Endorsing not-Romney

Picking a president is, to me, one of the most important things we do as citizens. Though technically we don’t make the final selection–that’s up to the Electoral College–and though there are some states that have been deemed more important while other states don’t even seem to matter, the popular vote can give us the best idea of what the majority wants. It’s a good measure of the mood of the country. It’s a poll with a huge sample size.

And so I take my decision very seriously. Armed with as many facts as I can find, I try to make a choice that I believe would be best for everyone.

This election has been extremely difficult.

I was first eligible to vote for president in the 1996 election between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton, but I had been passionate about presidential politics at least since the 1992 election. Ronald Reagan had been president for almost as long as I’d been alive (I was born in 1978), and I supported his successor, George H.W. Bush. We had a black-and-white faxed Bush poster hanging in our basement (faxing was big back then) that showed a picture of Bush pointing his finger and a purported threat to “kick [Saddam Hussein’s] ass” wherein certain words were replaced by oil company logos. I thought this was hilarious and didn’t quite get the double meaning. At this time I figured we were all on the same side and that America would simply keep being awesome.

I can’t honestly remember if Bush’s loss to Clinton took me by surprise, but I know I irrationally hated Clinton afterward. I was convinced that everything he said was a lie; I believed that I could tell just by looking at him that he was smarmy. I thought of him as a self-serving used car dealer type, eager to sell the country a lemon. This was slightly before Fox News Channel, but I did listen to Rush Limbaugh, and my dad watched a lot of other news programs on TV. And boy did my dad hate Clinton.

As the 1996 election approached, I happily spent my senior year vetting the candidates in the Republican primary. I wanted someone who could get Clinton out. I wanted someone who I felt shared my values, which, at the time, were evangelical Christian. And I wanted someone charismatic who could rally people, because an argument could be made that Ross Perot lost Bush the 1992 election, and I didn’t want to see a third-party candidate “stealing” votes like that again. I ended up choosing Alan Keyes, and talking him up to all my friends. But Keyes was not selected and we were, in my mind, “stuck with” Bob Dole.

I’d loved Reagan and Bush I. They’d seemed presidential to me. Bob Dole just…didn’t. He seemed like he was trying too hard. I entered college in the fall of 1996 shortly before the election. Around that point I discovered and started looking into the libertarian candidate, Harry Browne. After years and years of war, isolationist policies were sounding more and more appealing to me. But ultimately, I was afraid that votes would split between the Republican candidate and a third-party candidate and that Clinton would win. So in 1996, I voted for not-Clinton. I voted for Dole. My very first presidential election, and I was already faced with the “lesser of two evils” choice that has hounded me ever since.

Obviously, Clinton won again. Lots of things happened in my life around that point–I dropped out of school and got a job working retail, I was diagnosed with cancer, I underwent treatment and recovery, and I re-enrolled in school, this time at the University of Kentucky. I’d lived two states away my first year of college, but now I was back living with my parents. Fox News was always on (except when Rush was on) and every day Clinton did something to infuriate my dad. I was convinced that Clinton was unfaithful and his infidelity meant he couldn’t be trusted, so I fully supported his impeachment. I was also convinced that he launched strategic drone strikes against supposed terrorists whenever he wanted to get the heat off his personal life.

Still, this was a wonderful time for me intellectually. I hadn’t picked a major, so I was taking courses that sounded interesting, including several about gender and women’s studies. I became a feminist (though at the time I described myself as “a classical feminist, not a femi-Nazi”). Thankfully, I never got to the point where I believed institutions of higher learning were a waste of time and money, though I did have some ideas about making universities better. One belief that has stuck with me from that time in my life is that the university community, with access to so many people, so many different ideas, so many resources, is one of the greatest environments for learning we can have. You don’t just learn facts there; anyone can learn facts on their own. You learn about people, about life.

The 2000 election was kind of a no-brainer for me, unfortunately; I associated Gore with Clinton and didn’t do any further research into his side. The most I can remember is that I thought he was boring. I did pay a lot of attention to the Republican primary. Alan Keyes was back, but by then I considered him incapable of actually winning. I recall liking Lamar Alexander and Steve Forbes and being interested in Elizabeth Dole, but ultimately I had no complaints with Bush II’s selection. At the time he was a pretty eloquent speaker, and I thought the family name gave him gravitas.

After 9/11 I was terrified that the terrorists were going to strike smaller cities like Lexington, to try and make the point that our government couldn’t protect us. (I didn’t really understand the “point” they were trying to make; the World Trade Center literally meant nothing to me before 9/11.) I remember being very thankful that we had a strong Republican in office to deal with the threat. I also remember wishing it had happened under Clinton, because it would have served as an indictment of his presidency(!).

By 2004 I had married and moved to Augusta. I was somewhat divorced from politics, not having cable at home, so when I happened to be in a hotel in Boston that summer, I watched John Kerry speak for the first time on TV. He was a good speaker, and I really, really liked what he was saying, on an emotional level. But then I stopped, pulled back, and said, “That sounds great, but how would he actually do it?” (Ultimately, I voted for Bush again; I didn’t trust a non-Republican to “stay the course” properly in Iraq.)

Note how many of my political opinions starting out were based on feelings and impressions. I had access to information, but I focused more on how it made me feel personally than on what it meant empirically. This was not fact-based decision-making. That critical thinking moment with John Kerry’s speech was probably the first time I started using my brain properly, which is kind of sad. I was still coming at everything from a Republican viewpoint, but I was no longer willing to simply ignore what the other side said or to accept things at face value.

I had a job in news during the 2008 election, and information was everywhere. I watched and read and absorbed everything I could. As you probably know, I voted Obama, going with “the other party” for the first time. I’d like to say I made this decision completely logically, learning from my history of emotional decision-making, but that would be untrue. Still, I paid a lot more attention to the facts during that election than I ever had before. I was growing more and more aware of the situations of people in this country who are not me, and I wanted a president who was also aware of those situations and who would work to improve everyone’s lot. I remembered John McCain from previous elections, and I’d liked him previously, but his rhetoric this time around didn’t mesh with my vision of a progressive country. I was also rather flummoxed by Sarah Palin, who seemed like a nice enough person but clearly wasn’t qualified for her role. When a woman becomes president or vice president, I want it to be because she deserves it, not out of tokenism. While I did generally want to finally have a non-white president, I would never have voted for Obama based on the color of his skin. He earned the presidency through the power of his conviction and insight. A weaker candidate never could have done it. Obama’s race wasn’t a leg up; it was a hurdle.

Well, now it’s time for another presidential election. (As you know, since it’s been going on for two years.) I would say that this is the election for which I have the most information. I also have a clear vision of the priorities I want for our government.

And for the past several months, I have been in turmoil over who to vote for.

Economically, I’m happy with Obama. I’d like to see the tax cuts implemented by Bush and renewed by him expire–hell, I’d really like to see broad tax reform–but in terms of doing what he can to guide the country out of the financial crisis, I agree with the economists I’ve read that Obama has done a pretty decent job. A different president might undo all the good that has already been done, which is a scary thought. Or they might continue it and add something better. Ultimately, we don’t know what will happen, and the only person’s past performance we can even remotely rely on as a gauge is Obama’s.

On social issues, I’m okay with Obama. He says all the right things. He seems to get it. Based on his performance so far, I think we can trust him at least not to upset the status quo. And his Affordable Healthcare Act certainly helped a lot of people, especially women. Romney, on the other hand, has indicated that his public policy will reflect the values of a certain segment of the population and not the needs of the population as a whole. How much of that should we take seriously? How much of it is just rhetoric to get himself elected, to please his donors and voting base? Social issues are how candidates get people “riled up”; it’s considered a “safe” way to campaign. A Facebook commenter asked recently: how many Republican candidates have campaigned on ending abortion, only to do absolutely nothing about it once elected?

I would have found this “rhetoric has no teeth” argument more compelling before the Tea Party took control of much of the country and started passing anti-abortion legislation on the state level. I would say that at this point, social issues are back in play, and we need to be careful what we do about them. We can’t just trust candidates to be all talk.

So far, Obama seems to be a natural choice for me. The economy and social issues are huge, and he seems to be getting those things right. But other things are important too–things like due process and privacy. Our governmental post-9/11 paranoia has not abated under Obama; if anything, it’s flourished. Here’s a post I wrote back in April detailing all the rights we’ve lost or are in danger of losing if we don’t start paying attention.

This is enormous, people. It changes how our country fundamentally works. It codifies things we always worried or joked that the government was doing secretly and illegally. Maybe they were, but now there’s no recourse for citizens if we find out about it…because now it’s legal.

We are essentially no longer innocent until proven guilty. We can be held “on suspicion” for as long as the government wants. Obama has also used drone strikes to execute terror suspects without trial, including a US citizen.

I would hope that Obama isn’t making some sort of power grab here, and that he’s just naively acting in ways he thinks will improve national security at minimum cost. But there’s no way to know. All I do know is that a country that treats all of its citizens like criminals, spying on them and holding them without trial and killing them with drone strikes abroad, is not a “free country”.

Journalists have heard of these things, and some have spoken out against it, but others are either afraid of not getting invited to the fancy parties anymore or afraid of being spirited away in the night by the military. Whatever the reason, we’re not hearing about this anywhere. It’s bad enough that people who point it out sound like conspiracy theorist kooks, even though the legislation is readily available for anyone to read. The democratic process can’t work if people aren’t in possession of the facts…and people aren’t in possession of the facts. (A lot of people barely have time to put food on the table, let alone research all this stuff.)

Would Romney fix these problems? I don’t know enough about him to say for sure, but if he’s following a Republican hard line, I imagine he’ll just keep walking this same path. He certainly hasn’t called for anything like a repeal of the PATRIOT Act.

There are third-party candidates who have, though. The Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, is one of them. Some of my friends who supported Ron Paul in the primaries have switched their allegiance to this guy. I was hoping Ron Paul would win the Republican nomination, because even though I didn’t agree with a lot of what he said, I liked where he stood on personal freedom and privacy, and I figured a choice between him and Obama would be more of a toss-up than between Obama and any of the other candidates, who were all far too evangelical for my taste. As I liked some of what Paul said, I like some of what Johnson says, but I don’t really consider myself a libertarian anymore. I think the world is too interconnected for us to just stay out of things. (I do, however, think war should be dead last on our list of options.) I’m also concerned that Johnson would go the austerity route too soon, while the economy is still trying to recover.

Another third-party candidate calling for the repeal of PATRIOT is Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. I started looking into her after an online questionnaire told me my opinions matched best with hers. The Green New Deal is extremely interesting and I am in favor of a lot of it, including election reform, overturning Citizens United, making voting easier and more secure, making Election Day a national holiday, breaking up big banks, taxing the bonuses of bailed-out bankers at 90% (love that!), restoring Glass-Steagall, ending financial bailouts, investing in transportation, power/water, local food, and education infrastructures, and investing in green industries. I’m interested in the other ideas as well, but this is a far-left party and as such the entire platform (except, I suppose, the 50% military cut) depends on big government, which would be funded via tax reform. I’d like to see if this would work, but I’m not convinced enough of the country would get behind such a plan for Stein to have a chance of winning. Even if she did get elected, she certainly wouldn’t have much in the way of Congressional support, so it’s unclear how many of her goals she would actually be able to achieve.

Still, at this point, I like her the best. So now my problem is, do I vote for the candidate I actually want, or do I vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate I absolutely don’t want? Where is my vote most effective? Is my vote effective at all? Should I try to be strategic, or should I be straightforward?

Going back to my “presidential election as a poll” idea, I should be straightforward. I shouldn’t worry about my vote protecting us from a Romney presidency; I should simply vote for the candidate I actually support. I shouldn’t worry that my candidate doesn’t have a chance of winning; instead, I should worry about making sure the “poll” provides an accurate picture. If I voted for Obama, it wouldn’t be because I wholeheartedly support him, after all.

What would it mean, though, if Dr. Stein got a lot of votes, but didn’t win? Would we simply call it the Perot Effect? Would it renew our fear of voting for third-party candidates?

Are we ever going to have a system that lets us vote for the candidates we like without having to worry about this?

The ERA

In the past few months as I’ve gotten deeper and deeper into women’s rights issues, I’ve seen many calls for the ERA to finally be adopted. The Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution, would guarantee women the same rights as men. According to the official website, it was first proposed in 1923. It finally passed out of Congress in 1972, but since then it hasn’t been ratified by enough states to become law.

To be completely honest, my first reaction to this particular issue was to scoff. Why, I thought, should we need to specifically call ourselves out in the Constitution? That everyone has equal rights should be a matter of course. We shouldn’t need to codify it.

To everyone shaking your heads, let me explain something. I came of age in the 1990s, a time I look back on now as somewhat magical. Women’s rights were everywhere. People were having important discussions about equality on sitcoms. Popular music confronted social issues in thoughtful, powerful ways. And of course there was Lilith Fair. I went through high school and college feeling that women were powerful and could do anything, and those beliefs were bolstered by my surrounding culture. There were still problems, I knew, but they would be swept away in due course. I felt that humanity was on an inexorable upward climb.

It’s worth noting that at the time, I was a staunch Republican who got regular doses of Rush Limbaugh at home, and I was eager to point out to anyone who would listen that I was no “femi-Nazi”, but a “classical feminist”. It wasn’t embarrassing to be a feminist. It was normal. The issue wasn’t over whether or not to support women’s rights, but how to go about it.

With this background, you might see where I would get a little complacent. Perhaps that was the case for many feminists; I’m not sure. But something happened, because that golden age of feminism is no more.

After 9/11, the inclusiveness of the 1990s was shattered. We stopped being welcoming. We became suspicious of anything new, anyone who didn’t fit the “norm”. “Traditional values” became more and more important; they were comfortable, easy, a safety net. Never mind that these traditions are pretty new in terms of human history; they’re what we know and what our parents knew, so they must be for the best.

As progressiveness slowed, enmity grew between the traditional majority and minorities who had finally begun coming into their own.

I noticed the way fear had replaced openness in our society, but I thought it would pass. I didn’t think I really needed to do anything.

When a friend of mine in Mississippi started lobbying on Facebook against Initiative 26 last year, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Or at least, I didn’t think it would ever apply to me. I thought, here’s some lawmaker doing something silly in a different state. It’ll never pass. But as I watched, she continued to lobby, and it slowly grew apparent that it wasn’t going away. I think at some point I started reposting a few of her links, and I was gratified when ultimately the bill failed. I figured it was over.

Then Georgia put forth its “fetal pain” bill earlier this year.

Now it affected me. (I could empathize with those it would directly affect; I’m infertile. But more importantly, I could actually make a difference, as a resident of Georgia.) For the first time, I wrote about women’s rights on my blog. A couple days later, I wrote more. I posted links on Facebook. And I wrote the governor.

The bill passed.

After that I became more and more aware of similar bills being put forth across the country–the “personhood” movement. At a time when the recovering economy should have been everyone’s top priority, lawmakers were instead slowly chipping away at Roe vs. Wade. And then the attacks on contraception began–contraception, the most obvious way to avoid abortion entirely.

Whenever I would discuss my growing unease, someone would always tell me that these issues were a “distraction”.

Maybe they are a distraction, but if so, I’m not the one doing the distracting. The people actually making these laws are. And, worse, with people not allowing themselves to be “distracted”, these things are passing.

If this movement is indeed a “distraction”, my guess is that the people putting forth these laws are trying to distract us from the fact that they have no idea how to create jobs, or from the fact that the economy is recovering bit by bit. While they’re at it, they’re appealing to a radical base that longs for the “good old days”, and it’s working.

Whatever the reason, proponents of these laws are pushing thought out of government while pulling private matters of family and health into it. They’re forgetting that we know the cost of prohibition.

As a woman, I can’t sit back and view all of this as “politics as usual”. Not with the very culture changing around me. Not with more and more men and women speaking out against human rights. Not with the sudden rise of vitriol and suspicion toward rape victims. Not with the generally emerging sense that it’s okay for people who are not doctors to make medical decisions for other people, with no exceptions. Not with this apparent shift from making laws based on logic and science to making them based on unsupported beliefs.

We are no longer a country that doesn’t need an Equal Rights Amendment–if we ever truly were. Instead, we are on a road of hatred, marginalization, and silencing, on which people feel compelled to comment that when women are really raped, they can’t get pregnant, or that women should never have been given the right to vote.

The ERA would not solve the problems we’re currently facing, but it would be an important first step toward equality in the home, workplace, and political sphere. It would give us the ability to protect our rights in ways beyond protesting, lobbying, and writing letters. As the political tides shift, we need that protection. We need something as a buffer against anti-woman trends that could otherwise render us powerless.

One way to get the ERA passed is to find three more states to ratify it. Georgia is one possibility; there are fourteen others. Attempts are also continually made to get the ERA back through Congress. A survey from 2001 indicates that, at least at that time, the people were behind the idea of codifying equal rights.

To help immediately, you can sign this petition. As of now, there doesn’t seem to be a way to donate to the cause online. You can find various t-shirts and stickers here and there, but it’s unclear if the profits would help the cause.

In the long term, you can support legislators who support the ERA, through voting and campaign donations. You can call or write your lawmakers and ask them to support it. And you can talk about this issue with your friends and family.

The past year has proven to me that our rights are not inalienable. Not until we put them into the Constitution.

Fax your people in Congress about SOPA/PIPA

I used this website to send a free fax to my Senators and Representatives about SOPA/PIPA. The fax started out with a generic blurb, but there was a section where I could add my own thoughts. Here’s what I wrote:

Copyright holders already have ways to deal with infringing content, through the courts. Their real problem is their refusal to eschew their dated business practices and their insistence upon running to the government for help rather than finding better ways to market and distribute their content. Please don’t reward this backwards thinking by using taxpayer money on even more big government.

Blacking out tomorrow

Like many sites across the internet, pixelscribbles will be blacking out on January 18 from 8am to 8pm Eastern US time in protest of proposed US legislation that ostensibly seeks to stop online piracy but would ultimately result in curtailing free speech across the world.

I’ll be using the SOPA Blackout WordPress plugin. However, I wasn’t a fan of the default intro text, so I wrote my own. Here’s what I came up with; please feel free to use it yourself. I encourage writing your statement in your own words if you can, though; that makes it all the more powerful.

pixelscribbles.com is currently blacked out in protest of SOPA and PIPA, two fundamentally flawed pieces of legislation currently being considered by the US government. If enacted, these bills or others like them would have far-reaching consequences across the globe. Their flawed reasoning and careless wording would give censorship power to corporations, blocking the free flow of information from country to country, isolating us from one another. It would put US citizens’ knowledge of important events such as the Arab Spring in jeopardy. You can watch the video below for more information, and this blog post summarizes the timeline of events. I’m including links to more information below.

Many of the sites I’m linking to are likely blacked out in protest today–Wikipedia is just one such example. If that’s the case, please save the links and read them later.

SOPA, HR 3261: The Stop Online Piracy Act, was until recently being discussed in the US House of Representatives. It has been shelved, for now, due to the online backlash.

PIPA, S. 968: The Protect IP Act, is a bill in the US Senate with similar problems. This bill has not yet been shelved.

Here is more detailed information and analysis about the bills:

While this legislation has many supporters in the entertainment industry (click here for a list as of January 14), many other companies have come out against it, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Mozilla, Wikipedia, and Reddit. Here are a few articles on the subject:

Where do your Senators and Representatives stand on PIPA and SOPA? Click here to find out. You can then use the form below to contact the people who are supposed to be representing your interests, not the interests of big companies.

Alvin Greene

I’m fascinated by Alvin Greene’s win in the South Carolina Democratic Primary for US Senate. So many weird perspectives are coming out thanks to this unprecedented election. This is just one of the bizarre things I’ve read (from the Charleston Post and Courier):

State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, who lost his gubernatorial bid Tuesday, said race could have played a role. The Democratic primary electorate is majority black, as is Greene, but not Rawl. “Vic Rawl had money, but he didn’t have enough. He wasn’t able to identify himself with black voters,” Ford said. “No white folks have an ‘e’ on the end of Green. The blacks after they left the plantation couldn’t spell, and they threw an ‘e’ on the end.”

The debate

While watching the first presidential debate, I found both candidates to be very fluid and articulate, and both gave the impression that they were very knowledgeable about pretty much everything they spoke on. I’ve slept on it, and my opinion hasn’t really changed. I don’t see a clear winner of this debate.

Obviously, the two have different opinions, but in terms of expressing those opinions clearly and in a striking way, I think McCain and Obama were about equal.

A CNN poll indicates that Obama is the winner, but once you adjust it for the disproportionate number of Democratic respondents, it comes out even.

Each of the candidates has posted some “fact checks” on the web. McCain’s list is here; Obama’s is here. FactCheck.org also has a list. (Shockingly Snopes doesn’t have anything up yet, but I expect they will soon enough.)

Other than a couple of inflated/outdated numbers from both candidates, I don’t think either one did all that badly in terms of misrepresenting facts. They were more like minor quibbles than major issues. I think the candidates did well in responding at times when factual errors were presented, so I don’t think the errors will have too much of a negative effect.

There was one odd thing, a seeming role-reversal that kind of put me off-balance. In this debate, McCain seemed to be the one advocating diplomacy and non-warlike solutions to problems with other countries, while Obama seemed to be more hard-nosed. I would never have expected Obama to suggest that, if Pakistan was unable or unwilling to work with us, we “take them out”. (McCain was almost gleeful at this; can’t say that I blame him.)

As expected, McCain came across as better-versed in military strategy, while Obama seemed more in touch with the American middle class. They both made very good points on their pet issues.

McCain succeeded to a certain degree in highlighting Obama’s inexperience with foreign policy. The Pakistan gaffe didn’t help much. But it wasn’t damaging, I think, because the issue is a double-edged sword for McCain. He claims over and over that he’s a maverick, but he’s quick to point out opinions that were not formed through years of experience doing things the way we’ve always done them. This has the unfortunate effect of implying that he’s the best man for the job because he is not a maverick; because he knows “how things are done”. McCain eagerly jumped on the “change” bandwagon, but he defeats himself with this sort of argument.

All in all, though, I was pretty impressed by both candidates. I’ve said before that I think it’ll be okay regardless of who wins. My opinion of McCain has dipped, especially in light of some of his recent decisions, but last night proved at least that he can plan for talks and think on his feet. Obama, as usual, spoke fluidly and passionately, and was able to clarify his positions immediately and decisively.

The next debate should be interesting.

Presidential Debates

The following came to me at work as a news release. I don’t know how accurate the contents are, but I do know that third party candidates aren’t allowed in major debates, and I’ve never thought that was fair or made any amount of sense, given the values our country was founded on.

This essay is obviously pro-Nader; the original urged people to contact John McCain and Barack Obama and tell them to push for Nader to be allowed in the debates. But the issue extends to all third-party candidates. I’d like to see this change.

Feel free to discuss!


Presidential Debates

Right now, they are limited to the candidates from the two corporate parties.

The debates are controlled by the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation which was created by the Democratic and Republican Parties in 1987.

The Commission is headed by Frank Fahrenkopf — the former head of the Republican National Committee, and Paul Kirk — the former head of Democratic National Committee.

Fahrenkopf is a lobbyist for gambling interests, Kirk for pharmaceutical companies.

Debate sponsors have included Anheuser-Busch, Phillip Morris, Ford Motor Co., Yahoo Inc., 3Com, among other companies who gave soft money to the two parties’ national committees.

In 2000, some in the press dubbed the debates as the “Anheuser-Bush-Gore” debates.

In a memo by the CPD, the avowed goal for forming the commission was to “strengthen the two parties.”

In 1988, the Commission seized control of the debates from the League of Women Voters.

The League had a history of allowing third party candidates to participate in the debates. In 1980 the League invited Congressman John Anderson to join Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in the debates.

Anderson was given a boost from the public debates. At one point the polls had him at 21%. He won 7% of the vote.

When Jesse Ventura ran for Governor in Minnesota he was polling at 10 percent in the polls before the debates. After ten statewide debates he rose to 38 percent and won a 3-way race.

The Commission on Presidential Debates took a different tack from the League of Women Voters.

This Commission/corporation has excluded Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan from the debates.

In 1996 Ross Perot was excluded from the debates. Even with all his money and after having won nearly 19 percent of the vote in 1992 it was determined that he did not have “a chance to win,” despite the fact that he even led in the polls at one point in 1992.

Walter Cronkite called the presidential debates under the CPD an “unconscionable fraud” because the CPD format “defies meaningful discourse.”

In early years the CPD determined who could be in a debate by vague criteria including interviews with columnists, pollsters and consultants who determined whether a candidate could win.

In the year 2000, the CPD changed their criteria for third party and independent candidates — a candidate now needed 15 percent or more support as measured by the average of five private polling organizations — which just happen to be owned by several major newspaper and television conglomerates.

In 2000, Ralph Nader was excluded from the debates because the parent corporations that conduct these polls were giving him scant attention.

Without the mainstream media attention there is no moving up, and without moving up, candidates like Nader do not get into the debates and reach tens of millions of people.

In 2000, a Fox poll revealed that 64% of likely voters wanted to see ‘other candidates’ including Ralph Nader in the debates.

Other polls in 2004 showed similar results.

But it didn’t happen, thanks to the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Independents voices and third party candidates, including the Abolitionist, Women’s Suffrage Movement, Worker Protection, and Farmer Populace Party, have brought about many of the major changes in this country.

When Abraham Lincoln ran for office, the two major parties were the Whigs and the Democrats.

As a Republican, Lincoln was elected as a third party candidate — even after being left off the ballot in the 11 states that seceded from the Union.

In 2004, 17 national civic leaders from the left, center and right of political spectrum – including Paul Weyrich, Chellie Pingree of Common Cause, Alan Keyes, Tom Gerety of the Brennan Center for Justice, Bay Buchanan, Randall Robinson, former FEC General Counsel Larry Noble, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and Jehmu Green of Rock the Vote – created the Citizens’ Debate Commission.

Bolstered by an advisory board comprised of 60 diverse civic groups, the Citizens’ Debate Commission goal is to sponsor presidential debates that serves the American people, not political parties, first.

References:
Open Debates
No Debate by George Farah

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McCain wants a fan club

McCain’s campaign is pushing the Obama-as-celebrity angle pretty hard. Check out this gushing run-on from Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager:

We can all agree that Senator Barack Obama is one of the world’s biggest celebrities and every celebrity needs a fan club filled with adoring fans and Senator Obama certainly has his fair share.

This quote is part of an email just sent out to unveil McCain’s newest campaign ad, which you can see here.

The Obama-as-celebrity and Obama-as-the-one strategies are annoying to me as an Obama supporter, but I admit that they could be effective. It would be easy to cast the effect Obama has on people in a fanatical light.

The problem for McCain is that his people aren’t doing it right. His commercials lack organization, visual interest, and the one-two punch needed to drive the point home. He’s not coming across as the serious, intelligent choice.

He’s coming across as jealous.

Vote Obama

I voted for Obama in the Democratic Primary and I am going to vote for him in the Presidential Election (because he will get the nomination). I have not stated this plainly anywhere because I have been afraid that the people I love will not understand. But how, after reading his March 18 “A More Perfect Union” speech, can people not see that he is the one we need right now?

Here is an excerpt from the transcript posted at the Drudge Report:

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

Barack Obama sees what I see–people are who they are based on the times they lived in, the people they’ve known, the experiences they’ve had. There are so many race issues that still need to be worked out. And there is no simple band-aid we can apply to fix everything.

Obama knows that we have to acknowledge these problems…and he also knows that we simply cannot do so in an angry, violent, stubborn way. We must take a step back and be thoughtful. We must evaluate positions other than our own, and ponder the implications of our own upbringing.

This is the path to wisdom and justice, not only in our internal affairs but also in our dealings with the rest of the world.

We need someone who isn’t single-minded, who can take in all the issues and weigh them with intelligence and sincerity, and then make the tough decision.

Barack Obama is that person.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

Good one, Bill

From the New York Times Politics Blog:

Before Mr. Obama’s win on Saturday night, Mr. Clinton was at a polling place in Columbia, S.C., and was asked by a reporter, “What does it say about Barack Obama that it takes two of you to beat him?” referring to Mr. Clinton’s full-time campaigning for his wife.

Mr. Clinton laughed and replied, “That’s bait too.” (He had just responded to a question about Senator John Kerry by saying he would not take the bait.) He then added: “Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice, in ’84 and ’88, and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama is running a good campaign.”

There is video of Mr. Clinton’s response to that one question but not of the entire exchange with reporters. But Mike Memoli, a campaign reporter for MSNBC and the National Journal, wrote the most complete account of the exchange, and it contains no other reference to Mr. Jackson. Mr. Memoli said in an e-mail that no one had mentioned Mr. Jackson until that point.

So essentially Clinton said “Look, this other black guy didn’t become the nominee, so it probably won’t happen this time either. Put your support behind a white person instead!”

I mean, how else are you supposed to interpret that? Jackson wasn’t mentioned until this point; the only reason I can think of to bring him up is because he was also a black candidate. Even if Bill wasn’t intending to imply that Obama won’t win because he’s black, he’s still being condescending: “You’re doing a good job! Just like that other black guy!”

Sheesh. Can we just get past the race thing, please, and evaluate candidates based on the issues?