Saturday, November 08, 2008

Taking It To The Streets

I am not much of a protest guy, mainly because it seems to me that money, legislative maneuvering and compromise tends to be what gets stuff done in America. As opposed to a bunch of committed, earnest people getting together and marching and yelling.

Not that such things can't be at all effective. Certainly, in years past, the idea of public protest had a significant impact on how Americans thought about issues like foreign wars and civil rights. To me, most of these mass public efforts, like walking the streets it protest, represent symbolic rather than pragmatic action. They are designed to allow people to be heard, which provides some level of satisfaction, and can educate other Americans long-term. But it's not about actually initiating significant change.

Pragmatic action was a Get Out the Vote effort for "No on Prop 8" in the weeks leading up to the election. This was actually quite effective; an enthusiastic private citizen, Robot Bill Clinton and Robot Magic Johnson all called me in the days before Nov. 4 urging me to vote No, as of course I eventually did. Unfortunately, though the vote was dramatically close, it was not quite effective enough to overcome the homophobia and bigotry of California's voters.

Walking the streets angrily after it has passed is purely symbolic action. I'm not saying it shouldn't be done, or that people who care about civil rights should give up. Everyone has the right to protest. Furthermore, I am optimistic that, because of the actions of concerned citizens, Prop 8 will eventually be overturned by the US Supreme Court. It is nakedly, unabashedly unconstitutional, in direct violation of both the spirit and the letter of our 14th Amendment.

I'm just not the marching type.

I was thinking about going anyway (in that way where you probably won't go but allow yourself to entertain the notion, semi-fancifully) to the big protest tonight in Los Angeles. Then I was sort of taken aback by one sentence in CauseCast's "invitation" to the event:

The LGBT movement and its allies won same-sex marriage rights and only a militant movement will ultimately prevail.

I think perhaps the author meant "strident" when he or she wrote "militant." Surely CauseCast, a lovely and deeply committed group of people with whom I have the pleasure of sharing some office space, are not advocating any acts of violence in protest against Prop 8. This is exactly the sort of thing that would only hurt the movement they are trying to build. The Weathermen didn't exactly bring the Vietnam War to an end; they just made it that much easier for right-wing scumbags to portray the anti-war movement as a bunch of "crazy hippie terrorist" caricatures.

Pragmatism, people. To win this kind of battle, you need to get that big mushy middle of mainstream America on your side. It can obviously be done. (I don't know if you guys heard about this, but the new president is a black guy that wants to engage in actual diplomacy with our enemies and give kids health care.) A "militant" protest in the streets of Los Angeles is not exactly a phenomenal PR move at this juncture. Or pretty much any other juncture.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

That's Really Cool About America, Also

Americans surprised me today. I'll admit it...I didn't think the black guy would win. 8 years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney turned me into a cynic. It's not that I think most Americans are racists, exactly...There was just this nagging feeling that the whole thing seemed a bit too good to be true. Electing a rational, intelligent, well-meaning individual whose identity and name themselves would go a long way towards repairing some of the horrific damage of the post-9/11 era? Nah, not modern America. They'd go for the angry old warmonger and his goofy, Jesus-loving sidekick.

But instead, my surprisingly sensible countrymen got together and actually picked the best guy for the job for once. Solid. I have no idea what kind of president Obama will be of course. But he's certainly set some lofty, ambitious goals, and he's given me no reason to think he will not be at least capable, and that's a lot more than I can say for his predecessor or opponent.

I mean, come on...The Republicans were insulting the country merely be nominating and supporting this ticket. Now that it's all over, can we all come together and agree that Sarah Palin, beyond all the scandals and gaffes and controversies, is just a really stupid, irritating asshole?

Why can't she just tell us she's voting for herself? Is it because she just reflexively lies and conceals everything, even things that aren't inappropriate or wrong? Is it because she didn't actually understand the ballot, and so can't be totally sure for whom she actually did vote? Or is she just an irritating asshole?

THAT DOESN'T MATTER ANYMORE, because she's done. For good. And no, I don't think we'll be seeing her again in 2012, because she's quite possibly most ludicrous, fringe candidate with the least ability to appeal to mainstream, moderate voters proposed by a major party in my lifetime. I mean, she makes scabies look popular. Walter Mondale won 13 TOTAL electoral college votes in 1984, and even he's got to be thinking, "Thank God I never shot at a wolf from a fucking helicopter. Things could have been much worse."

Pundits on CNN tonight were trying to pick the moment McCain really lost this election for himself, and they settled on the whole "quitting his campaign to focus on the bailout" debacle. I think that's way too late. It was choosing Sarah Palin and we all know it.

It's going to be very hard to even describe that moment in history to the next generation. "So, anyway, this insane idiot from some obscure, nigh unreachable outpost in the middle of BFE became Governor of BFE and pretended to do a few somewhat impressive things, like stop Americans form wasting money on a useless bridge. Only she didn't actually do any of those things. But she had done a lot of completely different, exceedingly ridiculous things, like using her position of power to settle family squabbles, taking a stipend from voters for nights that she spent at her own home, talking about witchcraft a lot, and maybe even giving keynote addresses to groups that want to break Alaska off from the United States. Oh, and she was always winking at you, a gesture that, combined with John McCain's compulsive repetition of the phrase 'my friends,' kind of made you feel like the Republican candidates for the presidency were trying to get into your pants."

It's exciting to elect Obama because of the person he is. We're making history in the best way possible, setting a new standard for what and who a president can be, and demonstrating to ourselves and the rest of the world that not everything about America is summed up by the George Bush Experience. This is also a pretty amazing place sometimes.

But maybe the best thing about the guy is what he's not. He's not some photogenic moron pretending to be smart, he's not some rich corporate asshole pretending to give a shit about everyday Americans, he's not an old man who has spent decades making connections, slowly calculating his rise to power. He hasn't arrived at his position through nepotism, groomed for higher office as part of some megalomaniacal aristocratic legacy. He didn't marry into wealth, success and, yes, politics. He's not a Clinton or a Bush.

He's an exceptionally bright man who succeeded on his wit and abilities, and has now done something that I and many other Americans thought impossible. He has become the next Democratic president, not to mention the first black president. It's about time, and I'm not even just talking about the race thing. It's about time we had another smart person in the White House, someone who's actually trying to make the country work, rather than implode.

I'm sure many of you vehemently disagree with his policies, and that's fine (though they're not more...) But it's pretty hard to deny that his proposals are made in good faith, at least compared to the horseshit we've been asked to swallow under Bush-Cheney. Yes, he's trying to give more Americans free health care. Maybe you think poor people getting things is bad, because, um, then Joe the Plumber can't get that DVD Player he's been wanting for his truck. (The screen's inside the headrests!) But I should expect an Obama Administration won't spend its time making up new euphamisms for torturing people or fucking inventing new branches of the federal government. These are real (if occasionally vague) suggestions for ways to solve some of the problems Republican governance created from 2000 onward. Now let's see if any of them come to fruition. Or work.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Follow the Election Live on Mahalo!

I've spent the better part of this week getting ready for the big night tonight on Mahalo. We've made pages for every state's election results and exit polls. You can check them out here:

I don't want to brag, but this has got to be some of the most complete, thorough election coverage available, I should think.