On One Hand

March 29, 2008

Something to Consider

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 12:09 pm
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If Hillary Clinton were to become Senate Majority Leader, two of the three most powerful positions in American politics (Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House) would be held by women. Meanwhile, the president could be an African-American.

If things go as expected and Clinton loses the nomination, I am nearly certain that she will become Senate Majority Leader. Harry Reid has done a good job and there’s no reason for him to lose the position except willingly, but every Democratic senator who spurned Clinton by supporting Barack Obama will want to make it up to the Clintons and their constituents by supporting Hillary in that role.

Senate Majority Leader is a powerful enough position as it is, but it becomes more important with a Democratic president and even more important if there are more Democrats in the Senate. The way things are shaping up now indicates that Democrats are certain to retain the majority in the Senate and will most likely increase it by 3-6 seats.

March 22, 2008

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March 19, 2008

Step 2: Relating the Speech on Race to the Case for the Presidency

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 11:41 am
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Barack Obama’s speech on race is being lauded, by some, as one of the best speeches since Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The presidential candidate tackled accusations of his association with black separatism head-on without throwing embattled pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright under the bus, in an enthralling speech (which he wrote himself, I might add) that reminded his most avid supporters why they cast their ballots for Barack Obama in their state’s primary.

While Obama’s speech propels the nation a step forward in its racial journey – an act that, in itself, would justify the value of Obama’s candidacy even if he were to disappear from politics today – many are pointing out that it doesn’t help Obama make his case to be the next American president. It doesn’t help him with blue-collar or Catholic voters, and though it might help him with some feminist women who have so far been rooting for Clinton, it doesn’t gain him any votes he will need in the general election.

That’s where step two comes in. Obama needs to explain how his relationship with Jeremiah Wright makes him more – not less – qualified to be the next president of the United States.

The promise of racial healing is not enough; white, working-class voters who lack a college education (where Obama scores lowest in the Democratic electorate) simply don’t care about America’s “racial wounds” and need Obama to take his argument a step farther.

In our time of war, with an embattled Republican president who has refused, time and time again, to associate with anyone home or abroad who doesn’t cozy up to him, we need a Democratic candidate who has the force and the will to talk to those with a problematic worldview.

And that’s where Obama can win. If the candidate can explain that one must be willing to have friends from all over to unite a country and to give America a better standing in the world, he can turn the Jeremiah Wright scandal from a political nightmare to political gold. The Conservative media will rip its hair out over such a suggestion – we already know that their politics forbid one from associating with anyone who scores less than 10 on the “patriotism” scale and dissenters in any sense are challenged as “anti-American.” We know they prefer moralistic approaches to approaches that may require uncomfortable compromise but lead to real solutions and save lives. We also know that Bush’s approval rating is less than 35; the talking points of the Wall Street Journal and National Review have lost their clout, and more and more Americans agree with Obama’s desire to extend a hand as they point a finger. There is a deep rhetorical difference between Progressive and Conservative politics, and that difference is that progressives are more tolerant of dissent, disagreement, and finding key allies in those whose views may be hard to swallow. We’d rather take our fierce critics and turn them into fierce friends than revile until they approach even more dangerous extremes.

If Obama can find Christ through a pastor whose views are so deeply problematic that they leave most of us catching our breath, imagine how he might be able to illicit the support of leaders across the Muslim world into our “War on Terrorism” – essentially letting them fight our fight for us, since they will be more effective and less reviled on their own land. Had we done that from the beginning, our continued occupation in Iraq – as well as terrorist attacks on American citizens on U.S. soil and abroad – could have been avoided.

Jeremiah Wright’s troublesome nature is at the core of Barack Obama’s appeal, and why Obama’s brand of politics are so desperately needed in the United States. Because we know that, while Wright failed to give Obama his own pessimistic worldview on race relations in America, Obama does make skeptics like Wright into patriotic Americans – ask Wright himself what he would think of an America with Barack Obama as president. Our candidate can take the most destructively critical figures and make them proud Americans or American allies. In today’s violent world where this country’s political capitol is as weak as it could possibly be, such a bridge-building politician is exactly what we need.

March 15, 2008

How Obama can Gain from his “Pastor Problem”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:21 pm
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Republican presidential candidates rarely fail to defend their continued relationship with anti-gay, anti-Jewish or anti-Catholic Christian ministers who have blamed the disasters of AIDS, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina on everything from abortion clinics to God’s anger at our tolerance for lesbians and gays.

Just this February, John McCain received a well-publicized endorsement from the evangelical Reverend John Hagee, who said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s justice for a sinful city. Years ago, the Clintons’ spiritual adviser Billy Graham was under fire for his understanding that one of America’s greatest problems was the influence of Satanic Jews – an event that caused the Clintons only a fraction of the political damage that Obama is now getting from the Jeramiah Wright scandal.

Let’s first make an honest comparison between the comments at issue. Jerimiah Wright’s most controversial and oft-quoted phrase is “God Damn America” for tolerating slavery and lynching, for killing hundreds of thousands of people in Hiroshima, and for other near-forgotten tragedies that all contain a genocidal element. Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell’s beleif and Pat Robertson’s concurrence that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were attributable to the actions of the ACLU, gay rights, and feminists, seemed to damn America for its lack of consensus with their own particular views on sexuality. In one instance, a preacher curses his country with hyperbolic language for social crimes so attrocious and universally condemned that anyone who fails to call them tragic would be reviled in mainstream politics. In another instance, a preacher justifies the slaughter of thousands of innocent people because men and women were falling in love with their own gender.

Robertson, Falwell and Wright, along with Haggee, Graham, Fred Phelps, Louis Farhakkan and countless others are questioned for their views – as they should be – and there is no blatant double standard there. But the Clintons were never asked to distance themselves from Billy Graham, and President Bush was more than willing to link his campaign with Bob Jones University (a dis-accredited Bible college that bans interracial dating and Catholics) when he campaigned for the presidency with a speech he made there in 2000. While the president repudiated some comments made in the wake if 9/11 and Katrina, no one asked him to discuss his relationship with evangelical preachers, no one questioned his judgment in counting them among his friends, and no one asked him to “reject and denounce” their support for his political career except to question their direct power over American domestic policy.

I’m not going to approve of Wright’s comments; they were distasteful and certainly were offensive. Even considering the African-American church traidition of speaking in poetic hyperbole in the pulpit, to make outrageous statements in order to get a rallying cry from the congregation – even then, they crossed a line. Even considering that, if there ever were a good reason to say “God Damn America,” slavery and lynching are probably the best case you could make – certainly superior to the idea that tolerating gays or respecting womens’ rights are the nation’s damning curse. Navy veteran Jeremiah Wright is not racist, is employed in a large, liberal, proudly gay-friendly White-run Christian denomination that understood and approved of his work, while Wright’s prevailing message was neither anti-white nor anti-American. But words, when taken out of context, can be just as powerful as words in context, and a public figure with the prominence of Jeremiah Wright should have known that they could come back to haunt him. For Obama to Remove Wright’s symbolic title as a campaign spiritual adviser was a wise and justifiable decision.

Obama can capitalize on this mess, but it requires him to bite the bullet, resisting the urge to speak the obvious truth that Wright’s comments were on par with comments from other religious leaders, and are in many ways less dangerous than comments made by Evangelicals who are fully embraced by political campaigns on all ends of the spectrum. He must leave it to others to make that argument if they want to. He must also avoid pointing out the double standard, that African American politicians are put under more pressure to distance themselves from their radical leaders who are similar to white Evangelicals saying nearly the same thing in different words to a different audience.

Instead, Barack Obama must state an even more obvious truth: that he is not responsible for every word uttered by everyone he associates with, and that his candidacy is one that celebrates the progress Civil Rights has made before it laments the promises that are yet to be fulfilled. Born to a white woman from Kansas and raised by her and her family in the absence of his father, Obama is certainly not an African-American who holds a grudge against America or Whites, and has clearly never uttered the words or sentiment Wright is being criticized for. Obama is not running as the “Black Candidate,” and no one in their right mind would recognize him as such. If he can publicly say, as he has, that he is running to represent all Americans and not just Blacks, that his goal is to bring both sides to a place of dialog and mutual benefit, and if he can explain his grattitude for living in a nation that tolerates a diversity of lifestyles and opinions even as extreme and troublesome as those expressed by Jeremiah Wright, and if he can say so with the grace and articulation that has been characteristic of his campaign since the beginning, then I beleive, with confidence, that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.

March 13, 2008

The Avalanche

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:00 pm

Never in my 23 years in this country have I seen the horizon glowing like it is today.

Never in my 23 years of waiting, waiting have I seen the oceans tremble with this haunted hidden thunder of redemption.

And if we lose I know we are winning, because the gates have been thrust open and this avalanche if put on hold is sure to come through with increased determination. It has been promised. It has been sung. We have been to the mountain top and seen the future, it is sweet, sweet.

We will crack this nation open. We will make the first to be last and the last ones first. We will puff our chests and take pride in the soil of our birth for the first time since we were too young and simple to criticize ourselves.

We will run – don’t walk – to Pennsylvania

will run – don’t walk – to North Carolina

will run – don’t walk – to Indiana

will run – don’t walk – to Montanna, Oregon, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, we
will run don’t walk to Washington to the White House we will shake this nation and then raise our goblets to each other in the colors of red, white, and blue.

It is a promise, ringing, first a whisper, then like laughter, then a roar:

Yes we can!
Yes we can!
Si se puede!
Yes we can!



March 12, 2008

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March 10, 2008

MSNBC Boots Tucker Carlson

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:39 pm
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MSNBC is booting libertarian-conservative program host Tucker Carlson to replace his program with one hosted by political correspondent David Gregory. Gregory is a leading White House correspondent for NBC and has helped to host some of NBC’s presidential debates.

Like many liberals, I once considered Tucker Carlson a massive tool who seems snide and arrogant about his anti-populist political positions. I take particular issue with his discussions on race (he sometimes has Al Sharpton on just to call him ridiculous) and his seeming insistence that, because of Affirmative Action and “reverse discrimination,” white men are more discriminated against than women or African-Americans.

But I’m actually sad to see Carlson go. He is not a down-the-line right-winger and he opposes both the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq. His discussions with his regular guests from across the political spectrum are remarkably civil when compared to Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly bashing their guests and claiming to be far more moderate than they actually are.

MSNBC has taken a remarkable shift to reporting from a more liberal perspective, not as a way to advertise or promote a set of views, but because it has been a lucrative decision. First, Fox found that faux-news (they call it “infotainment”) and partisan sensationalism won it more viewers than any other channel. When MSNBC’s sole left-leaning program host, Keith Olbermann, became a hero to partisan Democrats, more and more people with those views gravitated towards the channel. It wasn’t long before Chris Matthews started seeming more liberal and Dan Abrams got his own program where he would be highly critical of Conservative “scare tactics.”

Carlson was a good balance for where the rest of the channel was going, because, though he is a right-winger, he can present it in a way that liberals and intelligent people across the spectrum like. He gives us a good sense of what upper-class swing voters and moderate white Republicans are thinking.

The three major cable news networks have settled themselves into clear political niches; Fox is still strongly conservative, MSNBC follows the intellectualized liberalism of college-educated Democrats and CNN is the new populist news network which draws most strongly from the elderly.

To make it a little more clear, Fox = Bush, CNN = John McCain and Hillary Clinton, MSNBC = Barack Obama.

March 7, 2008

Protected: How to Help Obama

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How a Head-to-Head would go

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 1:47 pm

Here’s some good news for Obama supporters who are worried about a Clinton nomination:

Survey USA polls show that BOTH DEMOCRATS could potentially win the election in November, though Obama has a much more comfortable margin.

Hillary Clinton actually loses every Western state except California. Even highly Democratic Washington and Oregon tip for John McCain (Oregon by a lot). But she also gets a (narrow) win in Florida, and she is more popular than Obama in Pennsylvania, so she squeaks by with a few more electoral votes than John McCain.

There is a big “if” here: if John McCain choses Charlie Crist as VP, Clinton loses Florida and the election. This explains why Charlie Crist wants Florida to re-vote and to help Hillary Clinton to be the nominee – because he gets to be Vice President if it would in fact lead to Clinton’s nomination. If Obama is the nominee, Florida won’t be crucial because Obama wins even without Florida, so Crist won’t be picked.

Obama ties with John McCain in most of the “swing” states that Hillary Clinton is now saying are crucial, and loses some others. He loses Florida and Pennsylvania, and he ties with John McCain in New Jersey.

But Obama wins Colorado by a huge margin, he wins North Dakota, he wins Michigan (which Clinton loses), he wins Iowa (which Clinton loses), he ties in Missouri (which Clinton loses) and – get this – he TIES IN NEBRASKA. WHAT?

The take-away from this is that Clinton keeps all the battleground states in the same places they were in 2000 and 2004; it’s Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio that determine the outcome. Obama turns the Western population centers into Democratic areas, and his swing states are Missouri, Virginia and New Jersey. But these states are also less crucial for Obama because he is generally farther ahead in electoral delegates. New Jersey has been a solidly Democratic state, so if it does not tip for John McCain after all it means Obama wins by an even greater margin. Virginia is crucial for Obama, but with Webb as the VP nominee, he has it locked down.

Here’s an easy way to figure out what would go where: If it’s a remotely moderate state that grew in population between 1990 and 2000, Obama wins while Clinton loses. If it’s a moderate state that dropped in population between 1990 and 2000, Clinton wins while Obama loses.

As a matter of fact, even non-swing states like California and Texas, which are both growing, show Obama beating McCain by a far bigger margin than Clinton beats McCain (California) or losing by a far smaller margin than Clinton loses to McCain (Texas). The only growing state this is not true for is Florida.

And isn’t that the epitome of what this race is all about – Obama’s optimistic, youthful, forward-looking and inspiring message wins in states that are doing well economically, and Clinton’s establishment, unionesque, its-the-economy-stupid message that throws back to Bill Clinton’s economic success does well in blue-collar states that are hurting economically.

Here are the polls:



March 5, 2008

“Hillary’s New Math Problem”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 8:03 pm

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter explains why Hillary can’t win the nomination even with breathtaking wins in all the states she’s expected to lose in.

She could win with more-than-breathtaking wins, but if they are run-of-the-mill breathtaking (with something that seems like a 95% liklihood), then she’s out.

I’m guessing she’s just doing in it for the veep spot now, though Alter disagrees. Still, it looks like we’re just going to have to wait it out, and watch the party take all the trouble from Clinton before the general election begins. There’s no use in rooting for it to be over soon. There may be a bright side – maybe Clinton’s illusion of potentiality will help her serve as a lightning rod for Republican criticism that would otherwise be directed at Obama. It might also give him some time to prepare more fine-tuned responses to the attacks he will get.

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