2.28.2008

Obama, the First Female President

I've been considering this after conversation with a friend at his blog. There was a great deal made 15 years ago about how Bill Clinton was the First Black President. He just seemed to fit in so well with African-Americans, they were by and large happy to claim him as one of their own. Bill Clinton did a great deal for the African-American community, and he is still remembered by them fondly. Indeed, until Bill introduced race into the Presidential race in S. Carolina, it was widely considered a dangerous situation for Obama, for it was feared that he wouldn't be able for him to get a significant portion of the African-American vote.

Now, here's a thought. Part of the attraction of having a woman in the highest office in the land, for me and others, is that a woman bring something to the office that a man doesn't. This isn't to say that all women think one way, and all men another. But we can say salvo reverentia, without outraging reverence, that there are some general trends. This is perhaps principally so in the approach towards conflict, and resolving conflict. It would seem that men tend to like conflict more, to want the adrenaline of the big fight, and women tend to value the relationship more, trying to find a way to work together. And after so many years of having men ruling the roost and doing conflict their way, some of us think that maybe it would be helpful to have a woman's approach this next time around.

Then along comes Hillary, the exception that proofs the rule. For time and time again in this campaign, she has gone for the jugular against Obama. She has insisted on being contentious, using the politics of fear in the Red Phone Ad, and now repeatedly comparing herself positively to McCain, so as to show Obama negatively. Sadly, this is nothing new. Eight years in the Whitehouse showed us the experience of both Clintons to be one of the most contentious periods in American politics. Certainly this isn't all do to Hillary. The Republicans have the lion's share of the blame during that time, and Bill has a healthy does of it too. But Hillary's experience in the Senate seems to have continued this trend, where she seems either unwilling or unable to resolve the divide between her and the Republicans. To be fair to her, she may perhaps not know how. So let us be honest. Obviously there's no denying that she's biologically feminine, but what is there about her approach to politics that makes me feel that I am electing a female President by voting for her? Other then breaking the ultimate glass ceiling, I see little in her that makes me feel the value in having a woman as President.

And yet, Obama seems to be the one who actually can fulfill George II's old promises, never kept. Obama's record in Illinois and the US Senate have been very clear that he is a uniter, and not a divider. He is so eager to negotiate and work with others, that some like Hillary accuse him of being unable to lead and deal with foreign governments because he's not antagonistic enough. Obama has repeatedly passed on possible openings for attack on Clinton, and instead rebuked members of his team who degrade Clinton. For Obama, its always about the high road and relationship.

And then it dawned on me- why we like Obama. His approach to conflict is decidedly classically feminine. He cares about the relationships, and he wants to resolve conflicts through mutual dialogue.

First Black President's already taken. Vote for Obama: Our First Female President.

2.26.2008

How to be Racist and Run for President

Hillary and Obama had another debate tonight. There was a moment that was shocking. One of the moderators brought up Farrakhan's recent support of Obama, and asked for Obama's response. Obama didn't give the best response in the world, but he said that he doesn't deny anyone the right to support him, while clearly repudiating Farrakhan's anti-Semitic anti-Jewish beliefs. Then he unfortunately went on to mention how much he continues to support Israel.

I've said before, I was okay on Hillary, until she went Islamophobic and anti-Semitic in her first New York Senatorial campaign. I liked Obama a lot more, until he also went biased towards Israel- though not as much as others. Which still makes him more attractive than Hillary to me.

But I was shocked at Hillary's response. It was not only a repetition of her basic Islamophobic bias, but she acted like she was proud of it! She used it as a reason to actually vote for her! God preserve us if she ever gained some real power.

She reminded us how she had rejected a pro-Arab groups' support in New York, as if that were a good thing. I remember this moment in the NY campaign well. It was the moment when I decided I'd never support her for President. It wasn't an anti-Jewish group; it was an Arab group saying America should not support Israel; it was anti-Israeli. Hillary responded by apologizing for previously greeting the former Palestinian first lady in the traditional Arab manner. It was blatant anti-Semitic Islamophobia. But now she pretends that she was standing up against anti-Jewishness, and criticized Obama for not doing so. Yet she didn't even have the chutzpa to admit she was criticizing Obama.

Yes, Obama should reject Farrakhan's anti-Semitic anti-Jewish beliefs. But Obama needs to walk the tight-rope of also affirming Muslims, and continue to affirm that he will no longer practice the historic isolationist American bias for Israel only, but be an honest broker, treating Arabs and Israelis equally, and pursuing justice to end the Palestinian apartheid. His support in America comes in part because of his strong international support, particularly in the Arab world- and that will continue only as long as he is perceived to be an honest and just broker.

Being anti-Israeli is not the same as being anti-Jewish; being Muslim is not the same as being anti-Jewish; and we need to remember, that for all of Farrakhan's mistakes and anti-Semitism, he also has positive aspects too. For those reasons, his support shouldn't be rejected anymore than a pro-Zionist group's support should be rejected. The answer and even the question frankly smacked too much of the feeling that anything associated with Islam (particularly those dastardly Black Muslims) is inherently suspicious.

Let us move beyond the historic Islamophobic attitude of American culture and press. Why can't we say, "I want to be your President, and I reject some things this guy Farrakhan says, and I affirm other things he stands for. I reject Zionism, but support those who want a place for Israel to exist safely. And I affirm that not only are Christianity and Judaism reasonable religions, but so is Islam, and there is no reason at all that we should flee from even the image of it, just because of our own racism because of the actions of a minority of terrorists." (Most terrorists in US history were white males, not Arabs. I am a member of a very dangerous minority that should be profiled every time I enter the airport.)

Both candidates screwed up this question. Hillary did it worse, because she repeated her historic racism, and tried to spin that as a positive. At least we can count on Obama's past family history with Muslims to indicate that he will be more equitable and just than other candidates, and past Presidents.

2.10.2008

Baracking the Caucus

The day is here! Oh Glorious Day! The Caucus!

Today was my first ever experience in caucusing, and I must say, it felt more like a full immersion in democracy than anything else I've experienced before. And it was really great to be around a bunch of people who enjoyed discussing politics, and didn't get miffed at you for talking about it.

We met at the local school, and the gymnasium quickly flooded to overflowing. They weren't expecting so many people, so we began late, and even as we began people were still in line signing in. I'm told we doubled the record for participation in a Washington caucus. (And incidentally, we more than doubled the numbers in the Republican caucus.)

There were some 12 precincts present in the auditorium, and our precinct was by far the largest, with four tables, and a crowd standing around with no seating. We began by talking about who we supported, Obama or Clinton. (Strangely, no one was a supporter of Gravel. I feel sorry for him. He's still in the race, and no one's talking about him.) Then a woman made some announcements up on the stage that no one could hear since the mike wasn't working, and finally the mike worked, and she instructed us on the steps. The first bit was that we wouldn't have a discussion between all precincts, but each precinct would be an entity unto itself. We were all in one place for organizational benefit, with all the materials in one place, but because of the exceptionally large crowds in extremely small spaces, it all felt rather unorganized. We got conflicting information, and were having to shout over each other. But this, also, felt like real democracy in action, as if we were back in the first Constitutional Congress as they tried to figure out how to get their Blackberries to count the votes.

For most of us, this was our first caucus. One man had experience in leading caucuses, and we elected him the chair. He explained how the event worked.

videoWe were told initially that we should break up into our support groups (Obama, Clinton, and Undecided), and count the number of supporters. We finally figured out a method of counting off like in kindergarten, as we lowered our hands, for any other method in such a large crowd would have resulted in an inaccurate result. We went to report our result, only to find out he had sat down at his table (he was a Clinton supporter), and recorded the support from the sheets we filled in when we signed in to the caucus. This was a good method, except that many of us hadn't written who we support, as we didn't know about that part. So I and others were initially recorded as Undecided, until we clarified the numbers.

All three groups got an opportunity for a one minute speech in support of their candidate. The Obama crowd was obviously significantly larger, but I was in the midst of it, so I didn't record our representative. Here's the Clinton guy:
videoHe was representative of the Clinton crowd. They supported their candidate, but they weren't as die-hard about it. It was more, "Well, she's the best one for the job, and I think we should support her." Whereas the Obama people were saying, "I will bleed blood before I support Clinton." (Okay, I was the one who said that, but still, it was indicative of the general mood.)

Our precinct was assigned seven delegates, based on a complicated formula of the number of registered voters and how Democratic we'd voted in past elections. It couldn't be more than seven. Based on that, we had 15 people for every one delegate (making about 105 people gathered around these four tables). Incidentally, this is why caucus numbers reported by the press look so much lower than primary numbers- they are the number of delegates. These delegates will go to the Legislative District Caucuses, who in turn will elect delegates to the County Convention, and then the Congressional District Caucus, the State Convention, and finally the National Convention in Denver. Because Democrats really have that much time on their hands. Our seven delegates would go on to the District Caucus, and they will send some number like "one" delegate to the next level.

After the counts, we had the opportunity to try to convince the Dark Side to come to the Light, or the Undecideds to join our team. I don't think any Clinton or Obama supporters ended up switching. The numbers to begin with were enough for 4 Obama delegates, 2 Clinton delegates, and 1 undecided delegate. (There was one guy who supported Kucinich unwaveringly, but since he was 14 people short of a delegate, his vote went uncounted.) But through some hard work, we won over the majority of the Undecideds, so that we gained a fifth delegate. And, to toot my own horn a bit, I was told that my arguments were rather convincing for the Undecideds. My main points were that:

  1. After South Carolina and Florida, many Democrats won't support Clinton. After her campaign falsely claimed that Obama had brought race into the race, when in truth it was Bill Clinton who was doing it, and after Hillary promised not to campaign in Florida but did anyway- after all this, many Democrats like myself feel we can no longer trust her. McCain says most of the stuff we don't want to hear, and Clinton says most of the stuff we want to hear, but we suspect that Clinton won't keep her word, and will do all the stuff we don't want. Therefore, many like myself are probably not going to vote at all in the General if Clinton is elected. Since polls are showing this is a widespread, if minority feeling in the party, better to vote for Obama if you want a Democrat in office. (This clearly demonstrates why Obama is winning the caucuses. Clinton puts the lies out there, like accusing Obama of being in bed with a slum lord, and people believe it. The undecided woman I spoke with was shocked to find out that the guy had also supported the Clintons, and learning this helped sway her to Obama.)
  2. I'm voting for Obama because I want the candidate with experience. Obama has far more elected experience than Hillary- he's been doing the job on the ground.
  3. More importantly, Obama has the international experience. Because of his skin colour, his cultural upbringing, his father, and living in Indonesian and Hawaii, the rest of the world sees him as someone they can trust. He's someone they can negotiate with. Many in the Arab world in particular are saying this. (And by the way, amazing the hush that fills a crowd when you mentioned that you used to live in the Middle East.) And now, in this time, that is exactly what we need- someone who can be trusted by the rest of the world so that we are no longer the pariah that we've become. Only Obama can do that. He can do that not just because of perception, but because growing up overseas gives him a worldly perspective, and not myopic to America. This last argument in particular was persuasive. Some Clinton supporters poo-pooed it, suggesting that an international experience was irrelevant. A man of colour with a foreign accent in the crowd put paid to that idea, and the feeling of the crowd became that, indeed, this was a serious benefit to Obama.

This convincing and cajoling all took place standing in these crowds, as people rushed in and politely elbowed each other for space and speaking time. We had enough for 5 & 1/3 delegates, giving us six total. For a moment. We were told that, with enough for 1 & 2/3 delegates, the Clinton people would get one delegate, and we'd get our five plus the left over delegate. But then a clarification of the rules went out, that numbers were to be rounded, and so Clinton got two delegates, to our five.

After three hours, almost done. We were there longer than any other precinct, due to our size. The only thing that remained was to select the delegates and alternates to the Legislative District Caucus. We'd have one alternate for every delegate, and I was selected as an alternate! And I can still go to the District Convention as an Alternate, and may be seated if a rep from another district doesn't show up. If not seated, I can participate without voting.

We gave speeches before the selection. This is where I gave my speech that I will bleed before I will vote for Clinton. We had 11 candidates, and 10 spots. It was a very hard fight. We made speeches, and chose from a hat. Democracy in action. Jim McDermott

Then, just as the caucus was ending, standing in the corner, was our Congressman, Jim McDermott! When we broke up, I ran over to him and shook his hand, thanking him for all the work he does in Congress supporting Arab rights. I know he is a minority there (about 20 Congressman are not Israel supporters), and I told him that I know it's often difficult, so his work is doubly appreciated.


2.08.2008

20,000 in Obamaland

Obama came to Seattle again today, a day before the caucuses. Things were a little different from the last time he was here. We met this time in the Key Arena, the smallest arena of the NBA, at only 18,000 capacity. (Which, incidentally, is why the NBA is leaving Seattle.) Doors to open at 11, Obama to speak at some time after that.

I planned to take a bus to arrive by 1030, but discovered the bus at 10 was already so full it couldn't stop. I figured buses would only get fuller as we got closer to the time of the rally, so I walked across Queen Anne Hill to the arena, arriving at 1040. The doors had already opened a half hour early. This was soon to prove significant.

Inside the stadium quickly began to fill, and I could only find seating in the nosebleeds. There were two giant tiers empty, but they were dedicated to the union, which didn't end up filling all the seats. It was about this time that I heard my friend Adrian couldn't make it, as he couldn't find parking near the Seattle Center.
At 1115 my friend Shari called to say she couldn't get in, as they had closed the doors. Sadly she missed entry by only four minutes. Though I had two seats saved, they weren't allowing us to go to the door to let friends in. We were already over-capacity. Mayor Nichols later mentioned that it was a good thing he'd let the Fire Marshal go home early for the day. The crowd was overwhelmingly white (as it's Seattle), except for those directly behind the candidate, where the cameras would pick them up. There it was diverse, with a higher percentage of Asians, Blacks, and Muslims. It was also overwhelmingly young. As we waited some entrepreneurial supporters realized that there were box seats right behind them, and started climbing into them.

It was actually the most exciting part, as we waited for two hours for the candidate to show up. We watched as security would come in and escort one box seat out, while at the other end supporters were still climbing into the next. It was rather humorous, to realize that they were irrevocably losing their seats down below, for shortly security would come to escort every box seat claim jumper out.

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Finally people began to come out to speak. Like in the last Seattle Obama rally, there was a very bad presenter to clearly differentiate what came after. This time it wasn't a guitarist, but rather a pianist, who might have been very good at the piano, but was very bad when he was reading from a piece of paper.

Then it was Mayor Nickels, a longtime Obama supporter, out to rally the troops,













followed by a surprise- Governor Gregoire! She said today, for the first time ever, that she was endorsing Obama. Honestly I wasn't expecting this. Our other two primary female leaders in this state, the senators, had already endorsed Clinton, and Gregoire was playing coy, so I honestly expected her to make it a triumvirate. But she shared that she had spent a lot of time contemplating, and finally decided for Obama.














Look closely- see the Obama halo.  He's not Jesus- just a Blessed Saint.Then, to the roar of a record-breaking crowd for the Key Arena, with 20,000 inside, and 3,000 waiting outside in the cold, with countless others like Shari leaving early because they couldn't get in, the man arrived. (For comparison purposes, the Clinton campaign was surprised the night before that they actually had 7,000 people.) If you look closely at the picture on the right, you can actually see Obama's halo. Gives whole new meaning to the name "Barack"- Blessed.

Obama covered mostly topics from previous speeches and debates. Strangely the news media, like King 5 and Komo 4, got a number of aspects of Obama's visit wrong. They claimed no one minded waiting two hours. Many did, though we didn't blame the candidate. The media claimed that there was no empty seats. There was, for some union and handicapped seats weren't taken. And most significantly, the media claimed that Obama never mentioned Clinton in his speech. Obama did, though briefly and only once- in the recording below.

I wanted to post the entire speech, but it turns out that the 1.6 Gig file is going to take just too long to upload. This is the last few minutes of Obama's speech.
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And wouldn't you know it, but my Flip Video claimed I had a whole hour available, when it reality it was only about 52 minutes. So the best part of the speech wasn't caught. To paraphrase, Obama went Biblical on his detractors, speaking straight out of the New Testament, about what Hope really is. Hope isn't some mealy-mouthed thing. Hope is what inspired a movement which gave women the right vote. Hope is what ended slavery. Hope is what began child labor laws. Hope is what changes the world.





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