Sunday, November 9, 2008

An Obama Nation

These are notes that I put together in the days leading up to the election and some thoughts from the day of. I am adding to this and trying to get it published. As always, comminents are much appreciated.
T-minus six days until our great and beautiful nation has a peaceful and wonderful regime change, or to be technical begins one, since the change of power doesn’t become official until the twenty something of the next year. We take it for granted, but this doesn’t happen everywhere in the world. Either way, McCain or Obama, I believe it is going to wind up an improvement, but honestly one would prove slightly better while the other will be a huge milestone and a huge improvement.

With that said, this paragraph is something of personal voter history so feel free to skip ahead, but be warned, there are some pertinent voter controversy tidbits that you may want to read. Ever since I have been of voting age, I have witnessed voting controversy, some of these controversies, I have been directly involved in while others I was forced to watch from a distance. Growing up, I was raised to vote as a liberal, and today I am as far left as you can get, the product of a working class, Irish-American background with an old man who said things like “a working class man voting republican is like a chicken voting for the colonel” and a mother who has spent most of her adult life cleaning the homes of wealthy people (including the home of an ex-girlfriend), I have considered myself too poor to vote for the Republican Party. So in 2000, eighteen-years of age, I voted third party (Green) and watched as the party I second (perhaps third considering I am a registered socialist) most identified with celebrate prematurely and have the election stolen away from them. In all my years as an American citizen, 26-years running, I have only been sicker with the democratic system one other time, which came in November 2004, when I had to wait in line for ten and a half hours just to express my constitutionally guaranteed right of voting. The so called “ground zero” of long waits, this “longest line in America” was the most attention paid to my little college until David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech to my graduating class blew up with popularity after the writer’s suicide. On that day, once I was finished up with the frustrating but inspiring experience of casting our votes after thinking that the election was really going to come down to us, suffering through the rain and ridiculous wait, I vowed to never vote again. Immediately after voting, when Fox News was already calling the election a “Bush victory” while other networks were showing some restraint after the 2000 fiasco, I thought I was going to throw up. The next day, in a Shakespeare seminar I was so depressed that I almost skipped, when asked to interpret a portion of a “Macbeth” soliloquy, I responded with basically, “who fucking cares,” and it went over pretty well considering my professor was only a few spots behind me in line and it was no secrete who she was going to vote for, God bless her. But 2006 rolled around, I registered at the last minute, still not really expecting to vote. Plus my congresswoman at the time, up for reelection, a democrat who was bat-shit insane, the now deceased Julia Carson, wasn’t worth the trouble of casting a vote.[*] The night before the election though, a friend of mine who was then in Iraq, fighting for this country that I still naively believe in, told me not to forget to vote. Coming from a combat veteran who was fighting in a war that he doesn’t support, I found my own petty gripes about the democratic system to be insufficient in justifying my staying home and denouncing the system that had previously let me down. So this year, having registered on “Rock the Vote,” I am involved in yet another voter controversy, this time having to do with whether or not I can vote rather than whether or not I choose to. I am afraid that I am one of the many whose voter registration cards has not yet come because my application has gone unprocessed like many other thousands of people who went through that agency. Every four years and some bullshit happens and I am outraged at my American government. Goddamn it, why is it so fucking hard to vote? This is not a good thing and it shouldn’t be stood for, but this too seems to be the rights ploy, making it as difficult as possible for a young, poor voter’s voice to be heard.

* * *

T-minus three. Once I came to terms with the fact that my voter registration card would presumably never come, I got up a little earlier than usual today and took some initiative by going down to the Forsyth County Government Building to register and vote early. With only three hours separating the time I got in line to vote from the time I had to be at work, I was gambling on the efficiency of governmental officials. After the 2004 debacle, I didn’t think this wise, but what was I to do if I wanted to vote? Not too bad this time around, only a two hour wait to cast my ballot. Still infuriating, plus this time I wasn’t surrounded by my nearest and dearest as I was four years ago, though I wasn’t completely alone in the line either, a girl I went to school with was about 15 spaces ahead of me so I did get to talk to her when the winding line snaked just right and we could chat for a couple of minutes until we got too far away from each other and then a few minutes later again converse face-to-face when our spots in line met up. But two hours of wait isn’t nearly as taxing as ten and half. If I would have been in Gambier, I wouldn’t have voted. But I did get to vote and that was that. Now I am done with it and can chill at home watching election coverage on TV while many go out and wait. And wait.

Recently, I heard someone say that “Obama looks presidential while McCain looks like the guy who doesn’t want Barrack Obama to be President.” This turns out to be apt but that seems to be the republican way and it has worked for them in the past. Actually, going back over the past damn near 40-years, it has worked very well with five of the last seven presidents sporting elephants instead of donkeys. Tonight on SNL, McCain made an appearance on “Weekend Update” where he was sort of funny, I guess, in telling of his last minute strategies going into Tuesday, one of which was called the “Old Grandpa” where he basically says “come on people, Barrack Obama has plenty of chances to be President, let me have my turn.” I fail to see how this is all that different from his actual strategy.

* * *

T-minus two. The following is somewhat of a response to a New York Times article from two months ago entitled “The Final Days” written by Peter Baker. According to Baker, the Shrub’s, George W. Bush, legacy depends on McCain winning this election. Though neither likes the other all that much, they found themselves once again connected on the campaign trail. The question that McCain is now asking himself in the Shrub’s 11th hour is whether or not Bush will beat him twice. Win or lose, he is running against a legacy as much as he is a democrat.

McCain knows this. And so does Bush. And so does Obama and most everyone else. Hence the ads that claim McC is a Bush clone and we “can’t afford four more years” and Will Ferrell on SNL doing his W saying “a vote for McCain is a vote for George W. Bush.” For McC’s part, he has been distancing himself as far as humanly possible from the sinking ship that goes way past anything Gore mustered in 2000 with his relationship with Clinton. Unlike Gore though, McC can afford to and he must. Far enough away from the President’s circle of trust and with a well documented history of piss and vinegar candor, McC can criticize W while not seeming like someone who stood back while he screwed up the country or got a blow job from a government intern and then was wishy-washy about it or whatever. Bush, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be all that pissed off about comments like “we’re worse off than we were four years ago,” which is quite the statement since it refers to the ineptitude of a leader from his own party. He lets McC be an asshole and trounce on his Presidency because that's the guy who can validate it. Obama though no doubt went negative (both candidates went negative, of course), at first setting his sites on the past 8-years, and then on the Bush clone himself. Going after the Republican nominee though may give people just the excuse they need to lose interest and stay at home and do bong rips on Election Day instead of taking the trip to the polling station.

Getting people disinterested is therefore going to benefit the GOP just as it did for Bush in 2000 when he nearly lost to the anti-candidate (McCain). But when the anti-candidate has a realistic shot, the candidate begins to do all those things he or she denounced and did not do before that made him or her popular and standout in the first place. We not only get bored of this stuff, we find it uninteresting and toxic to our ideals.[†] Being popular, in other words, barely matters. What is important is maintaining power. This is what Bush has done, to be sure, after all, many admired the man for “sticking with his gut” and not heeding to things like information and deliberation and history that in the days pre-9/11 get in the way of swift, decisive actions. And thus, we have had the Joker for a President from 2001-2008—“I don’t plan, I just do.”[‡] So, of course he found his presidency a “joyous experience,” he was obeying what he thought was a call from God after all. So sure he is with his rightness in his “principles” and his “values” that he doesn’t even toy with the notion that it could theoretically be mistaken. Maybe it’s not God talking to you there good buddy, its Dick Cheney (who may very well be Satan).

* * *

T-minus one. Got around to reading the Rolling Stone piece on Obama from the October 30 issue and it is amazing, actually the second most amazing thing that I have read about the candidate. He is, no doubt, a historic candidate and this is a historic turning point in American history. He has always been popular. He has become even more popular as of recent days because of this whole economic crisis. Iraq has become second fiddle to this whole “Second Great Depression” and McCain handled it poorly. This shift has put Obama over the top with the “meltdown” on Wall Street as well as McCain’s “equally impressive meltdown” by erratically/recklessly handling of the crisis not to mention his smear campaign that resembles Bush’s tactics he was so pissed about back in 2000. But much of the credit needs to go to Obama himself for “displaying precisely the kind of character and judgement we need in a president: renouncing the politics of fear, speaking frankly on the most pressing issues facing the country and sticking to his principles.” He has had a big couple of weeks, of course, with the wear and tear of a presidential campaign, a wedding anniversary, the death of his grandmother, and win or lose, the coming days are going to prove extremely difficult and even bigger than the days leading up to Election Day.

Part of his appeal has to be his sense of outrage as most Americans have been outraged for quite some time. In Philly two weeks ago, he called the financial crisis “a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years” and this has been the GOP economic philosophy supported by McCain that insists “the market is king” and believes in the value of Trickle Down Economics that says the super wealthy are the most deserving of massive tax breaks. So when McCain tries to change his tune, America is wise to his tactics.

Things are not good right now, the Bush administration has damaged our country in so many ways. Who would want the job of leading this bruised and battered nation? Obama does. And he is rising to the occasion. Pray for it. Pray for us. God help us.

* * *

Underworld. Woke up and went with my female companion while she went and voted, I having already done so. She gets ready. Dresses like a first lady. I wear track pants, a sleeve on my head, and a hooded sweatshirt.

Once I get back home, I pop in the documentary “Out Foxed” to get me syked for the day’s festivities. There in, Jeff Cohen, former Fox News Contributor, says, “Media is the central nervous system of democracy” and when that it doesn’t run properly, neither does the democracy. So the point is, when right wing propaganda is played around the clock, they distort the news and make it next to impossible to make an informed decision. They misrepresent and then when they are contradicted they speak over the ones contradicting them and claim that they are speaking “the truth” and “facts” when they are being deliberately misleading.

The best part of the video is a segment about Jeremy Glick, a young man that lost his dad in the 9/11 attacks who was on the O’Reily Factor and said that Papa Bear used the 9/11 attacks to project his narrow right wing viewpoint. O’Reily, of course “spins” it after he kicks the kid off his program, calling him “out of control” and claiming the he said that Bush had planned the terrorist attacks. When he tried to sue Bill for defamation, he couldn’t because the guy lies so pathologically that it was almost impossible to prove that he knew he was lying.

I watched the election at a friends house, a partisan house, most of the kids there have parents that voted for McCain. Some are obnoxious, others are cool, all are drunk. When states get called, someone colors them in red or blue on poster-boards of the country. Once the election gets called, we toast to champagne.

I called my parents, we talked for hours, it was a great time and great day the country. I couldn’t enjoy most of it though, the female companion and I were fighting.

One of the first commercials after Obama’s speech I notice is for Vagisil. This is history. History books are being written right now. No time in my life has been more exciting. I am drunk. So is Tom Brokaw. What a country. What a fucking country. I end the night looking at white guys with bad tupes while my beautiful redhead sleeps upstairs while Indiana, the state I was born, goes blue.

[*] A few days before, a friend of my dad’s, an Irish-Catholic guy much like my father, who is very racially conscious, and is married to a black woman, went to a JC political rally and was appalled by the congresswoman who he witnessed attempt to leave a limousine to only fall back in which caused her to lose her hairpiece. In this reported bit of damn near slapstick comedy, JC ended up leaving the wig in the car and some guy ran up to her just as she was about to go on stage for some political rally and threw on her crooked hair which she barely noticed and she had some clueless look on her face throughout the entire speech she read off a piece of paper and the whole thing looked terrible but she still got reelected. She died not long after. That is the system working for us.

[†] For a more eloquent and informed explanation, see David Foster Wallace’s Rolling Stone essay “The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys, and the Shrub” on John McCain’s 2000 run for the Republican Presidential Nomination and political apathy among the young.

[‡] But where does he get the balls big enough? Well, as it turns out, his religious convictions have the same stink of absolutes that drive his foreign policy. There is a deep need to protect the capacity to will such certainty in the face of daunting complexity and opposition that tere is no way he is doing anything other than what he truly believes is right. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, he is going to stand up there as everybody listening looks pissed and do what he damn well wants. But when you think about his supporters in the Evangelical Right he looks more like a Manchurian Candidate who is a puppet for some group of constituents who want things a certain way and are unwilling to budge. Facts don’t need to stand in the way of bold decisions of unshakable faith when there is need for “righteous actions” in the form of a “crusade” where “evil” is attacked and “God’s gift” of democracy is spread to all.

Former Bush speech writer and religious nut job Michael Gerson (the one who coined “The War on Terror”) calls the Shrub’s non-negotiation “unrewarded heroism/courage” in “doing the right thing under pressure.” As Mike Conway says, “he believes he’s got a role and he’s doing what God wants him to do.” To go again God is certainly something I not going to advocate but to put all you’re faith into something that just isn’t going to work is to turn a democracy into what W wants to eliminate in the Middle East—an oppressive, sectarian government where church and state are one.

1 comment:

Kate said...

I think I remember that long voting wait in a much more positive light than you do, abs. it makes me proud.