Saturday, November 08, 2008

Summary Fail

This Washington Post article is currently summarized on the front page of the Post's website as such:
Obama reviewing hundreds of Bush policies he may promptly undo, such as reproductive rights.

Feminists were right to be suspicious. Forgive me, PUMAs!

To The Streets

Pro-equality activists are marching in California. Good. Liberals have no trouble getting riled up for wars and free trade, but we haven't had a good spontaneous civil rights march in awhile.

Todd Zywicki is outraged that some protesters are targeting the Mormon Church. Oh, spare me. He notes that Blacks overwhelmingly supported Prop. 8, but nobody is vilifying them. While Zywicki could do to read more Dan Savage, he's missing the point. Yes, Blacks voted strongly against gay equality. But there is no "Black central command" that led the charge in favor of the proposition. Indeed, there really is no Black central command at all, and insofar as there are organizations which can claim to speak on behalf of the Black community (like the NAACP), I'm skeptical that they even supported Prop. 8, much less led efforts to get it passed.

As Pam Spaulding noted, it's clear that the Black community has some work to do with regards to homophobia. But this wasn't their baby. It wasn't Black institutions that were trying to get Prop. 8 on the ballot. It wasn't Black institutions stumping up and down the state to get it passed. If protesters wanted to yell in front of individual Black churches whose ministers pressed for the passage of Prop. 8, that would be fine in my view -- those churches need to be held accountable too. But there is a qualitative difference here that goes beyond the obnoxious whine of "political correctness".

The Mormon Church, as an institution, threw itself headlong into this battle, deciding to intervene with prodigious amounts of money and manpower to promote one of the cruelest examples of state-sponsored evil still extant in America. Are they being vilified for it? Yes. Should they be? Yes. You lie down with the devil, you're going to get called names in the morning.

Of course, now that their campaign on behalf of inequality has succeeded, the Mormon Church (and Catholic Church, for that matter) are all about making nice-y. From the Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles:
The coalition of religious communities and citizens who supported Proposition 8 wanted to preserve "the bedrock institution of marriage" between a man and a woman, said Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles.

"Proposition 8 is not against any group in our society," Mahoney said in a written statement.

And from the LDS:

"The Church acknowledges that such an emotionally charged issue concerning the most personal and cherished aspects of life -- family and marriage -- stirs fervent and deep feelings," church spokeswoman Kim Farah wrote in an e-mail. "No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information."

Ms. Farah, too late. When you promote legislation that seeks deprive a class of human beings of their natural rights, that counts as vilification and harassment. And Archbishop Mahoney, bullshit. This is what's infuriating. Retrograde churches have every right to campaign in favor of bigotry. But they can't get all indignant when people point out, hey, taking away rights from a small, vulnerable segment of the population is bigoted! It is "against [a] group in our society." It's against gays. There is no disputing that.

Are there protests against Mormons and Blacks that go beyond the pale? Umm...yeah. Playing the polygamist card against Mormons would count too (incidentally, Zywicki's point that the Mormon Church's experience being harassed over polygamy should make them more defensive about the "traditional definition of marriage", when polygamy was part of the "traditional definition of marriage", is utterly inane). But the act of protesting, itself, is totally legitimate here. If one believes, as I do, that there is no moral distinction between state-sponsored homophobia, and state-sponsored racism, then the traffickers in the former deserve the same opprobrium that historically was directed to the latter.

Friday, November 07, 2008

These are a Few of My Randomest Things

Kevin tagged me in a random things meme. I always get picked for this meme in particular, which is unfortunate, because I'm really pretty dull. But I don't want to break the chain, so....

Here are the rules.

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself. (See below)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (See further below…)
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

1) I'm perpetually early: Kevin says he's always late. Well, I'm nearly always early. I think it's a function of my status as a total goodie-goodie in school. I was literally terrified of getting in trouble, and being late to class could get you (gasp) detention. I never was late. I never got a single detention. Today, I compulsively overestimate the amount of time it takes to travel from place A to place B. At Carleton, I had classes directly across the sidewalk from my dorm. Yet, I'd constantly have thoughts like this: "I have an 11:00 class, and it's already 10:50. But I have to go down four flights of stairs to get there. Well, better get moving."

2) I'm a lefty, and I'm proud of it. Perhaps a little too proud, though, as the following story will demonstrate. I tend to sit at right-handed desks. A friend asked me about it once, and I explained that I had just gotten used to them over the years. But, I continued, it's kinda weird, because "normally I'm somewhat of a left supremacist." Except I didn't say "left", I said "White". Oops. Awkward.

3) I hate dogs. I know, I know. I'm a terrible person. I'm not even sure why. When I was kid, I was afraid of dogs, so I'm guessing there was some bad incident at age four that I'm hard at work suppressing. But yeah, Where the Red Fern Grows? Happy ending. Cats are cool though.

4) If I had to pick a favorite animal, it'd be mice. That is random, but mice seem to have played a disproportionate role in my childhood. My second grade play was narrated by mice ("Of Mice and Mozart", though I, star that I was, got to be a "composer"). A bunch of my favorite books as a kid -- Ben and Me, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, Abel's Island, and later Maus -- all mice-centric. And "Tom and Jerry"? Great cartoon. Plus, I think they're cute.

5) I'm worried that all my non-academic interests seem rather violent. Not just video games. My favorite sports are boxing and ice hockey. I even played ice hockey for three years in high school. The music I listen to tends to fall into the "angry White dudes yelling" genre. My cousin once went through my iPod and declared that "for a pretty chill guy, you listen to some angry music." I though Breaking Benjamin's song "Forever" would make a nice first dance song at a wedding -- even after reading the lyrics (in my defense, the song is genuinely pretty). I don't exactly know where it comes from. In terms of my actual behavior, I'm quite passive and docile. I'm worried that I'm bottling up a torrent of rage. Or perhaps the music is a release.

6) I'm a White guy in a country that just elected a Black President. How weird is that?

Okay, now tags: PG (that blog is staying up whether she likes it or not), Matt, Phoebe, Esq. (she's due for an interim update anyway), The Gaucho Politico, and the one formerly known as Girl Detective.

Do We Still Need Civil Rights After Obama?

Working for the LCCR this summer as it sought to beat back Ward Connelly's efforts to eliminate affirmative action in Colorado, one of the primary arguments we had to respond to was the claim that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (and later, Sarah Palin) have proven that affirmative action is not necessary. Abigail Thernstrom, a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, trained her fire more broadly, asking caustically if civil rights advocates are "still going to whine endlessly about racism in America" if Obama was elected. Since Obama's election, this chorus has grown even louder. RedState, for example, congratulated Barack Obama on his victory by saying "thirty years came quickly", referring to the time frame within which Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated that she expected affirmative action would no longer be necessary. And liberal commentators have made similar statements, albeit in more worried tones: that Obama's election would wrongly signal White citizens that the problem of racism is essentially over.

Look. Barack Obama's election was an immensely important event, and its symbolic value to the cause of racial justice cannot be overstated. That being said, in terms of its direct impact to the cause of racial equity, it is in fact mostly symbolic. All Barack Obama has objectively proven is that an incredibly talented Black man can rise to an elite position in extremely favorable conditions (as The Onion memorably put it: "Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress"). One very capable person doing very well is good news, but it doesn't make any systematic impact or really tell us anything about the strength of institutional factors. Affirmative action is targeted at the Black community writ large -- most of whom are not Barack Obama's. But you shouldn't have to be a Barack Obama for civil rights to care about you.

The focus on Obama's victory helps to maintain one of the more pernicious elements of the "politics of respectability" model of civil rights reform. During the civil rights struggle, Black leaders were very careful to present only their most cherubic, idealized face. Their most innocent children, their most clearly qualified applicants, their most gifted (and fair-minded) leaders. It would be far more difficult for the wardens of White supremacy to argue that these people should be excluded from the fruits of the American dream. By contrast, civil rights organizations were far more hesitant to stand up for, say, the Black poor (whose mannerisms might be cited as justification for racist measures), or Black criminals who -- regardless of what acts they might have committed -- still objectively ought to enjoy the same protections granted to White defendants. In this way, the measuring stick by which racial equality was measured was when a Black standout was given full opportunity to show the extent of her genius.

Most Black people, like most Whites, Asians, and Latinos, are not perfect. They are regular, flawed folks. And when "success" in civil rights is limited to elite persons getting their just deserts, we do serious violence to what racial equality should actually mean. Much of the focus on affirmative action is an upshot of the politics of respectability -- it asks what awards should be given to very talented Black men and women. I think that's important, but the totality of racial equality isn't encompassed by the question of whether a given Black student should be going to Harvard versus Tufts. Barack Obama's election may tell us important information about the prospects of the "talented tenth" (or hundredth, or thousandth). But true commitment to racial egalitarianism means looking beyond that, to the situation of the normal ninetieth. That includes the vast majority of college students, who are not elite either, but it is also extends to the many people who aren't going to college at all. Affirmative action still has a role to play in the post-Obama era, but the focus on it as the primary battleground over civil rights obscures more than it illuminates.

There is an old saw in feminist circles stating that "the issue now is not to get a female Einstein hired as an assistant professor at a third-rate university. The issue now is to have a female schlub receive the same opportunities as a male schlub." The same thing applies in the context of race. We have made it so that there are avenues for the very best and brightest people of color can spread their wings and succeed. And that's not nothing. But neither is it the end of civil rights. For everyday Black folk, Barack Obama's election does not signal any meaningful change in the type of opportunities they are likely to see or the type of treatment they are likely to receive. Waving their lives away, because of what a very tiny and very separate stratum of Black people now know that they can achieve, is not legitimate practice for those of us truly committed to dismantling racial hierarchy.

Listen to Perkins!

Chief of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins is out blaming the moderates for GOP losses in 2008. What's needed, he says, is a party more committed to pure Republican principles -- fiscally and socially.

This, to put it mildly, is tough to swallow in the face of the evidence. The fact is that there are several seats in deep red territory that are now Democratic directly resulting from Republican intolerance of moderate politicians. The Maryland first, gerrymandered specifically to elect a Republican, will be sending a Democrat to Congress after a right-wing challenger knocked off a moderate incumbent who would have assuredly cruised to re-election. The Michigan 7th saw the same thing -- a right-winger who defeated a moderate incumbent in 2006 got defeated in 2008. Bill Sali, the furthest right-wing candidate in a multi-member primary in 2006, lost his Idaho(!) seat this year to a Democrat. The blood red 2nd Ohio district is competitive every year because Jean Schmidt is their representative. And so on.

Put more broadly, there is very little proof that "pure" conservative principles enjoy broad popularity in the United States (gay-bashing, alas, is a major exception). Most Americans voted for Barack Obama even though they (wrongly) believed he was raise their taxes. There isn't much proof that Americans really oppose spending on social welfare programs. Even on social issues, this was a pretty good year for liberals (outside of gay rights), winning battles on abortion, marijuana, and assisted suicide.

The fact is that, at the moment, conservative governance is not all that popular. They can talk all they want about how conservatives "abandoned conservative principles", but if they respond to this election by lurching even further to the right, they're going to spend a long time out in the cold.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

78% of Jews are Very Confused

A Greek daily celebrates the Obama victory by labeling it "the end of the Jewish domination". Now, as one of the 78% of Jews who voted for President Obama, I can fairly definitively state that I was unaware that I was casting my ballot to end my "domination". But that's more a function of the mythological nature of that dominion than any misapprehension about what an Obama presidency will do.

The Jewish community will have the ear of President Obama, to be sure, but that's because American Jews are integral players in American progressive politics (it remains utterly bizarre to me the sentiment -- mostly from outside the US -- that Jews are predominantly conservative influences on American politics). And for his part, Barack Obama has shown a rare sensitivity to the concerns of Jews as Jews themselves express them (rather than how our interests are portrayed when they are sublimated within the "Judeo-Christian" worldview). That's fortunate, because what Jews want (as opposed to what outsiders -- both "friends" and enemies -- say we want) is freedom from persecution, just solutions to the conflicts which plague us and the Palestinians, and the right to participate as equals in the community of nations. If Barack Obama brings those dreams into fruition, it will be a great day not just for Jews, and not just for Palestinians, but for all persons who care about the equal dignity of all humankind.

The New City Slicker

I grew up in suburban Maryland, about fifteen minutes outside of D.C.. As a result, I always considered myself quite the cosmopolitan. Washington was a quick metro ride away, nearly everyone's parents worked, if not in D.C., then in a job that existed because of D.C., and the self-image of my town was very urbane and sophisticated. When I applied to college, I said that I was looking for a university that had a similar feel: medium-sized, north-eastern, near a city. Showing my lack of self-awareness, it turned out that my dream school (where I applied early decision) was actually a small liberal arts college in a small mid-western township. And so the last four years were an experience in small town, Minnesota living. Even this summer, living on my own for the first time, my apartment was out in suburban Maryland -- not in one of the up and coming D.C. neighborhoods like most of my friends.

So though I always considered myself comfortable in the city, my time in Hyde Park has really been my first time living in an urban setting. Urban is relative, of course, but we're in the city of Chicago, our streets are numbered and in grids (and reach up to big numbers like "60" -- even Northfield has a 1st Street), and there is genuine crime and poverty. This is all new to me.

Last Friday, I witnessed my first serious street crime -- a mugging or possible abduction. It occurred about a half block ahead of me on 55th street, as I was walking home from a party with my girlfriend and a friend of mine. It was spooky. After a nice long conversation with the Chicago police (who were very helpful and responsive), I remember thinking, "I don't like city living."

Today, walking back from the law school, a woman fell in beside me. It was raining, and, she announced, "I hate the rain." I thought she was a university employee, and I joked back that soon she wouldn't have to worry -- it'd be snowing. She laughed, and then told me how she had just come back from a pantry that turned out to be Saturday only. I first I didn't understand, but then I realized -- she wasn't some university administrator -- she was hungry. She said her four kids were coming back from school, and she had no food to give them. She had tried ten different restaurants and all had shoo-ed her away -- most with very little sympathy.

By this time, I had reached my destination, and she had tears in her eyes. I didn't know what to say or do, so I just told her "better days will come." She nodded, and kept walking. Reflexively, I called "have a nice day" (I always say that -- too much time in Minnesota), and immediately felt ridiculous. And once again, I thought to myself, "I don't like city living."

But why? Okay, the reaction after the crime is reasonable -- everybody prefers living someplace where they can walk around safely at night to where they have to watch every footstep. But when it came to this poor, hungry woman, there was no threat to my safety. What it did threaten was the division I've trained myself to prefer -- between my writing, and what I write about.

I've never been the activist sort. I write in support of my moral commitments, because writing is what I'm comfortable with and what I'm good at. Even this summer, working for a civil rights coalition, was a rather big step for me in the direction of tangible, direct action (at one point while working for the LCCR I was passed off as an expert on student activism -- I could barely refrain from laughing). I have a deep skepticism that significant progressive change will occur through political or even legal processes. I prefer to work alone, and activism is inherently communal (let's face it -- like any self-respecting Carleton kid, I can be a bit socially awkward). Activism is all about persuasion, mostly of lay people, and my time as a debater left me with negative opinions of both the concept of "persuasion", and the efficacy of talking with lay people about complicated philosophical, political, or ethical problems.*

To a large extent, I don't like city living because it forces one to fit into the activist mold. Each day, you see events and make choices which directly implicate the moral commitments you're fighting for. And frankly, I don't think that fast. I prefer to ponder, and wrestle, and talk things out, and deliberate. But I'm not convinced I'm not a hypocrite -- that what I really don't want is to be forced to put my money where my pen is.

The good news, I guess, is that I'm stuck in Chicago for the next three years -- for better or for worse. There is a significant "for worse" component here -- I can feel the stress rise inside me well beyond the degree to which the first year of law school is bothering me, and most of it can be chalked up to the change in scenery. But maybe there will be a change for better as well. I've always been a strong proponent of interacting with a broad array of people. Muggers probably aren't interested in conversations, but the woman I met on the street today was.

I'm pretty confident that I do not want to live in a city when I move out into the workforce. But that doesn't mean I can't learn some important things these next three years.

Peace and equality
Let's be together, let's live in harmony
Lookin' to the sky, keep your head on the rise
Think things on rockin' so well

--"think ya better D," sAmi

* This is not a knock against lay people -- not everyone needs to have deep and sophisticated opinions about Rawls, or even care about him, and just because you don't have a knack for synthesizing arguments about the veil of ignorance doesn't mean you're not good at other things, from computer science to economics to bricklaying. But just as it can get grating to my engineering friends to try and explain to me basic principles of math and physics, it's frustrating for me to try and boil down really complicated philosophical arguments for people who are not interested in the subjects. There are differences between the cases: On the one hand, engineering will go on just fine no matter how ignorant I stay whereas lay people have real influence on the development of moral norms, making it imperative
that I do attempt to explain and persuade non-philosophy folks beyond what I might be interested in doing for reasons of charity or goodwill (more frustration). The flip-side, of course, is that because moral norms represent things we want all people to abide by, I do have an obligation to make whatever principles I lay out accessible and understandable to the common person. Engineering can stay obscure to me because nobody is asking me to build a bridge. All people, however, are asked every day to live their lives in a fair and ethical manner.

None of this is meant to be an argument for why a more secluded "academic" life is objectively superior to a hands-dirty, activist path -- merely an explanation of my personal preference and how it came about.

The New City Slicker

I grew up in suburban Maryland, about fifteen minutes outside of D.C.. As a result, I always considered myself quite the cosmopolitan. Washington was a quick metro ride away (in fact,

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Those Left Behind

In his victory speech last night, Senator Barack Obama stated that this election gave us an
answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

At least with regards to gay Americans, he was wrong.

* California narrowly voted to overturn its state supreme court ruling granting gay couples the right to marry.

* Arizona passed its own amendment barring gay marriage, after narrowly failing in the endeavor two years ago.

* Florida managed to leap its 60% hurdle to also write discrimination into its constitution.

* Arkansas prohibited gay couples from adopting children.

There was a sense yesterday and today that America had taken a great step forward -- that it had spoken with a voice of inclusion and respect for all persons, regardless of who they are or how they were born.

I can't imagine what it feels like to be someone who was written out of that message of inclusion. The historic nature of this election makes the resounding repudiation America gave to the equal human dignity of gays and lesbians that much more shameful. The nation this year was primed to be thinking about discrimination. In a very real sense, the decision to cast a ballot for Barack Obama was a decision to cast off the weight of our prior inequities. In such a context, the choice to strip gay and lesbian Americans of their natural human rights was more than just a failure of imagination. It was an affirmative decision by the electorate to announce that gays and lesbians are less than full Americans. In past years, we could blame inertia, apathy, and ignorance. This year, it was willful.

It is a decision that we will look back upon in shame, and it is a decision that is a disgrace to America, no matter what other barriers we broke today.

To My Conservative Friends

2004 was a more difficult year for me than 2000. 2000 was the first political election I followed with any level of sophistication (I was 14), and it was an education to be sure. I first voted in 2004, however, and that year stung, because I saw a country which had seen what President Bush had wrought upon the nation, and still a majority of Americans re-elected him. If you want to search through my archives from that time period, you'll see that I was not a happy camper.

I asked then that my conservative friends not gloat at me, and it is only fair that I oblige them back. Many Republicans are, obviously, quite unhappy with this result. Believe me, I've been there. But I want to take this moment to reach out to you. John McCain got the votes of 46% of all Americans. Given that President Bush's approvals are in the mid-20s, there are plenty of folks out there who preferred McCain, who still recognize that something went fundamentally wrong over the last 8 years. Many of these problems are one's that will require bi-partisan efforts to correct. Restoring impartiality to the Justice Department. Rooting out corruption and politicization in bureaucratic agencies. Restoring balances on executive power. These are things which Republicans and Democrats can, and I hope, will work together to achieve vibrant and sustainable solutions.

On many other issues, conservatives and liberals remain quite a ways apart. And that's okay. This year, the electorate gave progressives a sweeping mandate for change. Obama's electoral college tallies are approaching rout levels, and on the Congressional and Senate side, Democrats still performed quite strongly (though slightly below the optimistic estimates that came forth over the last month or so). We will take this historic opportunity as a chance to prove that progressive ideas work. But conservatives can and should continue to pitch their best laid plans to the public and on the House and Senate floor. Barack Obama was a former faculty member here at Chicago Law School, and one of my professors today noted that Sen. Obama has an openness to ideas that is rare amongst the political set. If you pitch your plans and proposals in good faith, with an eye towards getting bills and past and moving our nation forward, then I pledge as a Democrat to listen.

The greatest break we could make from the last eight years, would be to heed Barack Obama's advice from four years ago. If we will it, we can cease to be a collection of red states and blue states. Working together, we are more. We are the United States.

My President

President Obama. President Barack Obama. President Barack Hussein Obama.

It's all good, baby.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Liveblog

It won't be a reprise of 2006, but I'll keep jotting down thoughts throughout the night. Latest posts will be at the top (for real this time -- sorry about before):


12:36 AM: It's bed time for me. I'll have more thoughts tomorrow (probably). Suffice to say, this was a great moment for America -- regardless of whether you supported Barack Obama or not, it is impossible not to feel joy about the barrier he brought crashing down.

12:10 AM: It's recount time in the VA-05, but the Democratic challenger will enter with a 1,000 vote advantage. Suck it, CNN.

11:55 PM: Lest I be entirely a gloomy gus right now (and let's be clear, I'm still on a tremendous high just from "President-elect Obama"), let's look at some of the good news that's come out recently:

1) I think Obama will take both Indiana and North Carolina.

2) Democrats are poised to pick up both the VA-02 and the VA-05 -- the latter of which CNN erroneously called for incumbent Rep. Virgil Goode several hours ago.

3) New Mexico is now solid blue -- House, Senate, Governor, and President.

4) Franken still has plenty of votes to pick up in Hennepin (Minneapolis) and St. Louis (Duluth) counties.

11:53 PM: I think a lot of Democrats were taking Mary Jo Kilroy's election for granted in the Ohio 15th -- a problem, given that she's down 1,000 votes with 96% reported.

11:21 PM: Oh, and echoing the below point, there are going to be some disappointing losses for incumbents. And not even old, tired guys like Kanjorski, but promising new folks like Boyda (D-KS) and Cazayoux (D-LA) (the former is down, the latter is out). Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX) also went down in defeat.

11:19 PM: Not to be a downer, but I think we're going to leave quite a bit on the table down ticket. I'm not optimistic about Minnesota. I'm getting worried about Oregon. There have been a few House seats we've ended up on the wrong side on -- not just the long shots, but one's that we genuinely thought we could take.

I think my standards are too high.

11:15 PM: Obama is on tonight, but I think it is getting lost in the moment. There is a collective exhale, stemming from how important this day is, and not even Obama can rise above that.

10:56 PM: Just because I'm excited about Obama, don't think Minnesota will escape my wrath if it re-elects Coleman and Bachmann (and gives Paulsen the nod over Madia).

10:46 PM: I had forgotten entirely about ballot measures. The news doesn't look good, particularly for gay rights.. The California gay marriage ban has an early lead, but only 8% has reported. Arizona will likely ban gay marriage (a move which was defeated last cycle), and it will be joined by Florida, and Arkansas will likely ban gays from adopting children (which eventually has to be ruled unconstitutional.

Other issues are more of mixed bag. Washington looks to legalize physician assisted suicide, Michigan will allow medical marijuana, and Colorado will not define life as starting from conception. While Nebraska will ban affirmative action, it may be narrowly beaten back in Colorado. The parental notification law for abortion in California is polling dead even.

10:41 PM: Sen. Mary Landrieu has apparently held her Louisiana Senate seat. There will be no Senate-side pickups for the GOP (they have won a handful of house seats).

10:35 PM: Now that Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) has gone down in defeat, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) may take on the title of the ultimate Republican survivor. He's pulled back into the lead by 8 points in his southwestern Ohio district.

10:32 PM: McCain's concession speech was very pretty. I couldn't figure out what the crowd was yelling, though.

10:12 PM: Also problematic is Louisiana, which had fallen a bit below the radar. Sen. Mary Landrieu is up only 2 points with 82% of the vote in. We already lost a House seat in the Cajun State.

10:10 PM: The biggest nail-biter is looking to be the Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D). Franken's sitting on a 2,500 vote lead with 28% in.

10:00 PM: It's been called: Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

9:53 PM: With 44% of the vote in, Frank Kravotil's 2,500 vote lead is the largest margin I've seen yet in the Maryland 1st. This would be another feel good pick up, as it's a direct result of the GOP's banishment of moderates.

9:49 PM: Almost as good as Obama winning, is watching the repellent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) go down in flames. She's losing 58/42 with 59% in to Betsy Markey.

9:39 PM: Took them long enough. CNN moved the VA-05 back into toss-up land. Goode is down 700 votes with 3% outstanding. Of the six counties which have votes left to report, 4 are in Goode's camp (though nobody has much left on the table).

9:19 PM: Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL) looks like he's going down. Good. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) might follow suit. No tears for him either, though a few might be warranted for having to say "Rep. Lou Barletta, crazy immigrant hater". The only truly saddening loss that's visible right now would be Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX), who took Tom DeLay's old seat but was always the underdog to retain it.

9:01 PM: Thus far, the House races have represented a Democratic cleanup of 2006, with the Donkey picking up a bunch of the seats we just missed last time around. The latest victim: New England's final Republican, Chris Shays (R-CT).

8:57 PM: It's always exciting when Maryland has a competitive race. Currently, we're witnessing a deadlock in the MD-01, where right-winger Andy Harris is struggling to retain this conservative seat in the face of strong Democratic head winds, his own extremism, and a tough opponent who was endorsed by the incumbent Republican Representative whom Harris knocked off.

8:40 PM: Projection fail: CNN still "projects" Virgil Goode to win in the VA-05. Unfortunately, he's currently down 2 points with 89% in. Charlottesville came through big time for Perriello (it's all in now). It's not locked down, and much of the remaining votes are in Goode territory, but it's definitely "too close to call".

8:35 PM: Ohio news ahead. First, CNN just called it for Ohio. That's big. On the House side, random district #1 (the 3rd) is now 52/48 for the GOP, but random district #2 (the 12th) is at 49/48 for the Democrats with 20% in. Finally, Rep. Steve Chabot's (R) perpetually endangered 1st district is, well, endangered, with the Democratic challenger currently sitting with 57% of the vote. However, that's pretty much all from early voting.

8:19 PM: All my friends have been freaking out about Virginia. I told them to chill. McCain is up 20,000 votes, with 2/3 of the vote in. A huge chunk of that is from Northern Virginia, where Obama will rout. Things are looking good there.

7:51 PM: Kentucky's Senate race continues to be deadlocked, even though Lunsford is not racking up huge margins in Jefferson County (Louisville). In fact, nobody seems to know exactly where he's doing well enough to hang with McConnell. I still predict a loss. Just more heartbreaking than predicted.

7:43 PM: In the Virginia 2nd (Drake), it's essentially deadlocked with 15% in. My intuition is that this race will be Norfolk (D) and Virginia Beach (R) duking it out for supremacy. But I'm not sure about that.

7:41 PM: Virgil Goode's political life depends on how lazy UVA students are. He's up by 12,500 votes with 62% in, Charlottesville hasn't reported at all.

7:23 PM: The first strange blip of the night comes from the OH-03, which was not on anyone's map. The Democrat is up 52-48 with 0% reporting ... but 58,000 votes cast sounds like more than 0% to me. I'll keep an eye on it.

7:16 PM: House races we won't win: IN-03, KY-02. Races that still look good: VA-05, everything competitive in NC. Charlottesville is where to look in the VA-05 (that's where UVA is), and if Rep. Virgil Goode loses in a year suffused with anti-Muslim paranoia, it'll be that much sweeter.

7:06 PM: It's still early in Florida, but just judging off the House returns, the D machine is in good shape. Obama is currently overshooting projections in several vote-rich, Democrat-rich counties.

7:01 PM: Deep breath: Maryland's been called for Obama.

6:54 PM: The Democratic wave might be so strong this year that Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), who took over Mark Foley's seat only to have a whole slew of marital infidelities (including some pretty sketchy behavior) revealed, might managed to squeak out a win. Though it's a good sign about the broader trends in this race, I still hope he loses -- we don't need the seat, and we're better off without folks like him in our caucus.

6:35 PM: I'm hearing good things about Obama in Indiana. He's significantly outperforming Kerry's margins so far. Early returns in the Indiana 3rd (Souder) do not look great, but that race was a long shot anyway.

Ad Watching

My vote went out in the mail weeks ago, and was exactly for who you thought it would be in a state where it couldn't have made even a remote difference even if I had gotten a bit nifty. But here in Chicago, I've started to see a few political ads. One for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is up for re-election here and is sure to win it. One ad attacking Barack Obama for his affiliation with Jeremiah Wright -- obviously the GOP was going to go there eventually, and even if it is from an "independent" group I imagine the subtlety will be lost on the swath of swing voters who find those sorts of attacks distasteful. And there was one ad for Antoine Members, who is running against Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), and though you wouldn't know it from the ad or his campaign site, is a Republican. I imagine even the most entrenched Senate incumbents put out a few ads re-introducing themselves to the crowds, and national ads put out in Chicago undoubtedly hit the Northwestern Indiana region, so I'm going to pin down Members' ad as the most futile expenditure I've seen so far (the 1st District generally gives Democrats around 80% of the vote).

Monday, November 03, 2008

The War Within

Ezra Klein thinks the prevailing model of how racism might take the election away from Obama is non-sensical:
It's one thing to build a mental model of a quietly racist electorate. Under this hypothesis, McCain, a war hero and credible candidate, would see unnatural levels of support as voters who were turned off by Barack Obama's skin color pretended they were attracted to McCain's biography and political platform. But that's not evident in the polling -- or, if it is, it hasn't been enough to give McCain a lead. So instead, the model seems to be that a substantial slice of the electorate are prankster racists who have spent the campaign deceiving pollsters so that, come election day, they can trigger a McCain upset, destroying the credibility of random statistical sampling and really putting one over on liberals who thought this country would turn out for a black guy named Hussein. I guess that's possible, but it doesn't seem very likely.

Not to be a cynic, but that's not even close. What folks are worrying about is the voter who has some racist tendencies but, being a good American, finds them shameful and wrong, and suppresses them. One way by which to affirm one's not racist status is to express support for Barack Obama -- and through that affirmation you can persuade yourself, too, that you're not a racist. The question, then, is whether these voters will be able to pull the trigger in the ballot box. This is a battle of psychology -- the racist id going to war with the rationalizing ego and super-ego -- and it will rage mostly beneath the surface and in code. The voter whose id wins out isn't going to say to himself "I'm sorry, but I just can't vote for a Black guy", he'll say "I'm sorry, but I just don't trust the guy."

That's not to say that everyone who is voting against Obama because they don't trust them is engaging in justification for latent racism. The point is merely to show that we could see a noticeable effect from racism reflected in the final polls, without thinking that folks have just been playing tricks on the pollsters. The tricks are being played in their own minds.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Homophobic AFSCME Ad Against McConnell

The AFSCME labor union put up an ad insinuating that Kentucky Senator (and Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell (R) was discharged from the military for being gay (telling him it's time to be "straight" with Kentucky. Subtle). It was followed up by a flier that was even more explicit on the subject (it is unclear if the flier was put out by AFSCME as well). Regardless, it is horrible that a putatively progressive organization would try influence an election by stoking homophobia.

I want to beat McConnell. I don't like him, and the thought of a 60 seat Senate majority makes me giddy. But not like this.

If you want to give AFSCME a holler, here's the link.

The Accidental Invasion

In the vein of Switzerland's accidental invasion of Liechtenstein last year, and the British attacking a Spanish fishing town a few years prior to that, now we see that the Mexicans have wandered across our very own southern border:
Seven members of the Mexican military were found inside the United States on Friday, telling border agents they had become disoriented while on patrol and accidentally crossed into the country, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said.

The incident began about 8 a.m. Friday, when the Border Patrol's Yuma, Arizona, sector was notified that a military-style Hummer was broken down, Customs and Border Patrol said in a written statement.

Agents said they found the vehicle about 200 yards from the Colorado River, and the seven individuals were dressed in military-style clothing. Customs and Border Patrol later determined that the troops' entry was unauthorized.

U.S. agents told the Mexican troops they were inside the United States and "peaceably" took them into custody, the statement said. "At no time were any hostilities exchanged between the agents and military officials."

The Hummer was equipped with a turret-mounted machine gun, the Border Patrol said.

According to Customs and Border Patrol, the soldiers were assigned to the 23rd Regiment Motorized Cavalry of the Mexican Army. The soldiers said they believed that they were still in Mexico because they remained on the south side of a newly constructed border fence.

Oops! How humiliating! Or, for recognized crazy man Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), just another tell-tale sign of the ongoing apocalypse:
"This is not an uncommon occurrence," Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, told CNN. "Often times, it is the result of the Mexican military providing cover essentially for drug transportation across into our country, and/or creating a diversion so it will draw our people away from the place where the drugs are coming across."

Happy weekend to everyone!