Welcome to Obama Nation!

August 26, 2008

Welcome to Denver, where the elites and working class join hands and celebrate the nomination of Barack Obama for the Democratic National Convention. No flash photos, please, and if you must smoke, please do so at the nearest designated non-smoking area, officially known as Utah.

The theme of this year’s Democratic convention is “One Nation,” a sentiment somewhat contradictory to 2004’s vice presidential candidate, John Edwards. His idea of “Two Americas” presumably includes those in which his wife has terminal cancer and one in which he has a mistress; alas, for Edwards, the times have changed, and those two worlds have now become one.

The selection of Denver as the city for the convention was no accident. Surely, the cold, unforgiving masses of Colorado are rather unwelcome to those Democrats weltering in the south or at least have the benefit of the gentle gusts of wind emanating from Martha’s Vineyard, Puget Sound, or Joe Biden. Colorado is seen as a potential swing state. While Bush and the Republicans have safely won the state over the past few decades, the Democrats have slowly been gaining ground. What used to be the standard-bearer of western rugged individualists has found droves of environmentalists, immigrants, and rich urbanites looking to get away from the exact sort of city they voted to create in the first place settling in and, worse, registering to vote and, even more worse, actually voting.

This year, then, the Democrats are hoping to pick up its nine electoral votes. While small in the grand scheme of the electoral college, it’s a gold mine (quite literally) in the razor-thin election results we’ve seen lately. Someone, somewhere, on hearing about the selection of Biden as the vice presidential candidate, wiped their brow, squeaked a “3” on the dry erase board, and was glad to secure Delaware’s otherwise safe three votes.

This was shaping up to be one of the few political conventions in recent years that might have some legitimate drama. Conventions used to be full of brokered deals: cabinet positions auctions off to the highest bidder, legislation hammered out and agreed to in exchange for favors; party platform statements used to score internal political points but largely ignored by pretty much everyone else in the history of mankind. These slowly drifted away in importance as primaries determined the nominee, and the only thing left to do at conventions was get drunk and accidentally cast vote for Dennis Kucinich.

This year, with the primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so close for so long, it was rumored that there may be a brokered convention once again, just like the olden times of Eugene McCarthy, Adlai Stevenson, and a long, long, depressing list of extremely capable losers. This trend, as it were, was the impetus for the creation of superdelegates, individuals empowered to vote for whoever they pleased. In effect, this was to ensure a voice within the party apparatus, but, in reality, it was to prevent the Democratic faithful from nominating Walter Mondales for the next 2,000 years, which seems quite likely even today. (The Republicans have no such issue, and no superdelegates; they simply run an auction.)

Obama has also made a historic decision: to give his nomination acceptance speech not at the Pepsi Center, but at Invesco Field, where the Denver Broncos play. This echoes john F. Kennedy’s similar decision when he accepted the nomination in 1960, one of the few ways in which Obama has likened himself to Kennedy. And by “few” I mean “about as many times as John McCain has reminded us that he spent five years in a POW camp.”

Whether the convention will be a grand success, playing on Obama’s strengths while downplaying the historically bitter primary or descending into chaos and strife, remains to be seen. Several protest groups with an unfortunate grasp on exactly the sort of political spectrum they are protesting against have already planned on attempting to create the 1968 convention in Chicago, where Hubert Humphrey got into a fistfight with Mo Udall in the men’s room, and Mayor Daley roamed the floor with a steak knife he stole off of Lyndon Johnson personally garroting anyone he found giving him the ole crook eye.

Ultimately, it is going to be up to Obama to determine how this convention is viewed by the unwashed undecideds. Given that Obama’s campaign theme has been largely about the rather blandly generic terms of “change” and “hope,” it seems rather strange to latch on to another quite lukewarm concept as “One Nation.” While political themes have always been broad and undefined—Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill” could mean the optimism of a renewed America or another damn Starbucks being built next to the dentist’s office—the Obama campaign seems to be striving for optional definitions with a politically constructed premise to be named later. Obama should do what every Democratic campaign in the past century has done: grasp the universal theme of peace, fairness, and pandering to labor unions, environmentalists, and Hollywood. It works every time.


There Goes Another Candidate: No, Seriously, There Goes Another Candidate Edition

June 11, 2008

Well, the primary season is effectively over, barring Barack Obama getting caught as a member of the National Rifle Association or John McCain getting caught with cholesterol. While this means that the election is headed for a long, hot summer of talking heads, attack ads, and trite, overused phrases referencing scandalous minutia only the practitioners of talk radio or 24-hour news networks could possibly care about, one has to stop and wonder what will happen to those vanquished in this fight. While we know that John Edwards will go back home to practice law, and Mike Huckabee is going back to Arkansas to sell used cars or whatever it was that he used to do, and Dennis Kuchinich is going back home to Mars in his chariot powered by the souls of dead unicorns, the big question mark hovers in the room: What is Hillary Clinton going to do?

Hillary, of course, has plenty of choices in this liberated world! Why, it was only a few generations ago that women had a limited number of choices for their lives: housewife, teacher, nurse, or marrying that guy so no one would know that he’s gay. If only we had had a candidate that could have represented how far women have come. But now, well, the opportunities are endless! Or at least seven bullet points long:
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Hillary As Attack Dog: Vanquished opponents and former Presidents normally make good attack dogs when they’re not playing golf with oil fascists or diddling the maids at their Presidential libraries. They can lob incendiary bombs at the other nominee without much blowback, since they normally have nothing to lose beyond a sweet gig at MSNBC, something that doesn’t pop up very often on Christmas lists. Hillary can do this with particular adeptness, as she’s displayed to Obama over the past six months or so. For example, she can wail on McCain for his voting of the authorization of force on…well, never mind. She can differentiate how she voted on the Campaign Finance Reform Act…oh, wait. At least she can point out their differences in the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill…er, you know what? Never mind.

Hillary As Fundraiser: The Clintons have long, deep roots in the progressive community, and having Hillary on top billing for any fundraiser will make the first-rate Hollywood moguls and second-rate music producers and third-rate Southeast Asian financial conglomerates crack open the vault and pour money into Obama’s campaign. The real treat, though, is that Hillary’s loss makes plenty of supporters feel guilty, and there are no more effective practitioners of liberal guilt than Democratic primary donors. She’ll be laughing all the way to the First Bank of the Fish Who Need Bicycles.

Ed Rendell As Hillary: While Hillary’s ambition is to claim the presidency, in her wake she has created those that supported her, and now are basically clones of her without all the baggage. Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, is one of those. While large sections of the American population have an opinion on Hillary, far fewer are aware of Rendell, and Rendell has made fewer enemies on the national stage beyond Kansas City hockey fans and cheese steaks. This could spell trouble for Hillary, since an astute look by Obama at a 1) popular governor in a 2) swing state that is 3) very close to Hillary’s positions without 4) everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line grabbing the pitchfork and foaming sweet tea at the mouth at the mere mention of her name. Granted, selling Rendell means convincing everyone that the nation needs to be a lot more like Philadelphia, so it may be a good idea to stock up on Tovex.

Hillary as Vice President: She’s on a lot of lists to be a potential vice president, a thought that is both natural and unusual at the same time. It’s unusual in that for the last sixteen years Hillary has sacrificed foreign-born children in her back yard as a nightly ritual to become President; settling for vice president seems sort of anti-climactic. However, getting to the Presidency via the #2 slot has worked pretty well in the past. Just ask Al Gore, Walter Mondale, Hubert Humphrey, Nelson Rockefeller, and Dan Quayle.

Hillary As Senator From New York: Most people assumed that Hillary was elected to the Senate from the state of New York to represent her core constituency: carpetbaggers supporting abortion on demand who wanted really, really badly to run for President. All that changed when it turned out that she actually wasn’t a grandstanding hellion but a reasonably well-behaved junior Senator, a lot more responsive to the average New Yorker’s political sensibilities than Al D’Amato and a lot less likely to be wandering in downtown Albany in an unbuttoned dressing down smelling of Ben-Gay and gin than Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Granted, you could saw off everything from Schenectady westward and not have an impact on her support, but the entire world kind of revolves around the Big Apple anyway, so who cares?

Hillary As First Lady: While she won’t be the first lady of an Obama presidency, she can certainly act like one. Touring the country as the almost-winner while still retaining her cordial hostess skills may provide the Democrats with a softer side of politics. Granted, both John McCain and Barack Obama are pretty much pussies anyway, but let’s just say there are significant portions of the electorate thinks Aquafina is too tart and the band Kansas has too hard of an edge to them.

Hillary As Hillary: She won’t be baking cookies at Denver, of course. Although one has to wonder exactly what else she has to do with her time. Besides bitch-slap Gina Gershon, of course.


There Goes Another Candidate: Old Bats and Auto Workers, Unite! Edition

May 31, 2008

In an auspicious meeting of the Democratic Party, the leaders of the Democratic National Committee will meet with representatives from both of the major candidates for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to settle how the delegates from Michigan and Florida will be seated. This is, in the words of the DNC, is important, since “I can’t possibly imagine any other method that we could use so that we could drag this thing out any longer without actually resorting to suicide.”

For those unfamiliar with the situation, the DNC advised the states almost eight months or so ago that anyone who schedules their primaries ahead of an arbitrarily assigned date would not be seated at the convention. This was done, in part, to stem the primary system which was slowly creeping earlier and earlier each year as states tried to increase their influence in the nomination battle to the point where the election for 2008 started sometime around when the first George Bush was elected. It was also done to preserve the influence of New Hampshire and Iowa, the traditional inaugurates of the primaries, and of course both states accurately represent the demographics of current Democratic voters, and by all means we want to preserve that. (Cough, cough.) Effectively, those states that defied the schedule would have no official say in the nomination, thinking rather rationally that the race would be decided early December since the last time there was an actual honest-to-goodness challenge to decide on a leader was when George Washington hightailed it out of Philadelphia.

However, by scheduling their primaries early, they could have an easy symbolic say in who gets the nomination, since the election was going to be about one part votes and nine parts faction pandering and media fellation anyway.

(As an aside, the Republican Party avoided this entire mess by penalizing rogue states only half of their delegate count, exactly the sort of thing the GOP does well: come up with rational, businesslike plans for things that never need it, and ball up the things that do.)

Of course, things have changed slightly since then. With the nomination battle so close, all of a sudden the delegates from Florida and Michigan matter quite a bit. It matters, of course, because Hillary Clinton won them both rather easily—especially Michigan, where Obama wasn’t even on the ballot—and so those delegates would count towards her total to narrow the gap between herself and Obama. While she still would be behind in the delegate count, every step closer towards Barack is one less blind puppy she has to sacrifice to get the nomination.

There are two sets of opinions about the situation. (Okay, there are about two thousand sets of opinions about this, but only one will matter and that depends on the winner in November.) One is that everyone knew the rules going in, and those two states decided to ignore them. This is the political equivalent of the age-old axiom of “nanny nanny boo boo.” It’s not particularly fair to go back and change the rules unless you’re running for the Senate in New Jersey.

The other opinion is that this outcome—where one individual arguably has more support overall but thanks to a creaky, archaic system will be denied the victory—has too many shades of the 2000 election, when about three-quarters of the Democratic Party uses their endless supply of indignant rage to replace their Cialis prescription since they both roughly have the same effect.

So both sides are meeting this weekend to hash out a compromise about the wayward delegates. Some of the plans being floated are:

As proposed by the director of the United Auto Workers, he will go “talk to some guys I know” to “take care of” the problem by “talking” to Howard Dean, assuring that Michigan’s delegate vote gets counted.

Have the Detroit Red Wings fight the Florida Panthers to see who gets the delegates (proposed by Michigan).

Have the Detroit Pistons fight the Orlando Magic…oh, wait.

Have the Detroit Lions fight the Miami Dolphins (no one actually wants to see this).

Hope that one of the nominees gets assassinated by an Arabic national making the entire race a wash; thankfully, this suggestion isn’t in the least bit tasteless unless the brother of the person who actually was assassinated by an Arabic national forty years ago suddenly comes down with an inoperable tumor or something.

Awarding just enough delegates to build Hillary up, bring her right to the point of almost satisfying her, then suddenly stopping just short of doing so, in a show of solidarity for the important struggles facing women today.

Shuffleboard match (proposed by Florida)

Michael Moore will solve the entire issue by powering everything with his own sense of self-importance, the outcome of which will eventually incorporate the firebombing of the General Motors executive building.

Let Hillary’s plan be allowed, since this is the equivalent of patting your four-year-old on the head after she “helps” put up drywall in the basement by handing you the hammer.

Deciding on an effective compromise isn’t going to be the easiest thing for the Democrats to handle. It’s not simply about personalities or politics, and it’s not even about fairness or reality. It’s all about want you want to do more: disenfranchise blacks, or disenfranchise women? Yeah, good luck with that.


There Goes Another Candidate: Pennsylvania Dreams Edition

April 17, 2008

I have the misfortune of living in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Well, that’s not really fair. I rather like this state of mine, of course, what with growing up and living here and all. But it does come with one major drawback, aside from having roads that are about as well-kept as a Namibian mountain pass and a winter season that lasts upwards of a decade or so, is that we are currently in a midst of a drag-down, knock-out, piss-cutter of a primary battle for the Democratic nod for the presidential campaign.

In decades past, the Pennsylvania primary was relegated to comfortable irrelevancy. With an election all the way the hell in April, candidates knew full well they wouldn’t have to bother with pandering to Pennsylvania’s former steelworkers, cranky social conservatives, and Amish radicals. Since the national primaries tended to be front-loaded—2012’s primary actually just started last week—most nominations were all wrapped up by the time the Keystone State bothered to have a say.

Which, normally, is a good thing, since the average Pennsylvanian’s opinion is pretty much boiled down to two sentiments: “Give me my Social Security check,” and “Give me my Social Security check right now.” Sure, there are other considerations, such as guns and the NFL playoffs, but these tend to be drowned out by the sheer number of old people that live in Pennsylvania, where the average age of a newborn is about 45.

Pennsylvania’s always been a bit of a dry rot when it comes to national politics. Despite being one of the original thirteen colonies, they’ve had a rather small percentage of national prominent politicians. We’ve only had one President, and that was the blank-face James Buchanan, known mostly to historians as the guy who actually invented a way to freeze time for four years. And the only members of the current congressional delegation to be noteworthy as of late is Arlen Specter, the guy who tried to sell the fact that a bullet went from the grassy knoll to Hanoi and back en route to its deadly target, and Jack Murtha, who would have had a front-row eyewitness account of the Haditha attack had it not been for the fact that he’s been clinically dead ever since he turned two hundred years old.

Enter Mssrs. Obama and Clinton.

Mrs. Clinton is looking at a do-or-die situation in Pennsylvania, with “do” being “still having only a 50/50 shot of getting the nomination” and “die” being “drop out and make around $4.5 million per year on a speaking tour.” Under normal circumstances, Pennsylvania would be a shoo-in for her. It’s a big, clumsy, industrial state, the kind she does well in, with one foot in a decaying industrial economy and one foot in the high-tech boom, assuming that assisted living facilities are classified as high-tech. Blue-collar workers gravitate towards her, much like they did in Ohio and would have in Michigan had Michigan held an actual primary.

Hillary also has another powerful supporter in the governor, Ed Rendell. Rendell has been an energetic campaigner for Hillary, and somehow manages to translate his political capital and position into mass popularity. No offense to the man, but if anyone were to create the image of a politician from scratch that is the personification of the slouching, tie-askew, back-slapping, smoke-filled room occupying, cigar-chomping, OTB-dwelling, deal-making, fast-talking confidence man, that person would be dead after Rendell hires some guy to put a slug in his temple.

Then again, the story of Pennsylvania is really a story about Philadelphia, where Barack Obama is doing extraordinarily well. His message of hope and inspiration appeals greatly to those in Philadelphia, who have to deal with Cheez Whiz on steak sandwiches and the occasional firebombing of entire city blocks by the police department.

The biggest news around the state, though, is Obama’s contention that Pennsylvanians are bitter about their economic outlook, and so “cling” to guns, God, and anti-immigrant sentiments to make up for the loss. For many, this was seen as condescending and elitist, with Obama under the misunderstanding that if presented with high-paying, good jobs, we would all trade our guns in for Dick Dawkins books or something. It doesn’t appear as though Obama understands that the only thing to get between a Pennsylvanian and his gun is the bullet.

The candidate’s tactics seem to be a touch odd, though. Clinton’s main contention is that everyone has already gone through her baggage and sifted through a darkened attic full of cattle futures, Travelgate, and a steadfast refusal to bake cookies. Obama, for his part, finds himself defensive after it was revealed that his neighbor’s future wife once babysat someone who was a roommate with a college student who once read a book called “Vladimir Lenin: Was He Really All That Bad?”

Both senators are presenting Pennsylvanian with the same choice as they are giving the nation: a candidacy of hope, inspiration, and results, or a candidacy with a slightly different mix of hope, inspiration, and results. When the results are in, either one candidate or the other will be the victor, or, most likely, a stalemated outcome that doesn’t produce any clear-cut winner and this whole thing drags out until they’re pulling random people off the street to vote in San Juan to crown the victor. Of course, there’s going to be one clear winner: Pennsylvania. When this is finally—finally!—over, Pennsylvania can go back to being complacently ignored.

Now, that’s something worth clinging to.