T Plus 5 Days and Counting

I’m writing this on Sunday night after the Presidential election. I hope everyone knows this, but Barack Obama defeated John McCain last Thursday. The popular vote was 65,431,955 (53%) for Obama and 57,434,084 (46%) for McCain. In the electoral map, Obama won 364 electoral votes vs. 173 for McCain (different news organizations have different numbers, but they are close enough for my doing). As a sidebar I looked at some of the web pages of the independent candidates I listed on my page. I wasn’t able to find much information on how many votes they received, and I have to say that as a group they are not gracious losers. I didn’t see any of them offer their support or prayers to the new president; none of them took a page from Senator McCain’s gracious and benevolent remarks.

In any case it’s still hard to believe that the campaign really is over. With all the buildup, all the twists and turns, it didn’t take long on Tuesday night to have a winner. By the time our polls closed at 8PM local time the networks knew and shortly after 8 the race was over. We had some friends and family over and when Senator Obama was announced we all looked at each other in disbelief.

Since then there has been an outpouring and it’s moved me to tears several times. I grew up in Virginia and thought I was aware of racial politics and beliefs but I was not prepared for the welling of emotion over the election of an African American man for President. I guess I was one of the few people of my generation who did believe I’d see an African American President in my lifetime (mostly at this point I’m still getting my head wrapped around the fact that Obama is younger than me). On the other hand “knowing I’ll see it happen someday” is very different from actually experiencing it. I’ll never forget the faces in the crowds in Grant Park in Chicago where thousands gathered. This time just feels so . . . hopeful.

I say this against backdrop of the horrible racial politics that the other side attempted. I wrote about this a few days ago, how blogs all over the country were trying to portray Obama as an outsider with a “secret agenda” who is “not one of us” and “secretly wants to destroy America.” These words make his victory all the sweeter in that this type of ignorance didn’t work.

The dark spot of the election for me here in California was the passage of Proposition 8. Last May the California Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for California to deny marriage to same sex couples; almost immediately groups in and out of the state began this proposition to change the state constitution to define marriage as only for heterosexual couples. It passed by a thin margin. I’m not sure where it goes from here, but it does strike me as unfair that the state constitution can be changed by a simple majority on a proposition. By contrast, the U.S. Constitution can be amended only after a two step process: a resolution is passed by 2/3 majority of the House and Senate, and is ratified by the state legislatures of 3/4 of the states.

The supporters of Prop 8 disagree with me on this reasoning but I do draw a line from this to the debate about interracial marriage that took place last century. Until 1967 (in the case of Loving vs. Virginia) it was against the law in several states for people of different races to marry. The Supreme Court argued here that there was no constitutional right to define marriage as between people of the same race.

The landmark Supreme Court case in the civil rights era is Brown vs. Board of Education, 1954. What is not well known is that it overturned a previous Supreme Court case, Plessy vs. Ferguson, 1896. In the Plessy case the Court ruled 8-1 that it was permissible to allow “separate but equal” facilities. The Brown case, 58 years later, argued that separate is inherently unequal and there can be no double standard.

That’s the issue I have with those who hold that our gay brothers and sisters still have domestic partnerships. The argument is that they have this provision and marriage can still be reserved to a man and a woman. Only it can’t. Justice Warren in 1954 was right: separate is simply not equal.

So let’s take a moment to celebrate Barack’s victory, but then remember that we still have work to do.

Today's the Day

8:00 PM Western Time (Midnight in the East, 0400 GMT)

It appears to have happened: NBC, ABC, CNN have all declared Senator Obama as our next president. The polls have just closed on the West Coast and the Obama support has been strong enough to declare California, Oregon, and Washington for Obama. It also appears that my home state of Virginia will go for Obama. I’m watching the celebration from Grant Park in Chicago and it’s jubilation. As an aside, we haven’t seen the McCain headquarters as they are in the Phoenix Biltmore and it’s closed to the public. No more need be said.

OK, maybe more can be said. It’s been a long 8 years for many of us and President Elect Obama has a great deal of cleaning up to do. He will certainly need our prayers in the years ahead. Whatever has been said about the “color barrier” this is a historic moment and years from now I’ll remember this moment. But more than that, I believe he is the man who will best be able to reunite our country.

6:00 PM Western Time (9:00 in the East, and 0200 GMT)

Every hour brings new states that have closed their polls, and things continue to look up for Sen. Obama. NBC has 175 Electoral Votes for him and 76 for Sen. McCain. He appears to have some downticket momentum. John Warner (R-Va.) retired and it has gone to Democrat Mark Warner (no relation). That wasn’t a surprise but it was a surprise to see that incumbent Senator John Sununu (R-NH) was defeated by Jean Shaheen and incumbent Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) has been defeated by Kay Hagan. We’re a long way off from this, but there is an outside chance that the Democrats will have 60 seats in the Senate.

That’s important because of the role of the filibuster in the Senate. Any Senator can block discussion or a vote on any bill simply by taking the podium and not giving it up. It takes a vote of at least 60 senators for “cloture” to end the filibuster. The Democrats currently have a majority if the Senate but they don’t have 60 seats and the Republicans have been able to effectively block a great deal of progress. Assuming Sen. Obama wins, if he has a 60 seat majority in the Senate, he will have a tremendous opportunity to move us beyond the Bush years.

4:45 PM Western Time (7:45 in the East, and 2345 GMT)

Well it’s already started: as I write this Kentucky and South Carolina have gone for Sen. McCain and Vermont for Sen. Obama. None of these were surprises, though perhaps if South Carolina had gone for Obama, the race would pretty much have been over by now. As of now, McCain is ahead 16 electoral votes to 3 (at this point I’m watching NBC; other networks have different totals).

1:30 PM Western Time (4:30 PM in the East, and 2130 GMT)
OK, so at long last it’s here: Election Day 2008. My countdown clock goes until January 20, 2009 because that’s how much longer President Bush is in office. Sometime within the next few hours we’ll know who the President Elect is, but he won’t take office for another 76 days.

In the next several hours I’ll be making some changes on my web page. Primarily I’ll be removing the names of the candidates running for President. Keeping track of this has turned into a bit of a nightmare and I have only myself to blame. At the beginning of the primary season I hoped to list not only the major candidates of the major parties, but anyone I could find who announced candidacy for President. At first it wasn’t too bad as I was able to find most of what I wanted from Google or Wikipedia. It became more complicated when candidates would lose their primary and announce that they had either switched to another party or decided to run as independents. It also became clear that some of these candidates weren’t putting in much effort as there were no changes in the web pages over the course of the race. In any case, after tonight nobody is running for president in 2008.

I’m planning to keep most of the other boxes on the left side of the page. I’ll probably get rid of the Bert and Ernie terror alert level; it was a parody of the White House’s color coded terror alert level and I don’t know anyone who keeps track of that now.

I’ve been keeping track of the US combat deaths in Iraq with a counter I downloaded from antiwar.com. It doesn’t look like we’ll be out of there anytime soon and I’m inclined to keep it there as long as our troops are there. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find a counter for deaths in Afghanistan; if I do I’ll add it. There are counters who attempt to keep track of deaths of US civilian contractors and Iraqi civilians but the Bush administration has been successful in keeping that information private and the counters aren’t very accurate.

As long as I’m housecleaning I’m making some changes on the right column too. Primarily I’ll be getting rid of some of the personal blogs that either no longer exist or now require permission to read.

I’m going to write several times during the night as the voting comes in. Right now there isn’t much as the first polls don’t even close for another 2 1/2 hours.

T Minus 15 Days and Counting

Fifteen days from tonight I will be up most of the night watching the election results. It’s going to be a long few weeks.

I received my sample ballot in the mail last week. You can see I have 37 candidates for President listed. Of those picks, only 6 are listed in my ballot (5 actually because I did not list Alan Keyes who is running on the American Independent Party ticket). My ballot lists only Alan Keyes, Ralph Nader, Barack Obama, Bob Barr, John McCain, and Cynthia McKinney.

I’ve made no secret that I support Senator Obama and I hope he wins. Yesterday on Meet The Press General Colin Powell endorsed Senator Obama. The interview is worth a watch and the transcript is here. General Powell was as gracious as ever and respectful of both candidates but in the final word he articulated good reasons to vote for Senator Obama. Allow me to highlight some of these reasons:

  • The economy. Senator McCain doesn’t seem to have a grasp of the economic troubles we have been facing, famously saying that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. In fairness he is caught between what clearly needs to be done (use government resources to stimulate the economy) and what the Republican Party is demanding (do nothing: look how successful it was for Herbert Hoover).
  • The choice of Sarah Palin. Senator McCain announces again and again that he is a maverick and owes his vote to no one. Yet when he clearly wanted to choose Senator Joe Lieberman as his running mate, he buckled under and chose someone he had only met a few times and is clearly unqualified (meaning no disrespect to the Alaska PTA but that does not qualify someone for national office). The fact that she passes the Republican litmus test on abortion and gay marriage only shows that Senator McCain is not his own man.
  • The negative tone. Everyone knows that politics is hardball and it’s not bad to see how someone responds to being roughed up. But John McCain (whose 2000 campaign was destroyed by Karl Rove’s tactics; there is an excellent explanation in this Boston Globe article) has allowed this to get out of hand. He is an honorable man but he has allowed his campaign to smear Senator Obama with issues that are just plain wrong (he will raise everyone’s taxes) to issues that are simply offensive (he is secretly a Muslim and has an agenda he is hiding from the American people).

My only complaint with General Powell is that he didn’t do this in 2004. He was instrumental in selling the Iraq War in 2003 and it is now clear that he was using intelligence that the Bush administration knew to be wrong. He was the one person who could have blown the whistle and turned the voters against President Bush. I’m sorry he didn’t

Of all the issues, I’m most troubled by the ongoing negative campaigning. I had hoped that Senator McCain would repudiate these tactics but he clearly hasn’t. I’m proud to support Senator Obama who criticizes Senator McCain’s positions but never questions his patriotism or loyalty. The Republican Party, however, continues to hint darkly that Senator Obama is “not one of us” and Senator McCain is unwilling or unable to stop it. If you google “Obama” and “Muslim” it shows 12,100,000 hits, and the sponsored link above the results is McCain for President. The offensiveness here is deep and amazing. It hints that 1) Senator Obama isn’t running to President to serve the country but to destroy it, and 2) The mere fact (sic) that he is Muslim is proof because “they” can’t possibly love the United States.

I call this the Nat Turner strategy. Nat Turner was a slave on a plantation in Virginia; in 1831 he led an insurrection of slaves who rose up and murdered 55 people, beginning with the family that owned him. This led to harsh laws meant to prevent slaves from ever being able to do this again. The name Nat Turner now stands for anyone who appears to be loyal but is really looking for an opportunity to destroy you. In the context of the Presidential campaign the racial undertones are unmistakeable. Only a Obama win will quiet these voices.