Perhaps it's because I am a cranky old thirtysomething and I realize that the only way my skin will be dewy at this point in my life is if I forget my umbrella and get drenched walking to the ferry. (Which I will be doing today, so mission accomplished! I will be damply dewy for my fellow commuters!) AHEM ... I am cranky because I saw this whole "Don't Vote" video where lots of celebrities are supposed to be ironically telling you not to vote, and then I saw this "Don't Vote" video, and while I will admit that Harrison Ford getting cranky made me think, "Oooh, Han Solo" for a minute, I am not sure I am down with this whole idea that celebrities can compel people to go vote because of lofty things like women's rights and the future of our country.
I have a deliciously misanthropic coworker who shrugs, "I don't care if other people vote. In fact, I'd prefer it if they didn't. Because not only does that mean fewer idiots are voting, it means my vote counts more."
So I'm thinking that should be the next great civic-minded "Get out the vote" campaign. Just ask, "Hey -- don't you want the chance to cancel out some idiot's vote?" or "Why should her vote count more than your nonvote?" I guarantee you the negativity will compel people as never before.
To the campaign consultants of 2012: You're welcome!
I am wary of political coverage that focuses on the-pol-as-real-human-being in part because I dislike making myself open to the possibility that I've confused my affinity for a politician with my position on the issues she or he represents.
That said, it was a pleasure this week to read two different articles on Joe and Jill Biden. "Biden's Brief" (New Yorker, Oct 20, 08) is an easy read on how Joe Biden's trying to conceive the role of vice president as he would fill it. The passage in the article that I found striking:
Biden told me that Senator Mike Mansfield, of Montana—who persuaded him
to stay in the Senate in 1973, when he was distraught over the deaths
of his wife and child—taught him that, no matter how reprehensible
another senator’s views, his job was to figure out what was good in
that person, what voters back home saw in him. It may be a sentimental
view of how senators treated each other in an earlier age, but Biden
suggested to me that when he repeated that to Obama it helped to bring
them closer—and he said that he and Obama would bring that approach to
Emphasis mine. And I think it's a handy way for all of us to look at elected officials.
And then there's last Thursday's piece in the WaPo, "Campaign Curriculum," which looks at Jill Biden. She's pretty awesome in her own right -- it is a not-so-secret dream of mine to teach community college, so I am already admiring of people who do so -- but this little anecdote just kills me:
"I had always kidded Joe and said the mail always comes
'Senator and Mrs. Biden,' " Jill says. When she earned her [doctorate], she
found that her husband had mounted signs in the driveway. One said,
"Dr. and Senator Biden live here.
You can't extrapolate an entire marriage from one incident. But I do think as far as anecdotes go, it's a pretty awesome one.
Anyway, I have a friend in Austin who's been a Biden fan from way back. And after this week, I can say to her that I totally understand why.
First off: if the AP is reporting on your baby name, I'm thinking it's not secret anymore.
Second off: This man has exceeded my expectations for new parents and baby name insanity.
Third off: I think this guy took the wussy way out. I want to see people going back to this country's Puritan roots with their baby-naming, and bestowing their new bundles with names like "I-bow-to-no-secret-muslim" or "Helicopters-even-the-odds-when-hunting" or "I-totally-believe-in-this-change" or "If-you-have-to-call-me-your-friend-I-am-most-definitely-not."
Anyone else got any good neo-Puritan election baby names?
Writer Ann Marlowe thinks that Sarah Palin got to be the VP candidate not because Steve Schmidt decided that she would be a galvanizing factor in the race ("Steve Schmidt: the Driving Force Behind John McCain," LAT, Oct 6, 08), but because she tried harder and goshdarnit, it worked.
Whilst conveniently overlooking how Palin got her start in politics -- other pols recruited her in an effort to win over younger Wasilla voters ("Barracuda," TNR, Oct 22, 08) -- Marlow argues in "Why Elite Women Hate Sarah Palin" (Forbes, Oct 7, 08) that:
[W]ith Palin, it comes down to
wanting it badly enough and being singleminded. It means spending a lot
of time in deadly dull meetings talking about school bond issues or
where to put a new off-ramp.
Except according to sources, it's not like she even put in quality time there either ("The Palin Problem," Newsweek, Oct 13, 08.
I respect that as a writer, Marlowe's looking to make a buck off an argument that is sure to get her attention and future assignments. (I don't think much of her editor, who apparently didn't not ask "Really?" at least once during the piece, but when is one supposed to expect rigorous critical thinking from Forbes anyway? Or, you know, arguments based on documented events?)
But she's dead wrong with her assertion that so-called "elite" women hate Palin because "The lesson of Sarah Palin for privileged women is to try harder. And that may be the toughest one to hear."
Palin did not get her slot on the ticket owing to overweening ambition -- which she does have -- because it's not like that quality makes her sui generis among politicians. She did not get that slot because she tried harder. She got that slot because someone somewhere made the cynical calculation that she'd galvanize the electorate. People may "hate" Palin but I'm thinking what they really loathe is what she stands for -- calculated and substance-free political theatre and the enfranchised idiots who fall for it every time.
This may be a Main Street bailout backlash in the making. The details
of the financial crisis are still hard for most people to follow --
what with talk of exotic "derivatives" known as "credit-default swaps"
and so on -- but the central fact of the matter hasn't been lost on
anyone in this Northern Virginia community: The taxpayers are on the
hook for the bad judgment of others.
And they say they don't like it. They didn't break it, but now
they've bought it. Political leaders and financial titans say the
bailout is necessary to save the economy, but on the ground, in such
places as Manassas Park, people think that the bailout will reward the
wrong people. There's a sense that too many folks bought houses they
couldn't really afford, banks urged them on, common sense went on
vacation, and now the grown-ups have to clean up the mess.
I am still looking for the financial reporting that explains exactly how this proposed $700 bil bailout plan affects American taxpayers. The NYT's piece yesterday, "The Wall Street Bailout Plan Explained" didn't do what the headline promised. It gave answers like:
It would not be correct to think of the federal government as simply
writing a check for $700 billion. It is just committing itself to spend
that much, if necessary. But the bottom line is, yes, this bailout
could cost American taxpayers a lot of money.
And, sadly, the Q&A did not include questions like "Why is it necessary for the next two to three generations of American taxpayers to pay for the bad judgment calls of profit-chasing executives at investment banks?" and "How many millions of dollars will the people who work at Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers still end up making over the course of calendar year 2008?" and "Explain to me again why we can't invest in a crumbling transit infrastructure or healthcare for our citizens, but the people who made the market collapse will get free money to fix the problem they caused?"
I am not sure which irritates me more: the Hillary partisans who just cannot let it go, or the resurgence of the "Hillary Harridans" in the media. You just know that if McCain pulls it off in November, feminists are going to be blamed. I can already imagine the clucking op-eds about how mother-daughter conflicts in feminism ultimately tore the Dems apart.
A few days ago, NPR's Cokie Roberts opined of Barack Obama's vacation to see his grandmother in Hawai'i, "It makes him seem a little bit more exotic than he would want to come across at this stage of the game."
This was, in my opinion, both Beltway-blinkered ("Oh my God! He's vacationing west of the Appalachian range. But there's nothing there!") and somewhat racist ("Oh my God! He's spending time in a state that has lots of tan people. How exotic!"). But I have not been able to articulate my disgust with the same eloquence that Jon Caroll does in today's SF Chron:
He's a guy visiting his grandmother, and Cokie Roberts believes that
might be politically unwise. Why? Because Grandma lives in weird
far-off Hawaii. It's ludicrous.
Also, you know which other group of Americans feels an affinity to
Hawaii? Asians. Hawaii is a state where Asian Americans, particularly
people of Japanese and Filipino descent, have really made their mark.
There's ethnic pride involved, and it's neither peculiar nor
inappropriate. Oh, and duh: Pacific Islanders. Yes, they really live
all over the country, and they look to Hawaii as sort of the mother
ship, even if they were not born there.
They don't think that Hawaii is an odd place to visit - and they vote. Dig that, Roberts.
I am so tired of the East Coast bias in national media.
Am I overreacting? Oh, probably. Am I hysterical? No, no, no! Well,
maybe. But the America of the 21st century is going to be distinctly
multicultural and multiracial and mixed and blended in ways we are just
beginning to see, and the cabal of powerful white people who dominate
the chat shows is going to seem less relevant than it already does.