Tag Archives: Obama

The Consequential and The Conscientious

Shes making a difference

She's making a difference

A friend asked me the other day why I stay involved. I am just one person; a small cog in the internal combustion engine political machine.  So why bother? Why be so self-important as to assume that I can make a difference?
It’s a tough question, with a lot more philosophy involved than you might think. Being involved: with community service, in politics, in student government- means giving up your time and energy and not getting a whole lot back. So why bother?

Those who work in politics in particular can tell you how frustrating campaigns can be- months and indeed years spent in preparation, half of the time all for naught. Late night strategizing sessions, early morning canvassing, hours upon hours of phonebanking and confirmation calling and volunteer organizing- only to see your candidate lose because of a stupid word slip or semi-slanderous commericial or maybe just because people didn’t like your party that year. Why even try?

I guess the answer to these questions is that, if you don’t try, who will? One thing the Wall Street Meltdown Crisis of the Century taught is that people have to look out for themselves. The government won’t, your friendly local banks won’t, and Wall Street most definitely won’t.  If you want to make your neighborhood safer or cleaner or prettier or nicer, you have to do it. If you want a candidate to win, you have to help them yourself. If you want change to happen, you have to make it happen.

But it goes deeper than just doing things for your own good. Politics are about changing the world, changing history, profoundly affecting the lives of your future children. Think about a world without Bush- without the war in Iraq, without No Child Left Behind, without being so far on stopping global warming and environmental destruction, without such terrible debt, and probably without the aforementioned Wall Street crash. A few more people could have prevented all of these things- by ensuring enfranchisement for African-Americans in urban Ohio in 2004, or by educating a few more voters in Florida in 2000. These were elections that were quite literally decided by a relative handful of votes, and the impact they had is quite plainly devastating.

Not deep enough for you? How about this. Think about the time you spend watching TV, surfing the internet, playing video games, and whatever else you do in your free time. To avoid any unecessary preachiness, I’ll put myself in this position- I do these things, far more than I should. When I look back on my day every night, I think, what did I accomplish? If the answer is “watching the entire 5th season of America’s Next Top Model on VH1” or “napping and eating a lot,” then the day was probably a waste. Those are not the kind of things I want to think about when I lay on my deathbed. Those are not things that make the world the better place. Those are not even things that make me a better person. And while they may be relaxing or easy or even fun in small quantities, they are indeed wasteful and fruitful and, when repeated millions of times all across a listless nation, harmful.

John Kerry lost Ohio by just over a 100,000 votes. Bush won Florida, and the election, in 2000 by 537 votes. All of this could have been prevented. But it wasn’t. Who is going to stop it from happening next time?

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On Elitism

Politicians are not normal people. It takes a special kind of person to run for office, one with an incredible amount of confidence- “arrogance”, if you will- and a belief that they are the best person for the job at which so many have had problems. For these reasons alone, it is ridiculous to for a candidate- running for president, no less- to call another candidate “elitist.” Of course he is elitist. So are you. I am, of course, not referring to any two candidates in particular.

The most comical part of this whole exchange has been the comments leading up to it.

1) In a forum at Saddleback Church in Southern California a couple of days ago, when asked what he considered “rich,” John McCain responded that the term can be applied to anyone who makes more than FIVE MILLION DOLLARS a year.

2) Today, when asked how many houses he owns, he responded that he didn’t know and “would have his staff get back” to the inquiring reporter

3) When Obama started using the “houses” statement in ads, McCain’s spokesman responded:

Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people “cling” to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who’s in touch with regular Americans?

By 100% non-partisan logic, therefore, Barack Obama is not rich, but by virtue of “only” making $4 million a year, just middle class. What kind of elitist does that make him?

So Obama isn’t rich, and McCain has so many houses that he can’t keep track. Which sounds more elitist to you?

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On Affirmative Action

I will start this post off by saying that I am white, middle-class, and a child of the suburbs. I was born and raised in uber-blue Northern California, to Democratic parents, and now I go to UC Berkeley, a notoriously liberal school (a stereotype that is not entirely deserved, but that is another post for another time). This does not give me an easy position to discuss (and even less, denounce) affirmative action, but I’m going to do that anyway.

AA has been in the news recently because John McCain recently stated that he supports a measure in Arizona that would get rid of the preference system.

I am against affirmative action because it gives an unfair advantage to minorities based on race (and, in some cases, women based on gender). It’s that simple. AA was designed to give underprivileged youth a boost in college admissions (it also helps underprivileged adults seeking government employment). By itself, this is not an ignoble cause. There is no doubt that poorer communities live in a vicious circle of poor education leading to poor jobs leading to their kids having poor educations and poor jobs…and on an on. This is clearly something that needs to be addressed, but affirmative action is not the answer.

Problem numero uno with AA seems so obvious that it is often taken for granted. AA is based on race. No where does it specify that a college applicant must be poor, or live in a particular neighborhood, or go to a particular type of school, or have fewer than a particular number of TV channels. No where does it specify that they need to have faced certain hardships, nor does it require that they even be underpriveledged at all. Therefore, a minority student born to wealthy, upper-class parents (and yes, they do exist) is in no way disqualified from receiving preferential treatment.

What this means (see if you can follow along here) is that a rich (or otherwise “privileged”) black, or Latino, or American Indian student is admitted to a college before an equally-qualified yet underprivileged white or Asian student.

Affirmative action therefore does not help underprivileged students, but rather minority students. The equation to represent this thinking would be X=POOR, (where X=an African American, a Latino, or a member of any other group considered a minority). X=POOR, X=IN NEED OF SPECIAL HELP, X=UNDERPRIVILEGED. These equations, for various obvious reasons, do not compute. Minorities are not inherently poor, and indeed as time goes on more and more are climbing up the ladders towards the middle and upper classes. To assume that ALL minorities need assistance in getting into college or getting a good job is racist in itself, but it also disqualifies those who deserve the assistance who cannot get it because they happen to be white or Asian.

This brings up another issue which I will only touch on lightly: reparations. Some people believe that AA is a form of reparations- a way to make up for all the bad things white people have done to, well, everyone else. I am against reparations because I don’t believe that the children of today should have to pay for the mistakes of their (often distant) ancestors, and nor should they benefit from their hardships. History cannot be (or, at least, should not be) rewritten by money or privilege. Affirmative action as reparation even ignores history altogether by forgetting that plenty of other groups- Irish Catholics, Jews, Chinese, Japanese, and more- also faced terrible hardships when coming to this country (this is not to say that their lives were as difficult as those of African-Americans, but to question where the line is drawn between “privileged” and “unprivileged”).Things are not as simple nor easy to separate the American people into “minority” and “privileged” and assign help accordingly, but that is what AA tries to do.

A final issue that is important to note is discussed by Barack Obama, from the article:

“If you’ve got 50 percent of African-American or Latino kids dropping out of high school, it doesn’t really matter what you do in terms of affirmative action. Those kids are not getting into college,” he said.

Affirmative action does not and will not ever guarantee that minority kids get a good education. That is up to them.

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Like a chocoholic, but with politics.

Do you hear that? No? That’s because it’s silence, which, despite what Fox News would let you believe, doesn’t make a sound.

I have a serious problem with silence. This whole Democratic nominating process thing has gone on for quite a while now, and, I’m not ashamed to say, I kind of enjoy it. It’s comforting to hear the dull roar of racism charges, sexism charges, self-aggrandizing talk show hosts shouting manufactured arguments at a live TV audience, testimonials from the ghosts of candidates’ respective pasts, and accusations of lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, and– perhaps most uniquely to this election– plagiarism.

But it stopped. The temper tantrums, the attention whoring, the hero worshiping- all of it stopped, and left me with a ringing in my ears and a sudden awareness of white noise. I miss it. What happened?

Hillary Clinton was inevitable, then threatened, then overtaken, then dead, then revived, then back in the proverbial driver’s seat. Florida and Michigan, two classically democracy-hating states, then knocked her back down with their simultaneously self-hating and self-important decision to move their primary elections to before Super Tuesday (against the wishes of the DNC), making their votes null, and void. Naturally, according to polls taken at that time, Hillary Clinton would have won both (yes, even if Obama’s name had been on the ballot). Florida, Michigan.

This brings us back to the silence, that terrible foe that brings with it low TV ratings for 24-hour news channels and little material for bloggers (such as myself- see, I’ve written 1 1/2 posts and I’m a blogger now!) to complain about. With nothing to really talk about until the Pennsylvania primary in a month, we’re left to picking up the stray confetti and preparing for the next party. Nothing going on means no one in the news talking about it, which means no one in the blog-o’Sphere whining about how awful the mainstream media is treating this election. It’s a vicious circle of peace and tranquility, and it needs to end soon.

But perhaps I over-exaggerate. Perhaps I speak only for myself when I say that I miss the anger, allegations, and incestuous competitiveness that I’ve grown so fond of in the last several years of campaigning by Obama and Hillary. But since Texas and Ohio voted on March 4, the most significant story regarding the elections has been that some peon looked at the candidates’ passports once when they weren’t supposed to, and that a crazy old white woman and a crazy old black man said some racist things. It just hasn’t been the same.

So I ask myself, am I addicted? Do I thrive on the ups and downs of politics and political candidates? Do I live and die by primary and caucus results? Well, not really. As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I won’t be totally devastated if Obama wins, and indeed I will probably sign up almost immediately to join his campaign. I guess its just nice, after so many years of Bush-era, frustration-induced apathy, to see people care. Roof-top shouting, horn-honking, obnoxious-sign-waving, megaphone-wielding, blimp-buying, parade-having… I love all of it, as loud and intolerable as it is. It’s good to know, I suppose, that people have woken up from their 8-year-slumbers and started to have faith in this country, and the democratic process, again.

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