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Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Today, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California decided that Proposition 8 to the California constitution violated the United States constitution.  This decision marks one more step in the historic–and seemingly endless–march for gay rights in the United States and the world.

California has long been a center of gay activism and progress in the area of gay rights.  San Francisco was the first city to elect an openly gay city supervisor, Harvey Milk, in 1978.  In that year, California’s Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, which would have prevented gays and lesbians from working in the school system, was defeated.  However, gay marriage was still not valid or recognized in California.  In 2000, California passed Proposition 22 which constitutionally defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.  In 2008, the Supreme Court of California overturned this amendment, legalizing gay marriage in California for several months until the November election, when Proposition 8 was passed which overturned the court’s decision.

Time and time again, the courts have upheld the rights of homosexual couples to marry, and time and time again, populist movements have put an end to this basic human freedom.  Today, a Federal judge issued an invalidating ruling, meaning that in California, for the time being, the only hope for defeating gay rights is in the Supreme Court.  (For you constitutional purists out there, the reason we have courts in the first place is to provide guidance on law and prevent unjust laws when we don’t know any better.)

Today California once again joins the ranks of the few states in America that extend this privilege to homosexual couples:  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Washington, DC, New Hampshire and Vermont.  We will see soon if the Supreme Court upholds today’s ruling.  In my opinion, there is no valid argument–constitutional, moral, religious, or otherwise–against allowing homosexuals to marry to the fullest extent of equal protection under United States federal law. The only valid constitutional argument from a Federalist perspective is the separation of powers and the States rights doctrine.  This is certainly a valid argument to make, but keep in mind that if the Supreme Court had consistently strictly upheld the States rights doctrine when it came to matters of equality, segregation would still be legal.  Interracial marriage would still be illegal.  Plus, we have the Fourteenth Amendment for a reason!

It is important for Americans of all races, religions and orientations to remember that our ancestors also faced opposition to their basic human rights and freedoms.  Indeed, the past four hundred years of history in America has been a story of groups gradually winning the right to be viewed as equals.  In the struggle for gay rights, we see a similar endurance and persistence that has occupied every civil rights movement in our history.  The same endurance that led blacks to freedom, that led women to the ballot box and that even led Jews to Israel.  There is no doubt that, like these movements of the past, the movement for gay and lesbian rights in America will succeed.  The decision today in California is a vital step on the road to justice.  The more the opponents of this movement try to hold the country back, the louder its drive for justice, and the sweeter the victory.

It is easy for Americans to forget, being as secure we are in our citizenship and our persons, how hard it was for our parents and grandparents to fight so it could be this way.  Think about the progress we have made as a nation in just the last century–but also think about how much further we have to go, not just in terms of gay rights but in terms of many basic human rights, worldwide, that we take for granted.

If you are interested in the legal thought going into today’s decision, check out the text of the ruling here (  There is also a great article by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ted Olson, in Newsweek called “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” (  Olson explains quite eloquently that the fight for gay rights is not just a gay issue or a liberal issue, but an American issue.

August 4, 2010Comments are DisabledRead More
An American in Denver: Part II

An American in Denver: Part II


As these four days are drawing to a close, I find that I have seen the far-left side of this city’s politics that has not been covered in the mainstream news coverage of the Democratic Convention.  I also got a glimpse of what may be a problem for Barack Obama’s Colorado chances in the fall.

On Tuesday, I attended a forum hosted by the Progressive Democrats of America, a self-described Political Action Committee working within the Democratic Party.  However, it was clear from the onset of the day’s events that the group rested well to the left of—and arguably outside of—the Democratic party’s platform.  The guest speakers were Tom Hayden, a well-known anti-war protester and former California State Assemblyman, and Jim McDermott, a Democratic congressman from Washington.

Both Hayden and McDermott endorsed Barack Obama, but in both of their talks there was a call to greater action regarding some of the more extreme viewpoints in the Democratic party today, including a faster and more certain withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and an immediate impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  To acclamation, Hayden lauded a book about the impeachment of Bush, and at one point he recommended that the audience “Learn more about 9/11 truth,” referencing a collection of “alternative explanations” for the September 11th Attacks.

At one point, a man in the audience jumped to his feet and demanded that Hayden or McDermott speak to the fact that “McCain is a war criminal and he should be tried as such,” and protested something else incoherently; he was cheered by many in the audience but neither speaker directly responded to his questions (although Hayden knew him by name).

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to see Rage Against the Machine in concert—they performed for free at the Denver coliseum alongside The Coup and the Flobots, a local Denver band.  I didn’t know at the time that the concert was organized by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).  However, in between bands, as people protested the war, veterans spoke on stage in full dress uniform, and Jello Biafra revved up the crowd with angry epithets toward the Bush administration and corporate America, it became apparent that the concert was a stage setter for what was to become the main protest against the Democratic convention this week.

Biafra, known by most as just “Jello,” was the lead singer of the Dead Kennedys and was right at home in this crowd.  He wore a t-shirt reading “F___ the Iraq War,” and walked with a crutch.  Now at 50, he is hardly different from the anti-right icon he established himself as in the 80’s.  Herein lies the biggest problem for Barack Obama this November.  The crowd of more than ten thousand screaming fans that came to hear Rage Against the Machine could not get enough of Jello’s far-left, and ultimately anti-Obama rhetoric.  To Jello, Obama is no different from McCain, and the two main political parties are two sides of the wrong coin.  The message Jello presented was clear:  “It’s better to vote for who you know will lose than to vote for who you know can win, but is wrong.”   By advocating third party support among this crowd, Jello did more than isolate his message from that of the mainstream Democratic party—he potentially lost the Democrats thousands of votes in November.  And in a battleground state like Colorado, far-left activists like Hayden and Jello can be the difference between a Democratic victory and defeat.

IVAW’s actual veterans presented a humble and moving image.  In full uniform, they stood at attention as taps was played.  For the full duration of the song, ten thousand screaming Rage-heads were silent.  The Veterans presented the audience with the open letter that they expected to deliver to the Democratic Convention that day.  It requested that Obama call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, full veterans benefits, and full reparations to be paid to the Iraqi people.

When Rage Against the Machine finally took the stage, the crowd went wild.  Then, four songs and many broken eardrums later, the band stopped and prepared for The March.  As the Denver Post reported, as many as three thousand people, led by Rage Against the Machine and Iraq veterans in uniform, marched from the Denver Coliseum to the Pepsi Center–a distance of 3 miles in blistering 80-degree heat–to protest the war and deliver IVAW’s letter to the Democratic National Convention.

As it turns out, the protesters, who had been advocating non-violence as a mantra throughout the concert, were overwhelmingly peaceful, and little incidents occurred during the march.  Hundreds of Denver police officers were present.

I did not go on the march, but to witness the events leading up to the march, including a rock concert that began at 11 in the morning, was a unique experience in itself.  I had no idea I was going to be at the kickoff event for the biggest protest against the Democrats–ironically, the party I’m going to support in November!  I never understood why anti-war activists would protest the Democratic convention instead of saving their resources for the Republican convention.  I can only hope that the RNC is more heavily protested next week.

And finally, on Thursday, the last day of the convention, I made it over to Union Station, and found myself in a mob of MSNBC fans.  MSNBC had set up a two-platform scaffold off of Wyncoop, and throughout the day as Chris Matthews was broadcasting live, hundreds of people gathered next to the platform, on national TV.  Some took the opportunity to make silly faces and wave Barack Obama signs, but some tried to take advantage in more serious ways.  During Hardball, a group of 9/11 Truthers gathered and began protesting.  Matthews said on air:  “There are a bunch of nutjobs behind me who believe that September 11th was a conspiracy…real nutjobs.”

Well, I had a chance to see these nutjobs up front.  About five people wore shirts that read “9/11 was an inside job” and an overweight, angry little man with a megaphone chanted “NINE E-LEVEN WAS AN INSIDE JOB,” over and over again, like a broken record.  The crowd thoroughly enjoyed this display, not because they agreed but because the “movement” was so easy to make fun of.  Even the man who held the “Drop Acid, not Bombs” sign got in on the fun.  A bunch of women started dancing to the rhythmic beatbox of conspiracy theory.  At one point, the crowd started their own chant:  “Get a life!  Get a life!”  I never got to see Obama speak in person, but the MSNBC protesters made it all worth it.  It was a true Denver experience.


August 29, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
An American in Denver: Part I

An American in Denver: Part I


My first day in Denver was busy and long.  In the morning, I took the light rail with a friend from the suburbs downtown.  The difference between the outskirts of the city and the downtown area was staggering.  Hollowed out factories, run down cars, and strip malls dissolved into a labyrinth of shimmering chrome, glass and steel.  With the temperature hovering at ninety degrees, getting off the tram felt like stepping into a pressure cooker.  The sun beat down, multiplied by the glass cityscape which acted like a tanning mirror.

We had to make it to City of Cuernavaca Park to enter ourselves into a lottery to get into a concert Wednesday night.  It wasn’t a must-see, but it was a see-if-we-could, so we walked a mile and half, past Coors Field and the edge of the main city.  We knew when we were approaching the park when the smell of smoke overpowered the smell of diesel fuel.  Pretty soon, we were surrounded by tents, food stalls and people with long hair, tye-dye shirts, and sandals, who sported peace signs and handed out flyers against the war.  The day-long vigil during the lottery consisted of a middle aged black man extolling the  virtues of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the crowd of all-white, mid-20s next-generation hippies, the UC-Boulder crowd, the Rage Against the Machine liberals of today’s Colorado.  After entering the lottery, we left, passing by the booths set up in the park—the Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Tear Down Guantanamo Coalition, the Weed is Safer than Alcohol booth, and the popular “Bush is an Idiot” bumper sticker stall.

I suspected that these same people would be protesting later that night at the convention.  It occurred to me that the Democratic National Convention would bring all types out of the woodwork, and they all would descend upon Denver for the week.  I found that I was not far off.  Walking down the 16th Street Mall, the main thoroughfare in downtown Denver, we passed all sorts of types.  A bunch of young men handed out Trojan “love rings,” while a woman pinned me with a “Quesadillas for Obama” button.  Obama merchandise was everywhere, and you could buy an Obama hat, an Obama tie, an Obama bag or an Obama watch.  On one corner, a lonely threesome of McCain loyalists huddled together against the cold Democratic onslaught, gingerly holding McCain signs.  A block later, five protesters boldly held up bright yellow and black signs proclaiming “Jesus Saves” and “Homos are Going to Hell.”  Apparently, not everyone in Denver–from the restrained to the not-quite–was so excited about the Democratic convention being in town.  Aside from these colorful folks, there were cops in riot gear, a group of yellow t-shirt soldiers who branded themselves “CopWatch,” and a Tote Bag Brigade–about five middle aged women who sang the national anthem on infinite loop and sold American flag tote bags to the crowd.

We found a place to eat with a street view, and the passerbys ended up being more interesting than the food.  Hundreds of people wore credentials for the convention.  The street was red, white and blue, from flags, shirts, hats and a rottweiler.  A band sponsored by Rock the Vote played out of a medium sized van, with four players on the roof and the drummer stuck in the trunk.  In the middle of lunch, about forty middle-aged women stampeded past, pumping Hillary signs high in the air and chanting “Hillary is Down, but Not Out!”  It seemed like a damaging display of party disunity, but I didn’t give it much thought.

We then took the tram to Auraria, the campus for three Denver city colleges.  The campus is on the outskirts of the Pepsi Center, and we were hoping that we could cut through the back of the Center to get a glimpse of the action at the convention that day.  Unfortunately, our lack of credentials doomed our attempt from the beginning.  For a mile around the Pepsi Center, chain link fences and security barriers had been set up.  However, there was a “designated protest area,” we were told, so we decided to give that a try.  We walked along the perimeter of the fence and wound up in a parking lot, far out of view of the actual convention center, where a group of pink-clad old ladies yelled into a megaphone about who knows what.  I believe the actual protest involved the presence of the police on site.  I wondered why anyone would bother protesting, if they were guaranteed to be stuck in the middle of no-man’s land, with the media and convention itself completely unaware of their presence.

After walking around the Pepsi Center and unable to get in, for today at least, we decided to head home and watch the first day of the convention on television.  However, being in Denver helped set the mood for what I think will be a very exciting four days here.  Tomorrow, we will check out the non-Pepsi Center convention action, including a series of talks on women in politics.  Will update soon!


August 26, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
To be Wealthy is No Longer Cool

To be Wealthy is No Longer Cool

A common theme has arisen in this campaign, not necessarily more so than any other political campaign:  to what extent does a candidate’s wealth mean he’s “out of touch” or “elitist,” and in what way can the opposing camp use a candidate’s wealth against him?

This was evident early on in the Democratic race when the candidates were asked if they sent their kids to public or private schools.  Chris Dodd and Barack Obama ended up getting into an argument over whether or not Dodd’s children’s education was sufficiently “common” enough–and it turned into a competition over who was the poorest.  Dodd tried to convince the audience that he’s not doing so well.  “You’re doing all right, Chris,” was Obama’s reply.  It was surprising to me that suddenly, being wealthy in America is big problem.  At least when it comes to politicians.

What is ironic, of course, is the last president we had who was not “elite” when he entered office and just as “common” when he left it was Truman–that’s 60 years of presidential candidates, all of whom try to portray themselves as fundamentally “common” to appeal to everyday voters.  It is easy to see why candidates do it.  Most voters are middle class, and to appeal to these voters it is important to come across as being one of the bunch.  But what is upsetting is how many people buy into the dialog that wealth is a stigma in public life.

The noble public servant, it is said, should be willing to work for no pay.  It is hard to be a noble servant, therefore, if one does not have any money.  Some people believe public servants should receive more pay.  But if they are paid well, they are accused of self indulgence and elitism.

No wonder only people with money end up becoming politicians these days!  The barrier to entry is so high, it requires so much experience in business, finance, law, the military, and networking, that the people who end up at the top can’t be very “common” anymore.  The belief of Thomas Jefferson was that any man could become president, no matter how “common.”  But, then again, Jefferson believed that “commoners” were a) Male, b) Landowners and c) White, so I don’t know how well that analogy works.

Here’s the problem.  In this withering economy, people are getting poorer.  They naturally want to relate to the candidates.  But being wealthy in America, assuming the wealth is earned, not inherited, means that one is successful to some degree.  A wealthy person is a competent person, a smart person, a sociable and wise person.  Why wouldn’t people want that person in the White House?

I just don’t buy that Obama, who just paid off his college loans and has been fortunate enough to be blessed with a bestselling book and a meteoric career, should be chastised for being too wealthy.  Isn’t that what the American Dream is about?  The immigrant with ten cents in his pocket doesn’t land on the shores of America to become the most common person in all the land.  The streets to that immigrant are not paved with guns and religion, but are paved with arugula and gold!

And then we look at McCain, who himself is no wealthy man, but happened to have married a very wealthy woman.  How can we hold that against him?  I smell hypocrisy from the Obama campaign, who criticized their opponents for vetting Michelle, yet feel free to harpoon McCain’s “Wealth” as if he had anything to do with making it.

The way I see it, a candidate’s finances should not be any of the public’s business.  But if they are, they should be treated with admiration, not disgust.  It is not Obama or McCain’s fault that they want to do better for their families, and they shouldn’t be criticized for wanting to do better for yours.

August 22, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
Russia, Georgia and the Dirty War

Russia, Georgia and the Dirty War

Picture this.  A powerful, tested military power invades a small, militarily weak country with strong diplomatic ties to the Western powers, including the United States, Britain and France.  The invasion of this small country prompts an international outrage.

What’s next?  For World War II purists, the stage has just been set for a massive international conflict.  I know the Russians would revile at even considering a strategic likeness to the Great Dictator, but in essence, there is a parallel.  And that parallel does not lead down the right path.

What is most ironic, of course, is that the Russians claim that the Georgians themselves have perpetrated acts of genocide against the South Ossetians.  This claim has yet to be independently verified, but even if the Georgians don’t take kindly to the people of one of their two breakaway regions, most Georgians, no doubt, are completely ignorant of any sort of “ethnic cleansing” that occurs there.  If any such atrocities are occurring, most Georgians are innocent of the matter.

Unfortunately, the PR war that Russia is waging has been lost.  There is no way they can continue to hammer this poor country into submission without drawing criticism and, eventually, sanctions.  What is doubly ironic is that their war is being criticized most strongly as an overextension of military force by the country who has most exercised its own military force in recent times–the United States.  Not only that, but the country the United States has most recently beat down on–the country whose people did nothing wrong and whose leader could have been removed diplomatically through UN negotiations–and the country whose acts of genocide should have been punished when they occurred, in the early 90’s and not 12 years later–was, until recently, hosting 2,000 Georgian soldiers who were sent their to strengthen ties with the United States.

It seems that Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, had calculated everything.  Which is why it is so strange that he would order a military deployment into South Ossetia, when he knew it would provoke Russian ire.  But that’s a story for another day.

What is outrageous is the degree to which the Russians have been bombing–and invading–sovereign Georgian territory outside South Ossetia.  Most recently, over 60 civilians were killed in Gori, and bombings have been reported outside Tbilisi and in the port cities as well.  This is all part of Russia’s plan to weaken a military that could not be weakened any more.  For a country that receives it oil, electricity and internet from Russia, it seems to be doing pretty well for itself considering.

Parallels have been drawn to the 2006 Israel war with Lebanon.  But whereas the Israelis had declared war against a subnational terrorist group, Hezbollah, the Russians have clearly staked out to defeat the sovereign nation of Georgia.  The Lebanese were right to be angry, however, and the anger in Georgians today toward the Russians is at par with the anger of these Lebanese two summers ago.

Such anger is not going to go away when the last bombs fall.  On the contrary, it will brew, beneath the service, until open conflict erupts again.  It was inevitable in the rise and fall of international politics, just like it was sixty years ago and thirty years before that.  I just hope the United States intervenes before it’s too late for Georgia and its people.

August 12, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
All About Obama

All About Obama

Politico just published an article about the election being all about Obama.  This is reflective of a larger sentiment that has been talked about in recent weeks, the fact that Obama is dominating the headlines and no one really cares about McCain–for most people, the choice is “Obama or not Obama.”  This would seem to bode well for the Obama campaign, which has not ceased to be in the media spotlight since he won the Iowa caucus in January.  After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?

But methinks there is an undercurrent in America that is threatening to take down the great Obama machine.  We know, of course, of the threatening rumors regarding Obama’s patriotism, his religion, his “eliteness” and his politics–these rumors alone, however, are likely to affect people who are already voting against Obama.

We know, too, of the rise of Obama satire.  The reluctance of Jon Stewart and other comedians to ridicule the candidate has all but vanished.  Regularly, Stewart refers to Obama as “the Great One” and Gerard Baker’s article on Obama’s overseas trip was brilliant.  I quote:

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child’s wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child’s journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

Quite charming, to be sure.  A passage from the Book of Obama might very well one day grace the White House mantle.

But does all the media attention around Obama really help him, or does it just provide McCain with an opportunity to play the relentless underdog, and his supporters to try that much harder to get him elected?  Or, what is more likely, does the Obama halo make people who support him question their own devotion?  In the constant mockery of Obama’s arrogance and presumption, does not a line of truth shine through?  Is it possible, maybe, the some people might resent it?

Think about the swaths of Hillary supporters, many of whom have not yet made up their mind whether to support the democratic candidate.  Isn’t it possible that they might feel a little sting?  After all, by acting like the Chosen One, Obama seems to be brushing aside their chosen one, which might not be such a good idea.  Obama should be carrying the democratic banner, not carrying the “Vero Possumus” banner.

But, most importantly, it is McCain who gains from Obamamania.  People who have not yet made up their minds see the Obama juggernaut and think, “He has plenty of support, he doesn’t need mine.  I don’t need to vote,” or, “How pompous he is!  I’m going to show him that he can’t win the election until he’s won it!”  Obama’s “Chosen One” attitude is sure to fire up some “I’ll show you” sentiment in the electorate.

Plus, wasn’t it the same attitude that lost Obama the New Hampshire primary?  Remember when he acted like he had the nomination before he had it?  He was ten points ahead in the New Hampshire polls, and then bam.  Hillary supporters (and some Obama supporters) had had enough.  He was so sure to win, Obama supporters stayed home.  He was so cocky to win, Hillary supporters came out to the polls.

The underdog always gains when the top dog is coasting.  Obama’s poll numbers have remained the same, but McCain’s have been growing steadily.  Instead of doubling his support from Hillary’s drop out, his support has stagnated.  Meanwhile, McCain has shrunk Obama’s lead within 4 percentage points–and, if you choose to follow predictions based on the Bradley Effect–that means he’s actually ahead.

Now, we know that a national lead doesn’t amount to anything in the electoral college.  Obama has managed to hold on to the states that matter, including Pennsylvania, California, Ohio (he’s 7 points up there) and Virginia remains a battleground.  Add Colorado and it’s looking difficult for him to lose.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t.  And if the Clinton campaign is any lesson, let us remember that inevitability in this election has meant jack squat.

July 29, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
Obama’s Spending My Money on Hummus and Currywurst

Obama’s Spending My Money on Hummus and Currywurst

I have read much commentary on the pie-in-the-sky arrogance of Barack Obama as he hightails it to Israel, Jordan, Britain, France and Germany in a much-publicized, much-anticipated and headline-stealing foreign tour of the world.  People on the right (and some on the left) have criticized Obama for putting on airs, for acting like a president when he clearly is not, and of course, for seeming to have a greatly overinflated sense of self.

These mild criticisms may be well-placed.  After all, Obama has given a podium speech behind a faux-presidential Obama seal, he tried originally to make a speech at the Brandenburg Gate (a move the Germans did not take well to), and he has on more than one occasion defended his “apolitical” tour of Europe by claiming that presidents do it all the time (to which a reporter abroad recently replied, reminding him that he is not the president yet).

All of the criticisms have been of Obama from a political perspective, and they have come from already entrenched political opponents of the Democratic candidate.  But as a donor to the Obama campaign, I have one very important question:  Why are you spending my money on hummus and currywurst?

I have not donated much to the campaign.  But when I donated, I was giving money to help out a candidate who I wanted to become president.  I hoped that my money would pay for advertisements, campaign expenses such as offices and staff, and literature that would help my candidate be elected.  My donation, like that of over a million people, was given to a Democratic candidate in hope of improving his chances of being elected in America.

But now I find out that the campaign has sent its candidate into the Middle East and Europe for a high-profile tour, and I’m wondering, who’s paying for this?  Who’s paying for the mileage Obama is putting on his private jet?  Who’s paying for the gas for the motorcade of 20 vehicles Obama apparently used in Jordan?  Who’s paying for catering costs and hotel bills for the 40 embedded journalists, and dozens of advisers and aides?  Who’s paying for flyers advertising his arrival, and his upcoming speech in Berlin?  Who’s paying for security, production costs, public speaking fees, city permits and cleaning up Berlin’s tiergarten?

And furthermore, of the five countries on this trip, two of them use the Euro and one of them uses the Pound.  These are the most expensive currencies to buy with the dollar, and however much the campaign spends, it’s multiplied by a pretty hefty number.  All of a sudden, my measly donation will probably buy a lunch for Obama and one foreign policy adviser, one afternoon in a charming café on le Rive Gauche in Paris.

I don’t know who supplements these lavish trips abroad entirely.  As a United States Senator traveling abroad, is Obama entitled to some government assistance?  Certainly the secret service is paid by our tax dollars, but I wonder just how much of this trip is supplemented by Obama for America.  My guess is, quite a bit of it, enough of it to be an outrage.

The ironic thing is, when Americans find out their tax dollars are being spent on “pork barrel projects,” they are outraged (and McCain tries to squeeze their outrage for political gain).  But for some reason, contributers to the Obama campaign aren’t becoming outraged at the lavish spending of their donation money in a foreign country.  I don’t know why that is the case.  But I, personally, am going to think twice before putting more of my pennies into the Obama piggy bank.  After all, I don’t want that piggy bank to turn to pork.

July 23, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
269 – 269 Electoral Tie is a Possibility

269 – 269 Electoral Tie is a Possibility

Take a look at my previous post.  In that analysis, I have McCain winning Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania–a scenario that could still mean Obama wins, provided that he wins two out of the three states Missouri, Virginia and North Carolina.  However, Tim Russert in his last Meet the Press pointed out that if Obama keeps the 2000 Bush-Gore map, and wins New Mexico, Colorado and Iowa, then the Electoral College can be a tie.  This would be the map.

In this scenario, Obama wins Pennsylvania, loses New Hampshire, and wins Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico.  This is an entirely possible outcome, and will create a rare situation.  With no electoral victor, the decision will go to the House of Representative, where each state’s delegation will be represented by one vote.  According to the letter of the 12th Amendment, whereby our electoral system functions:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

In this situation, clearly, McCain would emerge as the victor, as only 22 states (including DC) will have voted for Obama.  However, in choosing Vice President, an intriguing possibility unfolds:  Obama’s running mate could be elected Vice President.  According the Constitution:

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice.

This means that if Obama’s running mate, let’s say George X, is tied with McCain’s running mate, Michael Y, for Vice President, then the Senate must choose between the two.  The Senate would be expected to split along party lines, and in the Democratic-controlled Senate, George X is favored to win a Senate election.

However, there is the added caveat that Joe Lieberman, a staunch McCain supporter, has caucused with the Democrats these past two years and has guaranteed them the majority.  He is the 51st vote, the swing vote, and if the election is decided by the Senate it is not sure which way they will lean.  The selection of Vice Presidential nominees could be crucial to both sides, as it might guarantee the nominee the Vice Presidency in the case of a split electoral vote.  Assuming the Senate splits down party lines, Lieberman could find himself in the unlikely position of Kingmaker.  He would essentially have the sole power to decide who the next Vice President of the United States will be.

The 269-269 split is actually a very likely scenario, and it would create a very exciting couple of post-election months, especially if the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee is someone like Hillary Clinton, who could end up achieving the Vice Presidency without Obama on the top of the ticket.

June 29, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
The New Battleground: 2008 Electoral Analysis

The New Battleground: 2008 Electoral Analysis

Election analysis is completely speculative; no matter how many times someone says “past data suggests this will be the case,” the opposite seems to happen.  If the Democratic primary was any indication, results rarely match expectations.

That being said, I want to take a look at today’s electoral map, and how it might look in five months, come November.  I was playing around on USA Today’s electoral vote analyzer and came (rather accidentally) to a pretty neat discovery.

Let’s throw up our default map, which is colored in based on who won the past four presidential elections.  States that did not have a consistent winner all four elections start off, naturally, as toss-ups.

Now, let’s make some assumptions.  I’m first going to assume that the “Hillbilly” coalition will vote for McCain.  This assumption is not difficult to make; even based on the Democratic primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it is pretty clear that a lot of people are just not going to vote for a black man named Barack Hussein Obama.  Unfortunate, yes.  But not something that is going to change between now and November.  In addition to Appalachia, I’m also going to assume that the solid South will go for McCain.  New Hampshire, given McCain’s popularity there, will probably go to him.

Now, I’m going to make an incredibly ridiculous assumption; one that will probably not be the case in November, but one that is worth considering.  Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania will go for McCain.  Ohio and Pennsylvania definitely seem plausible; Obama performed poorly there against an opponent who was already declared politically dead by the time the elections rolled around.  He lost by ten point margins in both states.  Ohio and Pennsylvania both comprise a large portion of northern Appalachia; a region that is predictably (and drastically) antithetical to Obama’s candidacy.  Florida is definitely a toss-up, and can go either way.  But if McCain can mobilize the Jewish vote, and get independents on his side, this is definitely winnable.  I foresee McCain spending a lot of time in Florida, and it will probably pay off.

At this point, the map seems to be filling in nicely for McCain.

Now, let’s make some more extrapolations.  In the Southwest, we are going to see a very different map come November.  Obama has clearly shown that he can attract upper middle class, educated, Western independents and Republicans, and the brand of sophisticated voter that one finds roaming under the open sky of Montana.  We can safely assume that Colorado will go for Obama.  The DNC isn’t throwing a 50,000 person party in Denver to see that state walk out the door.  Obama is popular in Colorado; he already has a strong field organization and he has shown that he can win that state.  For the same reason, Iowa should go for Obama.  He built a compelling field operation there in 2007 and the Iowans seem to really like him.

For the reasons above, we can safely assume that Obama will win Montana.  Aside from his normal constituency, in Montana Obama is strongly supported by Native American populations that make up a bulk of the Democratic demographic.  Finally, we can give New Mexico to Obama.  Richardson will be influential in bringing this state to the Democrats, and it is unlikely that Hispanics, a reliable Democratic voting bloc, will break for the Republicans because their initial candidate, Clinton, lost.  Of course, Arizona goes to the Senator from Arizona.

If you are doing the math, you probably have realized that at this point McCain is clearly the victor, having racked up 271 electoral votes–one more than needed to win the presidency.  Not so fast.  We quickly realize that three states showed overwhelming support for Obama during the primaries and should not be ignored:  Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  So we designate those states as toss-ups.

Now we’ve got an interesting situation on our hands.  The states that remain–Nevada, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia–seem like odd battlegrounds.  The latter three voted republican in the last four presidential elections.  Nevada voted for Clinton twice and Bush twice.  However, it is looking like Nevada will vote for McCain in 2008.  Union voters will probably back Obama, but rural Nevada is looking Republican, and the state where one of this season’s first push polls was distributed is not looking like its going to undo its defeat of Obama earlier this year.  Perhaps, but to be safe we put Nevada in the McCain column.  For the same reason, South Carolina looks like it’s going to have to go for McCain.  South Carolina is more “deep” South than our other toss-ups, and despite Obama’s sure-to-be-mobilized black support there, the much larger white population is not likely to put him over the top.  Again, Obama might win South Carolina, but to be safe we put it in McCain’s column.

Now we stand at Obama with 251 electoral votes, and McCain with 248.  Here is our map:

Wow!  Now we have three new battleground states, and it looks like we can’t predict past here.  Missouri is the bellwether, of course, and neither McCain nor Obama can be predicted to win there.  For one, both candidates won ties to win the state in their respective primaries; McCain won a three-way tie with Romney and Huckabee, and Obama won a tie with Clinton.  Their performances were neither impressive nor decisive.  Missouri could prove to disappoint analysts this year, as it doesn’t look like it will give much leeway to either campaign.

Virginia and North Carolina, of course, have been put in play by Obama’s terrific showing in both states.  Thanks to this grueling primary process, he now has a field operation in all “57” states, and they’re all in full swing.  It is no stretch of the imagination to see Obama winning Virginia, especially considering that he is tied with McCain in the current polls.

Mathematically, Obama or McCain need to win two out of the remaining three toss-ups to become President.  That is given a scenario based heavily on the assumption that Obama will lose the traditional toss-ups, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  If Obama can win one of these three, he will most surely win the election.

June 12, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More
McCain’s Faltering Campaign

McCain’s Faltering Campaign

I found John McCain’s campaign briefing video laughably hilarious.  Campaign manager Rick Davis bumbles through a list of “Reasons” why John McCain can talk about the issues that no one wants to talk about, including the War in Iraq, plus he seems to be reading from cue cards and noticeably pauses at inopportune times during his briefing.

Plus, he says “The political environment, probably one of the worst in our party’s history…”  I know this is what has been echoed on the blogs and on the news for months, but its not something a campaign manager says.  You don’t maintain a positive outlook on things by saying that your chance of winning is horrible.

I don’t see how talking about how you’re not going to win is going to help you win.  This briefing doesn’t say how they’re going to win…it says what they need to win.  In fact, it looks defensive, like someone’s in the same room going “I know Obama’s going to win, and you need to prove me wrong.”  Of course, by looking defensive, it looks weak.

McCain needs to get his act together if he’s going to have a shot at this.  Tuesday night’s speech in New Orleans, when McCain looked like grandpa green, was just terrible.  Of course, this could arguably big his biggest strength, as Obama is known to let his cockiness get the best of him, and it has hurt him in the past (New Hampshire, Nevada).

June 8, 2008Comments are DisabledRead More