The important things for me are places to eat and get food for home, places to hang and enjoy life, places to shop occasionally as needed or desired for extras. I’m lucky in Costa Mesa and the neighborhood I live in, and again, I do my best not to take it for granted, but so long as what I rely on and love is around, I feel almost like I’m in an insular bubble of my own, and that feeling is a bit strange, like everything is suspended in air somehow.

The weather’s been a big help, though, over this past week — I’ll take summer in winter, thanks, and while all the concerns about the environment I’ve lived with and nurtured over the years have taken on a certain new urgency as a result, the part of me that hates the closed darkness of winter for an extended period, the time that is shut down and cold, well, frankly that part of me is singing inside. Said it before, say it again, I do live here for a reason. But in talking with folks at a couple of local restaurant spots I enjoy going to, I hear the weather’s good for them as well, that people are coming out a little more and showing support and so forth, just by being there and, yes, by buying things. A material expression of faith sometimes but even so, and last night at Au Lac, one of my favorite spots around here for almost ten years now, underscored that — new remodelling was wonderful, the place was near packed right from the opening and the food was as great as ever, if a little more expensive but not badly so.

But then I think of this very dry contrast of quotes over at the Cunning Realist, especially this sentence from the second one: “Those eating well in restaurants were those who could afford to eat well in restaurants.” Still, it’s a barely-scratch-the-surface quote in many respects, especially since ‘eating well’ does not have to mean ‘eating expensively,’ as the first quote in the link indicates with its talk of ‘fancy’ restaurants. Perhaps a better way to take that quote would be to consider the frequency of the event: do I eat out every night? Certainly not, usually it’s only once or twice, and has been the case for some time now. Do the folks I was with? Not sure but I very much doubt it — we’re all cooks ourselves and enjoy what we do. Did everyone who was there? Who can say? But Au Lac doesn’t pretend to be the hot in-place for the monied social set around here, it’s very relaxed even as the place has grown bigger and more elegant over time, and looking around I saw a good cross-section of OC as such, at least through my personal lens. (There’s a reason I ended an unpublished novel of mine at said restaurant, and I just said what it is.)

And so life continues. Friend Stripey was one of the folks at the dinner and as we all went over in a heap to see the one-year anniversary of the Box gallery — go if you can, it’s a great exhibition by the peerless Aaron Kraten and the very friendly Keith Noordzy — we reflected on how much of what went wrong in recent years economically seemed to boil down to ridiculous expectations and psychology, whipsawing from overexuberance to deep despair in a matter of weeks. But deep despair can become its own baseline, one where a natural tendency on my part is to get a little impatient and focus on the positive instead. So right now, I will do so, and we’ll all go where we do. I hope I’m not a mindless optimist but I am an optimist nonetheless.

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Waiting on an inauguration…or maybe just waiting

I should preface this piece by noting my general mood over the past couple of weeks — tired, needing a break and getting it, then dealing with this damned sinus infection that is still dragging on a bit, though I’m certainly feeling much better than I have been. (That said, the sneezing fit just now left me think a follow-up visit to the doctor won’t go awry.) Oddly enough work itself isn’t really a trouble so far but then again the new quarter’s just started, so knock on wood there.

But anyway, this likely explains what I’ve come to realize has been a certain — I think necessary — distance from the roil of political discussion and debate that I’d been living in for years via the many sites I tracked online, not to mention the general ebb and flow of news that I always track regardless. The eternal news junkie and history/political fiend that I am can’t ever let them go entirely, I won’t pretend otherwise.

A large part of this comes from something that is obvious — the election is over. (With Al Franken apparently claiming the Minnesota Senate seat now, it really is over.) Of course, the electoral cycle is hardly a determinant for how all events play themselves out, and if anything the events of even these last few first days of 2009 — the initial wrangles over first economic steps by the Obama administration, the continual playing out of the massive slowdown around the world, and most wearyingly what is one of the most depressing chapters yet in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict — shows how much is again at stake, symptoms of eternal questions. Therefore the question of regular commitment — of staying involved and ready — also comes to the fore. You can’t run and hide from the world, it’s all right there, and there’s plenty of good writing, reflection and discussion on it all happening as I type, on sites I’ve long recommended and linked to.

But while my commitment and interest and desire to stay on the right side of knowledge hasn’t wavered — to be informed and considered in my conclusions — my sense of needing to ride the crest of a wave 24/7 has eased back a lot. This is essentially a reflection of my own satisfaction with the electoral results, after all — to my mind the better candidate won and I am more than happy to give him and his organization the space and time to do something which will hopefully be of overall benefit and worth to the citizenry, even if (and perhaps especially if) the correct steps in some cases would be do nothing at all. Ergo, rather than obsessively tracking every move being made and worrying that not everything is turning out perfectly on some sort of unrealistic scale of expectations, I’m more content to watch, wait and think a bit. If anything the political events I’m more rightly concerned about at present are those that affect me directly — the California state budget battle continues to drag on and I am, after all, a state employee, though the UC operates a little outside the direct framework. The question of budget is a large one for my workplace these days and whatever finally happens, there’s going to be an impact.

Meantime, one of the things I had thought I was going to get the most running pleasure out of following the election — watching the bitter infighting and self-mutilation among the right and happily cackling at their follies — isn’t really worth the time, even if it is always worth the mockery. There’s plenty to poke around at, of course, but the sense that a bunch of them realize they’ve been wrongfooted by events and can do little but mumble Ronald Reagan’s name and look around at each other in the hopes that he’ll magically reappear overrides everything else these days. The worm will doubtless eventually turn but it will do so when that mindset — and, quite likely, that generation — disappears, to be replaced by something worth paying attention to. Rush Limbaugh isn’t some sort of incarnation of a newly energized approach towards taking over the tools of political debate like he was back in 1992, he’s just a comfortable storyteller down in Florida now saying things to an audience that has grown old and dull with him. If the GOP wants to follow that route in general, then the Whigs can finally have some company in the American political ashheap.

So I’m on a pause for a bit, waiting on an inauguration but really just waiting. Patience is always the watchword in the end, and if all the talk these days on many fronts lies in retrenching and building up resources and riding out larger events, in a certain sense that matches my mood. I fully realize I’m lucky enough to be able to be so contemplative, that this is a luxury of a certain position partially due to chance and partially due to the choices I’ve consciously made. (Let me just say here it’s nice not to have any debt at all, and I’ll leave it at that.)

I am content to let all the initial squabbles and storms and things play out over these next couple of months. We’ll see what happens from there.

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One month since the election and…

…I’m pretty tired.

In respects, what’s been interesting in moments of self-reflection is measuring how l’ve pulled back from the maniacal fray of tracking everything but not necessarily replacing it with all I wanted to replace it with, such as catching up on some long overdue reading (I’ve done a little, but not as much as expected). This is partially due to the fact, as muttered the other day, that I’ve been doing a lot more writing assignments as of late; combined with the usual end of the quarter/holiday season crunch and my time is pretty full, plus irregular cold nonsense has been bothering me a bit too. So that literally has made me pretty tired.

But on a larger front — with the election over and the basics of the situation settled (still the Minnesota Senate race to go but even so), right now we’re in what I’ve described to others as stasis, waiting on January 20. There’s now almost as much of a rush towards wanting that date to be sped up as much as we were all just waiting for the election itself to get here, just wanting to finally go in and take care of business. But since it can’t be sped up, all we can do is wait — and while we wait, everything else seems to go kerfluffle, or so one might believe. (If you want a classic example of business psychology at work, consider all the auto bailout talk going around right now — in keeping with my general admission that larger economic theory just isn’t my thing, I’ll refrain from thoughts about what ‘should’ be done since frankly I don’t have a sure idea myself, though ultimately I am distinctly unthrilled with car culture in general this decade and all it entails — waste and excess, size and inefficiency, the list goes on. Say what you will about my decision to eschew cars for public transit in SoCal, I’ll take that over thinking that to solve all my problems in life I just needed an Escalade.)

But so much of what is going on — has (always?) been going on — is driven by psychology, presumptions of what is ultimately at stake in the end. The election was part of that, and there’s been some satisfaction at seeing a bunch of fools on the right — I have no patience to call them anything other than that, frankly — basically say the same thing over the last few weeks: “That’s funny, Obama’s not acting like he’s going to burn down the White House and raise a red flag over the Capitol. He actually seems like a reasonable guy!” If you need an example from today, consider Mona Charen’s Washington Times piece, with this gem:

Superstition almost forbids me to comment on President-elect Barack Obama’s appointments thus far. The news has been so shockingly welcome that I’m almost afraid to remark on it for fear of breaking the spell…If I were a left-winger, I would be tearing out my hair about now.

Oddly enough, my hair remains quite intact.

The functions of power being what they are, Obama is exercising them as he sees fit given the situation, and given what he is able to do. I’ve never seen anything particularly revolutionary in his politics beyond a rather simple and logical enough reaction to the previous years — “Wow, there are a lot of dullards and morons screwing things up at present. Be nice to have something better in there.” As such, I’m still happy enough at the moment, since ultimately the proof is in the pudding and we won’t know yet for some time what that’s going to be like.

This may sound overly detached or cynical to some folks — neither nor, I’d argue. Keep in mind again where I’m coming from in general, I don’t trust political power to look out for anything else other than political power, no matter what the putative alignment. And people get cozy with each other pretty quickly and their differences often split along the lines of ego and temperament in the end — as was literally just said over on ILE in response to an expression of incredulity at ex-presidents appearing at inaugurations, “…neither weird nor awkward…it’s not pro wrestling or sharks and jets, it’s politics.” And right now given that larger context, my ideals remain happily intact alongside my suspicions in general. End conclusion? Hope for the best, expect less than is promised, double-check on the results and see what can be done further beyond that. As I said just after the election, perfection is something I do not expect.

Others, however, apparently either expect perfection out of their candidates and absolute epic fail on the part of their opponents. So people like Charen, say, tediously and tendentiously believed their own fantasies (and there’s plenty of folks on the left who believe theirs), and their surprise is that of the moron who didn’t so much have a plank in their eye as several, all of which they nailed in themselves. I’m not impressed, to put it mildly, and this perhaps is what’s tiring me the most. In combination with the expected crush of excuses as to why McCain lost, it’s downright maddening.

The other day, John at Balloon Juice, whose energy in pursuing all the various threads of commentary out there quite amazes me, had a crackerjack of a post up about Obama’s victory and how all the hoohah from the right since can’t explain a slew of key facts away. His closing point:

Republicans lost because they were in charge of the country for the better part of the last decade, and their governance has been an unmitigated disaster. This is not rocket science. You can argue that Democrats should share some of the blame for some of the policies, and you would not get any disagreement from me, but that does not change the fact that the Republicans were in charge, and blew it.

And there ya go.

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Thoughts on attending the anti-Prop 8 protest in Costa Mesa today

I believe I’d already been clear on the point:

…as I tried to note in my comment on women’s suffrage, we have been down this road before, where something seemingly inconceivable became standard. Legalizing gay marriage improves the general lot by further extending the principle of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ to all — as the complexity of society is more and more recognized, then that means that extension must be further applied to the full.

No on 8

I believe in the essential truth originally posted here:

“We did not want to go to Massachusetts or Canada or Spain to get married . . . because we wanted to be legal in our home state,” said Jean, who has no worries about the high rate of divorce in the United States.

“Shouldn’t I have the right to get married and screw it up, just like straight people?”

No on 8

I believe there is something crucial in this statement I made a while back:

..if there is one constant I have noticed among the anti(-gay marraige) campaigners, it’s that the very idea of same-sex love and marriage, that there are in fact people, fellow citizens, involved, doesn’t register with them, that it remains strictly abstract, or rather they aim to keep it as abstract as possible, which I find very telling

No on 8

I believe that the sight of four corners of a busy intersection full of people from all walks of life, old and young, gay and straight, gathered in protest but never giving into pointless anger, is encouraging beyond words.

No on 8

I believe the fact that the initial police presence quietly dialed down over time, as the vast majority of passing cars honked in support while the sole moment of protest was a near incoherent shout from one passing vehicle, is not only a striking thing in general but a profoundly deep thing for Orange County in general, given the huge amount of cars passing by at any one time.

No on 8

I believe that the fact that the organization of everything for this particular protest, not even the only one today in Orange County, started on Facebook by two friends but never kept too controlling, that encouraged people to bring what resources they had (and they did — water, food, signs and more) and to bring their own humor to bear as well, was crucial.

Don't tell your stylist...

I believe that the fine folks starting up a new 527 action group, Straight Against H8, are the type of folks who have their heads screwed on right, which is why I’d encourage you to go to either this site or this e-mail address:

http://www.myspace.com/straightagainsth8

straightagainsth8@gmail.com

Straight Against H8

I believe in what I said earlier, as a sign clearly showed today:

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

And that’s what I believe.

ADDENDUM — Andrew Sullivan‘s collected photos and thoughts on many protests worldwide today. Along with my own photos, I sent an e-mail, quoting a part of it here:

…the language from Yes on 8 supporters out here, ever since Election Day but even more so now, is not that of the triumphant victor. It’s bewilderment, denial, anger, confusion. The amount of “I’m not a bigot!” statements from people who doth protest too much is telling. One gets a clear sense that they find themselves on the defensive, the initiative ripped from their hands. They’re hunkering down, hiding, finding themselves ostracized — deservedly so. I don’t think they realized how much they’ve done yet by winning the battle to lose the war but they’re sensing it, and are already on the run.

I was downbeat on Election Day despite Obama’s victory due to the passing of 8. Now I think that while it clearly should not have passed, making lemons into lemonade has rarely seemed so evident.

ADDENDUM 2: Tara, one of the coorganizers of this protest, sent out a note to all attendees and encouraged sharing it, so I will do so here:

Hello friends,

I couldn’t let another day pass without wholeheartedly thanking everyone for coming out to South Coast Plaza, and for spreading the word. We had an amazing turnout yesterday – at least 400 at our largest – which meant that there might have been several hundred more if you counted everyone from throughout the day. Chelsea and I were extremely pleased with the location, and hope everyone was pleased as well. I loved to see the diversity of people passing by. And I loved to see that we were still going strong after nightfall!!! I think we hit a big, expansive part of Orange County!

Thank you to everyone who helped bring extra water, ice, food, sunblock, etc. Thank you to everyone who hosted poster-making parties with their friends, and who helped notify the press. Thank you to everyone who took the high road no matter what was being said to them, and who kept our protest safe by being respectful of traffic regulations and the needs of our handicapable peers.

Thank you to everyone who came later in the day, undoubtedly exhausted from other protests. Thank you to everyone who represented O.C.’s huge Hispanic and Asian populations, helping other Hispanics and Asians to see the magnitude of hurt that Prop 8 caused. Thank you for braving the ridiculous heat, wind, congestion, and for the inspiring positivity you brought to this cause. To those who brought their families and children – thank you for challenging peoples’ notions about what “family values” should be. We have family values, too. And yesterday, it felt like WE were family.

Special thanks to Max, Harvey, Joe, Ned, Tamara, and Cindy & Lindy (?). SPECIAL SPECIAL thanks to my little sister who stumbled upon our protest while shopping – and who, in spite of her temptations, did not get into a ghetto smackdown with the religious guy walking around.

Love,

Tara

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The election happened. Past tense.

I am not going to claim some deep thought in this brief post, but even so…

My point in my post is not to address either those races still up in the air — the three Senatorial races in particular — nor the sometimes striking follow-on that’s resulted with the passage of Prop 8. If anything, the sharp condemnation and protests against its passage, perversely heartening as they are since it would have been better to see it gain greater attention and energy while it was still up in the air, shows even more clearly to my mind that far from being a success for the Yes on 8 folks, they are now shown to have bitten off more than they can chew.

Instead, I refer to the bizarre mirror-world we’ve entered into where presidential races for 2012 are already being talked about seriously, where Sarah Palin’s media recuperation campaign is a sign among her true believers that she’ll win in a walk next time through, where every breath uttered by anyone close to Obama is a sign that the Republic is going to collapse.

And it’s only been a WEEK. George Bush is still the president, folks! The current Congress is still meeting! Hell, both Obama and McCain will have some last votes to cast together here before the year’s out.

On the one hand the sheer intensity of what’s been swirling around is enjoyably comical — especially among those foolish voices on the right who somehow mistook last week’s crushing loss for a sign that the American people are with them and that they’ll have great influence in the upcoming government (uh, no you won’t). On the other hand, well, it’s reflective of a deeper truth — people just don’t want to let go.

The campaign took what seemed like forever. Months upon months, passing day by day. It became a standard, something to mainline and obsess over, something where it was the locus point of everyone’s day, the thing lurking in the background no matter what. I won’t pretend I was different otherwise.

But now? Well, you know, the world at large is out there — continuing economic problems, foreign policy concerns, more besides. They’ll weigh on all of us. But everyday life is there too — upcoming holidays, new music to listen to, people to meet and catch up with, all the things that make life worth it in general.

The campaign is OVER. There’s plenty of specifically political stuff to talk about, think about, that’s going to be worth that level of discussion and intensity brought to bear beforehand. But autumn’s continuing on, the weather’s getting crisper, I’m plotting more soups to experiment on cooking with — I’m trying not to lose my bearings here. I think that’s the case with a lot of people.

Don’t lose sight of the day to day, is all.

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On the 44th president

Last night, as the results came in for the electoral votes, as the possibilities grew slimmer for McCain, as it became clear that Obama would not simply win but win convincingly, it all began, seemingly worldwide. The texts came in, the phone calls. The election day thread on ILE exploded. Washington DC partied, Chicago went nuts. The photos and clips and audio rocketed across the networks, across the Net. The rhetoricians went into overdrive.

I relaxed in my apartment — no sound of wild celebrations in my neighborhood that I could hear — and my primary feeling was contentedness.

A conditional contentedness, of course — one confirmed by the Prop 8 results out here, and which led me to feel a touch snippish earlier today towards expressions of unfettered glee. But the point was that in a whirlwind of something undeniable — that something major had happened, that the expectations of something as simple as a person’s identity, their name and background, for the Presidency were now radically changed forever — I merely felt content. Settled.

So I had to wonder why that was.

Partially it was because of the knotted feeling I’d felt throughout much of October, which I perhaps hinted at here, but no further. This goes into very deep waters, but I’d seen enough in the intersections of political tensions and economic shock to sense that emotions were starting to shift to something and somewhere I did not recognize. It was only an observational, surface shift from my perspective, but it was enough to keep me up for a few nights at a stretch. I honestly didn’t feel reassured until Colin Powell’s level-headed smackdown via the Obama endorsement — if only because it was a sign that somebody with a voice in the national arena felt self-assured enough to speak crisp, clear sense on the route that the McCain campaign in particular was willing to lead itself and others down, thanks to the fires they foolishly stoked. I don’t believe at all that Powell somehow changed the election, say, but he signposted an alternate path for its discourse, and in providing cover for others on the right in line with his thoughts allowed them to speak out more clearly on the point.

Complete reassurance was not available until the election itself, of course, and thus my being able to shed those waves of tension was a relief, though the seeds sown will linger now for far too long among the willfully ignorant and the gullible, grasping at the straws of supposed questions on birth certificates and the like, cranks who mistakes their mutual reassurances for clear proof of Obama’s falsity and their own supposedly pure and crusading natures. But having locked themselves in their mental prisons, they can only be pitied if they choose not to come out. If they don’t, their tensions will unnecessarily keep them up at night for now on, and they can have their paranoid dreams — and indeed, their bitter ones.

But this looks at my contentedness merely through the realm of amelioration, a restoring of an equilibrium. Why then no celebratory uplift on my part beyond that, even as I heard — and agreed with — all the surprise and amazement and joy?

It took me a while to pin it down but I think it came back to two incidents, one foggy, the other crystal clear. The crystal clear one came first — it occurred with Obama’s announcement of his candidacy. I remember reading about it while skimming through news sites while at the library, reading the report and seeing photos of Obama and his family with the crowd of onlookers, smiles on their faces.

What exactly I thought to myself I don’t know, not in terms of wording or anything. But I remember this much — the potential impact on voters at large of his background, or his name, or anything like that wasn’t at conscious issue with me (I stress conscious — self-analysis can only go so far). It was simply an idle wondering if it was too soon for him given only a couple of years on the full national scene to establish a clear political profile, nothing more. Perhaps naively, perhaps too idealistically — perhaps too unconsciously, or maybe self-consciously — I had already assumed a certain baseline, that whatever his particular gifts as a speaker or thinker, ultimately he would also be in the end just another candidate and be seen as just another candidate. Just another American.

But surely that was the point.

The foggy incident must have happened sometime in the primary season. Probably wasn’t even just one incident. But at a certain point it started to click with me that he was firing on all fours and kept going, that there was a sense that he had a good organization around him, that he knew what he was doing as did his team, and that he knew how to play the game of politics with the best of them.

At that point, the penny must have dropped with me, since my essential conclusion was “Oh right, he can carry it the rest of the way, then. No problem. He has the ability to do it.” It was the response to my earlier wondering about his possibilities, now firmly answered. All he had to do from there was to take it forward.

We know the rest. And we’ll know more as we learn even more about the campaigns.

Now, don’t take any of this for me thinking that he definitely had it fully in the bag when I made that second conclusion — I merely concluded he could. And I saw it from my own, limited, cynical/hopeful, individual perspective, imperfect, flawed, shaped by circumstances and personality and upbringing.

So his success didn’t surprise me. The celebratory intensity of the reaction to it almost did, though. Had I already internalized the idea of him winning so completely? Was I right to do so? Was I looking through things through rose-colored glasses the whole time? Do I always do so? Was I too easily accepting of something so seismic — did I miss a feeling of awe and the sense of great events? People are already talking about how they will always remember where they were when they heard he’d won.

Perhaps in the end it is just personality. Perhaps I was so content because I was so tired and exhausted, and I was just happy to have an answer. Perhaps something else.

But in happy contrast to that, this:

One of the people texting me last night is a friend, an African-American woman with a son in middle school, whose father was white. When she wrote, she talked about how she cried when she saw the numbers, how amazed she was. I texted back a smile and said, “Now you can tell your boy he can grow up to be president too. And he can!”

She responded with a laugh, “I’ve always told him and now he sees it.”

It isn’t sentimentality to note that. Anything but.

Two further things to quote — first, a post from ILE from someone who had worked on the campaign:

guyz i was downtown in grant park for the speech and it was amaaaaazing

i think the thing that tripped me up the most was how really subdued and calmly happy everyone was – i mean, people were really excited but it was this really serene scene walking with thousands and thousands of other people back from grant park. coming over the hill right before reaching michigan ave and passing by all the bootleg obama t-shirt sellers (there were TONS) you could see how far the mass of people walking west through the streets stretched out, it was really really powerful and crazy – ive never seen chicago (ESPECIALLY a city as historically racially charged as chicago) so CONGENIAL.

ahhhhhhh i am so happyyyyyyyyyyyyy

i think one of the other great things about this campaign is how it encouraged people to feel like they owned a piece of it – because of the money i sent and the time i invested, woke up early the last two days to canvass in indiana and prior to that was phone banking in ohio …. the stories i have meeting people … it makes me really PROUD to have been a part of it

Second, friend Alfred’s own reflections on the election, on the opposite coast but with no less bittersweet a kick as we had out here in California. A selection:

Now it’s time for full disclosure: I did not vote for a president of the United States…if yesterday I couldn’t mark the ballot in his favor, I put the blame entirely on his party of chickenshits, of which he is now its leader. When a right wing asshole on AM radio laments the “loony left Reid/Pelosi wing’ of the Democratic Party that will push Obama around as it did President Bush, I want to buy them reading glasses and a Russian bouncer to make sure they read the legislation. Whether it was war authorization or the support of illegal wiretapping, the Democrats in Congress, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, kowtowed to President Bush. When the country, fed up with six years of chicanery and law breaking, gave them the mandate to change in 2006, implicit in their vote was the order to get more liberal, not less.

So what does the junior senator from Illinois, poised to claim an even bigger mandate for change than his legislative branch colleagues, do when it’s time to vote on a craven “compromise” on illegal wiretapping and telecom immunity? He says “aye.”

….

At the time I was told to “grow up,” to “understand that Obama is a politician,” that politics “is all about compromise”; but if you didn’t think in June that the next president of the United States was being chosen in part to correct the illegalities and clean the incalculable mess that eight years of George W. Bush have bequeathed to generations, then you had no business lecturing anyone. The truth is, Obama caved. Then he chose as his running mate the senior senator from Delaware, the Honorable Joseph “MBNA” Biden, a public servant who can always rely on huge contributions from credit card companies but, goddamn, can he smile like a motherfucker. Maybe Biden did help him win Pennsylvania; maybe Biden will show him “how Washington works” (as if he needed the advice from Biden). We’ll see.

But I still teared up last night, especially after I saw the reaction shot of Jesse Jackson listening to Obama’s victory speech. I kept mouthing, “President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama” to my friends. It’s still somewhat unreal. I like Obama a lot, and wish him all the luck in the world (so does the world). If his deeds match his rhetoric and the hopes of his followers, then I’ll be proud to vote for him in 2012.

It is noteworthy to watch so many on the right assume that they think those who voted for Obama did so assuming he would fix everything with a wave of the hand, when so many on the left speak clearly about how they assume nothing of the sort. It is noteworthy too that in his acceptance speech Obama stressed challenges and not only the possibilities of mistakes but the inevitability of them. I’ll take that level-headedness and awareness, thanks, and here’s to it being put in place to the full.

Perfection I do not expect. A striving for it is something else. He seems more than up to it and I’m quite happy to see him there, in a job which divides the eras of American sociohistorical times by the names of its leaders.

The American experiment continues.

Forward.

Obama against the flag

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A tideover for now re: Obama, though

A link dump here, but hopefully one of interest.

To say that there are thousands of eloquent voices from the left supporting Obama is a truism — as always, I was always more interested in sensing the discourse on the right, separating the thoughtful wheat from the ranting chaff. Of the many conservative voices speaking against McCain and for Obama, personal favorites included the Cunning Realist’s wry bite and Andrew Sullivan’s nuanced outrage. But none was quite so angry and perfectly timed as Belgravia Dispatch’s pre-Election Day return to active blogging after a more than two month break with ‘The Obama Imperative.’ A must read, especially in the light of what might have been. To quote the conclusion:

We are passing through hugely difficult times where a global financial crisis lurches ahead demanding newfangled regulatory regimes of real complexity, where energy and environmental challenges will become ever more insistent, where we need to de-escalate from two wars and hit a strategic ‘reset’ button in our overall foreign policy posture, during which it will prove imperative we re-build our moral high-ground. These are the challenges the future presents us, and only Mr. Obama can convincingly tackle them head on with a combination of deliberateness, ingenuity, quiet resilience and confidence, in my view. So, for me, not only is this election not even a close call, but also I hope too that Obama wins by a huge landslide, by visiting a stinging, terrible rebuke to the Republicans. The defeat needs to be so crushing and total as to serve as a massive wake-up call that the Republican Party needs to be retaken by sentient, thinking adults, the better so it is led towards a necessary and massive course correction. Ultimately this is important because it is healthy for our country to have two great political parties, and a resounding defeat tomorrow seems our best bet to slowly have the Republican Party regain its sanity after the wreckage of the Bush 43 years. In the meantime, yes we can, yes we must, yes we will! Change is in the air, and it has never been more welcome than today.

To say that the impact of Obama’s election has caught the world’s interest is also to radically understate. A wide variety of links can be found in various entries at the Moderate Voice, while this NY Times piece collects some snapshots.

Finally, there’s always room for full-on fandom, after all. I give you this collection of photos and videos from a LiveJournal user who celebrates ‘the Love’ — it’s the type of thing that plenty of McCain voters would dismiss as hysterical overreaction, all the while mooning over pictures of Sarah Palin. I’ll take these Obama photos instead, thanks.

(And can I just say — I don’t see the appeal of Ms. Palin on that charismatic level at all, not one bit. I can see why others might, but frankly, having seen enough people like her around Orange County all these years, all I can sense is cheap plastic. Not my thing.)

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