Political Monday

A few weeks ago I went to a Barak Obama rally for the first time. I am not a rally person by nature. Standing in line for hours to then stand around with some other people and, eventually, be crushed by those around me is not my idea of a good time. Luckily, Barak held his rally on my alma mater’s campus, so I stood on the balcony of the student activities building and watched from there.

I now understand why people are so crazy about Obama. The man is an inspiring speaker. During the speech, the man moved me to tears. Especially the part where he talked about his mother who died from cancer at age 53. My mom also died from cancer at 53, so I could relate. He said some things about health care and about the war and by the end of the rally I was READY TO GO and also FIRED UP.

Looking back, though, I cannot tell you exactly what he said about healthcare and the war and Congress and other things. I felt kind of like Martha in “The Sound of Drums,” not knowing what he said, but knowing that it was good. This is a problem for me, though. I don’t want to have a vague sense that Obama says some nice things, I want to really pin down his opinions and plans.

It’s 2007. October 2007. I shouldn’t have to give these things serious consideration right now. But with the first primaries coming up in frakking January, that is no longer an excuse not to know what is going on with these candidates.

I’m also motivated by the desire to make sure that black (and other PoC) voters are really listened to in this election. The disgrace of the Republican debate on race issues that many of the candidates didn’t even bother to attend is not all that surprising. However, we can’t take the Democrats for granted just as we cannot allow them to take us for granted. And at least one of those candidates has already proven that she barely takes notice of non-white bloggers.

So here’s what I plan to do. First, I’m going to do my best to blog every Monday about the 2008 election. Whether it be a focus on a candidate or an issue that I am interested in. I can’t scold other people for being uninformed if I am equally so.

I also want to know what we can do, as black/PoC bloggers and Internet users, to make sure our voices are heard by the various candidates? As I said, I refuse to let the Democrats take me and mine for granted this time around. They are going to have to earn my vote with words and actions. But how to get them to do so? Any suggestions, comments, links, etc. on that topic are appreciated.

Let’s get fired up, people. I am ready to go!

14 Responses

  1. Actually, he took strong stances on a few of my key issues. Namely: affordable healthcare and a higher standard of care for all (he didn’t hit the details of the plan, but he did say he wants affordable insurance to be available through the government to all citizens), he wants to raise the minimum gas usage standards for cars to 40MPG (holy crap. Never happen, but it’s a step in the right direction), he wants to get us out of Iraq (finally), and he’s always been huge on campaign finance reform (lobbyists being one of the big reasons why our government sucks – Obama accepts no money from lobbyists, which is enough on its own for him to get my vote).

  2. Here come the drums!

    I was very sorry to miss this rally; I thought I would be able to go but it didn’t work out. I’ve heard that a lot about Obama, that he makes you fired up, which is such a relief after the last, frustrating election. (Not that this election won’t likely be frustrating as well — but it’d be nice to have a candidate to get excited about.) I’m looking forward to your posts on the election.

    (Also still looking forward to your post about Dexter — hint, hint.)

  3. I have mixed feelings about Obama. I feel that he is strong on race issues, but I also get the sense he doesn’t care much about women. He didn’t even bother to send someone to the BlogHer conference, which was in his own home base of Chicago.

    Between the democratic top tier, I would vote for Hillary, Obama, Edwards — in that order. This is in part because I think that if Obama doesn’t win this time, he’ll have a real shot in the future (when that whole “experience” thing won’t be an issue anymore), in part because I’m concerned with his relative silence on women’s issues. I also believe that the president of the United States is arguably one of the most powerful human beings on the planet, and for a woman to occupy that position would send a powerful message to oppressed people around the globe.

    I have looked at all the candidates’ records of course (few substantial differences, honestly. I actually went through every vote they made to tally up the differences… very boring, and I didn’t manage to finish. Most differences were due to missed votes). As far as their policies go they are all pretty similar. It’s the rhetoric of their campaigns that differs.

    But then see, I read stuff like the statistics about the number of native women raped in Alaska (one in three, though the women interviewed think it’s much higher). The number of women abused all throughout our country. I think about how a well full of rotting babies was found in India — all infant girls — and I feel infuriated that in so many countries children are aborted or tossed out because they are less valuable. Because men are better than women, and that notion is reinforced when we look around and see that nearly all world leaders are men. So in a global sense, to shatter that highest glass ceiling, I want to see Hillary Clinton win. I think it matters. It sends a message.

    And to those who say patriarchal middle eastern countries won’t take a female commander in chief seriously? That is exactly the problem. It won’t be solved by always having men in charge to pander to their views. If our president is a woman, those nations *have* to recognize her power. And that empowers women around the globe.

    Of course, what I’d really like is to have both of them in office. :) First one then the other. I believe everyone should familiarize themselves with the candidates and vote for whoever they believe is best, and I really think it’s a damn shame when race and gender play into electability arguments. I can’t count how many articles I’ve read that say something like, “blacks are hesitant to vote for Obama because they don’t think America will elect a black president.” That is not a reason to avoid voting for him. That is a reason to go out there and vote for him because it is time to change things.

    So… vote for whoever you must. I will be voting for Hillary in the primary (which won’t matter in my state :P). If she’s the nominee I’ll be thrilled, but I would be proud to vote for Obama, too. The important thing is to vote!

  4. As I said, I refuse to let the Democrats take me and mine for granted this time around. They are going to have to earn my vote with words and actions. But how to get them to do so?

    I have absolutely no idea. I heard that I should volunteer for campaigns, but the one thing I learned there is that the Democratic machine dismisses women’s voices generally, and particularly ignores women of color.

    I’m just going to stay home until someone realizes that pandering to the center to nab the 1% of swing voters isn’t nearly as effective as energizing your base.

  5. Ico – I agree with your reasons for wanting a female president. But I don’t want that woman president to be Hilary. The basic reason being: I don’t like her. I don’t like the way she handled herself as a Senator, especially during the dark times right after 9/11 when she and most other democrats did absolutely nothing to stand up to Bush. How, when we were in the midst of a war and the eroding of civil liberties and Bush doing seriously illegal things, she wasted time railing against the Hot Coffee hack for Grand Theft Auto. I’m pissed that she voted to renew the Patriot Act, nevermind that she voted for it in the first place. I don’t have any confidence that she isn’t going to put special interests ahead of actual people if she does become president.

    In short, I don’t think she’d make a good leader.

    Just as when Elizabeth Dole ran or even when J. Kenneth Blackwell was poised to be the first black governor of Ohio, I don’t feel that we should vote for candidates because we should finally put the first black person/woman/Muslim/whatever you want to name in that place. America SHOULD have a woman president. And I hope we do when the right woman steps up.

  6. ABW,

    Amen! I’m fired up now, too, and am looking forward to the Monday political focus. I like Obama, though I’m still waiting for him to introduce a detailed health plan like Clinton; right now that’s my most important issue after Getting The Hell Out of Iraq.

    Oh, side-note:

    Ico,

    I also believe that the president of the United States is arguably one of the most powerful human beings on the planet, and for a woman to occupy that position would send a powerful message to oppressed people around the globe.

    Uh, I’m pretty sure that having a black man elected president would send just as powerful a message. In fact, I think it would be even more powerful. After all, the world has seen positive, powerful images of American white women for years now, including Hillary herself. But perceptions of black people around the globe, particularly in industrialized nations, are pretty damned dismal. Within that group, black men have gotten the shorter end of the stick; at least black women have Condi Rice* to represent us in a position of real decision-making power (…God help us all…). It would be nice for the world to see that black men in America have overcome oppression enough to be more than criminals, sexual predators, entertainers, or athletes.

    That said, I don’t want this to devolve into a “who’s more oppressed, white women or black men” schlockfest. I think having either of these candidates win would be a good thing, and I think that *just by running* they’re both making a difference.

    *Colin Powell, while originally promising, is pretty much now labeled as Bush’s used Kleenex, so I don’t think he qualifies anymore.

  7. Nora, we’ll agree to disagree w/ regards to the black man/white woman issue. I think you made a post about crabs in a bucket a while back, and I feel like that’s what the black man/white woman debate tends to boil down to. And I do believe you’re right — having them both run is historic and a very good thing!

    I also agree with you, ABW, that Hillary certainly has her faults. I don’t agree with a lot of her votes. I’m disgusted with her support of the Patriot Act, I don’t like her hawkish rhetoric. That said, I appreciate the fact that she does get things done. She’s missed fewer votes than any other presidential candidate. The woman works hard and she’s smart. She’s also the only candidate, other than Kucinich, with an excellent record on animal welfare (this matters to me. I don’t want to support a candidate who enjoys canned hunts, i.e. Richardson, or who supports steel-jaw leghold traps, i.e. Edwards). She’s also got a history of working for environmental and women’s issues.

    That said, I like Obama’s rhetoric far more than Hillary’s. But where his actual voting record is concerned there’s not a whole lot of difference. Like her, he voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act. He’s got the same on-the-fence attitude about gay marriage. He voted very badly on CAFA (2005), an important civil justice issue, which Hillary voted right on. But he voted right on cluster bombs and Iraq. I trust Obama more on foreign policy because of his Iraq vote and because he acts less hawkish, but I think Hillary is better on domestic issues. In short… they both have pros and cons.

    After weighing this, taking into account what I’ve read of their personal histories, gender, race and all of that, I decided to support Hillary. To sum it up in a very non-analytical way… if I were going to sit down to dinner with them, I would choose Obama for the pleasure of his company, but I would choose Hillary for business.

    So yes, while gender is certainly a factor in my decision (as is race… though I think Obama would have edged out Edwards anyway), it only factored in after I did some research about the top three and figured out where they stand on the issues that matter to me. No matter where you fall in the party, I think you have to get out and vote. And get others to. This is the first election, ever, that I’m really excited about. It really is historic.

    I just hope that come 2008, we don’t end up with another crazy Repub in office. :/

  8. Ico, I have to say I’m impressed by how much research you put into all of the candidates. Do you think you could put together a primer for people who have not the faintest clue how to go about doing such a thing? Something with links and stuff!

  9. “The number of women abused all throughout our country. I think about how a well full of rotting babies was found in India — all infant girls — and I feel infuriated that in so many countries children are aborted or tossed out because they are less valuable. Because men are better than women, and that notion is reinforced when we look around and see that nearly all world leaders are men.”

    Not to disagree with everything you’re saying – I think you make a lot of good points – but India’s second prime minister was a woman, way back in the sixties. They have a WAY better record than we do on putting women in power, but evidently it hasn’t helped their attitude much.

  10. ABW, I don’t know that I’m all that informed, really… I’m really only knowledgeable on the issues that matter most to me. I looked into those a lot. The rest I sort of gathered from reading political news all summer (I know, productive way to spend the summer, right? I got so sick of all the spin). But I’ll see what I can pull together. :)

    Nick, I thought about that right after I posted. :D You’re right of course. And I can’t say I’ve heard a whole lot about Margaret Thatcher doing much for women. Still, Hillary Clinton is pretty active in addressing women’s issues. Which is a good thing. :)

  11. Okay, so here are two sites I highly recommend because they distill all the info on votes and whatnot down into very readable summaries. Forgive me if this is old news to everybody here. This is where I started when I began examining the candidates over the summer:

    http://www.vote-smart.org/
    http://www.ontheissues.org/default.htm

    On votesmart, the portion I pay close attention to is the interest group ratings. This tracks the ratings of candidates by certain special interest groups, so if your big issues are abortion, civil rights, the environment, or whatever, you can see where your candidate ACTUALLY stands (as opposed to where they claim they stand) by seeing what they have supported in the past. You can also look at their voting record, which like the interest group section is divided by issues. The ontheissues site is similar to votesmart, but has clearer summaries of candidates’ positions. If you look at these sites, you’ll see that Hillary/Obama/Edwards tend to hold very similar positions. The Washington Post also has a voting record for the candidates that tracks all their votes against the Democratic majority, so you can see where they missed votes, where they voted with the party (this is the case most of the time), and the key point: where they deviated from the party to vote for, say, CAFA or cluster bombs.

    I also glanced over govtrack.com’s (http://www.govtrack.us/) list of bill sponsorship, organized by candidate (just run a google search with the candidate’s name and govtrack). This gives me an idea of what sorts of issues the candidate is particularly active on, and is more useful in this regard than the other sites. For instance, you’ll see Obama is more active than the others in issues pertaining to race. Hillary is more active on gender issues. I think seeing where they actually direct their energies is useful.

  12. More detailed info for the candidates:

    So if you check votesmart and ontheissues, they all look very similar — especially the Democratic top tier. And even if you look at the Washington Post’s voting records for them, you have to look very closely to see the differences. Because I don’t really trust their campaign rhetoric (watch the news enough and you’ll see just about every candidate shift positions on issues to try to gain advantage), I think it’s important to look very closely into the issues that really matter to you. Personally, I went over the ACLU’s candidate scorecards (http://action.aclu.org/site/VoteCenter?page=voteList), NOW’s candidate scorecards (http://www.capwiz.com/now/dbq/officials/), and the Humane Society’s scorecards (http://www.fund.org/humanescorecard/), among others. I also did some specific searches (for example, on Big Pharma, the environment, net neutrality, and things like that), which I think is a good idea for any subject that really concerns you.

    But even these websites don’t give you certain key info, such as for example the fact that all the Republicans but Tancredo refused to show up for the PBS black forum, or the fact that Hillary served on Walmart’s board of directors once, or the fact that Obama snubbed women bloggers. That kind of info shows a lot about them. Unfortunately, I don’t know how well you can find out about that sort of thing other than just tracking the news, googling around a lot, and paying attention.

    For me, a lot of the “paying attention” part comes down to lurking on political forums and reading political news and blogs. If you scout around Dailykos or MyDD (dailykos.com and mydd.com, which sadly are your typical white liberal blogs in many respects — a fact I’ve seen denied repeatedly on Dkos even when they’re called out on it by PoC), you’ll see “hit diaries” on the candidates. Most of these are about Hillary, whom the netroots has a strong hatred for, but there are some on Edwards and Obama, too. These sorts of diaries are generally full of vitriol, but they DO point out gems of information sometimes that can be useful. I think this is where I picked up the stuff about CAFA and cluster bombs.

    So I guess I would say… look at the voting records first, especially the issues that are most important to you. Then start googling for info (for ex., you can try googling to find out how diverse their campaign staffs are, things like that are very telling but aren’t on votesmart and ontheissues. Maybe what’s most telling is the fact that the Democrat with the lowest diversity among staff (Biden) still had twice as many PoC as the Republican with the highest (McCain), according to DiversityInc.com).

    Well, there you go. A completely amateur sort of look at how to find info on the candidates. But if you’ve just been relying on internet news and debates, do check out their actual votes and suchlike. It can be very telling. :)

  13. For a long list of reasons, I’m pretty skeptical of presdintial electoral politics. “If it could change anything, they’d make it illegal” and all that. That said, this handy-dandy quiz is the best issues-based way I’ve found to determine which candidate’s platform most aligns with one’s own convictions:

    http://www.wqad.com/Global/link.asp?L=259460

    Blind taste-test. Obama and Hillary were at the bottom of the Dems for me, which is unsurpising — despite their rhetoric and faces, they’re both pushing borderline republican policies.

  14. Interesting quiz… Fun and quick. :) I do think it simplifies issues a bit, though. For instance, Ron Paul agrees with me on gay marriage (according to the quiz), which puts him in agreement with the Dems. It would be easy to mistake this as support for gay rights. But it’s not. An examination of Paul’s history shows he is more against gay rights than for them. Does give you some manageable info on the big issues, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: