Our American President

This past Tuesday, Barack Obama handily won re-election to hold his title as President of the United States. I must admit that going into the election on Tuesday I was confident but still nervous. Nate Silver’s pragmatic election forecasting had kept me calm and reasonable during the entire campaign but when CNN started showing red states populating the electoral college map, I must admit my stomach did summersaults.

We now know that Nate was right all along for as the night drew onward, the polls of the last few months bore out his math and Obama won state after battleground state. In fact the only one he lost was my own of North Carolina. While NC did go red this time around, the decision here was extremely close which honestly surprised me. In the end NC’s electoral votes didn’t matter as Barack won Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and yes, even Florida. I must admit I did enjoy tuning in FOX News throughout the night just to see the next four years slipping away from Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove. As Rachel Maddow pointed out this week, and as many pundits have rightfully written, Tuesday’s election results hit Team Romney, and many on the right as a complete and utter shock. For months they had deluded themselves into thinking the exit polls were wrong and that victory was the only possible result. Heck, Romney didn’t even have a concession speech ready to go. Who does that anyway? What kind of man running for the President doesn’t prepare for every eventuality? Evidently Mitt Romney, that’s who.

I face the next four years with hope and a huge sense of relief. We will not have new conservative supreme court justices. Roe v. Wade will not be overturned. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay (thank GOD), and world leaders will continue to respect our President. Obama hasn’t been a perfect President by any stretch of the imagination. There have been many issues he’s been unwilling or unable to tackle such as immigration reform and climate change. He’s also done things I’m not proud of such as the continued detaining of prisoners without due process. But in the end his pluses far outweigh his minuses. Despite the faux outrage from the right-wing elements in our country this past week, the United States is indeed on the road to recovery. We’ve not turned into a socialist state overnight and we won’t be one tomorrow. And no, Barack Obama didn’t kill the country this past Tuesday, Nov. 6th., he actually saved it. Saved it from regressing 50 years in policy and mindset. Saved it from extremist, conservative ideology that threatened to destroy a woman’s right to choose and American’s access to affordable health insurance. And in a small way, he saved this country from the rampant racism and hate that has reared its ugly head during his first term. A vote for Obama re-affirmed that he was no fluke, he was here to stay despite the efforts of the dwindling, white majority who has tried to paint him as “different from us” and “un-American”.

I’m very proud of my President and my country for making the right choice this past Tuesday. I wish I knew what the next four years will bring, but I feel confident that Barack will meet the challenges head-on and do what’s in our collective best interests. I sincerely hope he listens to the will of those who elected him and grows a spine when dealing with Republican obstructionism, thankfully there are signs of this already. Above all, I’m grateful that we’re moving forward as a country instead of backwards, making laws instead of repealing them. I wish our President good luck and God speed because unfortunately as history has demonstrated, he’s going to need it.

Bring It

Prior to the 2008 election, I was understandably nervous about the possible outcome. The potential of President John McCain and Vice President Sarah Palin shook me to my core and I followed the political scene very closely. I blogged about politics quite a bit, every chance I got actually and set out to do my part to try and help get Barack Obama elected. The thought of another four years of republican policies and control combined with Palin being just one step away from the Oval Office often kept me up at night. I was anxious, nervous and worried.

Looking back now, I probably shouldn’t have been so stressed. In hindsight, the country longed for a new direction, a vision to lead us away from the war in Iraq, away from torture as an official U.S. policy, and away from the leadership disasters of Katrina and a tailspinning economy. Obama stepped in at the right moment, won the nomination and then the Presidency and made history in the process. I remember wondering the night before the first presidential debate if Barack really had what it took to lead the nation. He was young and full of hope an enthusiasm, but would it be enough? Would the elder, more experienced statesman win the debate and the presidency? No, he would not.

Now, four years later my thoughts return to that election and how I felt leading up to it. Hate for this President has run deep, deeper than even I have thought possible. Almost since the day he took office, republicans have been blocking, obstructing and denigrating him and his position in the hopes of getting the upper hand this November 4th. Questions about his birth certificate still circulate in right-wing circles. Cries of socialism and a “government takeover” of healthcare have rallied the conservative base. Billionaires, backed by the Supreme Court’s mis-guided Citizen’s United decision have poured gobs of money into Karl Rove’s coffers and flooded the airwaves with negative ads all designed to convince the country that Obama hasn’t done enough to turn the economy and the country around fast enough. These last few months I’ve started to wonder, could Romney actually win this thing? I mean, Mr. Bland, Mr. RomneyCare, Mr. Also-ran Mitt Romney?

No, I don’t think so. In fact, the closer we get to election day, the more I think Barack will prove his worth with voters and handily win re-election. He now has a laundry list of accomplishments that he will be able to wield like Batman wields his utility belt. Want to talk about terrorism? He’s ended the war in Afghanistan, killed dozens of Al Qaida operatives and oh, Osama Bin Laden has shuffled off that mortal coil. Obama’s fought for the rights of gays and lesbians repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and signed laws designed to help give women equal pay for equal work. Obama’s administration saved the auto industry. Mitt didn’t even want to touch the problem with a ten-foot pole, preferring instead to let the industry go belly up, and thousands upon thousands of Michigan jobs with it.

And then there’s health care. The right sees it as their war cry. “We’ll repeal Obamacare! Socialism! Socialism!” but more and more Americans’ agree that the fundamental principals that the Affordable Care Act provides (insurance for pre-existing conditions, more of your dollars paying for care instead of overhead, etc) are good ones. Just this week Romney, in a bid for independent voters said that there are parts of Obamacare he wants to keep. This flies directly in the face of his fellow hard-line conservatives who have said they want the entire act repealed. Nothing less will do. That’s the problem with extremism, it doesn’t win elections. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, politics is rarely a black and white endeavor. It takes compromise and a willingness to walk in the other guy’s shoes in order to get things done. This simple principal has been Washington’s way since its inception, but it’s also seemingly been abandoned by the right in their bid to regain control of the White House. Indeed, no other congress has stymied the lawmaking process as much as this one has. In order to get anything done, the President has had to take some unusual measures which, predictably, has only increased right-wing cries that he’s “power hungry” and refuses to work with republicans.

I have no delusions that Barack Obama has fulfilled all his promises as President. Obama’s White House isn’t nearly as transparent as he had promised it would be. We still hold prisoners without hope of ever getting a fair trial before their peers. He was naive to pretend he could make bipartisanship a household word. Perhaps most distressingly he’s been unable to communicate effectively to the American people just why he’s done some of the things he’s done. Then I look at the other side of the coin, all that he’s accomplished despite the massive pile of dung he was handed by his predecessor, and I look forward with hope. The country is indeed in a better place today than it was when he took office. I absolutely cannot WAIT for the political debates which being October 2nd. I believe Barack will wipe the proverbial floor with Mitt and seal the deal in the process. I also think deep down inside, conservatives won’t mind because like McCain, most of them don’t like Romney anyway. I’m starting to get excited about this election, and while there is still a huge level of uncertainty, (much can happen in two months) I look across the aisle to my conservative counterparts and think – “Bring it.”

UPDATE: As if almost on cue, conservatives have started to publicly decry Romney’s anemic campaign. Like I said in the post, things are still early but it’s obvious that Romney is an also-ran for the GOP. He was really the only viable choice to contend with Obama, but he’s failed to bring the “right-wing goods” as it were and therefore the knives are showing. I have a feeling things are about to get very ugly for the republican party as they face some unpleasant truths.

Entrenched

Over the past few years, there’s been a significant increase in the polarization of people’s opinions in this country. More and more, folks are unwilling to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to see their side of the story or even just listen to what they have to say. Increasingly, we as a society are either unwilling or unable to compromise on important topics that affect the vast majority of us. I’m not sure where or when this started, but I do think much of it has to do with the Internet.

Since it came into wide-spread adoption, the Internet has been a way for people of widely varied viewpoints to express themselves on any number of topics. We can read, post, blog and tweet all from the comfort of our own homes and what we say is seen by hundreds, thousands or even millions of people. More importantly, when we say something online we do so from the relative safety of digital anonymity. Although some people hide behind pseudonyms online, these days it’s more common to see people representing themselves honestly and openly. Just because they do however, doesn’t mean that we “know” them or are friends with them or even have met them in real life and I think that is an important distinction.

When we sit down and have a conversation with our family, friends or even acquaintances, we often censor ourselves for the good of our relationships. We may think someone’s opinion isn’t valid or is something we consider to be foolish, but we probably won’t tell them that to their face. Instead we often try and steer those we disagree with towards mutual understanding, we give and take, we compromise. I love my family very much but I disagree heartedly with many of their political viewpoints. When I get into a discussion about these topics with them, I don’t call my Uncle an idiot or a bozo, I calmly listen to his opinion, and if I’m feeling feisty I’ll attempt to convey some opposing viewpoints. If he listens great, if he entrenches himself and refuses to hear what I’m saying I often change the subject and move on. I love him too much to risk hurting him or his feelings and so I censor myself to some degree. I firmly believe it’s for the best.

But when I frequent political blogs and forums and told I’m an “ignorant liberal” or when I tweet about Apple’s court victory over Samsung and am called a “typical Apple fanboi”, the people that do so have no pretenses about censoring themselves. Indeed, I too am more likely to let loose when I’m exchanging ideas and thoughts with someone I’ve only met online than I would if I were sitting with them face-to-face in a restaurant or coffee shop. Yesterday, Macworld editor Dan Frakes tweeted this about Apple’s original iPhone:

As soon as I saw that tweet, I knew Dan was in for an earful. I had tweeted several times on Friday about the $1.01B judgement against Samsung by Apple and was not prepared for the amount of staunch anti-Apple sentiment that flowed into my Twitter timeline as a result. It seems that in platforms, as in politics, people have firmly chosen sides. You’re either with us or your against us and for some reason there can be no middle ground. I make my living using Apple products and have enjoyed them for well over 20 years so I have a strong affinity for technology that comes out of Cupertino. I also like to think that I’m fairly objective and have criticized Apple when I strongly disagree with a position they take. Sadly, some don’t see it this way. Apple is either the perfect corporate citizen who can do no wrong or a demon that is out to destroy open standards and lock all smartphone users into walled gardens manned by underage Chinese workers from Foxconn.

The reality, of course, is somewhere in-between. Apple’s victory over Samsung can be right and just in accordance with U.S. patent law but that doesn’t mean they “invented rounded rectangles”. It also shouldn’t mean that you and I can’t have a friendly discussion on the topic without it devolving into the digital equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show. Admittedly, when we are so entrenched in our positions it is difficult to give up any ground, especially when one feels passionately about something. However, if we are to survive and flourish as a society and have meaningful conversations, we all need to try and make a concerted effort to climb out of our fox holes and meet somewhere in the middle.

Exceeding Expectations

Local lawyer and conservative blogger, Sam Spagnola is running for county commissioner. Sam and I have had dust ups over on Ed Cone’s blog and it’s no secret that I disagree with the vast majority of positions he’s taken on national politics. So when I spotted (what I assumed must be) his truck at the Quaker Village shopping plaza, I had to snap a few pictures.

Even though I’ve never met Sam in person, I have to say that the messages conveyed on his vehicle fit the man to a tee. Typically politicians seeking office take the moderate route so Sam’s slogan of “Elect a REAL conservative!” could be considered a bold, fresh marketing move. Unfortunately for voters like myself, seeing his mocking of our president on his bumper sticker and license plate turned me off. Then again, I guess local constituents and business owners like myself are not his target audience. Best of luck, Sam!

UPDATE: Turns out I assumed wrong (bad me!) and the truck isn’t Sam’s after all but one of his bigger supporters. The good news for Sam seems to be that his identity as a true conservative politician appears to be hitting the mark with his voters. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, major props to someone who takes action and runs for office instead of just standing on the sidelines grumbling to the crowd. Local government could use more of this, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.

Day of Days

After 22 months, today is the day Americans elect a new President and no matter what happens, the results will be historic. We’ll either have the first woman Vice President or we’ll have the first African American President. Obviously I’m rooting for the latter, and although I voted early there is a part of me that would have liked to go to the polls today in my deep, royal blue shirt and voted for Barack.

All that is past me now and thankfully the campaign commercials (on both sides) are at an end. A quick check of Quicken reveals that I gave a total of $150 to Obama’s campaign split among 5 seperate donations. I’ve never given that much to a political candidate before, ever. I’ve written over 40 blog posts that either are directly about, or mention Barack Obama since July of 2007. I think it’s fair to say I’m invested in an Obama victory. And although I was rooting for Kerry in 2004, this time it’s different.

Back then I was really voting against George W. Bush. When I voted this past week, I was voting for Obama. I was voting for change, hope and a new direction for this country. I voted to gain back the respect of the world which this country has lost these last eight years. I voted to support the rule of law and against cronyism. I wasn’t voting for abortion, I voted for a woman’s right to choose. I voted for renewable energy and wrangling in the ballooning cost of healthcare. I voted for Obama to support net neutrality and to make sure the Supreme Court doesn’t slip further to the right than it already has. I voted against torturing prisoners (even the ones the CIA holds), taking our eye off the ball in Iraq and most of all, I voted for man whom I believe will actually find and kill Bin Laden.

When all the polls close and the votes are counted, I believe that America will have made the right choice. People are craving to make a difference this time around. The lines will be long and problems will surface but in the end, there can be only one. Today will be remembered as the day when we all looked fear and division in the eye and instead chose hope. I can’t wait.

NC ‘Straight Ticket’ Votes Not Counted for President

If you reside in North Carolina and are getting ready to vote in the 2008 elections, then you need to be aware of a potential problem that is giving both poll workers and voters alike, headaches. Due to an obscure law passed back in 1967, when you vote a so-called “straight ticket” (pressing the button on the electronic voting machine for all Democrat or all Republican), no vote is recorded for President of the United States or judges.

In order for your vote for President to count, you will have to manually select the candidate of your choice in addition to the straight ticket choice. A Daily Kos diary of a poll worker in North Carolina has outlined the problem and the worker personally saw at least 200 votes that were meant for one candidate not counted because of the confusion. Spread the word about this NC voting quirk if you can, the more people that sound the alert, the better.

Hat tip to David Miller for this post.

Fear & Loathing Illustrated

In an effort to underscore just how much the right fears Barack Obama, I’ve put together this helpful info graphic. Inspired by something Britt Whitmire said this morning on his radio show, I decided to check out the total number of entries for both Obama and McCain at Snopes.com, a non-partisan website that tracks urban legends and scam emails. They say animals that are cornered tend to go on the attack, so judging from what’s happening at Snopes, one could theorize conservatives are feeling “trapped” this election cycle.

Emails, rumors and media reports filled to the brim with misinformation about Obama have been circulating for months in an effort to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the Senator from Illinois. This might have worked in 2004 against John Kerry, but Obama is being proactive with sites like Fight The Smears and surrogates that counter media lies at every possible opportunity. It’s about time too because, like millions of progressives in this country, I’m tired of the Democrats running defense these last eight years. The recent flap over McCain’s multiple homes is just the sort of thing Karl Rove would unleash on Obama if he had the chance. Don’t believe me? The data at Snopes doesn’t lie.

The GOP’s Nightmare Begins Now

For months leading up to the presidential primary, Republican strategists, pundits and media mouthpieces were all chomping at the bit at the prospect of facing Hillary Rodham Clinton in the fall. The battle between the forces of Reagan-Bush conservatism and the “morally bankrupt” Clinton clan was one of the good fights that right-wingers everywhere were counting on to fire up the base, draw new, young Republicans and energize the religious right. Clinton herself perpetuated the myth that she was entitled to the Democratic nomination. When her campaign failed to plan for the political bombshell that turned out to be Super Tuesday, she had to know things were not going as planned.

I knew the right feared facing Obama in the general election. My suspicions were confirmed when Rush Limbaugh effectively told his ditto-head listeners to vote for Clinton in deep red states like Texas, a place where no God-fearing republican would admit to even liking Hillary, let alone pull a lever for her. Operation Chaos, as it was called, may have been sold under the guise of prolonging the battle between Hillary and Barack, but I suspect it had more to do with the desire of the right to give Clinton the boost she needed to take the nomination.

The best laid plans.

Ever since it was understood that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee, we’ve hear rumblings from the right that Obama was the wrong choice. Hillary is the more competitive candidate. Obama doesn’t have the “electoral math” to win against McCain in the fall. The simple truth is they’re scared shitless. Obama’s nomination puts them just where they didn’t want to be. This is now a race between a young, energetic and intelligent man who stands for real change and an older opponent who effectively represents “the status quo”. Obama has raised over 280 million dollars from over 1.5 million donors averaging about $100 each. McCain has to re-schedule his fundraising appearances because he doesn’t want to be seen with Bush.

I’m not going to kid myself and say this election is going to be easy. It won’t be. The right wing, from the Bush insiders like Karl Rove, hate radio jocks like Hannity and Ingram and internet right wingers like Drudge and Malkin are about to throw everything they have at the Senator from Illinois. They will do anything to try and slow down the speeding locomotive that is the Obama campaign. They and others fear the loss of power that Obama as President would represent and the shift in policies that would limit corporate control and restore the rule of law. They can feel the country slipping from their grasp like the snake oil they sold this country for the past 7 years. McCain stammers to a room of a few hundred and Obama draws crowds of tens of thousands. McCain and his supporters offer the rest of us unending war, promote the climate of fear started by Bush after 9/11, and attempt to drive a wedge between Americans. To these folks and others like them who live in ignorance of what true change is and what Barack Obama represents, I have only one thing to say…

Bring ‘em on.