Monday, May 5, 2008

I know I know

Ah, my readership, I know I have been missing from your lives. Where have you been, you say? In a hole - a deep hole of trying to figure out which of my years of cultivated information I must shed in order to make space in my brain for the useless crap I need to know to get good grades.

But I digress.

I was watching Chris Matthews today - by which I mean that I had him on for 4 minutes before the blood started dripping from my ears - and I started thinking (a bad pastime in my current condition)

Where would we be in our national dialogue if, say, all the Democratic primaries had occurred on the same day? Or within two weeks, or a month of each other? Would the media and Democrats be screaming bloody murder over this race?

Well, really, we should be focusing on the media. It's their fault we're in whatever mess we may or may not be in right now. Quick Aside: A great little piece on Bill Clinton was in the New Yorker this week describing how two very bored journalists follow him around recording every word he says (which I will admit, is a lot) just to catch him on the few that he may say that are "off message".

But back to the point on hand, really my main point of a few entries on this blog, it's not the candidates fault that this race is dragging on so long and the tone is so painful at times, it's the process and the media. If on July 1, Obama's lead is only single digits in pledged candidates, doesn't that only show that Democrats are more divided on who should be our representative and not that Clinton stayed in too long? It's double-think backwards logic to suggest that this is Clinton's doing, that she's spoiling something that people want - obviously people are ambivalent, that's why we're here.

But to still end on a note of optimism: The economy has taken front seat even to the race. It's the summer doldrums of political coverage in an election year and I still see more coverage on the Democrats - yes the squabbles, but also the policy. That with the economy and a media quiet McCain, I still think that this process, despite all the hand-wringing it's brought us, won't be the end. Democrats will coalesce behind the party's candidate and the whole primary process will be past history in the short attention span political world. 

Sunday, April 6, 2008

You won this time...

While I hate, HATE, the citizen proposition system (oh, I loath thee), it does provide some much needed entertainment.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Party Destruction

We're destroying the Democratic Party!

Well, maybe. That's the conventional wisdom at least when it comes to the long primary process. If this is true, why do we have this long process in the first place? Maybe it's the party's folly. Did no one really sit down and think that if you have a process that goes to July that well, maybe, the process will take until July (or longer)?

I, for one, think that it's good. In a "normal" election, I imagine that voters who are usually left to rubber-stamp the forgone candidate get bored and distracted until after the convention. The fervor gives way to an endless wait until the big grudge match of September, October and November. The candidates get somewhat quiet over the summer while they go off to raise money for the general.

Let's look at the positive effects of a long primary. 1) Late state voters are galvanized to take part in the primary process. 2) Those late states are hearing a lot about the Democratic candidates positions. 3) The national media is largely ignoring John McCain (other than his gaffes) and spending ample time talking about the Democratic contest.

You might say that 2 and 3, with the griping between the campaigns, isn't such a good thing. I beg to differ. Nothing that's been said has come anything to the level of Swift-Boating (or McCain's illegitimate black child in the 2000 campaign) and this airing out of grievances and weaknesses will only make the candidates stronger come the general. Let's assume it's going to be Obama, how is McCain going to attack him with Rev. Wright (which would have been done anyway) in the general? It's the same with just about any attack against Clinton - been there, done that, cue the roll of the eyes.

As was quoted at the end of today's NY Times article, we should all take a deep-breath and tell ourselves "it will be ok". It really will. The problem isn't Obama and Clinton fighting it out, the problem is our collective public hand-wringing over it. The more we say that our party is being destroyed, the more the uncommitted voters will think that Democrats don't have the answers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Let them eat cake!

I, along with most Democrats, will be very disappointed if the convention comes down to a battle between Superdelegates that may not reflect the actual votes of party members.

This is especially true if, in this close race, the voices of Michigan and Florida are shut out. Yes, they screwed up and went against the party. Yes, they were rightly stripped of their delegates as punishment. But now we need both states to help make this decision. Not, as Obama would like it, split 50/50 between him and Clinton, but as a real reflection of the will of the party.

It's really the only way for Democrats to finally be comfortable with whoever ends up pulling ahead. I know Obama supporters don't want to risk the votes of these two states putting their horse behind, but if we look at the electoral votes and the popular votes (discounting the "winning streaks" a particular candidate might have state-by-state), the race is truly neck-and-neck. Clinton has no reason to drop out now and should see it through to the end.

Florida and Michigan should revote. It's really the only way. The Clinton camp's insistence on seating Michigan as is is laughably absurd bordering on insane. How should they sit the "other" votes? Florida is at least more of a reflection of the voters wills. Yes, Florida voters knew that their votes would not count, but they still turned out in record numbers and there's no indication that one candidate's base supporters stayed home at larger rates than the other's. Still, in all fairness, Florida should be done over also.

And no, it should not be by caucusing. Chez Progress has had a long-standing debate about caucuses. The better-half thinks their fine. I, on the other hand, think they are undemocratic, or at least undemocratic in the American sense. Secret votes where every eligible voter has a chance to have his voice heard is the only true reflection of the voter's wills. A system where a voter is required to be at a site at a particular time (thereby disenfranchising late-night workers, parents, the elderly, etc.) and a voter must stand up to community pressure doesn't cut it. If I wanted to vote from Gravel, I should have every right to do so and have my vote counted!

Clinton has it right on this one. Yes, she has nothing to lose and if she was on the other side her tune might be different, but that's just an ad hominem criticism of her position. Each candidate should put up 15 million dollars and have Michigan and Florida revote. If the result stays the same, at least we can all sleep easily.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Take this man/woman

I started drafting this post a week ago, but got sidetracked...

Much of my day last Monday was spent watching the oral arguments in front of the California Supreme court in In re Marriage Cases. It was an uncomfortable three hours sitting in a plastic chair watching a live feed.

It was nearly impossible to tell from the questioning by the bench where the split will ultimately lie in the seven justices. Justice Chin was certainly telegraphing that he believed that CA's Civil Union law was similar enough to marriage that there was no need to rock the boat. On the other end, Chief Justice George and Justice Moreno were working through an interesting distinction - is this case asking the Court to declare the right for a person to enter into a "same-sex marriage" or was the Court being asked to say that "marriage" in the classic sense, was open to anyone? (The question turned on the US Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas where they rejected the previous "right to homosexual sexual relations" and instead based their decision on the more universal right to privacy and free sexual relations for all consenting adults).

Civil Unions, as I mentioned, makes the argument hard for the Petitioners in this case. Chin especially harped on this point. Isn't this the legislature essentially creating gay marriage? Or is this, in the opinion of George and Moreno, a separate but equal situation.

Justice Werdegar asked the simple question, "Is now the right time to do this?" To which I have to wonder if the answer is a simple, "Well you agreed to hear the case didn't you?". Looking back on it, I'm more and more struck by the utter simplicity, and perhaps naivete, of this question. Justice Werdegar must recognize that the Court refusing to acknowledge a right for gays and lesbians to marry will establish in California that marriage is not a basic civil right and will close a major avenue for finally bringing a positive change in the state. I hope that this is not the feeling on the Court as a whole, otherwise they made a tactical blunder in bringing the case up now when there are not seven justices willing to make a final legal determination on the issue.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Comfort Behind the Curtain

The better half will be very excited by this post, because I will concede a small, little bit of my discomfort with Obama. Things may get a little less heated at Chez Progress.

I got a link today from a similarly wonkish friend pointing me to an article in the New Republic about the policy advisors in the Obama camp. (Can I point out, however, that strangely this article comes from some time in the future?)

The piece deals mainly with Obama's economic advisors who come from the behavioralist school. As you might notice from earlier posts, I am not a fan of economic purism. Sadly, I am not at the vanguard of these arguments and have have been beaten to the punch by a lag time of about 30 years.

The idea is simple, rooted in reality, and, yes, practical: We are not a society of economic maximizers that can be plugged into academic equations of behavior, we are mercurial, selfish, selfless, illogical beings who's economic choices are less routed in what is best in an economically ideological sense, and more routed in the day to day drudgery of life.

So how does this translate? Well, Obama's camp has recognized that increasing employer 401(k) options don't necessarily help retirement savings (and I will assume, therefore, the looming Social Security disaster) because there is a percentage of workers who, for one reason or another, will not take advantage. Is that their moral failing? Maybe. Does it solve our economic problems? Not at all. The solution? Automatically enroll workers in 401(k) programs. That simple act, and the inertia of status quo, will accomplish the task.

Sadly why this idea is not a part of Obama's health care plan (but a part of Clinton's), I don't know. Obama would like to think that it's simply access and affordability keeping Americans (who can otherwise afford it) off health insurance. I can't imagine that this idealistic vision comports with behavioralism.

It's also nice to note that Obama eschews idealism-based foreign policy for a more dynamic practical approach. As the article points out, if we had embraced the reformer President Khatami and eased our economic and diplomatic pressures on Iran, we might not now be stuck with Ahmadinejad.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A point, inside a tempest, at the bottom of a teacup

Chez Progress has been a-buzz with the recent NY Times article about John McCain's "romantic relationship" with an FCC lobbyist. The better half is pretty incensed that the Times is dipping to a distasteful level of tabloid journalism with this latest article. Needless to say, I didn't read the article and tried to stay out of it.

Until today.

What I'm angry at the Times about (well, more disappointed) is that they've gone and sullied an otherwise valid investigative article with unsubstantiated campaign conjecture. If you read around the controversial statements, you see a politician who is blinded by his own self-sanctimony acting like the televangelist who sins - "It's ok, because in my mind I'm holy."

The challenge then is to read this article again, cross your eyes whenever you see the word "romantic" and see that McCain is as susceptible to Washington's "special personal relationships" as any politician. Whether he thinks the person on the other end of this relationship is attractive is irrelevant (now if he was sleeping with her and peddling favors, that would be a different story, but this seems to be, at most, an inappropriate friendship).