Why I’m voting for Obama: part 3

In 2000, I supported Gore, although he, like Dukakis, like Mondale, was a better man than he was a candidate. It was painful to watch the debates between him and Bush, with Bush stumbling over simple sentences and Gore tetchy and schoolmarmish. I didn’t hold my nose when I voted for Gore, but I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about it. Bush horrified me from the very beginning. And hey, does anybody remember the John McCain of 2000? That guy might have had a shot. I remember seeing him on SNL in 2002 and thinking "Hey, this guy isn’t so bad, if he had run against Gore that would have been a real contest."free stats

In 2004, I was a big fan ofHoward Dean. He was the closest I’d seen in my life to a real Democrat, someone presenting a clear alternative to the conservative agenda. I watched, confused, as the TV people played the "Yeeearrrgh" clip over and over — for the life of me, I couldn’t see what was so funny or sad or humiliating or whatever the hell they were trying to tell me it was supposed to be. What I did see is the Democrats toss Dean overboard in order to pick a candidate, John Kerry, who, in the end, on the issues, just wasn’t that different from George W. Bush. He wasn’t a clear alternative, it was like the Democrats, given the opportunity to offer a choice between Coke and Pepsi, offered a choice between Coke and New Coke. It didn’t help that Kerry was an intensely boring candidate, thorough but plodding, constantly talking to us as though there was going to be a test at the end of the speech.

It didn’t help my mood that the Republicans stole both elections.

I won’t steer you through a recollection of the Bush II years. Presumably, anyone in my readership old enough to read this is already aware of the humiliating, unmitigated disaster that has been visited upon us in the past eight years. But I offer you this:

How trusting am I? How lasting is my childhood instruction of government being a good thing? Here’s how trusting, how naive, how gullible I am:

Right after 9/11, Bush made a big speech to the Congress and Senate. I didn’t watch the speech because I cannot stand watching Bush mangle the language I love. I did, however, read the text the next day in the newspaper and found myself pleasantly surprised — Bush said everything I would expect a real president to say, he was tough, practical and caring.

Of course, he was also lying through his teeth.

How trusting am I?

Shortly after 9/11, I got involved in a flame war with a rather famous, outspoken liberal commentator. This commentator, who is known for being an arrogant prick as petty and vindictive as the day is long, warned me: just wait, you’ll see, Bush is going to use 9/11 as an excuse to shred the constitution, demolish the Bill of Rights, start costly, unnecessary wars and ruin the US’s standing in the eyes of the world. I know, I know — real tinfoil-hat stuff, right? I said to this arrogant prick: look, we don’t know what Bush is going to do, if he does those things, we can complain about that then, but ranting about it now isn’t going to do us any good.

Well, the arrogant prick was not only right, he was, if anything, timid and conservative in his estimation of the horrors Bush would inflict upon the US. (Although he’s still a petty, vindictive prick — being right hasn’t changed his personality.)

How gullible am I?

Like millions of people, I was against the Iraq war. I knew it had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, I knew it had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. Like millions of people, I marched in protest against it (one coordinated worldwide rally signified the single largest protest in human history, yet to this day I keep seeing conservative pundits on the TV saying "Hey, if the liberals didn’t want this war, how come no one ever said anything?"). Well, Bush wanted his war and so we went to war, and yet, even then, even then, as the war was prosecuted so very, very poorly, even then I still didn’t judge — I said, well, he’s the president, surely, surely he must know something about geo-politics I do not, surely this can’t be as simple as I’m making it out to be, there must be, somehow, some kind of positive outcome to all this that will eventually be revealed.

America in the past eight years has become a nation of thugs and bullies. Those with the most demand more, and so the middle class becomes poorer and the poor are left to wither and die. In business, those with power have ruthlessly and shamelessly exploited thosewithout. Where did they get the idea that this is okay? From our leadership in Washington, obviously. Bush has ruled with corruption and greed unparalleled in modern times, and has thus dictated that corruption and greed are the proper order of things. Why obey the law if the president does not? Republicans have told us, over and over, have shown by example, that the ends justify the means, that hard work and intelligence are for suckers, that there is nothing to be gained by obeying the law, that the only goal in life is to get as much as you can for yourself, brutalize and intimidate anyone who gets in your way, and screw everyone else.

When did I finally wake up? When did Toto finally pull aside the curtain to reveal the pale and spineless wizard pulling the levers?

When New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this picture showed up in the news:

It shows Bush in Air Force One, flying over New Orleans, theoretically surveying the damage and doing his best to look "concerned."  But what I see in his sheepish glance to the camera is a little boy saying "Can I go now? I’ve looked at the flooded city, can I go now?" I was astounded. A major American city had just been destroyed on his watch, and this photo was the best he could do to come with an answer.

His actions throughout that week only backed up the photo, as he blithely stumbled about, cheerful and smiling, patting the back of the total fucking idiot he had put in charge of FEMA as corpses floated in the Mississippi and the Superdome was turned into a charnel house. I was horrified — horrified that a president would be not only utterly, obscenely incompetent, but also completely uncaring about the utter destruction of a major American city. Pleased, even, as if this were just another bold victory for his domestic agenda. Because, in effect, it was a victory for his domestic agenda: he had succeeded in taking everything he could from the poor of New Orleans, and God had stepped in, as Bush is convinced God always steps in, to complete the task of eradicating those poor from the face of the earth. I watched, nauseated, as Republican politicians examined video of the devastation and began openly speculating about where they could put a casino or a hotel or an Applebee’s.

Over that weekend, Bill O’Reilly, the bilious, conservative clown, broadcast an editorial on Katrina. He sneered contemptuously at the victims of the flood, and boldly proclaimed that it is not the government’s responsibility to help flood victims, it is the flood victims’ responsibility to go to college and get a good job so that they don’t wind up living in a ghetto in a city below sea level. The stark cruelty of his tirade, his rage, rage, against the poor and helpless, against the wounded and the dead, was an utter shock to me. Later that day I was talking to a naturalist friend of mine (her specialty is orangutans), and I recounted the O’Reilly outburst, and I said "Good lord, if it’s not the government’s responsibility to help out when a city is destroyed by a natural disaster, what the hell is it good for?" My friend looked at me as though I was perhaps a freshly hatched chick, and said "But Todd, don’t you know? That’s the conservative philosophy — you pay them taxes so that they can fight foreign wars, and you get nothing in return."

No. I hadn’t know that. That’s what I get for not completing my college education. But now I know. George Bush has taught me. Made it clear as day.

So, when Bush strutted around the ruins of New Orleans looking like the cat who got the cream, that was the reason — Katrina wasn’t a disaster forhim, it was a vindication that the system works. De-fund social services, gut spending on infrastructure, dismantle government offices, and in the end poor people will die and you can take the land they were on and build something profitable there. Kanye West famously said "George Bush doesn’t care about black people," but he, alas, didn’t take it far enough — George Bush hates black people and wants them to die miserable deaths, if it will advance his agenda.

When I moved to California in early 2006, I had to register to vote again, and finally, at long last, I registered as a Democrat. And now I look back at my years as an Independent voter with a kind of bemused wonder: how could I have been so naive, so trusting, so gullible to see the Republican philosophy as anything but corrupt, cruel, brutal, selfish and the opposite of democracy? So, for what it’s worth, that was one of George W. Bush’s great accomplishments — he turned me into a life-long, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.

Coincidentally, Katrina marked the end of my reliance on cable networks for my news. It began as a purely practical problem: Katrina was a story too vast and complicated, the cable networks couldn’t cover it all. And so I turned to political blogs, which were being updated constantly throughout the day, sites like Huffpo and Kos and Americablog, to get the latest from the ground in New Orleans. And you can say those blogs are biased, because they are, but I find that, at the end of the day, I am quite a bit better informed about issues than I was when I was watching CNN. Reading the blogs made me realize what a shrill, hollow sham TV news has become.

And this has been discussed widely, but it comes down to this: a cable network doesn’t care if something is "true" or not, they only care about if people are watching their show instead of someone else’s. And so, to lure eyeballs, they manufacture controversy. A Republican will state that down is up, and it will be reported on the news as: "Congressman So-And-So stated today that down is up. Is this true? Here to discuss the issue is physicist Guy Smartman and Republican strategist Dickwad Bloviator." And then they give each side equal time to discuss the issue and pat themselves on the back for doing a good job. Because to them, they have done a good job: they have delivered the controversy — the drama — that will keep people watching their show. The fact that their philosophy has served the Republican agenda is beside the point.

And so, for five years I was told, over and over, by the national media, that, all appearances to the contrary, George W. Bush is, in fact, a very serious man, a brilliant man even, with America’s best interests at heart, someone who was trying very hard to steer the ship of state through perilous waters at the dawn of a confusing and dangerous new century.

_____

Anyway, so this new guy shows up. And his name is Barack Obama. And he gives a speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, and he strikes me as intelligent and likable. But right off I think, well, if people couldn’t vote for Mario Cuomo because of his "funny name," there is no way they’ll ever vote for a guy with a name like Barack Obama.

And the 2008 primaries roll around, and I note that Obama is running for the Democratic nomination for president. And somewhere in the back of my mind I think "Well, that would be cool if he did well in the primaries, I like him." I think maybe he would make a good running mate for Hillary Clinton.

Then this speech comes along:

and its elegant, sentimental music-video distillation by will.I.am:

And I realize, instantly, that Obama is going to be the next president. There is no questionin my mind.

Don’t get me wrong — I like Hillary Clinton, I think she’s an excellent candidate: she’s a smart, canny insider who would know how to get things done for "our side" in Washington. I would have gladly voted for her in November, and part of me wishes she had been Obama’s running mate.

But this Obama guy, I see immediately, is in a whole other league.

In the closing minutes of this speech, Obama takes a needle and runs a thread of American optimism and defiance through 200 years of history from Philadelphia in 1776 to Martin Luther King in 1968. He puts the whole picture together, he presents a vision of America that is the antidote to everything that’s happened since 1980.

The rapturous, slack-jawed amazement that Obama followers register when talking about their candidate does not come from only from his physical presence, his charisma or his oratorical skills. We are so moved by Obama because, for the past 30 years, we have been told that up is down, that good is bad, that smart is stupid, that caring is wrong, that the law is irrelevent. And now here comes a candidate that has lived in that world beside us and has seen it for what it is.

Think of that — living in a world where, for thirty years, you are told that everything you believe to be true is wrong, that every principle you hold dear — compassion, equality, even simple, garden-variety decency — is wrong. Now imagine waking from that nightmare, when someone your own age appears and says, in words you’ve heard inside your head for thirty years but couldn’t speak, or spoke but found them landing on deaf ears, or heard mocked in the media and reported to you as the rantings of a lunatic. And this person comes to you, not at a party or on the street, not in an art gallery or museum, but from the platform of a national stage, and says "No, it’s not just you, I’ve been here too, I saw the same things you saw, I saw the same America you saw, and it’s not just me either, I’ve been traveling around this country for years now and it’s everyone. There are millions upon millions of us, of all races and colors, and for thirty years we’ve been told that we don’t count, that our ideas, our hopes and dreams, are meaningless, that we simply don’t matter. For thirty years we’ve been told that only rich people matter, for thirty years we’ve been told that the law is an impediment to power, for thirty years we’ve been told that morality is for suckers.

Obama reminds us that the United States is supposed to stand for something besides greed, cruelty, brutality and selfishness, that there is an idea contained within in the notion of government for the people, of the people and by the people, and that idea is the opposite of what the Republicans have done to this country since Reagan.

When Michele Obama said that she was proud of America for the first time in her adult life, she was mercilessly mocked and ridiculed for her lack of patriotism. But I knew exactly how she felt — when Barack Obama won the nomination of the Democratic party, it was the first time I was proud of America too. And so, for the first time, I am able to vote not against someone, but for someone.

Comments

61 Responses to “Why I’m voting for Obama: part 3”
  1. vinic says:

    Very well put. As I’m a college student, you’ve articulated much of the sentiment I felt back in early high school history class, brooding over a Texas-bought textbook chronicling our nation’s recent years, that I was not able to properly express at the time.

  2. lupa says:

    Blast it, you’ve made me tear up because Katrina was where my faith in both sides of the two-party system was destroyed. I blogged about it in this blog (all of which is now set to private) – seeing all the politicians on both sides sort of shrug and go “whu?” and not care that babies were being raped in the Superdome.

    It chills me even now.

    Thank you for this series – it’s been fascinating to get a view inside your head.

  3. taskboy3000 says:

    Thanks

    I agree that there’s something special about “That One.” Something that this 36 year has never seen in a president. Something that I only here in scratchy audio recordings of dead presidents.

    I do not doubt that Obama will make mistakes in the Oval Office, but mistakes are the problem. The problem is in not having a vision. Obama has that.

  4. So I’m to take it that Ralph Nader never tickled your fancy?

    I voted for him in 2000, which also was the first presidential election I voted in. Nader takes a lot of heat, but he was the first candidate for POTUS that ever got me amped to vote.

    I voted in New Jersey, by the way, and if I had thought for a second that Gore would have lost my state, I would have voted for him. I voted Kerry in 2004.

    • Todd says:

      Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, tickles my fancy eight ways to Sunday. Ralph Nader, the presidential candidate, is another story. My fancy remains untickled as he continues to tarnish his sterling reputation with his egotistical, vainglorious bids for the White House.

      And then there are those whose fancy Mr. Nader tickles a little too much.

      • Anonymous says:

        I object to the way you describe Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy. The major parties continue to select candidates who range from mediocre to heinous and so long as people keep voting for them, the major parties will keep dishing them out. Nader gives those of us who have no desire to vote for mediocre a chance to demonstrate that, to send a clear message to the major parties that we’re not playing the “lesser of two evils” game anymore. What he is doing takes a lot of courage and some thick skin; if you went to hear him speak anywhere this campaign season you would realize that his goal is to change the currently ugly political climate (is THAT being egotistical?). In my opinion, Obama is a cheap imitation of progressive politics and not worth wasting a vote; good rhetoric means nothing when the candidate caves on policies under the slightest pressure and doesn’t even have a great platform to begin with. Ralph Nader has accomplished more for the good of the American people than either of the two major party candidates will have accomplished by age 74, has more economic sense than either of them do, and actually has a spine. I am proud to say that I’ll be voting for him.

        And if you’re wondering, “isn’t she worried that voting for Nader will cost the democrats the election,” the answer is no.

  5. soulcookie says:

    Well said. Profoundly well said.

  6. malsperanza says:

    Dean is wonderful but was way too liberal to get the nom in a Zeitgeist moment when W still looked viable to a lot of voters.

    But look what a great leader of the DNC he’s been. We owe Dean a lot for his savvy management of the party. He is the one who jettisoned the old rust-belt strategies & tired platform, & he’s the one who first tapped into idea that the campaign could be run on small donations from individual voters, via the Internet. Ditto the voter reg effort, which was abysmal in the Dem party for years.

    I think the Dems chose Kerry over Dean because on paper he had the stronger record. I can’t say that I think Kerry ever looked even slightly similar to Bush on the issues, but he sure did a craptastic job of conveying that. And Terry Macauliffe was an utter putz.

  7. seamusd says:

    On 9/11, I knew we were in serious trouble, not because we had been attacked by Islamic terrorists, but because Bush was president. I never approved of anything he did or said, even in the (ironically) rosy days immediately following the attacks when the world was on our side. I was stunned and depressed more by Bush’s post 9/11 approval ratings than I was about the terrorist attacks. Like that unnamed pundit you mentioned, I knew the terrorists offered Bush the opportunity he craved to shit on us all and go after Saddam because “he tried to have my daddy kilt.” It took a hurricane destroying my beloved hometown to make the rest of the country see what a failure Bush is. I’m still a little naive in thinking Republicanism will dissolve so we can have a real progressive political party. But I’m also bitter and angry that this country I love is populated by people who would ever think a nothing like George Bush was anything but the spoiled, dry-drunk son of a Texas oilman. Obama will spend most of his two terms cleaning up the mess left behind.

  8. quitwriting says:

    Bravo Todd Alcott, you are becoming one of my heroes. 😀

  9. musicpsych says:

    I wish I could feel the Obamania like so many other people, but I just don’t. Part of it is that I resent that blogs like Huffpost were so pro-Obama at the beginning of the year – I was pro-Edwards, then pro-Clinton, and I don’t feel like Obama is “my candidate.” It also seems like some Obama supporters believe that he is going to be a savior and solve all of our problems, and it makes me question what the political movement is really made of. It’s not enough to get me to vote for McCain, and I did vote for Obama back in ’04, but I’m just very unsure as to how well he is going to govern as President, or how much I can trust him to be the same man his campaign portrayed him to be.

    With that said, he’ll be a welcome change from Bush and other Republicans, and hopefully he can reverse some of the damage from the past 8 years.

    I’ve taken the opposite trajectory in the past few years – I started off a Democrat, and now I’m firmly an Independent. It’s mostly due to local politics (Chicago Machine/Todd Stroger/Rod Blagojevich) but also because of Congress from 2006-present.

    • Todd says:

      I hadn’t thought about it before, but I wonder if my long-held Independent status originated from being from the suburbs of Chicago. The notorious corruption of Chicago (Democratic) politics was a constant feature of my childhood news-life.

      • malsperanza says:

        Vote Early Vote Often!

        First time I voted, in Chicago, there was a lever you could pull to vote the straight Democratic ticket in one go. Ah, the wicked old days.

        • sageautumn says:

          *laughs*

          I thought everywhere had those? We have them here… though we’ve switched so it’s now a touch-screen option.

          I think it’s even labeled “straight Democratic Ticket”… course, there’s also one for Republicans.

        • marydell says:

          Straight ticket levers were normal back in the lever days – but one of my old profs remembered voting in Chicago on a machine where the dem ticket lever worked and the republican lever was broken!

          I know quite a few Chicago area democrats who vote republican in Cook county local elections, including my husband. I can’t bring myself to do it.

          • malsperanza says:

            Well, sorta. In Chicago, there was a Dem ticket lever, but I don’t recall a GOP ticket lever. Of course, in a lot of Chicago elections the important election was the Dem primary, not the general.

            In New York, where I have voted for the past 30 years, we still use lever voting booths, but there has never been a straight-party ticket lever.

  10. voiceofisaac says:

    Well put. I remember getting chills listening to the Yes We Can speech when he first made it. I wondered then if it would go down in history as a Great Speech, referred to and revered by generations to come. Now, listening to it again for the first time in many months, I do believe that history will remember it.

    I only hope that it won’t be remembered as a tragedy of dashed hope after McCain somehow pulls the election out of his ass.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Author! Author!

    Y’know, I came to this blog for brainiac analyses of ‘Venture Brothers’ episodes, got funny commentary on my beloved James Bond movies, got hip to the JLU and the more ridiculous points of the ‘Star Wars’ movies (the latter two I shared almost immediately with my young son), and I’ve been blown away by your recent three part essay encapsulating the last 30 years of history.

    Since his speech in 2004, I’ve figured Obama for something special, but couldn’t articulate precisely what ‘it’ was. I think your third paragraph from the bottom gets it, and I don’t think I’ve read any blather anywhere that says it better (as Icey Spoon told Mr. Powell).

    Guy Smartman and Dickwad Bloviator — that’s good stuff there! In a better world, Bob Dylan writes a song about these two guys roaming the countryside in a van, and performs it with the Wandering Dingleburys.

    Rockie Bee

  12. Tell me more about this “Guy Smartman.”

  13. Anonymous says:

    Narrative structure

    In the third act, you pulled it all together and elevated your story in a way that left your audience tearful and cheering. Expect to be quoted.
    –Ed.

  14. yesdrizella says:

    My issues regarding Katrina are too personal and long-winded to get into here, but I will say that Howard Dean was my candidate in 2004 as well, and I’d always taken his YARGH outburst to mean that he was seriously pissed with the Bush administration. I remember watching that and thinking, “Yeah, that’s -exactly- how I feel, thank you, Howard.”

  15. schwa242 says:

    I understand the want to trust Bush after his post-9/11 speech. Shortly after it, I wrote, “Had the attack not happened, I think Bush would have gone down in history as a mediocre, forgotten president. Now… now I suspect he will be remembered as an important one, mostly due to circumstance. He has the potential for great good or great tragedy. Personal politics and dislike of the guy aside, I hope he will be remembered for doing well in this situation.” Sigh.

    I said, well, he’s the president, surely, surely he must know something about geo-politics I do not, surely this can’t be as simple as I’m making it out to be, there must be, somehow, some kind of positive outcome to all this that will eventually be revealed.

    That is exactly what I kept trying to tell myself about the Iraq war before it began, even as I was against it. Bush and his cohorts are in positions of power and have access to far more information than I do, so perhaps they know more than I do with my piddling access to internet news and the local papers. I really wanted to be wrong. I wanted Fox Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster, only with a grainy black and white photo of Saddam’s statue tumbling down instead of a flying saucer.

    You wrote an excellent summation of Obama’s appeal and why so many (myself included) think he has the makings of a great president. He’s certainly going in at a time when the country needs it. My wife, who was a bit apolitical when it came to national politics before 2004 (excluding despising Bush and having a political crush on Howard Dean) believes in Obama so much that she ended up a delegate for him in both the local and state level. And stupid me, I was still registered Independent and didn’t get to participate.

  16. greyaenigma says:

    I had a lot more I wanted to say on all this, but exhaustion wore me away. and, god damn, it, it’s after midnight again.

    By the time of Katrina, I was already well worn out. “Outrage Overload”, as Tom Tomorrow had stated it so well. And, after a tearful drive up the Florida coast one night, I realized my parents had more faith in the the man that had been blatantly lying to them for years than they did in their own son. (I’m sure that’s nothing new to a great many of your readers.)

    I’m still not a Democrat. although I’ve been voting with, and donating to them. If Obama manages to get to the White House, I might be able to finally accept them as my political party, but they are still, for now, cowardly and unwilling to stand up for… well… Truth, Justice, and the American Way. I dearly hope he can turn things around, because I really don’t think I can survive any longer in the Rovian world. I sure don’t want to.

    (Oddly, tonight my butter is being burned by the shoddy treatment handed out by thescreeningexhange.com which sucked. I ranted about in my own LJ.)

  17. black13 says:

    I remember reading an interview with Bush (whom I always called “Emperor George II.”) back in 2000, either in Time Magazine or Newsweek, sometime in-between stealing the election and the inauguration, where he already announced that he planned to go to war against Iraq. So when he did, it was no real surprise. Except that he had needed someone else to provide the excuse for him.

    I’ve also always been sure that if Bush hadn’t been president, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. 9/11 was a moment where history was decided. There were two ways to go: the US could have used the wave of worldwide sympathy and solidarity to bring the world closer together and create a more harmonious future. Not without some justified kick-ass against the perps, but on the whole, the tragedy could have been transformed into an opportunity for a golden age. The terrorists would have lost.
    I’m sure, however, that al-quaeda had waited until after the election to take stock of who was in the White House at the time and how they were likely to react to the whole thing. I believe that in the Bush administration, they recognized someone who would do exactly the wrong thing — so they acted. Bush reacted as it was clear he would, and the terrorists won.

    • clayfoot says:

      Al-Quaeda had been planning to bring down the WTC for years. No way was one president or another going to discourage them from at least trying. At best, we might imagine that Al Gore would have been less hated than Bush, but still hated.

      • samedietc says:

        Not to play too much in the sands of hypothesis and alt. history, but…

        While I agree with you, Clayfoot, that Al Qaeda was probably not waiting for a particular president to launch its attack, some of the information I’ve read about how the Bush administration ignored everything Clinton-based makes me believe there’s a chance that a Gore administration would have prevented 9/11 because they would have paid more attention to the intelligence reports that the Bush administration ignored.

        Ah well.

      • black13 says:

        In any case, it wouldn’t have happened as it did. Because Gore isn’t an idiot. And Al-Quaeda* would’ve seen it that way too, all hatred aside. They would’ve waited for a better chance, some time where it’s more effective.

        Like, strike while everyone’s still in shock over Katrina. Or use the WTC attacks as the death blow of the world financing system by striking last week.

        But with Bush and his well-publicized war-on-Iraq-jones in office, the chance was too good to waste.

        *What I hate about the group’s name is that almost every country spells it differently.

  18. jdigital says:

    My brother noticed something interesting about that Obama video. Everyone’s cheering, except the two men visible directly behind Obama who look deliberately bored. Could the be deliberate plants to undermine the strength of Obama’s speech?

  19. Anonymous says:

    Political Blogs

    I’ve heard people go on and on about how only political blogs give you all the information, but I can never find a blog I want.

    Realize I want to hear both sides, even the ridiculous stuff. When I hear a story on CNN, and it captures my attention, I look at MSNBCs and Foxs spin of it to make sure I’m getting all the facts. Then I try to check those facts. Yes I’m a liberal, but I don’t want to close my ears to the other side. They are human (you seemed to have forgotten that in the Bush years).

    Know of any political blogs that are neutral or only slightly leaning?
    ~ Ytoabn

    • clayfoot says:

      Re: Political Blogs

      By no means neutral, but definitely not favoring the Democrats or Republicans:

      The blog of the Cato Institute

    • Todd says:

      Re: Political Blogs

      I don’t know of any political blogs that are neutral, but some are more analytical and dispassionate than others. It kind of depends what you’re looking for, at what level you’re interested in connecting with the big picture. Kos, for instance, really gets in there with the numbers and the policy analysis, while something like Hot Air is just a guy like you or me ranting at his computer.

      Memeorandum is a non-partisan political blog-headline index, where David Brooks and Ariana Huffington are given equal weight to fire-eyed radicals of all stripes. It’s a good source for all kinds of ideas, both good and bad, although I will warn you that you never know what kind of weird, alternate-universe crank might be waiting behind any given link.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: Political Blogs

        Realize that right now my online political source is essentially a pair of forums I go to (one focused on animation, the other on video games, both that just happen to have an active political section). I get competitive with those guys trying to prove my point, no matter how pointless it may be to debate teenagers over the internet. I just don’t want to be blind-sided by some scandal, and not know how to respond. I’m annoyed when I see people bring up Keating 5, ACORN, Ayers, Reziko, and other little nucances in the pasts of these candidates, and I don’t know what they are.

        Then again, no one can know everything in the world of politics, I suppose that’s where self education (Wikipedia) comes in.

        By the way, an off the wall question for anyone bothering to read my bablings. Is there something inherit about the video game generation that makes them want to debate about politics as well. It seems as though just as some gamers will identify with a console, and defend it to the ends of the earth in pointless battles of numbers of sales, games, etc, they are just as willing to choose a candidate or a side on an issue and debate with the same style.

        ~ Ytoabn

        • Todd says:

          Re: Political Blogs

          It doesn’t strike me as odd that gamers would be rabid debaters. Gamers, like sports fans, like comics readers, like policy wonks, love minutiae and love to argue the finer points thereof, and generally speaking cannot tolerate any deviation from their personal preferences. If you think gamers discussing Ayers is intense, try participating in a comics messageboard discussion of Frank Miller.

      • black13 says:

        Re: Political Blogs

        A site that I like, but it’s not a blog, is factcheck.org .

    • Anonymous says:

      Re: Political Blogs

      Thinkprogress.org

      While it isn’t neutral, it has the best analysis I have found anywhere. And it’s written by people who truly know their stuff, as opposed to the opinions of randomly mixed journalists, politicians and celebrities like HuffPost (seriously, Joss Stone?).

  20. robjmiller says:

    hope

    My parents were born in 1951. They were in college at U of Illinois during the Vietnam War, and in Chicago through the Nixon administration. I think these influences played a large roll in my father’s cynicism and distrust of authority, which of course he gave to me as I grew up.

    I’ve never trusted our President. He is only a man, after all. However, when I was 8 years old Bill Clinton was elected. Of course, this didn’t mean anything to me at the time. The only thing I knew about Bill Clinton was that he played sax and someone on MTV asked him what type of underwear he had on. As the 90’s wore on though, I began to understand how fortunate we were. The economy was absolutely booming and the foreign conflicts we were involved in were at least arguably justifiable (I was in London during the Kosovo bombings and refugees thanked me on the street for my country’s involvement, so I thought it couldn’t be all bad).

    Then in 2000, Clinton’s term was over. Sure, there had been some controversy with his personal life, but I couldn’t have cared less, especially when the country was in such great shape. I was sure Gore had the election in the bag; who could possibly vote against him when the economy is doing so well? Who could possibly vote for this other idiot? He said “strategery” for fucks sake. Shows what I know

    Then shit happened. 9/11 had somehow changed the country overnight. Suddenly everyone had American flags on everything, and it terrified me. I had thought we were in a globalistic, post-patriotic, post-military world. Hadn’t these people seen all the same Vietnam movies I had seen? Scenes from anti-authority movies like Full Metal Jacket, All the President’s Men, War Games, Dr. Strangelove, and so many others were running through my mind. Hadn’t they been paying attention for the last 30 years?

    Shit happened some more, then it really piled on, and was finally set on fire with the beginning of the Iraq War. I couldn’t believe what was happening, so I just kept looking forward to 2004 when this would finally end. Surely we would put a stop to the Bush administration, just look at everything that had gone wrong in 4 years: 9/11, 2 wars and a fumbling economy. But while I was waiting for Kerry to take office (I assumed, again, that no one could possible vote for Bush), there was another election to vote in. A Senatorial seat in Illinois was up, and I was told about the great Democratic candidate for it: Barack Obama.

    I didn’t see his speech at the 2004 convention. Frankly, I didn’t care to watch since I already had my vote set. However, suddenly my Senator-to-be became a huge name. He did a Sunday morning interview afterwards, which was the first time I had heard him speak, and I was floored. “Wait, did he actually just thoughtfully answer a question? No fucking way.” To me, politicians don’t answer questions. Ever. They spin stuff around and spout rhetorical nonsense about values. But when Obama gave an intelligent answer to EVERY question, I thought “This guy is going to be President. Hopefully it happens soon.”

    • Todd says:

      Re: hope

      I was sure Gore had the election in the bag

      There was a lot of that going around.

    • clayfoot says:

      Re: hope

      Speaking from the heart of the southeast US, you guys just have no idea how much support there is for conservative candidates and policies. I work with people who still say Bush was a pretty good president. These conservative folks show up at the polls and vote consistently. That’s at least partly why, even though Democrats have outnumbered Republicans for years, the Republicans (and conservative Democrats, for that matter) have been winning at the polls.

      • Todd says:

        Re: hope

        I’m well aware of the dominance of the conservative agenda in the south. I don’t understand it, but I’m aware of it. Tennessee has McCain ahead 57 to 39, Alabama has him ahead 59 to 35. Georgia is less so, but still solidly red. Funny how the slave states stick out like that.

      • robjmiller says:

        Re: hope

        I learned all about that in college. I went to Georgia Tech in Atlanta, a strangely politically mixed city. I moved there in August of 2002, just in time for the 2002 gubernatorial elections. I was registered in Illinois so I wasn’t voting in the election, but I certainly saw the ads.

        Typically, I think candidates want to show that they are as different as possible from their opponent. Not in Georgia. Every ad I saw was “I support President Bush in everything he has ever wanted to do,” followed by “I support President Bush EVEN MORE THAN MY OPPONENT,” and “No really, I support Bush the most. And my opponent doesn’t want the confederate battle emblem on our flag, so I’m far more racist than him. Vote for me.”

  21. gazblow says:

    I remember being in the Hamptons in late August 2001. George Bush was trying to ram his shockingly conservative agenda through Congress and it wasn’t working. His approval ratings were very low for a new president, especially one who came into office amid such controversy. As I sipped my Mojito and looked into the hooded eyes of a die-hard Republican friend I said, “Your boy’s a one-termer”. Then 9/11 happened, Iraq, that disastrous Kerry nomination, and suddenly I was wrong. But at that 2004 convention, I saw Barack Obama. I was underwhelmed by Kerry (like you, Todd, I was a Dean guy) and after Barack’s speech thought “This guy is saying exactly what I’m thinking. I wish he would run for president. Aaaaaaaaah! Who’s gonna elect a black guy president?” Looks like I was wrong again (fingers crossed). Thanks for the endorsement/Alcott political history!

  22. mitejen says:

    This is perfect. Your writing is inspiring to me, an aspiring novelist.

    Mind if I link to this?

  23. inkboy says:

    My hope is that people will stop falling for the GOP line that when times are good you must cut taxes and when times are bad you cut them even more. In 2000, I believe Americans were simply too complacent. Republicans were the majority in congress and things were still going relatively well. Most people thought the impeachment proceedings were nonsense but were still annoyed at Clinton’s behavior and unimpressed with Gore (too bad more people didn’t watch Futurama). Enough people thought Bush was more interesting and “regular guy” and I even heard from some fairly liberal people, “how bad could he be?”. No one had any idea how bad things would get but the promise of decreased taxes and the feeling that we had won the cold war and could just keep sailing on was just too appealing to too many people.

    Taking Iraq was the plan all along, only before 9/11 they thought they might need a coup as cover for a US-friendly government. I’m sure this came up in Cheney’s super-secret meeting with the oil companies that took place the summer before the terrorist attacks.

    • Todd says:

      My hope is that people will stop falling for the GOP line that when times are good you must cut taxes and when times are bad you cut them even more.

      As Urbaniak says, to a conservative, conservatism is perfect, it can never fail, it can only be failed. If a conservative presses his agenda and fails, it means only that he was not conservative enough.

      • inkboy says:

        Quite right. When the poor do not voluntarily lift themselves out of poverty it is because they have been coddled too much. Time to further restrict benefits and dole out more “tough love”! When teens continue to get pregnant, it is because they are still being tempted by sex education classes. “Abstinence only” must be further promoted and all details about sexual practices must be denied. When people continue to use drugs, the war must be escalated with more frequent and larger busts of marijuana growing operations. When pastors engage in homosexual behavior, it’s because they’re not praying hard enough.

        In every case, it’s never allowed that one might change strategies, simply that the cause has been betrayed or the faithful have wavered.

  24. Then shit happened. 9/11 had somehow changed the country overnight. Suddenly everyone had American flags on everything, and it terrified me. I had thought we were in a globalistic, post-patriotic, post-military world. Hadn’t these people seen all the same Vietnam movies I had seen? Scenes from anti-authority movies like Full Metal Jacket, All the President’s Men, War Games, Dr. Strangelove, and so many others were running through my mind. Hadn’t they been paying attention for the last 30 years?

    Reminds me of an essay by conservative Rod Dreher:

    “My first real political memory came in 1979. It was listening to Jimmy Carter tell the nation about the failed hostage rescue mission. I hated him for that. I hated him for the whole Iran mess, shaming America before our enemies with weakness and incompetence.

    When Ronald Reagan was elected president the next year, I stayed up late to hear his victory speech. America was saved. I was 13 years old, and I was a Reaganite from that moment on.

    My generation came of age politically under Reagan. To me, he was strong and confident. Democrats were weak and depressed. Like so many other Gen-X’ers, I disliked people I thought of as hippies, those blame America first liberals so hung up on Vietnam. They surrendered to the communists back then, just like they want to do that. Republicans were winners, Democrats defeatists. What more did you need to know?

    On Sept. 11, 2001, I stood on the Brooklyn Bridge and watched in horror as the World Trade Center collapsed. Thank God we have a Republican in the White House, I comforted myself. As President Bush marched the country toward war with Iraq in 2003, even some voices on the right warned that this was a fool’s errand. I dismissed them angrily. I thought them unpatriotic.

    But almost four years later I see that I was the fool. In Iraq, this Republican president for whom I voted twice has shamed our country with weakness and incompetence. And the consequences of his failure will be far, far worse than anything Carter did. The fraud, the mendacity, the utter haplessness of our government’s conduct of the Iraq war had been shattering to me.

    It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. Not under a Republican president, not after Reagan. I turn 40 next month. Middle-aged at last, a time of discovering limits, finitude. I expected that. What I did not expect was to live to see the limits in finitude of American power revealed so painfully. I did not expect Vietnam.

    As I sat in my office last night, watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war. I had a heretical thought for a conservative – that I’ve got to teach my kids that they must never ever take presidents and generals at their word. That their government will send them to kill and die for noble sounding rot, that they have to question authority.

    On the walk to the parking garage it hit me. Hadn’t the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely? Will my children, too small now to understand Iraq, take me seriously when I tell them one day what powerful men their father once believed in did to this country.

    Heavy thoughts for someone who’s still a conservative despite it all. It was a long drive home.”

  25. teamwak says:

    Brilliant stuff. And the same with the videos. I’m all teary now lol

    For the first time ever I wish I could vote in your election, just so I could vote for Obama. There is a lot of voter apathy in my country although I have voted in every election, both local and general, my whole adult life. There is something refreshing and even exciting to see a whole electorate energised by the democratic process.

    And no doubt a beacon to the rest of the world where proper democracy is more and ideal than a reality.

    Have fun in November! I’ll have fingers crossed!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Looking at that video, it strikes me how much Obama’s aged in the last year. He looks at least five years younger.

  27. r_sikoryak says:

    It’s going to be very, very surreal if someone we vote for actually becomes president.

    I didn’t mean “if,” I meant “when”! “When!”

  28. sheherazahde says:

    I’m 42.
    Carter was the first and the last President I respected.
    I didn’t quite trust Clinton and he let me down in many ways.
    I hope Obama brings back integrity to the office of the President.
    I would like to be able to respect a President again.

  29. curt_holman says:

    Hey-yah

    “I watched, confused, as the TV people played the “Yeeearrrgh” clip over and over — for the life of me, I couldn’t see what was so funny or sad or humiliating or whatever the hell they were trying to tell me it was supposed to be.”

    The constant re-plays of the Dean scream in 2004 reminded me of the 2000 presidential campaign and the way the “Gore exaggerates himself” meme took hold in the mainstream media in a way that the “Bush is an intellectual lightweight” meme never did. It’s like the ratings and “Fair and balanced” slogan of Fox News (and, later, the Iraq War and fears of being accused of lack of patriotism) completely cowed the mainstream media, and the MSM was more comfortable reporting the “conservative narrative” than any other.

    I don’t think that’s the case this year, but I think that’s less an example of MSM courage than the thorough discrediting of the Republican brand since Katrina.

    On an unrelated topic, last week I visited Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, and saw that its atrium had an exhibit called ‘Jim Henson: Wonders of the Workshop.’ A whole corner was devoted to Labyrinth, including the Goblin door-knocker and the “Shaft of Hands” (which sounds terribly unwholesome).