The Video Clip Jon Stewart Would Make if He Were a Republican

This is brilliant — a compilation of near-identical sound bites from Obama’s campaign speeches in 2008 and 2012.  Well worth a minute & 58 seconds of your time.  If Obama loses in November, it will be because late deciders and marginal 2008 supporters realize that Obama is not the Obamessiah — he’s one more politician who makes promises he can’t keep.

(Hat tip: Jonah)

Civil Rights, and the Intersection of Race and Sexual Orientation

Dennis and Christine Wiley, Baptist preachers in DC who support marriage equality

Dennis and Christine Wiley, Baptist preachers in DC who support marriage equality

Not long after the Presidential election last year, the Web Goddess and I had dinner with four of our closest friends, who happen to be a black couple and a lesbian couple.  There was exactly one McCain voter in the room — which turns out to reflect almost precisely the voting results in our hometown of Maplewood, NJ.  (I would have guessed it had been even more lopsided.)

I don’t think of these friends primarily in demographic terms — we’re three couples who met through our local Episcopal church and found we enjoyed each other’s company.  But of course, race was a common conversation topic in those post-election days.  Sexual orientation also claimed some attention through California’s successful Proposition 8, which overruled the state Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage in that state.  On this issue, we all knew the vote at our dinner table would be 6-0 the other way.

Obama’s ground-breaking candidacy had inspired a huge increase in black voters around the country — and it was being reported that his coattails may have had an adverse effect on gay people in California, as about 70 percent of black California voters had voted to ban gay marriage.  (Later analysis asserted that 58 percent was a more realistic number — still well above the 49 percent of whites who voted similarly.)

One of our friends, who wants nothing more than to marry, in New Jersey, the woman she has been committed to for more than a decade, brought up this awkward confluence of race and orientation.  Her voice trailed off as she looked inquiringly at our black friends, and we all watched the husband shake his head helplessly.  “There’s a lot of homophobia in the black community,” he said softly.

These memories were stirred today by the publication today of an op-ed in the Washington Post about the D.C. Council’s vote this week to legalize same-sex marriage in the nation’s capital.  The headline that caught my eye was “Why Two Black D.C. Pastors Support Gay Marriage.”  It turns out they’re not just black — they’re Baptists, and leaders of “the first and only traditional black church in the District of Columbia to perform same-sex unions [non-marital commitment ceremonies].”

Christine and Dennis Wiley write that “our first-hand experience has convinced us that homophobia within the black church and the wider community is real,” and they thoughtfully discuss what they see as the historical reasons for this.

A more complicated element of black homophobia is the lingering influence of sexual stereotypes that originated during slavery. According to theologian Kelly Brown Douglas, the myth of “over-sexualized” black bodies portrayed black men as violent “bucks” who posed an ever-present threat to white women, and black women as “Jezebels” who seduced white men.

These stereotypes served to justify the whipping, lynching and castration of black men, and to excuse the sexual violation of black women by white men. They were just one element of what blacks had to struggle against to gain acceptance and respectability in white society, especially during the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. On this matter, religion has often been a vehicle of suppression, accommodation and control. While the church was a refuge from the horrors of racism and played an empowering role in African American history, it also taught black people to repress behaviors — especially sexual behaviors — that might attract unwanted attention, appear uncouth or seem threatening to white people.

A final piece that shapes black attitudes toward same-sex marriage is the preoccupation with racism in the black community. This obsession, although justifiable, has led to a failure to appreciate how racism is inextricably connected to all other forms of oppression. Those who fail to see this connection may resent the comparison of gay rights with civil rights. But as Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

gaypridemarchT-blue copyKing also said, “the arch of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  I firmly believe that same-sex marriage is a straightforward civil rights issue.  There’s only one acceptable outcome — and I believe I will live to see full marriage equality in this country.

Even in the socially liberal Episcopal church, the topic of gay equality has been controversial.  (Nationally, at least — in Maplewood, not so much.)  I marvel at the courage of these two black Baptist preachers, and I wish them Godspeed.

A Centrist Obama May Help Moderate the Democratic Party

Today’s edition of Obama Silver Lining Watch (hereafter OSLW) starts with a trip down memory lane.

In my very first substantive post on this blog, way back in July 2008, I discussed how Obama was, inevitably, moderating his stance on multiple issues after finally knocking Hillary Clinton out of the race:

But it turns out Obama is a politician. After winning the Democratic nomination by appealing to the young, the idealists, the activists and the pacifists, he’s swerved right so fast that many of his supporters have whiplash.

Now that he’s won the general election, I’ve blogged several times about my relief at the extent to which Obama has not swerved back to the left. But the very signals that I find encouraging are causing consternation in other quarters.

In an essay titled “The Coming Rift,” Abe Greenwald argues at CommentaryMagazine.com that Obama and the Democratic leadership are much more in tune with the Republicans than they are with the liberal Democratic base. Noting the recent support for Israel’s current Gaza offensive from Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, Greenwald says:

On matters of foreign policy, social policy, and economics, Democratic leadership is largely indistinguishable from the Republican variety. And Democratic voters have noticed.

The best part of the essay is where Greenwald analyzes the role of Bush Derangement Syndrome (he doesn’t use that term) in creating a disconnect for Democrats:

The runaway train of preposterous (and liberal) expectations that delivered Barack Obama into the White House first gained speed as a runaway train full of preposterous accusations against George W. Bush. With their cartoonish demonization of every Bush policy and associate, groups like the Daily Kos and Moveon.org made it impossible for any liberal with a web browser to give a single conservative policy a fair shake. Barack Obama’s exploitation and mobilization of this online hysteria made for an unstoppable campaign, but also for an illusory state of political affairs. Democratic politicians, President-elect Obama included, always knew better than the frenzied multitude that voted in “change.” But the netroots were duped as a result of their own momentum.

It’s too early to know how the betrayed will repay their leaders in the next Congressional or Presidential elections, but if Democratic fragmentation is to be avoided down the line, perhaps the introspection about re-branding, redefining, and reaching out needs to happen on the Left.

Democratic activists can be vindictive. In 2000, Joe Lieberman was the party’s VP candidate. Just six years later he was denied his own party’s nomination for re-election to the Senate, and two years after that he became an absolute pariah for daring to campaign for McCain on the basis of support for the Iraq War. The analogy is inexact — Obama clearly is a darling of the liberal Democratic base in a way that Lieberman never was. But that could make the left’s sense of betrayal sting all the more in the context of some future hard decision by President Obama.

Left-wing anger could damage Obama’s effectiveness, but I see happier possibilities for Obama and for our country.

Obama’s election victory was the product of two powerful forces: Obama’s own undeniable charisma, combined with Bush’s liabilities. In turn, Bush’s problems also had two parts: frenzied hatred from the left and dissatisfaction from many across the rest of the political spectrum.

Starting two short weeks from now, Bush will become largely irrelevant. President Obama will be the leader of what Newsweek controversially (but correctly, I think) called a center-right nation. If, as I expect, Obama makes grown-up decisions that infuriate the extreme left, he’ll still have a broad base of support from the center and from some on the right. In the process, Obama — like Clinton before him — may help move the center of gravity of the Democratic party away from the leftist fringe.

(Photo Credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images. Note that Obama is leaning to his right.)

Minnesota: Not Heads or Tails, but Standing on Edge

Move over, Florida — Minnesota is making a strong bid for supremacy in the category of freakishly close electoral results.

CNN reports today that Sen. Norm Coleman’s unofficial lead over unfunnyman Al Franken has shrunk to a mere 5 votes, out of about 3 million cast. If that holds up — the state is continuing to analyze the ballots — that would be a margin of victory of about 0.00016%, or less than two ten-thousandths of one percent. Florida 2000 was a veritable landslide in comparison, with a final certified Bush margin of 0.009%, nearly one-hundredth of one percent, or 537 votes out of just under 6 million cast.

It’s hard to know what to do about a dead heat in a large election. An election that close is well within the measurement error of any method that could be used to count votes. In Minnesota as in Florida, we’ll never know which candidate actually received more votes. It’s tempting to provide for redoing the election if it’s within, say, 1% … but all that does is move the goalposts, so that the lawsuits and recounts attempt to prove that the margin was more or less than precisely 1%.

Florida 2000 was a national tragedy — not because of who won, but because the closeness inevitably called the legitimacy of the result into question. If the U.S. Supreme Court had voted 5-4 to declare Gore the winner, the bitter cries of “we wuz robbed” would have been coming from the other party.

Photo credit: Zeophoto’s Weblog

The Perils of Participatory Democracy

Over at change.gov, the President-elect’s transition website, the incoming administration is continuing its efforts to tap the power of social media. Yesterday this took the form of an “Open for Questions” tool that encouraged readers to submit questions and issues they believe the new president should address.

Participation in Open for Questions outpaced our expectations, and we’re looking forward to rolling it out again next week. We’re tremendously excited about the promise of tools like this that offer Americans a level of access that has historically been hard to come by. By voting questions up, users have been able to convey to our team which major issues — like the auto industry, health care, ethical standards, and others — are the most important to this community.

Yes, those are certainly weighty and important issues. I might throw in Iraq, Afghanistan, national security, etc., but that’s just me. So… which of these subjects received the most votes as the most pressing issue facing the nation?

“Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”

Nicely phrased as an economic imperative, and the libertarian in me favors legalization, although my personal interest in this issue has long since passed. But I’m picturing a scene in college dorm rooms across the country, a smoky bong next to the laptop, as America’s newest voters engage in political discourse to shape the nation’s agenda: “Dude! Now you log in and vote!”

Bragging Rights vs. Governing Rights

Neo-neocon sparked a raucous conversation in the comments of a brief post about the followup to a mischievous Zogby poll that surveyed Obama voters about their level of knowledge of various statements, and reported that the Obama voters surveyed got questions wrong more often than if they had simply guessed randomly.

I say it’s a “mischievous” poll because it makes no sense to poll only Obama voters, there’s no context. So another polling firm went out and sort-of replicated the poll, but this time surveying random people (thereby capturing both McCain and Obama voters).

I say “sort-of replicated” because they added a question to what Zogby asked, and a lot of the Zogby questions are arguably biased. (In fact, Neo’s commenters argue about this at great length.) Viewers of right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC News scored differently on various questions, and there’s plenty to argue about there, too.

So throw out all of the questions about individual candidates and viewing habits, just look at the simple, objective, no-way-to-skew question about Congressional control, as reported by the pollster:

Respondents were asked which party controlled both houses of congress before the past election, Republicans or Democrats.
  • McCain voters knew which party controls congress by a 63-27 margin.
  • Obama voters got the “congressional control” question wrong by 43-41.

I want to be careful here, because the vast majority of my friends and neighbors voted for Obama. If I know you personally, I’m confident that you would have correctly answered “Democrats.” But the overall difference in political awareness between Obama and McCain voters is stark.

So, let’s review: McCain supporters are better informed, and Obama supporters are celebrating. Advantage: Obama.

McCain Gets More Gay Votes Than Bush

I meant to follow up in a more timely way on an earlier post about the conservative gay vote. From that earlier post:

Along the same lines, I also want to note estimates that nearly one out of every four gay voters pulled the lever for Bush in 2004 (as did I), despite Bush’s odious support for the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (As for this year’s GOP nominee: “In the Senate, McCain has been an ardent opponent of a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, arguing his case on federalist grounds.”)

Today I belatedly found a GayPatriot post from last week, quoting the Log Cabin Republicans as saying that McCain got about 27% of the LGBT vote. This is clearly up from what Bush got in 2004, but the Log Cabin Republicans estimated Bush’s tally in 2004 as 19%. Where I say “nearly one out of every four” up above, the actual tally was 23%, so there’s a discrepancy.

Turns out that if you stick consistently with CNN exit poll data, the numbers are:

This progression makes sense to me — Bush got higher support overall in 2004 than in 2000, but his support for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage cost him some votes among gays. McCain’s opposition to the amendment helped him hold on to a few more gay conservatives. The striking thing is that the one-out-of-four ratio, in rounded terms, has been quite steady.

So where did that 19% number the Log Cabin Republicans cited come from? Annoyingly, they kind of made it up, averaging the 23% CNN number with a 17% result from an LATimes exit poll, and deciding that was “about 20%,” which somehow became 19% in their earlier missive. Hmm.

What’s the point of all this? Well, it’s about me being defensive, I suppose. The Web Goddess and I have been involved for years in our church’s efforts in support of full marriage equality for same-sex couples. (The Web Goddess designed the shirt above — click it to order a copy from Cafe Press, at no profit to us.) Some gay friends have taken issue, politely, with my support for McCain. I’m just trying to show that a vote for a Republican shouldn’t be considered beyond the pale by people who support gay equality. Even in our deep-blue town of Maplewood, I know at least one gay couple who are “out” Republicans.

I suppose there’s also a message here for those who would caricature all gay people as being driven primarily by their sexuality. In each election cited above, of course, any gay voter who voted primarily on the basis of issues important to gay people would have voted for the Democrat. But one out of four gay voters felt strongly enough about other issues — presumably national security or taxes — to vote for the less gay-friendly candidate.

Bush Derangement Syndrome and the Surge

Peter Wehner, writing in Commentary, does the best job I have seen of chronicling the sordid history of liberal opposition to the surge. For paragraph after relentless paragraph he replays the mockery from the left, from before the surge even started until long after its success was clear.


Anti-surge rhetoric died down only when even Barack Obama — who won the Democratic nomination in part because he was seen as the “purest” advocate of surrender in Iraq — finally had to admit in September that the surge has “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”

Wehner wrestles with the question of why so many on the left continued denying the reality unfolding before their eyes:

A generous interpretation is that by the end of 2006, many liberals had made a definitive good-faith judgment that the Iraq war was irretrievably lost. This then became the filter through which they viewed all later developments. Once convinced of the impossibility of substantial progress, never mind a decent outcome or an actual victory, they could not help receiving good news as anomalous and/or inherently unsustainable.

But the generous interpretation may be too generous, and also condescending. Reasonable and responsible adults are expected to assess the solidity of their convictions against the available evidence and in light of changing circumstances. Even at the time of the surge’s announcement, when things were going quite badly, should responsible adults not have been able to entertain the possibility that, given the enormity of what was at stake in the war, a fundamentally new approach merited at least a degree of support, however hesitant or conditional?

Instead, many pronounced the new approach a failure even before it was tried. Still worse was that they continued to pronounce it a failure even as the evidence began to amass that it was succeeding. Even those few who (like Richard Cohen and Joe Klein) eventually admitted they were wrong about the surge itself continued to insist they were right about the war. Others stuck more and more zealously to their original position the more it became falsified by reality. They, and not the President, were the ones who were truly “doubling down” on their bet—as if a decent outcome in Iraq threatened their entire worldview.

Wehner doesn’t actually use the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” but he describes it:

For some liberals, hatred of the President was clearly so all-encompassing that they had developed a deep investment in the failure of what they habitually dismissed not as America’s war but as “Bush’s war.” To an extent, this passion was driven by merely partisan considerations: Iraq had become a superbly effective instrument with which to bludgeon Republicans. It had helped the Democrats take control of both the House and the Senate in 2006; might not a thorough “Republican” defeat in Iraq lastingly reshape the political landscape in their favor?

This is, admittedly, an unpleasant line of speculation, and those foolhardy enough to venture upon it have been loudly condemned for questioning the patriotism of their political adversaries. But patriotism is not the issue—judgment is. When politicians acting in good faith misjudge a situation, nothing prevents them from acknowledging their error and explaining themselves. For the most part, we await such acknowledgments in vain.

My “favorite” BDS bumper sticker is the one I saw nearly every day when I was still commuting into New York, on a car usually parked a few slots ahead of mine. The sticker is pictured above — if you’re reading this via RSS, the sticker plays off the ill-advised “Mission Accomplished” proclamation, except the word “Mission” is crossed out and “Nothing” scrawled above it.

It’s deeply offensive not just because it dishonors the sacrifice of the troops, but because it does so in a way that is transparently, objectively false.

Removing Saddam Hussein from power is not “nothing.” One can argue that it was not worth the cost. One can argue that it was not an appropriate use of American military power. One can even argue, although it’s getting harder, that the Iraqi people would be better off if we had left Saddam alone. I disagree with all of those assertions, but there are substantive arguments that can and have been made for them. Well, for the first two anyway.

But the notion that “nothing” has been accomplished is… well… deranged. Thankfully, Obama has shown signs that his own case of Bush Derangement Syndrome is in remission. Soon it will no longer be “Bush’s war” — it will be for Obama to win or lose. I hope the success of the surge will allow him to continue the responsible draw-down of forces that has already begun.

Krauthammer Explains the Election

I’ve argued before that it is deeply ironic that the financial crisis benefited the Democrats this year, since the Democrats drove the reckless expansion of access to mortgages that led to the crisis, while Republicans — specifically, McCain and the Bush Administration — were sounding alarms.

As usual, Charles Krauthammer has the explanation:

This was not just a meltdown but a panic. For an agonizing few days, there was a collapse of faith in the entire financial system — a run on banks, panicky money-market withdrawals, flights to safety, the impulse to hide one’s savings under a mattress.

This did not just have the obvious effect of turning people against the incumbent party, however great or tenuous its responsibility for the crisis. It had the more profound effect of making people seek shelter in government.

After all, if even Goldman Sachs was getting government protection, why not you? And offering the comfort and safety of government is the Democratic Party’s vocation. With a Republican White House having partially nationalized the banks and just about everything else, McCain’s final anti-Obama maneuver — Joe the Plumber spread-the-wealth charges of socialism — became almost comical.

In my next life, I want to be Charles Krauthammer, ideally without the whole paralysis thing. My path from liberal to neocon has paralleled his, and he has an uncanny ability to state, with perfect clarity, insights on current events that are only beginning to rattle around in my head.

Evidence That Obama May Not Be a Socialist


Here’s hoping that whatever socialist tendencies President-elect Obama may have will be tempered by recognition of the success of his remarkably entrepreneurial, decentralized campaign.

Bret Swanson floats this idea in today’s WSJ (free link), in a piece headlined “Obama Ran A Capitalist Campaign.” Some excerpts:

The results of Mr. Obama’s decentralized Web effort were staggering: 8,000 Web-based affinity groups, 50,000 local events, 1.5 million Web volunteers, and 3.1 million donors who contributed almost $700 million. …

The key question now is how will Mr. Obama govern? Will he stick with the policies he ran on or adopt the approach that he won with?

The only way a president can maximize economic growth is to unleash diffuse networks of entrepreneurs. As economist Bob Litan of the Kauffman Foundation says, “Government can’t compel growth.” But Mr. Obama’s plans — “card check” legislation to allow workers to unionize a workplace without a secret ballot election; curbing free trade; a government-led “green economy”; and higher tax rates on capital and entrepreneurs — do not reflect his campaign’s deep trust in individuals.

A thought experiment, Mr. President-elect: What if as your campaign raised more and more money it was taxed away and given to Mr. McCain to level the field? Or think of this: What if you were not allowed to opt out of the public financing scheme that left Mr. McCain with a paltry $84 million, about a quarter of your autumn total?

Opting out of monopolistic, closed or centralized systems is often the path to innovation. Sometimes we opt out through the relaxation of regulations. More often, technology allows us to leap, obliterate or ignore the obstacles altogether.

Further evidence that Obama understands the magic of capitalism can be seen from the fact that he has attracted a prominent critic from his left: Anti-Corporate Buffoon Ralph Nader, who asked on election day if Obama would be Uncle Sam or “Uncle Tom.” This offered a rare opportunity to see a Fox News anchor who has Obama’s back (4:48):

P.S.: It also provides a rare example of a criticism of Obama that actually IS racial code.