Commentary on politics, history, culture, and literature by two Dartmouth graduates and their buddies
WHO WE ARE
Chien Wen Kung graduated from Dartmouth College in 2004 and majored in History and English. He is currently a civil
servant in Singapore. Someday, he hopes to pursue a PhD in History.
John Stevenson graduated from Dartmouth College in 2005 with a BA in Government and War and Peace Studies. He is currently
a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He hopes to pursue a career in
teaching and research.
Kwame A. Holmes did not graduate from Dartmouth.
However, after graduating from Florida A+M University in 2003, he began a doctorate in history at the University of Illinois--Urbana Champaign.
Having moved to Chicago to write a dissertation on Black-Gay-Urban life in Washington D.C., he attached himself to the leg of John Stevenson and is thrilled to sporadically blog on the Dartmouth Observer.
Feel free to email him comments, criticisms, spelling/grammar suggestions.
From the Politico on the coverage of Barack Obama:
My, oh my, but weren’t those fellows from ABC News rude to Barack Obama at this week’s presidential debate.
Nothing but petty, process-oriented questions, asked in a prosecutorial tone, about the Democratic front-runner’s personal associations and his electability. Where was the substance? Where was the balance?
Where indeed. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her aides have been complaining for months about imbalance in news coverage. For the most part, the reaction to her from the political-media commentariat has been: Stop whining.
That’s still a good response now that it is Obama partisans — some of whom are showing up in distressingly inappropriate places — who are doing the whining.
The shower of indignation on Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos over the last few days is the clearest evidence yet that the Clintonites are fundamentally correct in their complaint that she has been flying throughout this campaign into a headwind of media favoritism for Obama.
Last fall, when NBC’s Tim Russert hazed Clinton with a bunch of similar questions — a mix of fair and impertinent — he got lots of gripes from Clinton supporters.
But there was nothing like the piling on from journalists rushing to validate the Obama criticisms and denouncing ABC’s performance as journalistically unsound.
The response was itself a warning about a huge challenge for reporters in the 2008 cycle: preserving professional detachment in a race that will likely feature two nominees, Obama and John McCain, who so far have been beneficiaries of media cheerleading.
Wow, I just found these You Tube clips. I'm loving this priest who defends Rev. Wright and Rev. Farrakhan. He calls out the interviewer from Fox on his BS. My favorite line is about the black people in jail when white people are the majority of drug users.
Also great quote "Martin Luther, Jr. was not some sweet little black man with an olive branch."
This blog, and many of my compatriots in the blogging business, have commented on the messianic nature of the Obamania. This fascination with the politics of character(ization) has reached its pitch in the Democratic nomination precisely because of the allegedly small distance between the policies of Senators Clinton and Obama.
The real problem with this is not the cod-religious congratulation of being the chosen ones, but a quieter, more insidious message: that the campaign itself is the change he talks about.
In this way, the Obama campaign is styling itself as a sign of change, rather than an argument for it. As he said in South Carolina: "We are showing America what change looks like." In that linguistic and conceptual manoeuvre, the goal of accomplishing the specific changes Americans urgently need - in health care, the economy, education - is relegated to the background. You're not so hungry for reform when you've already feasted at the table of self-congratulation.
While the first celebrity song had the energising feel of a rallying cry, this second video features Hollywood types Jessica Biel and Ryan Philippe anointing themselves as "the ones", encouraging their fans to join them, to become part of the "movement", to "change the world"....
While Clinton's campaign sets out her credentials and her plans for what she describes as "the most difficult job in the world", Obama's is a campaign deliberately operating on a symbolic level. Clinton is asking Americans to hire her to do a job; Obama is asking them to believe in him.
Accordingly, they offer two different models for the Presidency: put it in terms of the much discussed "day one", the Obama model is about the inauguration speech, and Clinton's is focused on the moment she gets back from the Capitol, sits down at that desk, and starts work.
This second Will.I.Am video is a perfect example of what has swept Obama to this point, but also of what has been his undoing in Texas and Ohio this week and what will be difficult for him the races to come.
For what remains to be seen is whether the American people continue to enjoy watching a bunch of celebrities congratulating themselves on being "the ones."
How Far Ahead of Clinton is Obama? Reflections on the Delegate Math
Recently, Gov. Corzine of NJ caused a bit of a flap when he said that 'if Sen. Obama went to the convention ahead in the delegate count, the popular vote, and the states won, that I [Corzine] reserve the right to switch my vote from Clinton to Obama.'
In another future post, I will address the issue of states won and the popular vote. In this post, I want pass along some very sobering reflections about the delegate math.
Jay S. Jacobs, the Nassau County Democratic chairman, is a pedged delegate for Sen. Hillary Clinton.
April 4, 2008
Calls for Sen. Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president are mostly based on the fact that Sen. Barack Obama is leading in the delegate count.
But Obama's estimated lead of 164 pledged delegates, when fairly analyzed, is not what it appears to be. Out of that margin, only 16 delegates were earned in primaries, while 148 delegates - fully 94 percent of his lead - were earned through caucuses.
That's an important distinction when you consider the disparity of voter representation between primary-elected and caucus-elected delegates.
First, the tallies: According to CNN, Obama has 1,413 pledged delegates and Clinton has 1,249. Breaking those numbers down, in the 28 primaries, Obama has accumulated 1,089 delegates to Clinton's 1,073. Through the 16 caucuses held to date, as well as the Texas caucus, Obama has garnered 324 delegates to Clinton's 176.
According to The New York Times, 25.3 million people have voted so far in the primaries, while only 1.1 million voters have participated in the various caucuses. Obama has captured 63 percent of caucus-goers, but only 51 percent of primary-voters. Clinton has won 36 percent of all caucus attendees and 49 percent of primary voters.
The disparity suggests that there is either something very seriously different about the voters in caucus states, or something very seriously wrong in the representation of voters' interests that comes out of the caucus process.
Caucuses, which are usually held in the evenings, are often complicated and require voters to be present for several hours, exclude many voters - like those who work at night or don't have child care options or are serving abroad in the military. What's more, caucus-goers are often required to make their choices known publicly, a practice that contradicts the American concept of the secret ballot.
And caucuses have an exaggerated impact on the delegate count. Each of the 2,162 delegates earned in the primaries to date represent an average of 11,702 voters. But in the caucuses, each of the 500 delegates represents just 2,200 voters. Each caucus vote is weighted more than 5 times what each primary vote is worth when it comes to allocating delegates.
There seems to be something very unfair about the caucus process. And, if there were any doubts about that, just look to the one state that chose delegates using both processes - on the same day: Texas.
I was an observer at one of the Texas caucuses, or "precinct conventions." While mine was relatively well-organized, many others were not. Reports of verbal and physical fights were rampant. Complaints of a lack of checks on participant qualifications were widespread. There's a reason why, a full month later, the final results have yet to be reported.
What happened in Texas is revealing. In the primary, more than 2.8 million people voted, giving Clinton 51 percent of the vote and 65 delegates. Obama received 47 percent of the vote and 61 delegates.
But the still inconclusive results from the caucuses - conducted on the very same date as the primary - yield a different result. CNN projects that Obama will earn 38 delegates from the precinct conventions, to Clinton's 29 - a margin of nine delegates from caucuses that saw a fraction of the participants in the primaries, where Clinton's margin was only four delegates. In effect, the winner of the popular vote may be the ultimate loser in Texas (sound familiar?).
But what about on Long Island? In Nassau County, 109,721 Democrats voted in the state's primary on Feb. 5. That equals 10 percent of the combined total of voters who participated in the 16 caucuses to date. Just from one county! If we add the 89,490 Democrats who voted in Suffolk, Long Island's vote was more than 18 percent of all the caucuses combined. But our 22 delegates are just 4 percent of the number of the total delegates - 500 - elected from those caucuses. Why don't Long Island's voters count as much as, say, Wyoming's?
Obama's current overall delegate lead is almost entirely based on the less-democratically run caucuses. For those that argue that superdelegates must follow "the will of the people," let's at least compare apples to apples. Give delegates chosen in caucuses the same per-vote weight as that earned by delegates in the primaries.
That democratic adjustment alone would reduce Obama's caucus delegate lead from 148 to 28, reducing his overall lead from 164 to just 44 - certainly within Clinton's reach in upcoming primaries, even without Florida and Michigan. When fairly viewed, the delegate race is far from over - and calls for Clinton to leave the race are clearly premature.
I think Jacobs is exactly correct in her reading of what the delegate lead signifies. It is a bare lead, and his supporters are trying to knuckle her out of the race.
What Clinton Supporters Need to Hear From Obama (Supporters) and the Media
1. Who is Barack Obama?
We heard the beginnings of this in his "historic" speech on race and in his musings that he is a blank space upon which people project. But we need to know about the man's character, his tactics, and his team.
2. What has he said?
What are the speeches that Barack Obama has given? How consistent (and "new politics") is his method? Sen. Obama likes to give non-straight answers.
3. What has he done?
We need to know more about Sen. Obama's record. This is distinct from his biography. We need to know what kind of political change, in his years in elected office, he can point to as a record of what he might do as president.
4. What does he plan to do?
Besides Iraq, and now the economy, I want to hear more ab0ut Obama's comprehensive vision.
There is a meme going around that a continued nomination process will further the divisions in the Democratic Party. As one Gallup Poll notes: if Hillary were the nominee, 19% of Obama supporters would vote for McCain; if Obama were the nominee, 28% of Hillary's supporters would vote for McCain.
Obama and Clinton can - by putting aside personal irritations, and to some extent personal aspirations, and agreeing to end the hostilities and form a ticket that offers both of them, a candidate for president and a candidate for vice president who is clearly good enough to serve as president, should the occasion arise. That candidate for vice president would also have a good chance of being elected president eight years from now because neither of the two would be too old in 2016. If they are not capable of doing that, the two could announce they will complete the primary schedule and convention with the winner becoming candidate for president and the other agreeing to be a candidate for vice president, thereby mollifying to some extent the constituency of the candidate who was not chosen as the nominee for president.
Think of it, over the next eight years we could elect both the first woman and the first African-American to become president. That's not a dream: It's a plausible, achievable, glorious possibility - if our two remaining candidates have the personal strength and wisdom to make it happen. The joint statement announcing their agreement would rock the nation and resound across the globe - sweeter than any political poetry; smarter and more meaningful than any tightly intelligent political prose.
What a lot of people are missing is that the continued attempts to nudge Clinton out (and "get on with the nomination") and Obama's blocking of a solution to the Michigan and Florida thing are what is polarizing the voter base.
Let me be clear: trying to end the nominating process prematurely, not Clinton's continued campaigning, is what is destroying the Democratic party. The Democrats win when they let the people vote, and let every vote count. It's a simple principle.
"If you continue to try to push Hillary Clinton out of the primary race before a clear winner emerges, you're going to accomplish one of two things....
1. Clinton supporters will harden further against voting for Obama if he becomes the nominee. (Hillary fans are already close to this, so don't push them any further, because you can't win in November without them, especially after Obama's Rev. Wright pastor disaster, which is already causing problems in the larger electorate.)....
Apparently, prominent Dems think they can knock Hillary out of the contest, and her supporters will gleefully rally round Obama.
That could happen -- if most Hillary supporters were ADD-afflicted adolescents who spend hours glued to the Cartoon network. Prominent Dems should ponder who Hillary's supporters really are...
In early February, Sen. Obama's wife told Good Morning America that she might not support Hillary if Hillary becomes the nominee. Translation: a Republican might be better.
A few weeks later, Obama supporters were outraged when Hillary acknowledged the obvious: that McCain has more experience than Obama. Most media forgot that Obama's closest surrogate had said something equally damning about Hillary.
Many Hillary-supporting Dems remember watching George Bush try to bully Al Gore into stopping the Florida recount.
Naturally, Hillary-supporting Dems had a visceral reaction to watching one of their own do that to Hillary during a close race.
Adding ipecac to the cake, Obama said a few days ago that he didn't mind if Hillary stays in the race. Why didn't he say that a month ago -- before the bullying cries reached a crescendo in the media?...
Not all marginalized Hillary supporters would vote for McCain, but many might stay home.
Do you wonder, as I do, how people got the idea that this relative newcomer to national politics has the credentials, experience, and other requisites for cleaning up after George W. Bush? Saying so is a sure recipe, as I've found, for getting called a fool, a moron, an idiot, amoral, brain-washed, a Hillary shill, a tool of the Clinton establishment, and a tool.
If I raise questions (because the questions are definitely are out there), I'm accused of 'stirring the mud' (as if you could stir mud if it the mud wasn't there in the first place) or of 'innuendo.' Obama supporters seem to think that it's unfair to bring up allegations that are out there if I can't personally prove they are true. Of course, my point isn't that they are true, but that they are out there. So far the media's given him the same sort of pass they used to give to George Bush. What happens when the honeymoon ends?
Meanwhile, not one supporter has risen to the challenge of telling me---if I'm stuck with Obama, I really need to know---what superior or equivalent credentials or experience they can cite to indicate that he is currently better qualified than Hillary to be the Chief Executive of the United States.
Most of them try to lecture me about Hillary---me!---arguing, with a sublime disregard for logic, common sense, or the facts, that her qualifications and experience aren't any greater than Obama's, or not enough greater to matter, in light of his 'charisma' and his (their faith in him ensures) pure, untarnished record.
Most say they don't care about credentials or think his credentials are sufficient. They like Obama; and that's all that matters. I like him too, or till recently I did, but they... they 'LIKE him like him', as the kids say. And if you say you don't, they're all up in your face, demanding that you step outside so they can administer a moral drubbing.
Moreover, they don't think his voting record in Illinois shows anything important about him, such as an alleged unwillingness to take a clear position on hard issues that might render him less, you know, 'electable.' (No, don't tell me your rationalizations again---I've heard them all, and remain skeptical.)
Yeah, Hillary's made mistakes. But that's because she's made hard choices.
I understand why Obama's supporters love Obama. It's the same reason Republicans used to love George W. Bush. He represents, or seems to represent, our image of what a perfect Democrat should be. They're sick of being on the defensive and of defending the Clintons. Why not vote for the candidate they really like?
Meanwhile, those of us who have supported Hillary have done so for exactly the reasons that Obama's fan base derides her. She is tough, a bit battered by hard experience, hardened to being disliked, a little soiled by her mistakes, persistent, politically astute, intellectually flexible, wary, wiley, and all the things that her critics take for insults but which are really the constituents of the ability to make realistic judgments and politic (as opposed to popular) decisions. As Obama himself put it, she's 'likable enough,' but the charm that we hear about isn't generally on display when she's campaigning, partly---of course---because any sign of her femininity draws her a whole different set of rebukes 'n ridicule.
I believe she'd make the tough calls that these dangerous times require and that she'll already recognize the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' component of 44's job. It's going to be a long, hard slog picking up after Bush. Not much glamour or glory in it and therefore, not a job for a glamorous and glorious candidate, I'd argue. Our next candidate needs to be a determined, stoical, and experienced one who is inured to being blamed. In any case, the US presidency isn't the election for president of the senior class. It shouldn't be merely a popularity contest. Is Obama up to the job? Yes, his supporters say. They 'know' this because he has inspired them to believe it. Maybe they're right. But I remain skeptical. Of course, there is a bright side: his ascendancy is apparently pleasing to the Hillary-fearing right-wing pundits. (Obviously, it's because they too are under Obama's spell and want him to be president, am I right?) It's nice, I guess, that he has the ability to make even the right wing do the right-wing happy dance. And he made a thrill run up Chris Matthews leg (good for Tweety; I'm so pleased he's found another politiican to love). So anyway: Obama. Is he as wonderful as he seems? Perhaps. Forgive me if I don't take it on faith. For one thing, I am entirely offended that he has sat by while his campaign and his supporters use every tried and true right-wing tactic to undermine and deride Hillary----and, by extension, her supporters.
So now what, my fellow Dems? What are you going to do now? Because it's not just me. Hillary supporters across the country are beginning to express their outrage at the way that Hillary's been treated---not just in the media (we've come to expect this) but by other Democrats.
But then the fence on which we fence-sitters were still sitting---"after all, we've got two great candidates," we said to ourselves--- got blasted out from under us by the shocking tone of the attacks on Hillary and on those of us who supported her by the anti-Hillary contingent of our very own party.
Many Democrats will be waiting to see how the Obama camp goes about mending their fences, assuming the fences can be mended. "McCain isn't that bad, except for the war thing," mused one of my friends---previously very well-disposed toward Obama, as I and my co-bloggers used to be. "Maybe it would be better to let the Republicans clean up Bush's mess."
I realize that the 'conventional wisdom' is that we'll turn out to vote for Obama anyway. He and his campaign advisors certainly seem to assume that they'll have the support of the whole party no matter what they or their 'surrogates' do or say.
Oh, really? Here's what Ms. Obama said when she was asked on Good Morning America if she'd vote for Hillary if Hillary got the nomination.
ROBERTS: So what if Senator Clinton defeats [Obama], becoming the first woman nominee. Could you see yourself working to support the first woman nomination?
OBAMA: I'd have to think about that. I'd have to think about that, her policies, her approach, her tone. (The Huffington Post)
Good idea. I'll have to think equally hard if Obama gets the nomination. Shall I vote for McCain? Nah. But I can stay home. Or I can write in 'Hillary Clinton' or 'John Edwards.' After all, I've been pretty turned off by the 'tone' and 'approach' of the Obama campaign.
"Clinton was the only top-tier candidate to refuse the ultimate Iowa and New Hampshire pander by removing her name from the Michigan ballot. That makes her essentially the de facto winner since Edwards and Obama, caving to the cry babies in Iowa and New Hampshire, took their name off Michigan's ballot. Sure, the DNC has stripped Michigan of its delegates, but that won't last through the convention. The last thing Democrats can afford is to alienate swing states like Michigan and Florida by refusing to seat their delegates. So while Obama and Edwards kneecap their chances of winning, Clinton is single-mindedly focused on the goal."
Given that reality, the question the superdelegates need to ask themselves is, Who can win the general election? I'll make this as simple as possible: Obama cannot win.
Regardless of how well Obama did in some deep-red state Democratic caucuses, the truth is that the Wright fiasco, McCain's appeal to independents and Hispanics, the fact that nearly 1 in 3 Hillary voters may defect to McCain, and the well-oiled Republican attack machine will leave Obama, at best, where John Kerry was in August 2004, that is fighting desperately to reach 270.
Here's the best case scenario for Obama: He wins all the states John Kerry won except New Hampshire. It's McCain 290, Obama 248. [Add Michigan and New Hampshire, it's McCain 320, Obama 218.]
Here's a list of states Hillary would likely win: Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. It's Hillary 315, McCain 223. With Obama on the ticket, McCain is likely to carry most of these states. Kerry won Pennsylvania by less than 2% in 2004 and only 12 out of 67 counties. Giving Obama Iowa, it's McCain 300, Obama 238.
My hunch is that the Democratic leaders like Pelosi, Dean, and others are aware of this reality. That's why they want to shut the process down now and begin the formidable task of taking on McCain sooner rather than later. Their first task, of course, is to consolidate the base; no easy job considering many Hillary supporters think an Obama nomination illegitimate by denying her Michigan and Florida. It's also why DNC Chairman Howard Dean is saying that the most democratic process is hurting Democratic chances in the Fall.
I say on with this primary. If Obama manages to become the nominee but still wins only one or two of the remaining states, then it's going to be a problem for him. He needs to effectively woo some of the Clinton coalition to be a viable candidate, in the same way that she must woo his.