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Politics

Updates on the female candidates – Elizabeth May and Sarah Palin

I post this using the plural because I want to cover developments in both the Canadian and American elections.

Canada

In Canadian Politics, quite a lot has changed in the last few days.  Elizabeth May, the only female leader of a national political party will now be allowed to enter the TV debates, despite earlier reports.  Originally, the leaders of both the NDP and the Conservative Party had opposed the inclusion of May in the televised debates.  Stephan Dion, the Liberal Party leader, comes off looking very well after being the only major leader to openly support her inclusion.

The general public seemed quite upset, especially with NDP leader Jack Layton.  Intense pressure from supporters resulted in Layton backing down.  Once that happened, Harper immediately changed his tune and removed his opposition to May’s inclusion as well.  This will mark the first time the Green Party is included in the televised debate, and is a major shift in the Canadian Political landscape.  The big “fear” from the Conservatives and the NDP is simply that her and Dion will team up and represent some of the same platform points.  It’s a bit unfounded, because the NDP also shares many of the same platform points as both the Liberals and the Greens, and yet no one is worried about t heir inclusion.

America

In other news, Sarah Palin continues both to impress and anger at the same time.  She is also a pretty strong public speaker, but her speeches so far have been laced with more than a few examples of inflamatory rhetoric, and also more than one lie.

The big one?  Her purported opposition to the “Bridge to Nowhere”.  She claims she said “thanks but no thanks” to Congress when they offered her $200 million dollars for this bridge.  However, local politicians from both major parties have come out against this.  The truth of the matter is that she was a major supporter and lobbier on behalf of this earmark, and once the money was received and the political winds changed, she changed her mind and said “no”.  But then she kept the money. That’s right.  This Yahoo! News article has much more information on some of the fiscal scandals plaguing her.  The other big issue is her opposition to a Federal oil profits Windfall tax (which Obama supports), while in her state she has done just this.  Alaska has had a major oil tax, but Palin rejigged the whole thing to make the state receive more of the income.

There is also a growing fear of Palin’s theocratic tendencies.  While faith in politics has been a major factor in American politics for the last two elections, here it becomes even more curious.  Over and above the accusations of Obama being a secret muslim, there are more serious accusations about Palin.  Juan Cole of Salon.com has written a scathing article.  Here’s a short piece: “But the values of his handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.

Cole goes on to compare Palin’s positions on abortion with a variety of Islamic countries, and notices that herr position lines up nearly identically with that of Iran.  Cole even notes that Tunisia allows abortion in the first trimester, while Palin vehemently argues it is always an “atrocity”. She’s also let it be known she doesn’t believe that climate change is man-made, which is diametrically opposed to the views espoused by both the Obama campaign and her own running mate, John McCain.

Despite these…questionable attitudes on certain subjects, Palin has been a huge source of strength to the McCain campagin.  As a staunch conservative, she has re-energized an unimpressed Republican base and has been a great source of funding for McCain.  Obama’s campaign has actually begun to fall behind in terms of fundraising in the weeks since she has been announced.

For a more detailed (and sligtly more balanced view) of Palin and some of her policies, check out this Newsweek article.

Conclusion

Overall, two strong women are participating in national politics in North America.  This is less of a “big deal” in Canada, which has already had a (albeitly short-lived) female Prime Minister.  However, this is still something to be proud of.  In both countries, this is likely to be one of the most interesting and engaging political races in modern history.

Politics

Is Obamamania fizzling out?

Until recently, Barack Obama’s lead in the polls appeared insurmountable.  The presumptive Democratic nominee’s message of change seemed to be resonating with the American public, while his Republican counterpart’s efforts to endear himself to evangelical voters was proving largely fruitless.  In July, for example, polling website electoral-vote.com had Obama leading his opponent by over 100 electoral college votes.  Similarly, the results of a national poll released in mid-June showed Obama holding a healthy 15 point lead over McCain. 

Over the last few weeks, however, Obama’s lead has shrunk dramatically.  Pollster.com shows him leading by less than 70 electoral college votes, with states like Indiana and Missouri – until recently considered winnable by Obama – trending Republican.

Electoral-vote.com paints an even worse picture for Obama fans.  According to its calculations, McCain is leading in the vitally-important swing states of Ohio and Florida and, to a lesser extent, Colorado.  Under this scenario, Obama’s margin over McCain is a measly 3 electoral votes; a virtual dead-heat.  Should the election unfold along these lines, Virginia, the only remaining state in the ‘undecided’ column, would decide the presidency.  Both candidates have a realistic shot of taking Virgina – but it’s hardly the situation Obama expected to be in as the summer draws to a close.

So what happened?  Are people fed up with his incessant, ambiguous demands for ‘change?’  Perhaps.  More likely, though, is that McCain’s negative attack ads are finally having an impact.  Joan Walsh, writing in Salon, notes: “John McCain’s decision to slime Barack Obama … seems to be paying off in the short term, judged by his recent climb in many polls.”  And a host of news outlets and editorial boards have offered similar analyses.

McCain appears to be taking a page out of Bush and Rove’s playbook.  A cursory glance at 2004 polling data reveals a striking similarity between the two election cycles: during the summer of ’04, Kerry led Bush by several dozen electoral college votes and looked poised to take back the Oval Office for Democrats.  However, shortly after the launch of the now-infamous Swift Boad ads, Kerry’s lead began to evaporate.  Of course, we all know how that story ends.

Is a similar fate in store for Obama?  Hopefully not.  Already, he’s started to fight back.  According to an article in today’s Independent, Obama is “now running an uplifting national advertising campaign while delivering fierce attacks on his opponent at the local level in key swing states [Emphasis added].”

While some would say that Obama’s new strategy is hypocritical given his pledge to “transcend the bickering of national politics,” I think it’s about damn time he started to fight back.  Negative campaigns win, whether we like it or not.  And, to be perfectly honest, I’d rather see Obama take the White House with a vitriolic campaign than lose it with an “uplifting one.”

Regardless, if he doesn’t manage to reverse his sliding poll numbers soon, negative campaign ads could be the least of Obama’s worries.

Featured Politics

Obama clinches the nomination

So it’s finally happened.

Barack Obama has “won” the Democratic nomination to stand as a candidate for President of the United States.

Now, what this actually means is that he has enough pledged delegates and pledged superdelegates to officially win the nomination at the national convention.

It’s a sure thing, and he has made history as being the first African-American to stand as a presidential candidate for any of the major parties.

What’s hilarious is that Hillary Clinton still refuses to concede. In a speech she gave in New York today, she kept hammering that she was the most “electable” and
that she stood the best chance against McCain.

She goes on to say that she won’t be making any decisions tonight, and that she wants her supports to visit her website to give her advice and tell her what they want.

Part of me admires here persistence, but at the same time this can only be even more damaging to the dems in the long run. The longer Clinton continues her impossible quest, the less likely it is that her supports will get behind Obama.

So far it seems that Hillary is the only one who thinks that she’s still in this race. Obama’s pretty much begun to ignore her, and McCain gave a speech today where he already declared that the primaries were over and the general election had begun. He launched some attacks at Obama.

It seems like Clinton’s relevance in this whole thing is fading rapidly. This is definitely a blow to her supporters, and by no means is she at all inferior. She did run a strong campaign and managed to pull off some big wins. She’s also, despite what the internet likes to say, not a terrible person.

No matter who you supported, this has been the most electrifying primary season in my memory, and I absolutely think that anything that engages people in politics is fantastic.

Here’s a fascinating quote from the CNN article: “Sen. Clinton was asked whether she was open to the idea of running as vice president and repeated what she has said before: She would do whatever she could to ensure that Democrats take the White House back and defeat John McCain,” the former first lady’s campaign said in a written statement Tuesday afternoon.”

Clinton does not seem to be living up to what she says. By giving such a defiant speech tonight she just continues to divide the party. This fuels McCain and doesn’t help “take the White House back”. Absurd.

James Carville, the kingpin of the Clinton campaign, gave a pretty funny discussion during the CNN wrap-up. He kept mocking the other pundits saying he was “befuddled” why anyone thought she was conceding tonight. He insisted that she never indicated she would concede tonight, and that these decisions “take time”. Frankly, I don’t see how it can “take time”, when your opponent has already achieved the votes necessary to clinch the nomination.

Not a good way to start things off if she really is actively pursuing the VP spot.

[Update]

Terry McAuliffe, Clinton’s spokesperson, made an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart where he desperately (and hopefully satirically) pleaded the case for how Hillary’s still going to win the ticket.  He claims she’s won the major contests coast-to-coast, and he even claimed that she won South Dakota and Montana.  He’s half right.  She did win S. Dakota (no offense, but who really cares?).  However, CNN and all the major pundits are predicting a Barack win in Montana.  Plus, he’s already clinched it.  When will the madness end?

Politics

The Republican Super-Ticket: McCain/Rice

 

I wrote recently that Democrats should have no problem retaking the White House come November, despite the protracted, occasionally nasty battle currently raging between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Perhaps I spoke too soon: a recent poll conducted by Marist College and WNBC reveals that a Republican ticket of John McCain and Condoleezza Rice would win New York, even against a Democratic ticket consisting of Clinton and Obama. This is shocking, since Kerry won New York by 20 points in 2004 and Gore won it by an even greater margin (25 points) in 2000.

If the poll is true, Democrats should be seriously concerned. Although the poll only canvassed New York voters, the fact that McCain and Rice would be so competitive in a dyed in the wool Blue State is incredible. CNN’s take on the poll suggests that Rice, being both black and a woman, would trump whatever historic candidacy the Democrats will present to the American public in the Fall. Apparently, a black female Vice President is better than either a black or a female President.

Politics

Obama’s Race Speech

Like him or hate him, you have to admit that Barack Obama is a helluva talented speaker. And, to top it all off, what CNN’s political pundit Bill Schenider calls the “most sophisticated speech on race and politics I’ve ever heard.”, was written by Obama himself.

You can check out all 38 minutes of Obama’s speech below.

More importantly, in case you have trouble focusing or just don’t have an hour to spend listening to a speech, HuffPo has the full transcript of the speech here.

For those of you not following the story, here it is in a nutshell. Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is a nutbag. He has made way too many controversial statements, both racially and politically.

He criticizes “White” Americans and castigates the American government. MSNBC has this to say:

A videotape of one sermon captures Wright using a harsh racial epithet to argue that Clinton could not understand the struggles of African Americans.

“Barack knows what it means, living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Wright said on Christmas Day of last year. “Hillary can never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a [N-word]!”

In another sermon, delivered five days after the 9/11 attacks, Wright seems to imply that the United States had brought the terrorist violence on itself.

“We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York, and we never batted an eye,” Wright says. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought right back in our own front yards.”

In a later sermon, Wright revisits the theme, declaring: “No, no, no, not God bless America — God damn America!”

Pretty tough stuff to deal with, and really damaging to Obama’s claimed attempt to transcend racial politics. After the furor in South Carolina, Obama has to deal with it at some point. So he did. In Philadelphia, ahead of one of the last big primaries, he held a speech that dealt with race in an obvious way.

Responses to the speech have been mixed. The New York Times and LA Times both gave ringing endorsements to the speech, comparing it to visionary statements by people like Lincoln and Kennedy.

Even articles that are critical of his speech lend him some credit. The Houston Chronicle says “Holding a tough hand of cards, Obama responded to Wright’s outbursts with admirable finesse. He downplayed their outrageous, sometimes demented, nature by labeling them “divisive,” a moderate word. He refused to disown his pastor. He couldn’t. Doing so would have seemed craven after their long history together.”

The International Herald Tribune offers a more complex portrait of his speech, including an analysis of other media outlets.

Media analyses, in the United States and abroad, were overwhelmingly positive in describing Obama’s speech, which he felt compelled to deliver amid a firestorm of criticism of Wright. They also said it had unalterably changed the face of his campaign.

The Daily Telegraph of London called Obama’s speech “a spellbinding display of rhetorical brilliance,” but also said that he would never again be able to campaign as an American politician “who just happened to be black.”

“With this speech, he has become a black man running for president, taking on the mantle of Martin Luther King,” the newspaper wrote. “That makes it a great gamble, a move on to new terrain.”

Writing in The Guardian of London, Michael Tomasky noted that Obama had “seemed, as someone’s one-liner put it, ‘just the right amount of black’ ” – but that he had now presented Americans with a more complex and challenging self-portrait.

“I am sure it helps us, as a society, to hear it all put out there with intelligence and subtlety,” Tomasky wrote. “I am less sure about whether it will help him.”

One of the only truly negative critiques comes from the lovely (read: evil) Ann Coulter. I won’t do her a favour and link to her article, since it’s full of the typical juvenile vitriol we come to expect of the blonde lunatic, the Howard Stern-ette of the political sphere. The same woman who came out and accused 9/11 widows of profiting off the deaths of their husbands has the gall to claim that she is the authentic post-racial American and Obama is not.

For a smarter conservative critique, we can look to the National Review Online. That’s not a sentence that is normally written, but in this case it is true. Even they admit that the speech was well written and moving, but that it still dealt with some difficult material. Their argument that the sheer fact Obama had to ever downplay comments like this is problematic. That is difficult to argue with. I think everyone wishes Wright hadn’t said these things. Heck, I’m sure Wright probably wishes he hadn’t said some of this stuff now.

The San Francisco Chronicle speaks a little about the speech too, and seems to be overwhelmingly positive. They say that not only does it address the fears and the problems with Wright’s sermons, “But for those who were willing to listen, Obama’s Philadelphia speech provided a context to his relationship with Wright, as well as a fascinating discourse on the role of race in the framing of the U.S. Constitution, the culture of the black church, resentments among blacks and whites, and even the complexities of attitudes within his own biracial family. He spoke of his white grandmother who “loves me as much as she loves anything in this world” yet also feared black men passing her on the street uttered “racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

Overall, the speech is full of good points and some bad ones. Obama may gloss over some of the problems but he does do a good job of defusing the issue. One of the more unlikely defenders of Obama and Wright is former Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He suggests (rightly so) that no politician should be held 100% accountable for what those around them say. Huckabee also says that pastors sometimes get carried away in their sermons and often things come out that aren’t exactly how they meant to say it.

He also correctly points out that these ridiculously offensive statements from Wright are not the only thing he’s done. Wright is a more complex man and has done a lot of good for his community. Those things should not be overlooked, but it should also not excuse him from his rants.

I’ll leave you with this little section of his speech.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

It’s impressive oration no matter if you believe him or not. And in truth it’s hard to agree with the idealism behind it. Practically it may be a different matter. However, I believe that any discussion on race that talks about it in terms of uniting instead of dividing, agreeing to accept flaws in a group’s views and not completely counting them out about it, can only be useful.

Obama declares that “there is not a black America and a white America… . There’s the United States of America.” If only this were true. Though with more open discussion about these issues, maybe it will be.