Archive for the ‘Presidential Campaign 2008’ category

11.5.08 How Far We’ve Come/The Darkness Has Lifted

November 5, 2008

I cried on election night.  The tears of joy took me by utter surprise when the networks declared Barack Obama to be president-elect of the United States of America.  It was as if I had been suddenly unburdened of an enormous weight.  And, indeed I had.

How Far We’ve Come

Before Brown vs. Board of Education and LBJ, racism was de jure.  In the decades since, the de facto variety that has persisted, robbing our fellow citizens (and residents) of self-worth, opportunities for advancement, and the power to do a thing about it.  Even six months ago, a primary candidate campaigned explicitly on the idea that working class whites would never accept a black candidate.

And then Barack Obama won the presidency.

This dream is in my blood.  My parents became civil rights activists in the mid-1950s, in response to the brutal injustice they observed in Alabama, during my father’s military service.  They brought me up in the nation’s first purposely integrating community: the Ludlow neighborhood of Shaker Heights, Ohio.  The public schools I went to were 50/50 black-white from kindergarten through high school.

As a white man, I am blessed only rarely to suffer bigotry of any kind, but my upbringing taught me to care passionately about those without this good fortune and to seek justice with them and for them.

Last night was a triumphal moment in the ongoing struggle. 

The Darkness Has Lifted

For eight long years (if not since liberalism self-destructed in 1968), the American people have suffered under a tyranny of evil and incompetence.  The damage wrought will take decades to repair, from civil liberties and economic justice, to the environment and international relations.

But, the scoundrels were sent packing last night.

It feels like a weight removed, a burst of sunlight from behind dark clouds.  It just feels so damn good to rediscover hope and pride, not to mention the chance to savor some well deserved schadenfreude over the fate of the bad guys.


There were voices today repudiating any celebration, on the grounds that there is more work to do and that Obama isn’t perfect.  They’re right, of course.

But for this moment — for these few days — I would rather bask in joy.  I think we’ve earned that.

©2008 Keith Berner


11.4.08 Predictions

November 4, 2008

Electoral Votes:

  • Obama – 338 (incl. Ohio and Florida)
  • McCain – 197

Popular Votes:

  • Obama – 51.75%
  • McCain – 46.25%
  • Barr, Nader, et. al. – 2%


  • Dems – 57 (incl. Begich-AK, Franken-MN, Hagan-NC, Shaheen-NH)
  • GOP – 41
  • Other – 2 (Lieberman-CT, Sanders-VT)

11.3.08 Bittersweet News for the Night Before

November 3, 2008

Obama’s Grandmother’s Absentee Ballot will be Counted by Hawaii

ABC News’ Tahman Bradley, Rigel Anderson and Arnab Datta Report:

While Sen. Barack Obama’s late grandmother Madelyn Dunham will not live to see the outcome of this historic election, her 2008 vote will count.

Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Kevin Cronin told ABC News this evening that the absentee ballot cast by Dunham before she passed away will count. Cronin said Dunham’s absentee ballot was received on October 27 and found to meet the requirements of a valid absentee ballot and will therefore be counted with the rest of the state’s ballots tomorrow.

Obama learned that his grandmother lost her battle with cancer early Monday. She was 86.

10.30.08 Annual Voter Guide – Montgomery County, Maryland

October 31, 2008

For President of the United States – Barack Obama

The  historic opportunity of this election is only partly about the impending election of an African American president.  History is also being made because we are poised to break the stranglehold that GOP know-nothingism has had on our body politic for two generations.  (Sorry, you Bill Clinton fans: his terms represented a victory for tactical triangulation within conservatism, rather than any departure from it.)

Barack Obama has the potential to be a truly great president.  Will he fulfill that potential?  Given the magnitude of the disaster he inherits, it would be foolish to count on that.  But not as foolish as it would be to select a candidate without such potential.

And if you have ever suffered from susceptibility to the idea that John McCain might have such potential, the disgusting campaign run by this truly despicable man should have laid that to rest.  As I have said before, I can think of few people in recent history who have so richly deserved the fate that has befallen them: to be universally despised by their countrymen across the political spectrum.  McCain is excoriated by the right for his incompetence as a candidate and by the center/left for who he has shown himself to be.

To those who would consider casing a protest vote for a third-party candidate because Maryland is a safe Democratic state, I say: let’s help drive up Obama’s popular-vote totals in order to enhance the mandate for change that his victory represents.

For US Congress, MD District 8 – Chris Van Hollen

Local lefties have been struggling with this one: whether to vote for the establishment Democratic figure or the Green candidate (Gordon Clark), especially since Van Hollen is a sure winner, so there is no “cost” to voting Green.

I haven’t followed Clark’s campaign, but am confident that I would agree with him on most issues.

I have followed Chris Van Hollen closely since 2002.  It makes me uncomfortable that he is so tied to the party establishment, which my readers know I have no love for.  On the other hand, I’m not exactly sad that Democrats, with help from Van Hollen, are about to increase significantly their hold on the US House of Representatives.  Also, I have found Van Hollen to be extremely responsive to constituents’ concerns and a reliable, liberal voice on Capitol Hill.

I can’t argue against my friends who want to cast a protest vote to send a message to Van Hollen and the Dems, in general, that the left is watching them.  But I too happy with Van Hollen too much to join in.

For US Congress, MD District 4 – Donna Edwards

We are so, so blessed to have this capable, progressive leader serving us in Congress.  This is an absolute no-brainer!

State Ballot Question 1: Early Voting – Yes

Anything that makes voting easier is good for democracy.  There are no credible arguments against this measure.  It is time for Maryland to join the 34 states that allow early voting.

State Ballot Question 2: Slot Machines – No

Shame on Maryland and so many of our so-called Democratic leaders for going down this low road.  Maryland Slots join the Inter-County Connector and Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars as examples of measures that not only are extremely harmful on their merits, but also that don’t do what they are advertised to do!

Slots will steal from the poor and let the rich off the hook.  They will support out-of-state wealthy owners of a dying industry (horse racing) that deserves to die.  They will result in significant increases in health care problems and (likely) crime.  And no, they will not provide a dime of additional money to education or anything else we care about.  All that the additional, small amount of revenue will do is to marginally close the general fund deficit and won’t even do that for four to five years.

County Ballot Question B: Property Tax Limit Votes to Override – No

This provision would require unanimous consent of the County Council to raise property tax rates, giving one irresponsible lawmaker veto power over common sense government.  (Currently, a 7-2 supermajority is required to raise tax rates.)

Here goes perennial tax-cut freak Robin Ficker wasting our time again with another of his incessant efforts to turn Montgomery County into Alabama by crippling our local government’s ability to bring in the revenues necessary to operate.  Given the dire budget outlook, we already face large cuts in necessary programs.  If Ficker were to succeed, we could kiss Montgomery County’s quality of life goodbye.

Judges, School Board & County Question A

It is my policy neither to vote on, nor advocate on races and issues I know little or nothing about, which explains my silence here on judges and Question A.  As for the school board, since I have no children, I do not follow school board issues closely.  I do care very much about the quality of education in the county though, so I generally turn to others I trust for recommendations on how to vote.  In this case, I will be turning to Progressive Neighbors and their Voter Guide.

Update: see my post of November 2 for information about two judges to vote against.

©2008 Keith Berner

10.26.08 Intellectualism Makes a Comeback?

October 26, 2008

Way back in July, I wrote about the Republicans’ awkward coalition of unnatural allies (here and here).  I described a wobbly stool made up of the ultra-wealthy, the ultra-religious, and the national defense hawks, with a handful of libertarians thrown in.  It was apparent then that this unholy alliance was in danger of flying apart at the seams, due to inherent mistrust within it and the Bush administration’s record of utter incompetence.

July.  An era (epoch?) ago.  Before McCain decided that ideas would take a back seat to attacks.  Before the Palin pick.  Before the financial house of cards came tumbling down.

Well, there’s nothing like failure to bring out the circular firing squads, and we have seen them aplenty in the past couple of weeks, as the GOP blame game gets into full swing.  It is lovely to watch McCain’s team blaming Palin’s team and Palin’s team blaming McCain’s handlers, right-wingers’ bemoaning the incoherent presidential campaign’s drag on down-ticket races, and Republicans with names like Buckley, Goldwater, and Powell endorsing the Democratic candidate.

It is in this environment that one more GOP fissure I hadn’t noticed previously is leaping to the fore: we now have a clear split between the Know-Nothings (personified by Palin and led by William Kristol and the gang at National Review) and the Intellectuals (led by David Brooks and Peggy Noonan, among others).

Anti-intellectualism is nothing new in the US body politic, of course, having been used to co-opt the unwashed masses for a couple of centuries.  Since Ronald Reagan, it has been the purposeful province of the GOP.  The religious freaks in the party are all about know-nothingism, of course – the very essence of their worldview denigrates science, empirical reality, and the role of the human brain.  The ultra-wealthy have had a remarkable string of success exploiting the resultant culture wars to get Americans to vote against their economic self-interest.  And the neocons (nee defense hawks) have delighted in the dovetailing of religiously driven intolerance with their desire to fight aggressive wars against anti-Judeo-Christian demons abroad.

But suddenly, Brooks, Noonan and others are calling for the Republican Party to embrace intellect.  This still small — but likely to be very influential — band is actually suggesting that being smart is a virtue, that results matter as much as ideology, and that governance requires coherence and competence.

Do not underestimate the importance of this news.  It is both the harbinger of change and a reaction to it.

This new wave of GOP thought presages a more serious splintering of the GOP than the Wall Street-Bible Belt breakup I wrote about this summer.  In the short term, the GOP is going to be so busy with internecine warfare that it will be in no position to beat up on anyone else.  In the longer term, there is some potential that the party might be reborn as a conservative – but less dangerous – force: one that can be done business with.

While indicating something about the GOP’s future, Brooks and Noonan are also reacting to reality on the ground:  for the first time since the late 70s, the American people are (apparently) refusing to be taken in by name-calling and cultural bogeymen.  In this time of national crisis, they seem to be choosing the guy with a brain over the guy you would rather have a beer with.  (Of course, Reagan and W were the epitome of the latter.  McCain, on the other hand, has turned himself into the know-nothing whom no one even wants at the backyard BBQ.)

I am not declaring this to be an enduring, nonetheless permanent, trend.  But it is heartening – even delicious — for as long as it lasts.

©2008 Keith Berner

10.18.08 Democracy?

October 18, 2008

Candidates with the most money, raised from people and corporations with the most money, win elections and are beholden to their cash sources.  Guess who benefits the most from the resulting policies?

In most states, redistricting is controlled by whichever party happens to be in charge, producing a large number of safe seats for them and a small number of safe seats for the other guys.  Everyone gets reelected, competition be damned.

Election technology varies from county to county and state to state.  Poor ballot designs and hanging chads produce a rush to easily hacked electronic voting machines without paper trails developed by Republican-controlled corporations.

The poor and minorities have low participation rates, leaving the advantaged to preserve their advantage: for them, low turnout is essential to maintaining power.  So their party, the GOP, does whatever it takes to suppress voting: making registration difficult, restricting times and locations for voting, spreading lies in minority communities about “better not have any liens when you show up to vote,” spreading lies in minority communities about times and places for voting, having lots of uniformed personnel around polling places to spread fear and intimidation, improperly purging voting rolls, preventing ex-felons from voting.  The lower the turnout, the better.  Whatever it takes.

The GOP creates a mythology of voter fraud and their wholly owned minions in the media (not just Fox, either) pick up the meme as if it were real.  (Coast to coast, the number of actual, proven cases of voter fraud is in the low hundreds and no conspiracy has ever been found.)  Judges who won’t take up the crusade are summarily fired by a politicized Justice Department.  After a GOP presidential candidate declares the harmless* transgressions of a community organizing nonprofit a threat to the “fabric of democracy,” that same Justice Department launches an investigation of that nonprofit and improperly releases details just before a national election.*

*ACORN’s problems, while certainly worthy of some review, pose no harm at all to electoral integrity: ACORN may have turned in registrations for Mickey Mouse, but it’s not like that rodent is actually going to show up to vote. As for the better-get-the-prosecution-moving mentality at DOJ, what can they possibly prove or achieve in the next three weeks, other than changing the subject of the campaign from the tanking economy and other issues that matter, so that we can focus instead on McCain’s mythological “greatest fraud in voter history”?

Of course, it’s not just about the next three weeks.  The GOP is purposely using Acorn as a poster child for their fraudulent anti-fraud campaign, as an excuse for more draconian voter ID laws, efforts to prevent early voting, new rounds of registration purges, and the like.

There is no voter fraud conspiracy.  There is a voter suppression conspiracy and it is in full view.

It seems to me that open, honest, competitive, and fair elections are at the core of a democracy.  And I just don’t see how a country that doesn’t know – or want to learn – how to run them can be called a democracy.

PS. Check out ACORN’s very enlightening rebuttal to the charges against them.

©2008 Keith Berner

10.17.08 I’m Voting Obama & Other Random Thoughts

October 17, 2008

The McCain campaign has mirrored the Hillary Clinton campaign in one key aspect: once the race was (as good as) lost, both of them devoted almost all their effort to trying to destroy Obama.  There are a couple of key differences, though:

·     Once he put Palin on the ticket, McCain was unable to replicate HRC’s infamous “3 AM” ad, having taken experience off the table for the fall campaign.

·     Clinton’s attacks on Obama worked and McCain’s haven’t.  The primary reason for the difference is that McCain was unable to turn the topic to “what’s wrong with Obama” once the economy and his own fitness for the job became Topics 1 and 2.  Clinton, on the other hand, made the end of primary season 100% about Obama’s (un)fitness for the job.  If she hadn’t aleady nearly drowned in her own hubris, she would have won.


The McCain campaign has mirrored the overall Republican performance over the past eight years: philosophical evil combined with utter incompetence.  I had a feeling last spring that McCain would not wear well as a candidate.  But I had no idea just how awful his campaign would be.


I’m going to vote for Barack Obama.  Big surprise, eh?  Well, those of you with long memories will recall my declaration in July that Obama’s lack of principle and hard tack to the center would lead me to cast a protest vote in here in the safe state of Maryland.

I remain less than enthusiastic about Obama in many ways; however, I now believe that the total margin of his popular vote victory nationwide is important.  As Markos Moulitsas, the editor of Daily Kos puts it, it’s time to annihilate and completely demoralize the GOP, sending them to the wilderness for as long as possible.  Whatever I lack in enthusiasm for Centrist Obama, Kos’s clarion call more than makes up for!

©2008 Keith Berner