29 June 2008

George Carlin: Political Animal

"These days many politicians are demanding change. Just like homeless people."
    George Carlin 1937 - 2008

Even die-hard Obamaholics have to appreciate the irony in that joke. George Carlin's biography has been plastered all over the airwaves and the newspapers the last few days. Most of it is concerned with a chronological ordering of his accomplishments - you can check out any of the major news networks if you want a blow by blow of his life story. From where I sit, his relentless questioning of the status quo - "taking it to 'The Man'" - gave him his counterculture persona, but it was the inventive way in which he examined our everyday lives that made him famous.

    "Well, if crime fighters fight crime and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? They never mention that part to us, do they?"

I saw him in the eighties, when he came to my college to do one of those shows the student union put with the student dues they collected. I'd never heard of him. One of my pals from Detroit was incredulous. "You've never seen Carlin? Man, you would REALLY like him! He's more intellectual than the average comedian, dude. I CAN'T BELIEVE you've never heard Carlin!"

We went to the show, and Carlin was as advertised - his riff on "the importance of stuff" is still funny. He was only just turning fifty one but he already looked old, with the graying ponytail, the gonzo beard, and his trademark black outfit.

    "This country was founded by a group of slave owners who wanted to be. Am I right? A group of slave owners who wanted to be free! So they killed a lot of white English people in order to continue owning their black African people, so they could wipe out the rest of the red Indian people, in order to move west and steal the rest of the land from the brown Mexican people, giving them a place to take off and drop their nuclear weapons on the yellow Japanese people. You know what the motto for this country ought to be? 'You give us a color, we'll wipe it out.'"

Carlin was as much a political animal as he was a comedian. A self-avowed atheist, in later years his comedy seemed to be one long rant against religion and government.

    "Now, there's one thing you might have noticed I don't complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality.

    They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out.

    If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're going to get selfish, ignorant leaders. Term limits ain't going to do any good; you're just going to end up with a brand new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So, maybe, maybe, maybe, it's not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here... like, the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There's a nice campaign slogan for somebody: 'The Public Sucks. F*ck Hope.'"

As sour as Carlin's joke sounds, though, in real life, in a March interview at Huffington Post, Carlin professed "Yes, I think the Obama story is an inspirational story, it's a wonderfully unique American story and it's exciting and fun to watch but even if he's elected and makes a lot of changes I still retain the right not to belong. I just like it out here."

Even though Carlin loved being anti-everything, I figured a guy like him would be on the O-Train.

25 June 2008

Claiming The Chinese

I returned a phone call to my buddy on the way home yesterday while I was in the car.

We chit chatted a bit. “Dude,” I said, “I thought you were at the office late because you were working. Is that a TV I hear?”

“I’m just watching the news. I’ve gotta wait on my IT guy to get finished. Oh – I know what it was I called you about. There was this Chinese guy on TV a little while ago, complaining about the price of gas. He said ‘it’s the Americans who are keeping the price so high, driving all those big cars and trucks all the time.”

“What sense does that make? There are more Chinese than there are Americans. China is about to become the biggest consumer market in the world.”

“That’s what I was getting to – this guy was at a gas station, standing beside his Mercedes S550, watching a guy fill his tank. And he says we’ve got big cars? He had on some expensive shades, some nice khakis – you know, like the guys in our neighborhood wear. The way he was standing, his body language and all, he could have been one of my damn neighbors.”

“Sounds like that Indian chick I had a class with in college. You know the one I’m talking about, she was kind of skinny, with a bob hairstyle. She always wore a Polo shirt with the collar turned up. Khaki shorts and K-Swiss sneakers with white socks. You never caught her in anything else. She wouldn’t even give me the time of day.”

“There you go again. Every woman wasn’t trying to check you out-“

“No, no, she was too skinny for me. But we had at least one class together. I saw her every day. What I couldn’t figure out was how an Indian as brown as her could will herself to be white. I mean, she was dark. Came back from spring break looking like Vijay Singh. But the way she walked, the sorority she was in - she would hide behind those damn aviator shades and act like she fit right in with the white girls.”

“I know what you mean. This Chinese guy, looking at him – something was wrong with that picture, man. The world…the world is turning upside down.”

“Not really. Think about all the other people who came here as a minority and became white later. Look at the Irish.”

“Yeah. You’re right. The Italians did it too. My partner, he’s Italian. His father is almost as dark as me if he gets some sun. I guess they all got in here and hurried to marry somebody paler than them.”

I thought of the irony of our conversation – my buddy’s own West Indian heritage has produced features that are vaguely Indian, and his wife is most definitely paler than him. “The Asians are trying to do the same thing now.”

“What do you mean, trying? They’re already doing it,” my buddy said. “I mean, if I was in charge of being white, I’d claim the Chinese. The white man’s numbers are getting low, now that all the other imports want to revert back to their original tribes.”

“You sound like Dave Chappelle with that “Racial Draft” skit he did on his show. I think the South Africans have beat the U.S. to the punch - they've decided that the Chinese are black.” I had to laugh at myself as I shared this tidbit that I'd picked up from internet earlier, a racial mind bender I'd come across in the middle of my lunch break.

“I’m serious. You watch, the Chinese are going to be the newest addition to the white race. I mean, look at the numbers – it’ll keep them in the majority forever.”

“This election is going to have us looking at race in a whole new way in this country.” I laughed again as I hung up, but the uneasy sentiments behind our crude commentary showed that the concerns about the uncertainty of change were as real for blacks as they were for whites.

The press is already splitting Barack Obama in two - dissecting his background, questioning his allegiance he has to black Americans, spinning theories about what it means to be a black man with a white mother - basically, they are inventing psychological dilemmas for Obama he has already come to terms with long ago.

Whether America wants to deal with it or not, the illusory tenets of whiteness have shaped the policies and practices of our nation for just about all our existence. Even now, as the nation gingerly experiments with the idea of a large scale diversification of our viewpoints, it is discovering that a lot of the minority views are in opposition to the version of living the mainstream of America tends to follow.

This reluctance, even among those who consider themselves to be open-minded and fair, to accept Barack Obama’s candidacy as a fully legitimate outcome of “all men are created equal”, is in a lot of ways a signal of the unease many of our neighbors and coworkers and friends are feeling right now, an unease that is caused by the specter of self-examination. It is not black America, though, that will be under the microscope this fall – it is the limitations and failings of white America that will be called into question as the country examines what this candidacy really makes us see in ourselves.

22 June 2008

Secret Black Frequency

Is there a secret black frequency I must tune into when I see other black people in mixed settings? Like Barack Obama, I seem to be getting this African American thing wrong lately, as if a few pages of our "Keeping It Real" handbooks are stuck together.

S. and I sat in a restaurant a week or so ago with some friends of ours, ex-neighbors we’ve known for over ten years. We were in the middle of catching up on who was doing what in our old subdivision when a black woman approached our table.

The friends of ours were white, two northern transplants from Pennsylvania and New Jersey whose sensibilities had clicked with our small town Southern and Midwestern selves long ago. The female interloper was black, like S. and I.

"Don’t I know you from somewhere?" the woman said, looking directly at S.

S. turned and looked more closely at the woman. "I think it was at a party – it might have been a party at our house. Yeah, that’s it, don’t you remember her?" S. said to me.

I raised my eyebrows towards our friends, who had been in the middle of an animated discussion about a wedding they were going to attend the next day, and then peered at the woman.

"No, not really."

The woman stood there anyway, as if there was some kind of magnetic force emanating from the end of our table, continuing a line of patter across my back with S. about the mutual friend they shared.

S. went on for a few seconds, while I smiled at our friends, who were waiting patiently to get back to their story. S.’s tone began to change, becoming more distant with each word as she attempted to signal to the woman with the pitch of her voice and her clipped responses that this exchange needed to come to a close.

The woman kept talking, probing with each word for a sign of solidarity, a sign that we still remembered where we came from. There was something extra in her gaze that seemed to penetrate a little more deeply when she looked at us than we she glanced at our friends. It was the same something implied in the way she paused after certain words she said, as if we were Navajo code talkers, speaking an indecipherable language at a frequency level only black people could hear.

Our friends kept smiling, their eyes darting in the woman’s direction every few seconds, until S. was forced to introduce the woman to our friends.

We practically had to shoo the woman away from the table.

For a few minutes after the woman left, there seemed to be a distance between us and our friends that had hadn’t been there when we had arrived at the restaurant. It slowly dissipated, disappearing all together by the time our food arrived.

The friendship we have with our ex-neighbors is one born of proximity that has grown to a level of genuine fondness as we discovered over the years that we had the same sensibilities, the same types of college experiences, the same types of parents.

I understand all too clearly that there are things my brown middle class brethren who have self segregated themselves will have to overcome in order to have these kind of friendships. "This is our moment", the Obama mantra that sends audiences into a frenzy whenever he utters these four words, speaks to more than the idea of electing America's first black president. To me, "this is our moment" also means that it is time for us as black Americans to reach out across our own personal boundaries and connect more fully with the larger world around us, like the Irish did, like the Italians did, like the Jews did, like the Asians are doing now.

This is one of the things about the Barack Obama phenomenon that the mainstream media culture hasn't picked up on yet. It still seems to be obsessed with the kind of tribal imagery more reminiscent of an old Tarzan movie - African drums speaking to each other across the plains in the middle of the night as the great white hunters sit fearfully by their campfire - than it is of reality. A ridiculous number of hours were devoted to deconstructing the "fist bump" that Barack gave his wife Michelle before his speech in Minnesota to claim the Democratic nomination, as if it were a signal for the rest of us black folks to start executing our secret plan to take over America.

S. and I know where we came from. We know who we are. Hanging out with black people exclusively isn't going to make us any blacker. Hanging out with white people all the time isn't going to make us any whiter. But even though I feel this way, I can understand the black woman's reluctance to acknowledge that our white friends could be just as important to us as she was. For me to get to the mindset I have today was a constant struggle against ingrained prejudices and a fear of the unknown. To this woman, and to others like her, all I will say is this - the TV commercial promoting Southwest Airlines is absolutely right – "you are now free to move about the country".

18 June 2008

Off The Record

In an innermost recess of CNN:

"The Oh-bahma Admini-stration-"

"Say it slower this time, Charlie. You're our best anchor - the phone will be ringing off the hook if you sound like you're spitting his name out."

"The Ohh-bahh-mah Ad-min-i-stra-tion-"

"Charlie - I didn't say sound like you were an idiot!"

"Dude, I got nothing to wrap my tongue around. Bush? 'Buh.' Clinton? 'Ccc.' Bush? 'Buh.' Reagan? 'Ruh.' THOSE are presidential names. I mean, Jesus Christ, his name starts with a vowel!"

At a presidential campaign headquarters:

"That son of a bitch must of worn a rubber every time. You can't find not one woman he abused? Are we even sure he's a man?"

"Senator, I understand your-"

"He has screwed someone, I mean screwed her and screwed her over - maybe in college - and now she wants to get him back. We just have to find her."

"Senator, our investigators are drawing blanks-"

"Jimmy, investigators do not draw blanks when their client is running for the presidency of the United States. I don't care who she is, I don't care how much you have to pay her to say he raped her. Raped her and beat her up. Just make sure she's blonde. Blonde and pale."

At a hotel bar after the NAACP national board meeting:

"So Roy, off the record, what do you think - is he black or what?"

"Gotta a black wife, go to a black church-"

"I don't mean that. What I'm saying is, how do we know he won't pull a Tiger Woods?"

"That Cablasian stuff? Come on, man - Tiger doesn't even believe that."

"Goddammit, Roy, you're beating around the bush. Will he still claim us if he wins?"

At a soul food restaurant/beauty shop/nail salon:

"Chile, that Michelle Obama got her a fine light skinned man."

"What you talkin' bout fine? You see them ears?"

"Chile, he give her girls that good hair. Ain't nothin' wrong with his ears."

"I get stuck with a man like that, first thing I'ma do is feed him. Ain't he skinny?"

"Chile - that man wear a size THIRTEEN shoe!"

At an American Legion Hall:

"I got underwear older'n that Hussein fella `sposed be runnin' for president."

"Didja heered Limbaugh say he used to be a drug dealer?"

"I still don't unnerstan' how they put that boy in the Senate."

"Didja ever know anybody whose mind wadn't OFF once they been on them drugs?"

"I ain't got nuthin' `ginst colored, but...you know whut I'm sayin' here..."

In the mall-sized parking lot of a prominent southern Baptist church:

"We in the final hour of this thing, and this little redbone negro who call his self a preacher got to SHOW HIS ASS every night on TV."

"Why hasn't she dropped out yet?"

"I'll bet that little negro is gettin' paid off. Selling us out for a bag of silver."

"Why isn't this thing over? You still didn't tell me what you thought about this new dress."

"I wish I would run up on him, talking `bout he a man of God. He'll be praying for me to take my hands from `round his neck!"

In a living room in a western state after dinner:

"Goddamn Democrats gonna turn me into a Republican! Turn that TV off, will ya honey?'"

"Dear, it's going to be alright. Didn't you tell me your new boss is black?"

"Yeah, but that's different. This is for the PRESIDENCY...to be the president of the United States!"

"Let's see...eats arugula lettuce...dotes on his children...doesn't really like beer...goes to church regularly - even if his pastor was crazy...sounds like a good husband."

"What the hell is arugula lettuce? Why are you telling me this?"

"Well, other than the thing with the lettuce, he sounds a lot like you, dear."

15 June 2008

In My Father's Arm

Chicken killer, wood splitter, cotton picker, hog slopper, cow milker, hay baler, fish cleaner, delivery driver, egg sorter, dining hall porter, car washer, soldier, school teacher, county agent, county supervisor, speculator, marketer, business owner, project director, program manager - my father has been all these things and more.

The first house he lived in was literally a barn, a tin roofed structure scented with the aroma of the corn and the meal that used to be stored there - this, his birth home, still stands on the farm where he grew up. To stand in that barn now and look out that door, it is utterly amazing that a man whose first view was of the few cleared acres around him would see so much of the world in his life.

Both of my parents were raised in male headed households. Their fathers, born after the beginning of the twentieth century, were the kind of men who protected and nurtured their children, advocating the importance of education even though they themselves didn't have very much. Men who could also be as hard as the steel in the plows they walked behind, demonstrating through their own actions the importance of delayed gratification, and meting out stinging punishment to their progeny who forgot to toe the line.

There is no void for me and my brothers - my father, in his own way, has always been larger than life. He is always imploring us to jump higher, run faster, to leap tall buildings in a single bound. He is forever prodding us to be engaged in the economic and political aspects of our community, where ever we might live. And he is forever vigilant against those who seek to impose their will on him or his issue.

These days, my father inhabits the same suburbia the rest of America does. The kerosene lamps from that old barn have been replaced by light switches. The stifling Southern summer heat is fanned away by central air conditioning. The logs, which come pre-split, are only used for decorative fires in the winter. The only cotton that has touched his fingers in years are in the shirts he wears.

My father's arm, the one holding me in the picture above, is still there, forty one years later, when I need it. He still studies me as intently now as he did then, still able to sense instinctively when something is wrong. And all those jobs he has had, and all the stories he has told about them - now, they inhabit the stories I tell.

12 June 2008

New Chief Dem Shotcaller Gets To Work:
DNC Moves Operations To Chicago

In a major shakeup at the Democratic National Committee -- and a departure from tradition -- large parts of the committee's operations are relocating to Chicago to be fully integrated with the Obama campaign.

“Obama Time” is now in effect.

In one fell swoop, Barack Obama has neutralized any chance of a widespread disconnect between his campaign and the party, cut down on the possibility of leaked information, reduced his campaign costs, and leveraged the efforts the DNC has already made towards a 50 State Strategy.

Looks like this story just hit the streets about six o'clock tonight – not a lot of ink on it yet, even here on the ‘net - mostly recaps of the information provided by Ben Smith of Politico. By tomorrow, the talking heads will be back to reading their tea leaves, giving us the body counts - who's been fired, hired, or reshuffled - trying to spin what actually happened even though we can see it for ourselves.

I’m reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and there are many parallels between Lincoln and Obama. Lincoln maximized the strengths of his allies and minimized the efforts of his foes to thwart him without being confrontational, something that has long been missing from our national political scene. A lot of the skills Honest Abe used to marshal the talented men who served in his administration had been honed back when he was a young lawyer out “riding the circuit” across rural Illinois. It looks like Obama is letting more of his grassroots organizing roots show with this latest move to centralize his party’s energies for the fall campaign.

11 June 2008

Thinking Out Loud

Barack Obama finally has an enemy he can fight to the death.

He has had to handle Hillary Clinton and her husband with kid gloves ever since South Carolina, when they brought race to the forefront of his campaign. He has had to ignore the ghosts of Bill Clinton’s past. He has had to remember Hillary was a woman.

But now that John McCain is the target, campaigning for Obama should be lot easier - if they will ever get this thing started. Right now is like the two week hiatus leading up to the Super Bowl, when each league's champions, who have been playing their hearts out week after week, suddenly get too much time off.

When are they going to get on with it?

My best buddy and I talked on the phone Monday night about the state of the American political theater in the aftermath of Barack Obama clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Now that we were a couple of days beyond Hillary Clinton’s last gasp since she suspended her campaign on Saturday, we could focus on the championship bout ahead between Obama and John Mccain.

The conversation rambled back and forth between Obama’s strengths and McCain’s weaknesses for awhile before the war in Iraq and the price of oil took over.

“Man,” my buddy said, “I don’t know – doesn’t look like gas is going to come back down anytime soon, does it?”

“Didn’t you tell me your retired uncle went back to work in the Pacific Rim for his old oil company?”

“Yeah – he said the money was too good.”

“Dude, the oil industry’s got incentive to drill new wells now that the price is up. I mean, think about it – the price of gas has been about the same for almost twenty years. It had to go up sometime.”

“You’ve always been an idealist!” my buddy exclaimed. “I’m telling you, man, the price is too damn high! It’s got everything going up. Food, building supplies, plane tickets – man, this thing is ruining the economy. You add this war on top of it, nuclear weapons in the Middle East, global warming – you know, I’m not sure if Obama really needs to be getting into office right now.”

As soon as that last sentence left his mouth, my mind went into overdrive. “Well, he couldn’t have picked a better time to run. McCain is the weakest candidate the Republicans have had in years.”

“You think McCain is weak?”

“Well, not – come on, we all know he’s a tough guy, but right now it’s about party politics, and McCain…McCain, he’s not the one the party wanted. Which is why he’s having trouble raising any money.”

“I guess they figure he’s probably not going to win, so why throw good money after bad? They are Republicans.”

“Makes sense.”

My buddy was rolling now, his conspiratorial bent beginning to show. “Bush and Cheney are probably packing their shit, packing and laughing all the way back to Texas.”

“Cheney’s from Wyoming.”

“Wherever the hell he’s from, they’re probably high fiving each other. No, hold up – they’re fist bumping each other! They’re probably saying ‘we’re getting out of here just in time!”

The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is true – I am in some ways more of a conspiracy theorist than my buddy is. “Dude!” I yell. “THIS is the okie doke! They set Obama up! They put up the weakest guy they can with a straight face, then don’t give him any money.

How could McCain win with no money?

Then everything goes to hell in a hand basket – no jobs, gas $10 a gallon, Iraq is a mess, illegal immigrants coming out of the woodwork, everybody mad at Obama – then the Republicans come back with their REAL candidate in 2012 like the knight in shining armor!”

There was a few seconds of silence on the line. “Man, I think this campaign stuff has gone to your head,” my buddy said. “You need to get out more.”

“Come on, I’m just thinking out loud.”

If I was true conspiracy theorist, paranoid, fearful, suspicious of everything and everyone, I’d have to do some research on this. Although this lull in the drama that has held the nation’s attention for the past five months is a much needed break, it will be times like these when Obama’s campaign is most vulnerable to the idle minds in the public as well as the press who have overrun the devil's workshop.

Are there really two whole months to go until the party conventions?

09 June 2008

Obama: Metaphorically Black or Literally Black?

Surfing through the political-oriented blogs Sunday, I tried to get a sense of the reactions to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. Frankly, I was surprised by the number of comments from those who still didn’t think Barack Obama was "black" enough to lay claim to being the first African American presidential nominee of a major political party.

The fact that he was raised by his white mother, his Indonesian stepfather, and his two white grandparents has convinced these holdouts that Obama’s upbringing disqualifies him from the right to claim to be African American.

Of all the things we as black people have done to ourselves since we’ve been in America, none of them is more preposterous than this need to authenticate ourselves through this imaginary, ill-conceived litmus test, a measurement whose many permutations all contain the same common denominators – to have experienced at some time during your life a certain amount of shared suffering, poverty, or poverty-level subsistence.

But if the properties of "whiteness" are mostly mythical constructs, then the opposite must also be true – this thing we know as "blackness" is more circumstantial than factual, more anecdotal than fundamental.

If you are black today in America, you are:

More likely to be found on the internet than at a dogfight.

More likely to shop at Home Depot than at a swap meet.

More likely to wear a pair of Dockers than a pair of baggy jeans.

More likely to repair a crack in the driveway than sell crack on the corner.

More likely to contribute to a 401(k) than collect welfare.

More likely to live in a suburb than in a ghetto.

It is an "otherness" that a young, beige-skinned Obama experienced, growing up in mostly all-white environments, an"otherness" that all of us who look like minorities share. This is what qualifies his claim to be an authentic black American. The outsider perspective is a valid common characteristic of African Americans. It is the way an individual has been forced to see the world and how the world has decided to perceive him that binds us, not how much grape Kool-Aid we drank as a child.

Questioning any of the conventional wisdoms that underpin the belief systems of the mythical "authentic" African American prototype can still bring from some quarters an instant arching of incredulous eyebrows, or an immediate fluttering of fingertips across keyboards, both actions radiating a deep loathing towards anyone even daring to think about re-imagining the darker nation. To these holdouts, both black and white, the melanin in a Obama’s skin, a signifier that automatically awards him "outsider" status in the United States, is not sufficient enough to allow him to claim allegiance to his own community.

If we can agree that a culture can be shaped - that it can retain some characteristics and discard others over the passage of time - then I will be pushing mightily to throw away the dogfighting, the crack selling and the ghetto dwelling that we have been passing off as black american culture lately. These negative images we have raised to the level of cultural signifiers are a type of metaphorical posing, a commitment to "keeping it real" that ignores the literal truths we see before our very own eyes everyday.

06 June 2008

Guess Who's Coming To The White House

I talked to my best buddy on the phone yesterday about Tuesday night’s historic moment. Our boy Obama would be the Democratic nominee in this year’s presidential election.

“Were people talking at your office?” he asked me.

“Not really. They aren’t the politically oriented type, for the most part. And there isn’t anybody who talks about politics in the office.”

“They weren’t saying anything?”

“Dude, there are only two black people in my office – me and the other guy. Most of the others are Republicans. Or they just don’t give a damn.”

“Man, in my building, everybody was talking about it – in the elevators, in the lobby – and when they saw me, they smiled a little harder. Some of them said they thought this was great for the country.”


“Come on, man – you know what kind of people are in my building. They’re lawyers, middle-level professionals, the kind of people who are used to rationalizing things. They can rationalize anything so long as it doesn’t change their lives too much.”

These people my buddy talked about are right here in Atlanta, but it seems that they match to a “T” the profile of Obama’s strongest demographic – college educated professionals who make over fifty thousand dollars a year. These are kind of liberal-minded parents who raised the army of young campaign volunteers vital to Barack Obama’s success.

My buddy asked me a question. “So what is Barack going to do about Hillary?”

“You remember the movie “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?”

“Yeah, yeah, I know that movie.”

“The unique thing about that movie was the way the characters related to each other. Sidney Poitier’s character was arguably the most intelligent man in the film – a renowned black doctor. I mean, the thing he had to do to navigate the tensions between him and Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, who played the liberal-minded parents of the young white woman he wanted marry, was to stay calm, to be forceful but not arrogant, to be magnanimous – kind of the way you do when you want to let an opposing lawyer off the hook, even though you’ve got him by the short hairs.

The images from the movie of the palatial San Francisco home that served as a backdrop for the intensely emotional drama of two parents coming to grips with the idea of their daughter in an interracial marriage stayed with me all night. The obvious irony of Barack Obama’s own background was not lost on me – maybe subliminally, I had chosen to use this film to explain what I thought because it was on some level a conversation Obama’s father must have had with his in-laws, even if it was after the fact.

After their initial shock, Hepburn and Tracy realized they couldn’t sway their daughter, so they took another tack, asserting that an interracial marriage would harm the children from the marriage.

"She feels that every single one of our children will be President of the United States," Poitier defiantly told Tracy. "And they'll all have colorful administrations."

The most amazing thing about this movie when it came out was the way Poitier held his ground throughout the entire performance, conceding nothing to Katherine Hepburn, standing his ground ideologically with Spencer Tracy. Through it all, Poitier exhibited the kind of nobility, grace and self restraint that we are being re-introduced to today through Barack Obama as he stars in his own production, “Guess Who’s Coming To The White House.”

04 June 2008

Let Me Hear It Just One More Time

The REWIND button on my remote control is my new best friend. I was still pushing it at two o’clock in the morning, hitting PLAY right where Senator Barack Obama soberly intoned “new and better day to America”, so I could hear him say “I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States” just one more time before I went to bed.

Usually, on primary night I am eager to see the comments by the talking heads, mainly to give some sense of perspective to the information about the Democratic primaries that I regularly gather on the internet. But last night, after the panelists on the CNN set started dissecting Obama’s speech – “why didn’t he say anything about being the first African American candidate?” – I hit REWIND for the first time, releasing it just after the thunderous applause had died down before the Illinois senator began to speak to the crowd in Minnesota.

Having read the text before the speech was broadcast, I’d been struck by the number of times I saw the word “change”. But when Obama delivered his speech, the repetition of the word “change” worked FOR him. It allowed him time to extend his arms, to pose for the crowd and the cameras,

After calling my mother – our new ritual this spring, the post primary recap - she and I exchanged a few words. "Why are they worried so much about him acknowledging that he's black? They don't think he knows that? That we know that?" After hanging up I hit the LIVE button. Now the talking heads were concerned with Hillary Clinton. What should Obama do about her? The electricity in the air between the talking heads was palpable. The biggest upset of all time in American political history had just been confirmed, and they had been right in the middle of it all the way. They had been on our TV’s every night, agonizing over what states to count, and which kind of votes counted the most, or arguing over whether the super delegates mattered more than the delegates.

Often reduced to spinning arcane theories, spouting bizarre political trivia, or entertaining ridiculous ideas from campaign surrogates, they looked for the most part like they were ready to deal with yesterday’s events. But much of their rhetoric, especially from the late night crew, still seemed to be stuck in mid-March rather than reality. The “what does Hillary want?” dialogue in particular was intruding on Obama’s moment. My moment. Our moment.

No problem.

My REWIND button was still there. Now, after rewinding, I fast forwarded through the speech to the good parts – the two points in the sermon where Obama began to preach. The first, a run on rant about education that invoked shocking images from the poorest school districts in my home state of South Carolina, got me in the gut because I know just how bad they are.

By the time he got to the second and final climax - the “this was the moment” refrain - Obama was good and warmed up. The framework of his stump speech at the ready, he used simple images to stand in for his core issues and allowed himself to open up emotionally – as much as his demeanor would allow - his speech practically a chant now, completely capturing the attention of his audience.

That’s what Barack Obama did last night in St. Paul, Minnesota. He let us see more of his energy than we have ever witnessed from him on a national stage. He used his natural cadence like a metronome, exploiting the authoritative but soothing quality of his baritone voice to help him keep the crowd from devolving into a celebratory spectacle. He showed us, in many ways large and small, that he is ready to fight the hard fight ahead to become the 44th president of these United States.

My REWIND button will be getting a another workout when I get home tonight.

03 June 2008

"I Will Be The Democratic Nominee"

Text of Senator Barack Obama's Victory Speech

Tonight, after fifty-four hard-fought contests, our primary season has finally come to an end.

Sixteen months have passed since we first stood together on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands of miles have been traveled. Millions of voices have been heard. And because of what you said -- because you decided that change must come to Washington; because you believed that this year must be different than all the rest; because you chose to listen not to your doubts or your fears but to your greatest hopes and highest aspirations, tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another -- a journey that will bring a new and better day to America.

Tonight, I can stand before you and say that I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

I want to thank every American who stood with us over the course of this campaign -- through the good days and the bad; from the snows of Cedar Rapids to the sunshine of Sioux Falls. And tonight I also want to thank the men and woman who took this journey with me as fellow candidates for President.

At this defining moment for our nation, we should be proud that our party put forth one of the most talented, qualified field of individuals ever to run for this office. I have not just competed with them as rivals, I have learned from them as friends, as public servants, and as patriots who love America and are willing to work tirelessly to make this country better. They are leaders of this party, and leaders that America will turn to for years to come.

That is particularly true for the candidate who has traveled further on this journey than anyone else. Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, her courage, and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight.

We've certainly had our differences over the last sixteen months. But as someone who's shared a stage with her many times, I can tell you that what gets Hillary Clinton up in the morning -- even in the face of tough odds -- is exactly what sent her and Bill Clinton to sign up for their first campaign in Texas all those years ago; what sent her to work at the Children's Defense Fund and made her fight for health care as First Lady; what led her to the United States Senate and fueled her barrier-breaking campaign for the presidency -- an unyielding desire to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, no matter how difficult the fight may be. And you can rest assured that when we finally win the battle for universal health care in this country, she will be central to that victory. When we transform our energy policy and lift our children out of poverty, it will be because she worked to help make it happen. Our party and our country are better off because of her, and I am a better candidate for having had the honor to compete with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

There are those who say that this primary has somehow left us weaker and more divided. Well I say that because of this primary, there are millions of Americans who have cast their ballot for the very first time. There are Independents and Republicans who understand that this election isn't just about the party in charge of Washington, it's about the need to change Washington.Ê There are young people, and African-Americans, and Latinos, and women of all ages who have voted in numbers that have broken records and inspired a nation.

All of you chose to support a candidate you believe in deeply. But at the end of the day, we aren't the reason you came out and waited in lines that stretched block after block to make your voice heard. You didn't do that because of me or Senator Clinton or anyone else. You did it because you know in your hearts that at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- we cannot afford to keep doing what we've been doing. We owe our children a better future. We owe our country a better future. And for all those who dream of that future tonight, I say -- let us begin the work together. Let us unite in common effort to chart a new course for America.

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.

Because while John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign.

It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush ninety-five percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year.

It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs, or insure our workers, or help Americans afford the skyrocketing cost of college -- policies that have lowered the real incomes of the average American family, widened the gap between Wall Street and Main Street, and left our children with a mountain of debt.

And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians -- a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer.

So I'll say this -- there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new. But change is not one of them.

Change is a foreign policy that doesn't begin and end with a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged. I won't stand here and pretend that there are many good options left in Iraq, but what's not an option is leaving our troops in that country for the next hundred years -- especially at a time when our military is overstretched, our nation is isolated, and nearly every other threat to America is being ignored.

We must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in - but start leaving we must. It's time for Iraqis to take responsibility for their future. It's time to rebuild our military and give our veterans the care they need and the benefits they deserve when they come home. It's time to refocus our efforts on al Qaeda's leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century -- terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what change is.

Change is realizing that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy -- tough, direct diplomacy where the President of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for. We must once again have the courage and conviction to lead the free world. That is the legacy of Roosevelt, and Truman, and Kennedy. That's what the American people want. That's what change is.

Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it. It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving a the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation. It's understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand, as they did when Bill Clinton was President.

John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy -- cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota -- he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for.

Maybe if he went to Iowa and met the student who works the night shift after a full day of class and still can't pay the medical bills for a sister who's ill, he'd understand that she can't afford four more years of a health care plan that only takes care of the healthy and wealthy. She needs us to pass health care plan that guarantees insurance to every American who wants it and brings down premiums for every family who needs it. That's the change we need.

Maybe if he went to Pennsylvania and met the man who lost his job but can't even afford the gas to drive around and look for a new one, he'd understand that we can't afford four more years of our addiction to oil from dictators. That man needs us to pass an energy policy that works with automakers to raise fuel standards, and makes corporations pay for their pollution, and oil companies invest their record profits in a clean energy future -- an energy policy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced. That's the change we need.

And maybe if he spent some time in the schools of South Carolina or St. Paul or where he spoke tonight in New Orleans, he'd understand that we can't afford to leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind; that we owe it to our children to invest in early childhood education; to recruit an army of new teachers and give them better pay and more support; to finally decide that in this global economy, the chance to get a college education should not be a privilege for the wealthy few, but the birthright of every American. That's the change we need in America. That's why I'm running for President.

The other side will come here in September and offer a very different set of policies and positions, and that is a debate I look forward to. It is a debate the American people deserve. But what you don't deserve is another election that's governed by fear, and innuendo, and division. What you won't hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon -- that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.

Despite what the good Senator from Arizona said tonight, I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white, and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. I've sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent thirteen innocent people to death row. And I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington.

In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union.

So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity.

So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause.

So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder, and more just.

And so it must be for us.

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment -- this was the time -- when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

10 9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...OBAMA!!!

Obama 1,749.5 358.5 2,108 9
Clinton 1,624.5 288.5 1,913 204
Remaining 31
(2,117 delegates needed for victory)

*The numbers changed while I was posting - the fat lady is about to hit the high note!

Upsetting The Natural Order

My best buddy called me mid morning yesterday at the office. While we were talking, I asked him - “have you seen the video clip of Rev Pfleger?”

Rev Pfleger was the Chicago Catholic priest who has caused the latest controversy as a guest pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, the church from which Barack Obama recently resigned.

“No, I haven’t,” he said. “What’s it about?”

“It’s…it’s ah…” I leaned closer to the corner of my cubicle and lowered my voice. “You’ve got this white priest in front of this black congregation, and he –“ I paused as someone passed my desk. “-he is…he’s telling the congregation how he thinks Hillary Clinton sees the primary-“


“Its HOW he’s saying it – it’s like he’s a comedian – like he’s Steve Martin playing a black preacher”


“I can’t talk about this at work. You just have to see it – I’m sending you a link.”

My best buddy, who is notorious for not reading his email, not only watched the video, he even sends a reply to the message – a rarity. "
"Where was this guy when I was growing up in Brooklyn?" he wrote, an allusion to the cultural gap between him and the priests of his childhood.

He called me back, but I was on the phone with a customer. Then he called me about five o'clock. “What the hell? I mean, what he said is pretty close to the truth…but...” He stopped, sighed, sighed again. “I don’t think America - I mean white America - is ready for this much honesty.”

I couldn’t really respond to him the way I wanted to, so I told him to call me later. He did – two more times, in fact, before the night was over.

“I didn’t see a priest," I said "I saw a comedian. Remember the part where the reverend paused, then turned to the side and hoofed it across the pulpit, his body bent forward, his right arm trailing behind him as he wailed “it’s a black man, and he’s stealing my show”? That – that was a Jackie Gleason move, straight out of The Honeymooners.”

It was seven thirty now, an hour when my buddy was usually spending time with his wife and kids, when he called again. “This stuff,” he said, “– this kind of stuff – you know, the natural order of things is upside down right now.” A somber tone of resignation underlined his words.

“Brother,” I said, “the thing about the civil rights movement they never show you is that most middle class black people - people like you - wanted Martin Luther King to shut the hell up. To tone his rhetoric down. I know I’ve been joking about them breaking the firehoses and the dogs out again, but the reality is that this thing is going to be hard. Hard for all of us.”

And as I watched the news shows later, I thought about the reasons why I wanted Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States. I hadn’t really gone all that deeply into his website. I had no idea how he planned on handling nuclear proliferation. And I wasn’t paying attention whenever he detailed his strategy for saving Social Security. Whether or not Barack Obama ended up being the worst president in the history of presidents was almost irrelevant to me - what mattered to me most was how having this intelligent black man's face on TV every week would inspire young black boys and young black men to do big things with their own lives.

What I really think we desperately need to get from all of this is a realignment of the “natural order” of things, not just in America, but in black America. I want to see our own cultural totem pole recarved, with a smart black man in a blue suit at the top. With black men and women who teach our children, who heal our sick and keep our streets safe just below that image. I don’t want to take the rappers and the singers off of the totem pole – just slide them down a few notches from where they are now.

01 June 2008

Will Obama get 25 superdelegates by Tuesday?

My man Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com has been working overtime to keep up with poll results from Puerto Rico AND the elusive magic number of delegates needed to lay claim to the Democratic nomination.

Jim Clyburn intends to announce on June 3.
Deb Kozikowski intends to announce by June 4.
Jimmy Carter will endorse after the primaries conclude.
Margie Campbell, who had one false start and had to retract on technical grounds, will become official after Montana ends.
Maria Cantwell has endorsed Clinton, but says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.
Denise Johnson says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.
Chris Van Hollen says he will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.
Christine Pelosi says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.
Nancy Pelosi says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.
Donna Brazile says the RFK remark made her "numb," that she will quit the Democratic Party if the superdelegates decide the party's nomination, and there is only one way they can do that.

BONUS DATA LINK: Nate also does a superb job of mathematical sleuthing to uncover a discrepancy between the threshold of 2118 delegates being bandied about by the talking heads and the actual number of delegates that exist as of today in his piece "Is 2118 the Magic Number?

Delegate Update, Post-Puerto Rico

The news orgs haven't called all the pledged delegate allocations in Puerto Rico, but here's what it looks like:

Dist 1: 2; Need 25.001% for 2 of 6, Obama's got 28.09% with 98% reporting
Dist 2: 2; Need 30.001% for 2 of 5, Obama's got 30.88% with 100% reporting
Dist 3: 1; Need 37.501% for 2 of 4, Obama's got 30.38% with 100% reporting
Dist 4: 1; Need 37.501% for 2 of 4, Obama's got 31.23% with 100% reporting
Dist 5: 1; Need 37.501% for 2 of 4, Obama's got 29.10% with 100% reporting
Dist 6: 1; Need 37.501% for 2 of 4, Obama's got 33.74% with 100% reporting
Dist 7: 1; Need 37.501% for 2 of 4, Obama's got 35.29% with 98% reporting
Dist 8: 2; Need 30.001% for 2 of 5, Obama's got 34.73% with 100% reporting
PLEO: 2; Need between 21.43% and 35.71% for 2 delegates, Obama's got 31.59% with 99% reporting
At-large: 4; Need between 29.17% and 37.50% for 4 delegates, Obama's got 31.59% with 99% reporting
Total: 17

Obama Pledged Delegates Before Today: 1709.5
Edwards Pledged Delegates for Obama: 16.5 (includes 4.5 Edwards per Chuck Todd)
Superdelegates: 330.5
Guaranteed Michigan add-ons per yesterday's deal: 1 (2 people, half votes each)
Pre-Puerto Rico Total: 2057.5

Majority: 2117
Needed: 59.5

Puerto Rico pledged for Obama: 17
Needed: 42.5

Donna Edwards is running to replace Al Wynn in Maryland-04 a majority-minority, heavily gerrymandered Democratic district, and with her election the needed to win number goes up by .5, but Obama gets a full delegate, thereby making this number essentially 42.

A one-vote win in South Dakota gives Obama 8 delegates.
A one-vote win in each half of Montana gives Obama 9 delegates.

Needed superdelegates before Tuesday night so that the primaries put Obama over the top: 25

In the next 48 hours, will Obama get 25 superdelegates to declare publicly?

Here's what we know about 10 specific supers:

Jim Clyburn intends to announce on June 3.

Deb Kozikowski intends to announce by June 4.

Jimmy Carter will endorse after the primaries conclude.

Margie Campbell, who had one false start and had to retract on technical grounds, will become official after Montana ends.

Maria Cantwell has endorsed Clinton, but says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.

Denise Johnson says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.

Chris Van Hollen says he will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.

Christine Pelosi says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.

Nancy Pelosi says she will endorse whoever gets 1705 pledged delegates.

Donna Brazile says the RFK remark made her "numb," that she will quit the Democratic Party if the superdelegates decide the party's nomination, and there is only one way they can do that.

Hmmm...Senator Obama appears to have 1732.5 delegates (unofficial total) as I write this, which means he is their man.

Promotional Page

I started doing some research, even before the polls started to record the phenomena of white Democrats who could not fathom voting for a black man, just to see what COULD be going on with my white brethren. Next week, we'll take a look at what I found out.

From The Archives: The Series

Click On The Links Below To Access Each Article

White Americans And The Politics Of Race

Can We All Just Get Along Already?: Racial Comity

The Tipping Point: Racial Ambivalence

Afraid Of The Dark: Racial Animosity

Negroes Smell Like Copper: Racist Behavior

Puerto Rico Updates

Another frequent poster at DailyKos - actually the proprietor - has posted this "on the ground" look at how things are going in the Puerto Rican primary today. The "list emptying" Ricky Rossello refers to in his recap sounds like something you used to hear about stateside in the old days, when TV was in black and white and ballots were on paper.

Anyway, this is as close to live info you are likely to get - even given the fact that the source is a Clinton supporter, he doesn't really have a reason to spin the results at this point, and its more info than you could get from Wolf Blitzer and company if you watched them all day today.

Puerto Rico updates Hotlist

by kos

Sun Jun 01, 2008 at 11:25:10 AM EST

I'm getting reports from the island from Ricky Rossello, son of former Gov. Pedro Rosello and vice-chair of the Clinton campaign in Puerto Rico.

First, his thoughts on how districts are expected to perform:

San Juan (district 1), Bayamon (district 2) and Carolina (district 8) -- should be very strong Hillary Clinton posts.

Guayama (dist 6) and Mayaguez (dist 4) should be more in-line with Obama.

Ponce (district 5) and Arecibo (district 3) will be curious to watch, because Ponce is a typical Obama Hotbed, but most of the mayors in the region support Hillary, while in Arecibo, the opposite is true. It will be interesting to see how much political muscle these mayors have.

Humacao (district 7) should be interesting to watch because there have been serious reports of "list emptying" -- a dynamic that occurs in Puerto Rico, when electoral representatives from one side are not present. This practice consists in taking the whole list of voters who did NOT come in but were registered there, and signing them up as if they voted. In the general election, this happens, but with an 81-85% turnout... the impact is significant but may be minimal. However, on a primary where the maximum expected turnout is 30-34%, one or two of these may be significant enough to swing a district one way or the other.

That 30-34 percent mark was interesting, since I know the Clinton camp has been hoping for a massive turnout from the island's 2.4 million registered voters to pad their (rather irrelevant) "popular vote" argument. 30 percent wouldn't put enough votes in play to make a significant impact on that metric (which now is even more confusing given the results of yesterday's Michigan compromise).

As of 10:30 a.m. local time, turnout in Puerto Rico was around 20-25 percent, lower than usual, but that's being chalked up to a possible "church effect". Just got an update:

Turn out has increased now (as of 12:15) in the [San Juan] metropolitian area; an expected stronghold for Clinton. I am on the base now, but will go out and drive through the different polling places, and give you my thoughts on that as well. Will call for the other districts too -- update you in 30-40 mins...

Update: Al Giordano's predictions:

The Field projects that Clinton will win 62 percent to 38 percent for Obama [...]

36 pledged district delegates:

District 1, San Juan: Obama 2 - 4 Clinton
District 2, Bayamón: Obama 2 – 3 Clinton
District 3, Arecibo: Obama 2 – 2 Clinton
District 4, Mayagüez: Obama 2 – 2 Clinton
District 5, Ponce: Obama 2 – 2 Clinton
District 6, Guayama: Obama 2 – 2 Clinton
District 7, Humacao: Obama 2 – 2 Clinton
District 8, Carolina: Obama 2 – 3 Clinton

Update II: Rossello sends another update:

Turnout is getting significantly high in Bayamon and San Juan... Long lines. Caguas (Part of the Humacao District 7) is having problems... I suspect you will hear about voter fraud there (read the blurb about list emptying). Some polling places only have representatives of one candidate in this town.

Report from Ponce coming shortly.

Update III: Rossello:

Ponce (Dist 5) Turnout is high -- But consolidation of polling places may drive confusion. No notion if it favors hillary or obama yet.

Remember, Ponce is an Obama stronghold, but with pro-Clinton mayors. So we'll have to wait until votes are counted to see if the mayors' political clout has trumped the electorate's leanings.

The Finish Line Has Moved - 64 To Go

Obama 1,724.5 328.5 2,053 64
Clinton 1,586.5 290 1,876.5 240.5
Remaining 86 205 291
(2,117 delegates needed for victory)

A Guest Analyst Weighs In On the RBC Meeting

I frequent several political discourse websites, and have been practically living on them this weekend. The 80/20 rule applies on the internet, though, just like everywhere else - you have to slog through a lot of bullshit to get to the good stuff. My girl CarmenT, a member of the
DailyKos web community, went beyond the call of duty since last night to assemble a damn good argument against the positions Harold Ickes sought to promote on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

It's a lot of verbiage - for those of you who are allergic to that much reading, I've highlighted some key sections. Enjoy.

Brown Man

CarmenT's Commentary

In this diary, I will constrain my commentary on the outcome of yesterday’s RBC meeting to the controversial and inflammatory statements presented by Harold Ickes which by his own admission were made expressly on behalf of Senator Hillary Clinton and therefore in direct conflict with his role on the committee.

While there are numerous other diaries on this and related subjects, a cursory glance at my diary history will show that I have considered these issues on a number of occasions based on careful analysis, and hence feel justified in contributing a further response.

  1. The Constitution does NOT apply
  1. The Rules & Bylaws Committee did NOT determine the delegate allocation
  1. Any bias was in Hillary’s favor
  1. No votes were "stolen"
  1. The Principle of "Flawed Reflection"
  1. Credentials Committee Challenge
  1. Validity of the Election Sanction by the State of Florida
  1. Conflict of Interest

Analysis in full below:

1) Legal Precedent: The Constitution does NOT apply

First of all it is necessary to understand that the contest to determine the nominee of the Democratic Party is not bound by electoral voting provisions in the constitution.

In DiMaio v DNC, and Nelson, Hastings and Brown v DNC, the court determined that since the Democratic Party is a ‘private organization’, it has a right to determine and enforce its own rules. Specifically, although an ‘election’ took place, it does NOT come under the jurisdiction of a Federal Court.

As reported by Krissah Williams from the Washington Post - Florida Voter's Lawsuit Dismissed

A federal judge in Tampa has again tossed out a lawsuit filed by a Florida political consultant angry that his vote in the state's Democratic primary will not count. Victor DiMaio's lawsuit contended that the Democratic National Committee is discriminating against Florida voters. DiMaio argued that party leaders unfairly allowed Nevada and South Carolina to hold their presidential primaries prior to February 5, in part because of the sizable minority populations in both states, but punished Florida and Michigan for skirting the rules.
Judge Richard A. Lazzara agreed with the DNC, which said that it its practices are not discriminatory and political parties have a constitutional right to determine how delegates are selected in their nominating process.

Also in St Petersburg Times - Florida Democrats' lawsuit is tossed

Florida Democrats lost another effort on Wednesday to make Florida's Democratic primary more meaningful on Jan. 29.
The lawsuit was filed by Sen. Bill Nelson, Rep. Alcee Hastings and Rep. Corrine Brown, among other Democrats, against the Democratic National Committee and its chairman, Howard Dean.
Judge Hinkle was not convinced. He ruled that forcing the national party to break its own primary schedule rules by seating Florida delegates would violate the party's First Amendment right to assemble.

Any claim to equate FL & MI election compromise to voter disenfranchisement or slavery is nothing more than divisive politically motivated rhetoric and is not based on fact.

To illustrate what this means, it would be ‘legal’ (with respect to Federal Law) for the nominee to be chosen by a flip of a coin or for all the delegate names to be put into a hat and the first 2000 or so to be chosen.

The fact that the DNC provides for the individual states to determine who their delegates are, is a privilege, not a right.

2) The Rules & Bylaws Committee did NOT determine the delegate allocation

There is no provision in the Democratic Party Charter or Bylaws to enable party committees to determine the delegate allocation per nominee, even though it would be perfectly legal (see point 1 above) to do so if they wished.

The delegate allocation is decided by the STATE and presented to the DNC. In fact, in order to maintain parity with other states and historical precedent, the ONLY reasonable choice available to the RBC to fairly seat the delegates was to accept the allocation presented to them by the state party representatives for each state.

In the case of the RBC meeting held yesterday to determine the fate of MI & FL delegates, the RBC voted to accept the allocation presented by each state, having established (as they are required to do) that the state representatives have acted in good faith to determine an allocation that is fair and reasonable.

Furthermore, there is no precedent or provision to allow a candidate or their official representatives to determine the allocation process. Had the RBC chosen to follow the guidelines of a candidate over the recommendation by the state representatives, it would have set an irretrievably dangerous precedent.

Therefore, it is fair to argue that the RBC could NOT have chosen Clinton’s proposal in so much as it differed from the state’s recommendation even if they had wanted to.

3) Any bias was in Hillary’s favor

According to the DNC Selection Rules, the minimum mandatory punishment for violating the nomination contest timing rules is that the pledged delegate allocation should be cut in half.

There are at least two ways in which the allocation can be reduced, both of which are legal interpretations of the DNC Selection Rules:

a) The number of delegates is reduced by half

b) The vote per delegate is reduced by half

Reducing the number of total delegates by half has the result of narrowing the delegate margin. For example, in a 4 delegate district where Clinton received 3 out of 4 delegates, (a 2 delegate lead), would be reduced to 1 delegate each to Obama and Clinton (no delegate lead).

Thus, by choosing (b), the RBC allowed the relative delegate proportion to remain as current, rather than further narrowed. The RBC, acting within its rights to uphold the DNC rules, clearly sought to preserve a fair distribution, contrary to Ickes’ accusation of bias against the candidate he represents.

4) No votes were "stolen"

In his vociferous arguments, Ickes claimed that the RBC had "stolen" 4 delegates for Clinton and "given" them to Obama

However, in order for ANY delegates to be ‘stolen’, those delegates must have been approved in the first place.

According to the RBC ruling in effect during the period of the 2008 primary elections in MI & FL, no allocation of delegates whatsoever could be sanctioned.

Therefore, the only time that any delegate in either state could possibly be recognized as valid was AFTER yesterday’s acceptance of a majority vote by the RBC to amend its sanctions against MI & FL.

As has been shown in (2) above, the decision to allocate MI delegates in a ration of 69 to 59 in favor of Clinton was made by the state party officials, not by the RBC.

The RBC carefully considered the arguments placed before it by those officials as to their ‘best efforts’ attempt to deliver a representative (arguably a Fair Reflection) allocation of delegates according to the preferences of the members of the Democratic Party in MI.

According to the only measure that counts, the DNC rules & bylaws, Clinton never ‘had’ 73 delegates in Michigan to be taken away. Therefore any claim by Ickes that the allocation was altered can only be valid in the sense that the RBC voted to allow Clinton to receive 69 delegates more than she had before. Also, without an acknowledged ‘fair count’ in MI, since that figure is higher than the 59 to Obama, any concern over bias (given the invalidity of the election) would be in favor of Clinton, not Obama.

Furthermore, now that the delegate allocation has been sanctioned by an RBC majority vote, any adjustment of the allocation that might be considered by future committees could be considered as the very interference that Ickes decries.

5) The Principle of "Flawed Reflection"

On a number of occasions during yesterdays RBC meeting, Ickes raised the concept of "Fair Reflection". Though not a legal or factually provable measure, it is often cited as a standard to which an electoral process should aspire to.

It generally is taken for granted in a democracy that the outcome of an election is a fair reflection of the preferences expressed of the voters at the polls.


But this question is one of the foremost concerns of scholars of public choice. They have maintained for many years that the one thing most people counted on about elections – that the voters, however swayed or manipulated during the sound and fury of the campaign, did end up preferring the winning candidate to others – is open to question in many elections.

Excerpts from: John Haskell (1996) - Fundamentally Flawed – Understanding and Reforming Presidential Primaries, - Chapter 5 – An Introduction to Public Choice and Presidential Primaries

It is relevant to note that Ickes’ abandoned an early attempt to introduce the concept of "Fair Reflection" during the questioning of Wexler’s presentation. One can only surmise that he felt he had met his match against Wexler and pursuing the matter at the time would lead to a defeat of his argument.

Instead he pursued the argument later against what he presumed to be a less adversarial opponent, Levin, who in turn countered with the assertion that there can be no easily definable concept of "Fair Reflection" in a "Flawed Primary".

6) Credentials Committee Challenge

According to Ickes, the Clinton camp reserves the right to take their grievance to the Credentials Committee.

Since Ickes’ argues that the DNC does not have the power to determine the delegate allocations, then neither the RBC, nor the Credentials Committee would have the power to rule in his favor. Hence his case is moot.

Were Ickes/Clinton able to successfully argue the case with the Credentials Committee, the ONLY conceivable outcome that would satisfy his argument would be that 100% of MI & FL delegates be disqualified.

Since the RBC (including Ickes) voted to sanction MI & FL, they invalidated any subsequent election (whether sanctioned or not) by virtue of influencing some voters not to vote as "the election would not count".

Ickes’ and Clinton’s arguments rely on asserting the principles enshrined in the constitution. However, scholars of the constitution will be aware that there is no explicit "right to vote". The constitution does however explicitly assert that no-one should be prevented or influenced not to vote.

Hence, if the argument is that the validity of the MI & FL elections are determined by constitutional principles, the MI & FL elections must be invalid in their entirety. The only constitutionally valid alternative would be to hold a full revote.

7) Validity of the Election Sanction by the State of Florida

According to testimony presented at the RBC meeting, there were at least two reasons given that would legally invalidate any official sanction of the Florida election process.

Firstly, it was universally acknowledged that a significant proportion of voters were ‘discouraged’ from voting at that election. Indeed, Florida State Senator Arthenia Joyner, as an official representative of the Clinton campaign, acknowledged that perhaps 3M voters could reasonably have been expected to turn out for the election had it not been pre-determined that the votes would not count.

Secondly, it was acknowledged that a significant factor that led to the substantial turnout at the Florida election was that a Florida State Constitutional Amendment related to "Property Tax" was also on the ballot. Thus it is reasonable to assume that the demographic of the voters who did participate was unfairly biased towards homeowners to the detriment of those who do not own their own homes.

In both cases, the principles in the constitution and the DNC charter and bylaws, assert the preeminence of equitable representation. Unless those responsible for sanctioning the validity of Florida election are able to prove that no bias existed by virtue of the nature of the items on the ballot, the validity of the sanction is in question.

8) Conflict of Interest

Statements made by Ickes asserted that he was at least in part acting as an official spokesperson and representative for Clinton whilst simultaneously participating in a voting process as a member of the RBC.

While nothing in the DNC rules prevents members of the RBC to hold a private or publicly expressed preference for a candidate, the appointed members of the RBC are required as a matter of course to act solely in the interests of the DNC with respect to upholding the letter and intent of the rules and bylaws so stated. Any alternative agenda could be reasonably considered to be a conflict of interest.

If it had been the intention of the RBC to allow direct representation by candidates on the committee, the rules would have so provided. Furthermore in order to preserve fairness, any such candidate advocate would have to be formally declared as such and potentially be barred from certain votes.

The precedent for this was clear in yesterday’s meeting, as representatives from MI & FL were barred from voting on issues relating to their own state.

As such, Ickes explicit assertion that he is an authorized representative of a candidate, and his use of an independent forum to promote that candidate’s agenda regardless of the views of the majority, as expressed by his threat to dismiss the majority RBC decision and appeal to Credentials Committee is at best disingenuous, and at worst a blatant abuse of privilege for which he must tender his resignation.

The worst thing about all of these "events" which are seen as the next "game changer" for Camp Clinton, like the credentials committee at the convention, is that many of them are not inherently dramatic - they are mostly procedural activities that offer very little leeway to either candidate based on the rules, tests and standards already in place.

I feel as deeply for the Obama campaign as Clintonites do for their candidate, but its the knowledge of the process that helps me put my admiration into context.

Again, I thank CarmenT for taking the time to rebut many of the specious assertions that colored the air around the RBC committee meeting, and for allowing me to share her thoughts on my blog.

Brown Man