CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment

Mystery Unraveled: How a white, moderate, married, churchgoing, middle-class, middle-aged woman could vote for Obama

‘We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin

If there’s one word that seemed to characterize Romney supporters’ immediate reaction to Obama’s victory, it’s “shock.”

A conservative Facebook friend posted this status: “For the first time in my life I am at a loss for words…absolutely baffled by the electorate and the election results, especially considering the current state the country is in.”

A radio reporter interviewed a woman at the Romney campaign party in Denver shortly after the election was called. Her response simmered with anger as she pondered the reality of how more than half the nation had voted: “What don’t they see?? It’s mind-boggling!”

What they don’t see are people like me.

I’m a 50-year-old white woman who lives in the swing state of Colorado. I’m married, I’m a mom, I have a PhD, and I’m a Christian. In Boulder. I can’t imagine trying to explain the world without faith and science. I’m upper middle class, but I come from blue-collar stock. I believe in capitalism, but I also believe its inevitable excesses must be tempered with regulations – you know, Genesis, original sin, the human propensity for greed and all. I’m pro-life in the fullest sense of the term. I’m happy for my gay friends who want to marry – I’m all for commitment when it comes to sustaining the social fabric. My evangelical grandmother, whom I treasured, was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. I’m a Democrat who likes hymns and red wine. Try squaring all that when it comes to putting me in a political box.

Like a great many voters who helped tip the election to Obama, I see social complexity that the poles refuse to acknowledge. I’m a reasonable centrist. And I think Republicans write us off at their own expense.

If one had spent the campaign watching only Fox News, following only conservative pundits and pollsters, it’s no wonder the election results seemed so inscrutable. Daniel Larion, doing some Wednesday morning quarterbacking in The American Conservative, observed that the entire Romney campaign was organized on “flawed assumptions.”

“Romney and his allies not only didn’t understand their opponent, but they went out of their way to make sure they misunderstood him, and in any kind of contest that is usually a recipe for failure.”

Likewise, Romney supporters misunderstand many of us who sent Obama back for four more years. Why on earth, given this economy, would tens of millions of Americans choose to do that?

The right-wing radio blowhards think they have it figured out: we’re dupes of the mainstream media, a giant liberal-elite faction engaged in a conspiratorial embrace with the Left; Hurricane Sandy and turncoat Chris Christie joined forces in an eleventh-hour PR move for the president; or – and this is emerging as the dominant narrative – we simply want more stuff that we don’t have to work for. We’re takers, not makers. Romney was right when he talked about the 47 percent, only it was 51 percent – apparently there were more slackers in the country than he counted on.

All of those explanations are as wrong as they are offensive.

I would like for my bewildered Republican friends to know how I could possibly have voted for Obama without being a far-left ideologue who is simultaneously blind, immoral and lacking in patriotism.

Here are five reasons. And I’m pretty sure I speak for the bulk of the moderates who broke for the president on Tuesday night.

1) I don’t believe Obama is a closet Muslim with a radical socialist agenda to undermine America. I don’t believe he has a false birth certificate and a fake Social Security card. I think he is a deeply sincere, smart, principled man who is far from perfect but deserves a chance to continue what he has tried to begin.

2) I’m more comfortable taking a risk on Obama’s economic agenda than Romney’s. The numbers are starting to look up. I’d rather hedge my bets with Keynes than Adam Smith. Mitt wants to cut spending and slash taxes, and give most of those tax breaks to the richest Americans. That doesn’t square with my sense of what’s rational or what’s just. We’ve tried that before, and that Kool-Aid does not trickle down for me.

3) I’m willing to take a chance on Obamacare. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than a system that excludes millions and is dedicated to lining the pockets of insurance companies whose primary mission is not to cover care but to deny it. The Affordable Care Act is not “socialized medicine” in which the government dictates my health care. It’s a hybrid system that worked in Massachusetts; I’m ready to see how it goes in the rest of the U.S.

4) I care deeply about protecting this planet, our home. How could we elect a president who is so cavalier about God’s creation that he wants to dismantle the EPA? Really? The clean air and clean water acts established under Richard Nixon aren’t important to keep for our kids? I can’t imagine a world leader not grappling with the problem of global climate change. Solyndra was a debacle, but to suggest that we ought not to pursue green energy isn’t just short-sighted, it’s grave foolishness.

5) I believe a graduated tax system is the most moral means of structuring an economy. I think that rich folks who benefited so disproportionately from a wildly deregulated Wall Street need to return to shouldering more of our shared burden. Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Now, plenty of wealthy business owners are going to argue, ‘This wasn’t given to me, I built it.’ Yes, you did, with a public infrastructure supporting you. But until we have genuine equality of opportunity in this country – including equal pay for equal work – some people can build a lot more than others.

There are parents who hire me for $50 an hour here in wealthy Boulder to coach their kids on college application essays. They fly to visit schools so their kids can interview in person. You think that teenager of a single-mom Wal-Mart clerk struggling to pay her rent has the same crack at a premier college education and the connections that come with it? Where is the equal opportunity?

And don’t tell me that working woman is a sponger. Don’t tell me that Diego who painted my house or Beatriz who sometimes cleans it is a freeloader. As a Christian, I am told to care for the least of these. When I vote, their self-interest should be as important as my own. “Sink or swim,” or “Go home even though you’ve lived here since you were two” is no more a path to economic autonomy than a government check is.

The fact is, we are all in this country together, and we have different needs and means, and we have a lot in common when it comes to teaching kids, fighting fires, cleaning up after storms or caring for our national parks. Those who have more need to do more, as we work to give the rest not a handout, but a hand up. As for me, I went to college on Pell grants, work-study, scholarships and summer jobs. That combination of my own hard work and a little help from a society that supported my potential is what got me a college degree. That powerful model – public and private in synergy – remains most compelling to me and is the most fundamental reason I voted for President Obama.

Clearly, the Right and Left perceive the role of government differently. We may ultimately be captives of a postmodernist analysis that says there is no way outside our own subjectivity to view the world through another’s eyes. If that is so, then empathy is a casualty and our divisions rigidify.

I refuse to concede that. I’d rather share the prophetic words of Abraham Lincoln, speaking to a deeply divided America in his 1861 Inaugural Address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

May we each appeal to the better angels in one another as we start healing the wounds of this election season.

Re: New Jersey electronic voting

Right now, the East Coast is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and the destruction she wrought. New Jersey in particular was hard-hit, forcing boards of elections to think quickly: how can people vote if they’ve been displaced?

Answer: They can fax their votes, or vote online. From The Atlantic:

“Less than a week after the storm — and just three days before Election Day — New Jersey officials have announced that they will allow those displaced from their homes and first responders to submit their votes by email or fax. A directive issued by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno officially designated displaced New Jersey residents as “overseas voters,” thus giving them the electronic voting option already available to New Jersey residents serving in the military. In addition, displaced voters and first responders may also vote by provisional ballot at any New Jersey polling location.”

The voters who wish to vote this way must first fax or e-mail a request to the board of elections, who will determine their eligibility for this voting method. Voters must then fill out a “waiver of secrecy” before the board of elections decide whether to send them a ballot or not.

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Deciphering those S&R Obama/racism poll results

Last week, a highly unscientific Scholars & Rogues poll asked our readers this question: What percent of the popular vote do you believe Barack Obama would win in the upcoming election if he were white? The results are in, and I’d like to spend a few moments examining what they reveal.

First, the numbers:

Less than 50% 15.15%
Roughly 50% 10.61%
60% 31.82%
70% 36.36%
80% 4.55%
More than 80% 1.52%

Here’s what those answers mean.

60%: This we’ll call the aware, informed and reasoned answer. Our friend Wufnik, in the comment thread, offers some analysis suggesting that the race factor is worth maybe four points. It’s certainly an intelligent estimate, although for reasons I briefly note in reply, I fear it underestimates.

70%: This is the the aware, informed and reasoned, but even more cynical answer. Full disclosure: this is how I voted. I don’t think everybody in the South (and various other South-like regions of the country) are racists, but I grew up there and I know the culture intimately. Over time these people have learned what to say in public. But they vote in private, don’t they?

80%: The more cynical than is probably healthy answer. Listen, 30% of the population would vote for Voldemort before they would a Democrat, regardless of race. (Although, granted, a big part of the reason this is true traces back to Johnson and the Civil Rights Act. Objection noted.)

More than 80%: The seek help answer. Lord, folks, it probably wasn’t that bad even during the Jim Crow era.

Now, to the other end of the spectrum.

Roughly 50%: The there is no racism in America answer. If Barack Obama were white, his poll numbers would be precisely what they are now, apparently. This answer asserts that there are no Americans who hold his race against him. This option pulled better than 10% of the response. Which, now that I think on it, might mean the polls has more scientific validity than I previously imagined.

Less than 50%: The positively barking being a minority is a huge plus in American politics answer. Not only does race not hinder your ability to attain higher office, it helps to be black. Which explains why we have had so many black presidents and nominees from both major parties. And why in the entirety of modern US history there have been four black senators (none of them from the South, it might be observed, and unless I’m missing someone, none currently). And why there has only been one black Supreme Court justice. (Well, two if you count Thomas.) This option rang up better than 15% of the final tally. It’s possible that some of those who voted this way were trolling. It’s certain that the rest shouldn’t be allowed outdoors off-leash.

In the end, this poll perhaps suggests that S&R’s readership is less skewed to the left than we usually assume. As Wufnik notes in the comments on the previous post, analyses of American politics begin with the assumption that 27% of the voters are certifiably insane. The percentage of respondents voting the two incoherent conservative choices here comes to nearly 26% – well within any margin of error you might like to apply – and if you add the exceedingly paranoid 1.52% from the other end, we’re at precisely 27.28%, with a significant majority of the irrationalism on the right end of the spectrum.

Sounds about right.

Who's gonna win? Let's ask the I Ching.

As is our custom in major elections, we decided to check up on Obama’s elections chances with the I Ching. We’ve done this before—in the UK elections in 2010, and the US presidential elections in 2008 (sorry, can’t find the link!) and 2004. The first two worked out pretty much as indicated by the I Ching—2004 didn’t, although I’ve always assumed that that was because the I Ching didn’t expect a stolen vote in Ohio. It’s hard to factor criminality into these things. That’s my rationalization, anyway.
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Go green, vote blue

A few weeks ago, my friend Katie Della Terza, who writes an eco-friendly lifestyle blog called Shades of Green, asked me to write a blog entry on why progressive and environmentally-conscious voters should vote for Barack Obama this election, and why people should concern themselves with environmental issues this year.

To be honest, there weren’t that many people talking about the environment and our effect on it until Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast this week. In political terms, talking about climate change doesn’t win votes – and it usually gets swept under the rug in favor of more voter-friendly campaign ideas. Every debate series since Jimmy Carter’s election has had a question about the environment, and climate change – until this election cycle.

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Poll: how much of the vote would Obama win if he were white?

If you read Wufnik’s secession piece yesterday, you may have noticed that the inevitable cropped up in the comments: racism. You can’t talk about secessionist impulses anywhere – Scotland, Belgium, Spain, Quebec – without the subject of the US intruding, and that tends to mean the South. As in, the South in which I grew up (as did some of my fellow scrogues).

As Wufnik notes, there are all kinds of reasons why a group of people might want out of the nation they’re in, whether it’s language or historical culture or religion or resources or economics or whatever. But in the US South, it’s about one issue and one issue only: racism. If you want to argue that racism is not rampant in the South, either you’re trolling or you’re willfully self-deluding because you hate facing the bald facts or maybe you’re just not bright enough to be in a conversation with educated people.

No, racism doesn’t exist only in the South. No, not everyone who votes for Mitt Romney does so because they’re racist. And no, not all Southerners are racists. But the phenomenon is unarguably more ubiquitous there, especially once you get beyond the boundaries of larger cities. It doesn’t really matter, though: if you’re paying attention, you can’t help noticing a powerful correlation between racism and the relative redness of the electorate in a given state, can you?

Wufnik allows that if Obama wins re-election the right is going to pitch a full-on nukular galloping hissy fit (as opposed to the more reasoned, respectful, collaborative approach we’ve seen since 2008). (Despite the fact that some polls are calling it neck and neck, I do expect the president to pull it out. I’m not a hardcore quant demographer, but Nate Silver’s analysis seems coherent enough, and he’s saying it’s about a 73% chance of an Obama win). He’s probably right. I’m having a hard time imagining how much worse the racist right can get without actually donning white hoods and burning a cross on the White House lawn, but we’ll see, won’t we?

In any event, this all got me to thinking about a basic question. Consider the GOP approach, from their positively Byzantine assault on women to their willingness to openly lie about anything and everything to their reactionary theocratic rhetoric to … well, you’ve been watching, so you’ve heard the same barking asshaberdashery that the rest of us have. In a remotely sane world – that is, one in which candidates and ideas were intelligently evaluated on their merits alone – this batshit brigade couldn’t pull more than 15% of the popular vote if they were running uncontested. And yet, here they are, poised to score nearly half the popular vote for president and probably maintain control of the House. Why is that, I wonder?

So here’s the question: what would the polls look like if Barack Obama were white. (100% white, I mean.)

Instead of letting that hang there like a rhetorical question, let’s actually do a poll.

Feel free to add comments, if you like.

Latest stunt provides further evidence: "Donald Trump" is really Andy Kaufman pretending to support Mitt Romney

I broke the story back in June that “Donald Trump” is a hoax. In actuality, the real Donald Trump sold his identity, back in the 1980s, to none other than Andy Kaufman. Kaufman then staged his own death and assumed the Tony Clifton-esque Trump persona in pursuit of the greatest mass pranking since War of the Worlds.

Today, millions of people are considering Kaufman’s latest antics – the “October bombshell” that would alter the course of the election – and saying that not only has The Donald jumped the shark, he has perhaps wandered into full-blown insanity. Those conclusions would make sense if Trump were who he says and if he were doing what he claims to be doing. As the actions of a wealthy, intelligent businessman campaigning for Mit Romney, today’s non-events are at best a pathetic cry for help.

However, as performance art on the part of one of our culture’s true creative geniuses, it’s nothing short of brilliant. It’s not clear whether Kaufman is using the Trump character in direct support of the Obama campaign or whether the political element is merely a by-product. Is he making a political statement or using the elevated profile afforded by the election to draw greater attention to his own ultimately non-political project?

No way to know at this point, but I anticipate that one of these days Kaufman will unmask and this is one of many questions I know I’ll be eager to ask him.

For the time being, I say kick back and enjoy this show.

Children are the future – but they can’t vote, so whatever

Whether he’s talking about the lasting effects of the economy or his achievements in school reform, Mitt Romney mentions children pretty often. He prides himself as being an education governor, emphasizing school choice and creating the Jon and Abigail Adams Scholarship for high schoolers going to school. Take for example this quote, from his remarks on education titled “A Chance for Every Child:”

“In this country, we believe every child has something to contribute.  No matter what circumstances they were born into, every child has a dream about where they can go or what they can become.”

Romney says he wants a better future for his children and grandchildren, and for the children in the United States. He’s concerned for their future and wants them to go far. But he has a lousy way of showing it.

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Ars Skeptica endorses the wrong candidate for all the wrong reasons

Romney the DestroyerElection 2012. The most important election of the last four years. Maybe even the last twelve. Hell, maybe even the last 44. Before that and I’d have to rely entirely on hearsay. I mean, who can you really trust, right? It’ll certainly be the most important election of the next four years.

Our choice this year, barring some simply stellar dark horse candidate just about literally falling from the stars to fight dark money, boils down to a dyed in the wool 1%er who has yet to find a position he can stick to and…Mitt Romney. I bet you think I got that backwards, right? Insofar as any of President Obama’s policies have “worked” for anyone, they have a) demonstrated the seeming efficacy of Reagan-esque policy (unless you think this, too, is a house of cards just waiting for an ill, climate-disrupted wind to blow it down) and b) have worked exceedingly well for the inordinately wealthy who got that way by stacking the deck from which the house of cards is made. Continue reading

The Obama Doctrine and Snooki Nation: declaring victory and victory are the same thing

So, it appears campaign season is under way in earnest. Mr. Obama officially kicked off the festivities in Virginia and Ohio yesterday, and we saw our first Mitt-scorcher on Denver TV a couple days ago. I’ve been thinking about the Obama administration’s performance to date for a few months, and perhaps now is as good a time as any to summarize what I think has been the dominant theme of his presidency.

My home state, North Carolina, has a wonderful motto: esse quam videri – to be, rather than to seem. Continue reading

Journalistic framing in the spotlight: The Atlantic covers UNESCO coverage by The Daily Show

President Obama: AbsurdityFrom Wednesday, March 21, 2012:

‘The Daily Show’s’ Advantage Over the MSM: An Eye for the Absurd

Political satirists sometimes enjoy wider latitude than journalists. It’s a distinct and vital genre for a reason. The press would nevertheless do well to step back, if only occasionally, and to look at the world as its [sic] seen from the Daily Show writers room, or the Onion headline writing desk. Satirists have a knack for hitting on angles that reporters miss due to excessively narrow framing. And deliberate temperamental irreverence is helpful if your job is to dispassionately observe.* In the aftermath of The Daily Show’s UNESCO piece, its angle and value added has been praised in numerous journalistic outlets. Going forward, the press should try to recognize absurdity ahead of the satirists, and bring to ensuing coverage the rigor that is the journalistic comparative advantage. Continue reading

Who's serious about reducing the deficit?

Cut Medicare payments and tweak Social Security. Cut defense spending by directly reducing spending and getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Raise income, corporate, and payroll taxes. These issues essentially define what it means to be serious about eliminating the federal deficit, because all of them need to happen before the deficit can truly be brought under control. Serious people can debate how much of each is necessary and where to make the largest changes, but anyone who rejects even one of the issues is either ignorant of the scale of the problem, blindly beholden to their preferred ideology, or lying.

Yesterday we discussed these issues. Today we look in greater detail at the public statements of various individuals and organizations to see if they are actually serious about cutting the deficit, or if they just claim to be serious.

The Republican Party

Since President Bush II presided over a massive expansion of government during his eight years in office, the GOP has, in most respects, become the party of “spend and don’t tax.” Continue reading

Grow up and remember your youthful idealism, Democrats!

There appears to be two main narratives circulating about the cause of the widespread Democratic losses in the elections on November 2nd. The first is that the Democrats earned it because their actions over the last two years de-energized the Democrats who voted for hope and change in 2008. The second is that the Democrats who stayed home instead of voting in the mid-terms need to grow up and realize that they were never going to get everything they wanted, that Obama had done everything (or nearly everything) he could, and that they’d just shoot their beliefs in the metaphorical foot. While I’m solidly in the second camp, I remember a time when I would have related to those Democrats whose liberal idealism was deflowered over the last two years. And because I remember what it was like to be young and idealistic, I can appreciate that there is certainly some truth to the first narrative as well. Continue reading

Biden embraces myth that surge turned Iraq into good war

by Gareth Porter

In an interview on the PBS NewsHour last Wednesday, Joe Biden was unwilling to contradict the official narrative of the Iraq War that Gen. David Petraeus and the Bush surge had turned Iraq into a good war after all. That interview serves as a reminder of just how completely the Democratic Party foreign policy elite has adopted that narrative.

The Iraq War story line crafted by the Petraeus and the new counterinsurgency elite in Washington assures the public that U.S. military power in Iraq brought about the cooperation of the Sunnis in Anbar Province, ended sectarian violence in Baghdad and defeated Iranian-backed Shi’a insurgents.

In reality, of course, that’s not what happened at all. It’s time to review the relevant history and deconstruct the Petraeus narrative which the Obama administration now appears to have adopted. Continue reading

Obama caving on net neutrality? We can no longer believe a word he says, can we?

During the campaign then-candidate Barack Obama kept reminding us that “politics is the art of the possible.” We were encouraged to understand “possible” in the same context as “Hope®” and “Change We Can Believe In™.” That is, the Obama presidency was to usher in a new age where the old business as usual politics of the Beltway wouldn’t be tolerated. “Yes We Can©,” he insisted, summoning the disaffected masses into an arena of engagement where the entrenched forces of corporatism and corruption could be, would be, overthrown.

That was the promise. That was the dream.

The reality of the Obama administration has been a smidge less kumbayah than many might have hoped, though. The health care “debate” was as nasty and dishonest as anything the Republic has seen since … well, honestly I can’t quite think what the applicable touchpoint might be here. Civil rights? The Summer of 1968? The entirety of the Reagan years? Blowjobgate? Heck, I don’t know. Suffice it to say that from one end of the process to the other, if a government or corporate official’s lips were moving, somebody was being played. Continue reading

Jesus Gone Wild! It's time to separate church and state, once and for all

Part 1 of 2.

I tripped across a provocative headline in the Wall Street Journal the other day: “They Need to be Liberated from Their God.” Turns out the story was about Mosab Hassan Yousef and his spying on Hamas. Which was a little disappointing. There’s no doubt that Palestinian Muslims need to be liberated from their god, but given the recent explosion in documented attacks by US Christians on their fellow Americans (as well as on reason and basic common sense), I thought perhaps the WSJ was going to be the first mainstream “news” outlet to do a story on Jesus Gone Wild!

I keep a running tab of stories that strike my interest. Continue reading