Monday, January 28, 2008

One Little Statement

“There was another time,” Kennedy said, “when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier.” But, he continued, another former Democratic president, Harry Truman, said he should have patience. He said he lacked experience. John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do!”

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vindication, or, Back on My Feet

So I admit it. The caucus here was a tough pill for me to swallow. It knocked me off my game, and I spent a reasonable amount of time last week wallowing in something like self pity. I feel justified in some of it, or I would have called it unreasonable. It was feeling the heartbreak not THAT we lost, but of HOW we lost, and the guilt that, unlike my friends, I was not going forward to make amends for the failure.

Then there was the talk. "Of course Obama will win in SC," they said, "all the other black folk'll vote for him." There was a genuine concern that we wouldn't win by a big enough margin, or, in the final days, that we would win without the white vote, thereby proving that he was only viable where there were large black populations. Such is the nature of the game. Once they managed to inject race into the conversation, everything hinged on it. Nevermind that our first, and most important, victory was in lily-white Iowa. That's soooooo two weeks ago, and now, if a black man can't muster a real percentage of the white vote in the south, he must not really be viable.

It was an ugly week, following an ugly week. But it ended beautifully.

In case you were living under a rock since Saturday morning, Barack earned more votes in South Carolina than there were people who voted in South Carolina in 2004. No, that isn't a mistake. More people turned out and voted for Barack than voted at all in the 2004 primary. And, after losing significantly in only two demographics - white men and voters over 65 - we finished the day with more than twice the votes our nearest opponent garnered.

I spent most of Saturday absolutely paralyzed. My worst fear was to watch as Barack won South Carolina only to be written off, when only a month ago he was behind in polls there. I was afraid they'd marginalize him with the "Black Candidate" tag, despite the fact that until a month ago the question was whether or not he could even win the black vote. Mostly, I was afraid that the politics of cynicism and division would triumph, that Billary's ham-handed attacks and semi-veiled attempts to turn him into the "angry black man" would prevail. I was afraid that the man I see as the best example of the American Dream would fall victim to the worst impulses, the worst tendencies this country has to offer. Even when the stations called the race 5 minutes after the polls closed, I was still scared shitless. When people called to congratulate, all I could say was, "what percentage of the white vote are they calling?" My hope had been reduced, unequivocally, to fear. And I couldn't stand to imagine what would happen to me (fear has a way of clouding concern for everyone but the self) if my fears became reality. Forget hope, I think I would have lost faith if they'd pulled it off the way they wanted it.

But it didn't work out that way. 80% of the black vote, yes, but also 24% of the white vote. Almost even among white women. 50% of white voters under 30. As I said, the only demographics we clearly lost were white men (turns out we all like John Edwards?) and white voters over 65. And in the landslide, Barack said exactly what he needed to say.

If you haven't seen the speech, please stop now, and watch it here:

Barack talked about race. And he talked about age. And he talked about trying to relive the past, and where the past has failed us. And he said, as you've seen, that this isn't about Black versus White or Young versus Old, it's about the Past versus the Future.

Caroline Kennedy wrote a wonderful op-ed endorsement Sunday for the NYT. You should read it, if you haven't already.
It came on the heels of the NYT editorial board endorsing their "hometown" gal, but I think it says something more than their bread and butter issues article could. What it says is, there is an America we can all believe in. And I've seen it firsthand. There're people who've lived their whole lives at best suspicious of, and at worst downright prejudiced against, black people. And yet somehow, these people look at Barack and see the America they believe in. I know I see the America I believe in. The one where we can disagree, but it doesn't stop us from standing side by side. The one where anyone can be anything.

And tomorrow, the last real Kennedy is expected to make his endorsement. He was not supposed to endorse at all. But tomorrow, Teddy's expected to say that Barack is carrying the mantle of his brothers, and that he can remain silent no more. He's supposed to say that this is where the party should be going, forward, not backward. He's expected to say that he's supporting Barack because, after so many years of being told what we can't do, he's supporting someone who shows us that we can. And that should mean something.

So I'm back on my feet again. And, as Kodos said, always whirling, whirling, whirling towards freedom.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

At the end of the show tonight (Cirque du Soleil's "Love") several of the performers were not only smiling, they were laughing. And I can see why. The show was full of ridiculous fun. Take the double-halfpipe rollerblade portion of the program, where four guys with white boots covering their skates and helmets cut to look like 60's British Invasion bowl cuts did incredible acrobatics in perfect synchronization. Significantly more interesting that anything the X games offers, and set, like the rest of the show, to The Beatles. Or the segment set to Revolution where a gang of acrobats lept from one trampoline to another, stopping on hanging nets, glass walls, or the giant telephone booth in the center. The whole show was like a giant acid trip (especially the part set to Strawberry Fields and replete with bubbles, whirling flag thingies, and dancers with Suessian props roaming the stage). And at the end, the cast was clearly in love with their work.

The first socio-political note I'll make regards the music. The whole thing is part fanciful acrobatics, and part semi-narrative of post-WWII history, set to the music of The Beatles. I was caught, as I watched, wondering what it must have been like to be there when They were. No other band or artist has had the unilateral impact of the Fab Four. I'm sure it can be argued that others have influenced more broadly or deeply, but none has provided the breadth AND depth of lasting devotion. Everyone knows The fucking Beatles. And their story informed, influenced and encompassed the trajectory of pop and counter culture in the perhaps the most influential period thereof. But I don't really need to tell you all about it. Mostly what I wanted to say is that while I remember that trajectory in my own life - Help and I Wanna Hold Your Hand in my mother's car, Strawberry Fields and A Little Help from My Friends in Harvard Square - it's important that we let the particular trajectory they represent pass on.

We owe a lot to my parents' generation. I won't go into all of it, but a lot. But we also owe a lot to the generation of kids who're coming up now, and my parents' generation can't give it to them. We are fighting a war now, like then, but it isn't Vietnam. And the old paradigms of the 60's don't fit anymore. Who marched against 'Nam and who fought in it are points that are virtually irrelevant to the challenges of the moment, and yet they inform and, worse, even cloud the judgment of the people who are most likely to make important decisions that affect the future. We all owe a debt especially to those who marched for Civil Rights, but the manifestation of racism now is no longer one that many of that age understand. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young are as much products of their time as were Bob Dole and George HW Bush in the 90s, and they are fighting, with just as much futility, against an enemy that no longer exists. That isn't to say that racism, in the case of JJ and AY, is not a real and present problem, any more than it is to say that traditional values, for BD and GHWB, aren't being co-opted and changed into something different. What I mean to say is that when you're used to swinging a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Hammers are great, and they have their time in every generation, but we need people with a full tool belt right now.

I'm not the first to say that the world today is a lot different than the one my parents grew up in. The very real threat of nuclear holocaust is gone, and with it the certainty of knowing who was likely to hit us hardest, and how. Now we live in a world less like a boxing ring and more like a barroom brawl. We never know for sure who's going to swing at us, and we don't know if he's got a pool cue, a beer bottle, a knife, a pistol, or a high five. And where the Dodgers and the Volunteers, or the Marchers and the Cops, provided a contrast that was as binary as the black and white TV set it broadcast on, the current paradigm is much more confused. By no means do I mean to say that there weren't shades of gray then, what I mean to say is that the polar nature of these conflicts left an entire generation with a clear idea of who was right and who was wrong. And over the years since, we've seen exactly how that mindset plays out in the arena of public policy. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill may have disagreed, but they got along. They may have cast one another's ideas as wrong, but neither, to my knowledge, cast the other as personally evil.

Enter the 90s. I can speak to those, since I was in the period of nascent sapience called adolescence. And I remember pretty well what it was like. It was Vietnam and Selma, only played out in the Capitol and the White House. Gingrich Vs Clinton. The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy Vs Privacy and Decency. Or cast another way, Family Values and Honor Vs. Perfidiousness and Debauchery. But that's the point. It was polar, and polarizing. And, after the disarmament of the right in the 70's, and the humiliation of the left in the 80's, it played out like a psychodrama of unresolved animosity from the poles that the 60's cultural revolution either created or expanded.

My generation, and the one ahead of me, the X-ers, watched it all play out from the comfort of our teens or early 20s. And to tell you the truth, looking back, it made us hate both sides. We grew up in a world most influenced by the commercial. Disgusting as our consumer culture is, it also had a certain uniting impact. Perhaps you and I disagree on how best to balance the budget, but we can all agree that Transformers was way cooler than the Power Rangers. The point, I guess, is that between the mass assimilation of popular culture, the expansion of individual opportunity, and the incredible growth and integration of information technology, the world we see is a much less binary place. And the world that teenagers today see is almost unrecognizably intertwined even to me. In people of my age, you won't find many with a clear answer on Iraq, at least not now that we're there. We see that there is still simmering racial tension and inequality, but there is no clear and great evil of segregation to overcome, nor any clear starting point to addressing todays problems. We can't save our steel mills by slapping a tariff on imports, not anymore. The problems of today require a much more complex set of tools than just a hammer, and yet, over and over, that's all I see in the hands of politicians of a certain age.

It's time to turn the page. Clinton and Gingrich did it in 1992. They pushed out the old guard of Bush and Thurmond and O'Neill, and packed the pre-War world away with them. The depression, Iwo Jima and Normandy, Korea, all these went out with them. As they should. But in came Montgomery, and Vietnam, and Watergate. And although some great things were accomplished in that time, the mindset of the 60s is also largely responsible for the chaos of the 90s, and for the last 7 years. Now it's time to let it go. Pundits look at Barack and say, mostly, that he has support of young, progressive, well educated people, and explain it away with some platitude about bourgeois popular culture. Or they see youth support, and spit out something about "rock-star status." What they're missing is the real reason we're turning to him. It's because he hears us. It's because we don't really want to listen to our parents bickering anymore, we want to make our future in the reflection of how we see the world as it is, not how we see the world as it was.

I'm sure that from the six of you who read this, I'll get 4 complaints about the accuracy of some part of it. I'll hear that I've got it all wrong, and that it wasn't so clear-cut, that there were always shades of gray. I'm not denying it. What I'm saying is that from the time JFK was shot, from the time Dr. King started marching, through the Civil Rights Act, and the Womens' Lib Movement, and the Summer of Love and Vietnam and Watergate, my parents and their generation were steeped in an Us Against Them mentality that I don't want to watch play itself out anymore. The Cold War's over, dead and buried almost 20 years. Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll are here to stay, but so are abstinence-only education, DARE and Jerry Falwell. At least they're here for the moment. And we have to somehow reconcile all of it if we're gonna get anywhere. I chose to do what I've been doing because I saw an opportunity to be represented by someone who sees the world (mostly) through the lens that I do. And that's why, like the performers at Love tonight, I left every day of it smiling.

The Beatles told the story of the 60s. The War was over, things looked good, and they were four nice, clean cut kids with a smile. The world got a little harsher, and they got an edge. The world got scary, and they got weird. They split up. One went commercial, one disappeared, one went off to make fun of himself, and one got killed. Between them, they played out most of what happened to their whole generation. And, in the show tonight, you could still see their influence. Kids younger than me and people old enough to be my grandparents were lip-synching, or straight singing along. We'll never forget what they created, or how they spoke for an entire generation, in some way. But we also have new music to listen to, now. It may be influenced by The Beatles, and we may recognize something of them in it. But we shouldn't try to make it Abbey Road, or compare it to Revolver. It's better if you listen to it on it's own.

And if you want to read a thought I liked from the Washington Post that kinda got this whole thought-train rolling...

Friday, January 25, 2008

A few Thoughts, Though mostly Not My Own

Gleaned from the world wide web... (and carefully ignoring the NYT's tragic homer call for it's "hometown gal.") (for those who doubt my version of events, objective evidence)


Ps, if anyone knows of a good job that's open in Las Vegas, please, don't hold out on me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Racists for Obama

This entry is exactly the opposite structure of the last - poor sportsmanship first, thoughtful(ish) personal observations second.

I realize that some of you may have found the sour-grapes portion of my last entry a bit distasteful. Unfortunately, that's the nature of sour-grapes, they taste bad. Trust me, no one is more upset about it than I am. I hate being a sore loser. But it's not just me, and it's not just sour-grapes. The problem with being cheated is that you not only get cheated, you also have to either swallow it or whine about it. I think we all know which route I've taken. As it happens, the campaign has now filed a formal complaint with the Nevada Democratic Party. For those who are interested, the important line gleaned from the book I mentioned in my last post reads, "It's not illegal unless they [the temporary caucus chairs] tell you so." For those interested in reading the formal complaint, go here:

I'll stress again that I'm not questioning the win. Although the totals may have been slightly different if things were run smoothly and overseen correctly, it seems likely that HRC would have come out ahead regardless. But we'll never know, will we? What I'm questioning is not the results but the "whatever it takes to win" mentality that has the Clinton campaign instructing their staff, volunteers and supporters that it's only illegal if you get caught (knowing full well that most temporary caucus chairs would have only a cursory understanding of the full rules and regulations), while providing them with clear instructions to act in ways that clearly violate both the spirit and the letter of the law.

I've received several tsk-tsking emails lately asking why Barack is "going negative," or telling me that "this kind of fighting is bad for the party." My response is that slash and burn politics of this nature hurt the party far worse, because they're not just bad for the party, they're bad for democracy. And, in 2004, we all saw what happens when you try to rise above the fray, or refuse to dignify false accusations with a response. I have two words for you: Swift. Boat. Sure, it sucks to get sucked into the mud, but it sucks a lot more to get covered in it without trying to wash yourself off, no matter how cold the water may be.

Would I prefer that my candidate avoid soiling his hands by picking up the trash being hurled at him? Yes. Would I prefer that he not be drawn into a messy "he said, she said" with Billary? Yes. But most of all, I would prefer that the First Couple of the Democratic Party behave more like the elder Statescouple they are and less like a couple of hatchet-wielding Gilloolys intent on kneecapping the most graceful politician we've seen take the ice in a generation or more (I hate to mix metaphors). If you can't win on your own merits and insist on using subversive tactics, thinly veiled racial rhetoric or outright misinformation, please go where you belong and join the GOP.

And now, on to the inspirational part of our program.

As I am no longer inside the campaign, and therefore lack firsthand information to present, I will soon be forced to turn this into just another diary. But before I do, let me explain why America is a fuckin' fantastic country.

There are a lot of stripes of racism. There's the subconscious racism that manifests itself (in my experience with the campaign) in those who question BO's "lack of experience" and call him a "nice boy." There's the attempt (conscious or subconscious) to explain away unacceptable racism against blacks by replacing it with the acceptable kind against Muslims (I know, not a race, but...), this being exhibited primarily by those who eagerly embrace the (chain email) claims that BO is a Muslim Manchurian Candidate. Then there's the overt, unabashed kind of racism, where people say things like, "who would vote for that dark sonuvabitch," or "I don't vote for no goddamn nigger." For those of you who are wincing right now, sorry, but it's important not to redact or edit things in an attempt to soften the genuine bigotry my candidate and many others face. It's still pretty ugly out there.

So there're three ways, although there are certainly more. But more interesting is the kind of racism that shows just how wonderful this country is, and just how spectacularly we often underestimate people. Although I have proudly touted stories of lifelong Repubs, the professionally apathetic, and other strange bedfellows who are gung-ho for Obama, I never thought genuine racists would embrace a black candidate. Often in phone conversations, people would express some version of "but people in the South (read white people everywhere) will never vote for a black man for President." I generally countered with some variation of "My guess is that people who won't vote for him because he's black probably won't vote for a democrat, much less a woman." As it turns out, more than a few people who WON'T vote for him because he's black WILL vote for him because they like him. A few short anecdotes:

At one caucus site here in Nevada, one of my coworkers approached a man she described as "mildly crazy looking. Big gray coat, dirty hair." She asked if she could help him.
"Yeah, I'm here to vote for Osama bin Laden."
"You mean Barack Obama?"
"Yeah, that's the one. Whatever that black fellas name is. That nice kid."
She showed him into his caucus, and he sat quietly to cast his vote for Osama bin Laden, or whatever that black fella's name is. Ok, not necessarily racist, but indicative of something that could turn ugly.

On an ID call in Iowa:
"I'm calling tonight to make sure you know about the caucus on January 3rd, and to see if you've made up your mind who you'll be supporting?"
"Yeah, I'm gonna vote for that nice colored boy."
"Yeah, that's the one. The colored kid from Chicago."

From my friend's Bayou born and bred, Southern conservative grandfather who, according to her, has never voted for a democrat:
"I'm gonna vote for that negro fella."

Now, lest some of you are inclined to protest and say that, especially of the last two, they were simply using the now outdated terminology of our segregated past, let me assure you that their words were not used accidentally. The first, who became a volunteer in rural Iowa, joked regularly with the Field Organizer who shared the story about starting a constituency group "Racists for Obama." I'm told he professed ideas that would make most of us cringe, and yet, somehow, saw in Barack something worth putting aside his hate to support. In the case of the swamp Cajun, I'm assured that Grandpa has no fond feelings towards black people. Born and raised on the Bayou in the days before segregation, it wasn't so much hatred of blacks as a simple understanding that they were an inferior race. And yet, somehow, he decided that this "Obamer," of all the candidates, best represented what he saw as the proper course for America.

I realize these are but a few bizarre stories, and that the majority of those like these do not turn out in our favor. But the simple truth is hard to escape: somehow, Barack reaches even some of those whom many of us would give up as unreachable. Somehow, he appeals to those who see skin color not as skin deep, but as a real, true means by which to judge another human being. And yet he manages to convince some of these people that if they're not altogether wrong, they're at least wrong about him. I find it difficult to reconcile judging a man by the color of his skin AND the content of his character. But that's the beauty of this whole thing. Barack manages, at least in some cases, to get people to look past their first reaction, to see something deeper in either him or themselves. I'd say that's worth thinking about.

I talked to three of my friends from the campaign today. One is (literally) organizing the Navajo Nation. Another is organizing New Agers, (legal) Mexican immigrants and wealthy housewives in Tucson and Sedona. The third is on her way to Memphis. There're ads on the air in 22 states. Kansans are getting mailers. In Idaho, the State Democratic Party is apparently taking large precautions to avoid the kind of chaos that we experienced here, despite the fact that one caucus site in Boise is a football stadium, and is hosting so many different precincts that they expect 6k people to caucus there. Never fear. There will in fact be hot dog and peanut vendors on site, although no word yet about beer or cotton candy.

It's getting crazy out there, and I'm jealous as hell. I miss the action of the campaign, and the comfort in knowing that however tired we were, however much pizza we were eating, however many cups of coffee it took to stay awake, however little sleep we were getting or how much stress we were under that we were in it together, that our fight was the right one, and that we were doing something all of us could be proud of. I miss being part of something bigger than myself and my individual circumstance.

But sometimes we have to face this funny little thing called reality. Other people kept the fort safe while I was out there fighting. Now it's my turn.

Over and out...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thoughts as the Train Rolls On

I was going to start with the sour-grapes part of this entry, but I'll leave that for the epilogue. The train is rolling out of Nevada, and I can't remember the last time I was this terrified.

Bartending might not have been rewarding work, but it was mostly comfortable. I didn't realize how miserable I was doing it until I got to do something that mattered. Thursday night, I got 3 hours of sleep. Over the week before that, I slept maybe 4 hours a night. Friday night, I never went to bed. I stayed up, printing maps, cutting supporter lists, optimizing spreadsheets. I went home and took a shower at 4am, and I was still the first person back in the office at 4:43. I've been fighting a cold for 10 days, I was hacking up a lung, but I was happy. I was doing something that I believed in, something that mattered. And I was doing it trusting that whether we got along, whether we agreed, everyone else was going to do it the right way when the day came, that everyone else was going to play a clean game.

The rest of my office is moving on. To New Mexico. To Arizona. To California, Tennessee, Colorado, Utah. And I'm looking around, wondering what in the name of god I'm going to do with myself. And praying they'll get the job done, so that I can start again soon. But it's strange to watch others go on to do something I believe in while I'm left here to find a way to pay my rent. So I'm praying they get the job done, praying the general comes soon.

And now for the sour-grapes portion of our program.

I was really looking forward to crying. Regardless of the outcome, I was due for a good, hard cry. Between the pressure, the exhaustion, the emotion, I just wanted that release. Joy or sorrow, I just wanted to cry. I never got to. Funny thing about anger is that it makes my tear ducts tighten down.

I won't speak to anything I didn't see with my own eyes. There are a lot of things I could speak about, but since I didn't see them firsthand, I won't. I will direct you to someone else's firsthand account, however.

What I will tell you is that I saw with my own eyes, held in my hands, a "rulebook" printed, laminated and spiral bound by the Clinton campaign that instructed it's staff, volunteers and supporters to close the doors at caucus sites at 11:30am, and let no one else inside.

For those who maybe don't know the exact intricacies of the Nevada Caucus system's rules governing time, here's a quick breakdown. Doors open at 11. At 11:30, procedural activities begin. At 12 noon, doors close, and anyone who is not either a) inside or b) already waiting to register will not be allowed to enter and cast a vote.

I didn't see the booklet until after the caucuses ended, and someone brought a copy to our office that they had taken from a Clinton volunteer. I did wonder why, when I arrived at 10:30, there were already dozens of Clinton supporters inside. I did wonder why they were so eager to get people into the rooms. I did have to argue with a Clinton supporter who tried to close the doors at one caucus site at 11:30.

The problem is, there were a lot of problems. The state party had no real organization in place. In my region alone, there were 4 caucus locations and three went haywire. The site I monitored, there were 11 precincts meeting at the same location, with no indication of what precinct went to which room. 5 precincts met in the gym, initially without any indication of which part of the gym any one precinct should go to. When I asked the NDP rep to make signs, she scribbled precinct numbers on scratch paper, and taped them to the doors of the rooms. Another caucus location was still locked at 12 noon, with supporters of all campaigns standing outside while others across the state were voting. At a third, a high delegate precinct, there was no caucus chairperson to regulate, and my precinct captain called me almost in tears because she couldn't manage the shitstorm. Now, I absolutely will not claim that we alone were affected by this. Supporters of all campaigns were inconvenienced to the same level by this disorganization. However, as has been well documented, more of our supporters are new to the system, and therefore more likely to be disenfranchised by chaos. And while there was a level of chaos that caused problems for everyone, there was a level of intentional misdirection that is hard to understand. As I said before, I won't and can't speak to things I didn't witness, but I did see things that made me ask questions. I saw a man in a Clinton shirt send voters from one room to another. I knew one of the people he moved, and turned her back around. When I looked at the sheet, he was sending her from a precinct worth 8 delegates to one worth 2. It could have been an innocent mistake. And the spiral-bound, laminated, color printed rulebook may have been misprinted, or the rules misinterpreted. And it could have been a mistake when a Clinton volunteer told a registered independent that in order to re-register and vote for Obama he needed to go to our office (15 minutes from his caucus site) and get an Obama staffer's signature. Or, there could have been something else at play.

Interestingly, Obama dominated Northern Nevada. In most areas, it wasn't even close. I spoke to the organizers from the North, and the ones I spoke to said that things were well organized at their locations. They said that there were Chairpersons who were well trained to run the sites. There were signs and maps to direct people on where to go. There were enough voter registration forms (did I mention that we ran out of those in the South?), and they didn't run out of Presidential Preference cards (don't ask). And, where things ran smoothly, Obama won, and by a broad margin.

In the South, it was uncontrolled chaos. And something else happened. Now, I have to admit, Clinton turned out more people than any of us thought she would. And the Culinary 226, for all of it's vaunted power, failed to deliver the votes it claimed to carry. It's quite possible that, without any of the questionables, she would have won. That just makes the irregularities worse, in my opinion.

In her victory speech, Hillary Clinton declared that this was "how the West was won." The days we won the West were not our brightest. It wasn't a time we should be proud of, without reservation. Yes, people braved uncertainty of a million stripes to find better lives. They plowed fallow land, built new cities, and forged a new country. But we can't forget that United States Cavalry soldiers gave smallpox-infected blankets to Indian tribes. Men were strung up in town squares without the benefit of trial or appeal. Where there wasn't law, outlaws ruled, and at times the law was worse than the gangsters. As it happens, I'm one who idolizes the Wild West. I've ascribed to the romantic notion of the cowboy, the saloon, and the saddle. But having seen a little piece of anarchy, I have to wonder. And I have little doubt that, just like the blankets, just like the hangings, just like the gunslingers and the gangs, lawlessness and chaos were exactly how the West was Won, this time.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Word of the Day

Guess today's word! It can be used in a lot of different ways, and it often refers to poor bowel movement/constipation.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Final Countdown

This'll be something like comprehensive, both of the the recent news from Nevada and the general future of Nevada. As I sit here, we are now 59.5 hours from Caucus Time. It's a little weird knowing that the fate of the world potentially hangs on what the 200 or so staffers here in the Silver State are able to accomplish over that time. Hyperbole? Yep. Also, Nope. Iowa got the car moving, this is where it could turn.

I've gotten about 5 hours of sleep per night for the last week. Maybe more like 4.5. So as I write this, I'm more than a little delirious. I would say that the circles around my eyes and my generally drawn and pale appearance are indicative of a second or third day zombie. I'm not quite rotting yet, but I could certainly use some brains. Mine be all used up.

As part of the final stage, I took over a section of turf all on my very own. It's been a wild experience, tracking vote goals, targeting areas strategically, managing resources... Wild but incredibly fun and rewarding.

Speaking of wild, this is the Wild Wild West. After the ol' standards of IA and NH, NV has proven to be something of a free for all. The elbows, all carefully concealed, are flying at us from all corners. They'd be snapped up in a flurry of controversy in any other early state, but it's all fresh and new here. One example:

After long and deliberate negotiations last March, which resulted in the creation of so-called "At Large Precincts," a system was developed and approved to allow shift workers within a certain radius of the Strip to vote at designated caucus locations on the Strip, rather than their own residential precincts, thus potentially expanding the voter base by a significant proportion. This was partially accomplished through the heft of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, one of NV's largest and arguably most powerful Unions, representing some 60,000 people across the state. On January 9th, after extensive deliberations and a little bit of careful suspense, the 226 endorsed...wait for it...wait for it...

Barack Obama!

Along with the endorsement came some significant benefits: Union members have hit the ground hard, organizing, educating and invigorating. It remains to be seen what the endorsement will translate into for votes, but it can’t be a bad thing to get that kinda muscle behind us.

But I digress. Back to the silliness: Just days after the endorsement, a group that includes the Nevada State Teacher’s Association has sued to stop the At-Large precincts from voting. For more on this particular storyline, I refer you to some things others have written, as I am not expert on these matters.

From the local and national Press:

(Make sure you check out the links to the flyers on this one. Very direct. Welcome to the Silver State. They don’t mince words around here.)

From the Union:

(Make sure you check out the links to the flyers on this one. Very direct. Welcome to the Silver State. They don’t mince words around here.)
(Update: this didn’t go up last night due to massive internet failure. I hear someone kinked one of those tubes the info goes through. Anyway, the suit was dismissed this morning. I don’t doubt an appeal has already been filed, but so far the rules stand as established.)

In other news, I'm personally preparing to die. The office is something like a giant petri dish, and I've had a vicious cold for the last week. Although its unpleasantness level has faded dramatically, it’s still causing me to cough my lungs up approximately once every 3 minutes. At this stage it's more of an annoyance than anything else, thankfully. Still, coupled with a lack of anything resembling a full night's sleep, it certainly contributes to my Zombie-in-the-making appearance. And the impending 40 hour day that starts Friday morning and ends when I pass out Saturday night (after, no doubt, crying heavily, regardless of outcome) certainly threatens to add to the general chaos. I plan to sleep through my birthday Sunday. Speaking of which, if you’re inclined to call me on my birthday, please, for the love of god, don’t do it until after 3pm.

But it's all worth it, really. I've heard some people, even amongst you, my faithful (and few) readers, express doubts about the man I am killing myself to nominate. Whatever those reservations, I swear to you this is the real deal. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet. I guess, of course, that also applies to this, which you are, doubtless, reading on the internet...

Anyway, you'll hear from me Sunday, probably. But you'll hear from Nevada Saturday afternoon. Keep an eye on the news, cross your fingers, light a candle, pray, telepathically or technologically send me everything you can spare, because I'm gonna need it.

Speaking of getting a little extra, here's a nice moment, to remind me why I'm actively trying to kill myself on this guy's behalf. Definitely one of the more surreal moments of my time here...


Forward. Always forward. It's 12:50am, I got to work at 7:30 this morning. Tomorrow, the the workday drops at 8am. Now I'm going to go home, to sleep. The alarm'll go off... Another 18 hour day tomorrow, 2 hours of sleep, back at the office at 4:30am Friday, and..

Once more, into the breach.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Why Disco Stu Doesn't Advertise

It's easy to get swept up in a moment. We went from stalled, to moving, to nervous, to fired up, to jubilant, and yes, almost even to the brink of complacent. Too much time smiling, not enough time staring one, simple truth in the face:

"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation…want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

The thing I take away tonight is that there was only one lightning strike, so far. It was bright. It was beautiful. It made us look up again, for the first time in years, and wonder at the sky. But we also can't forget about the ground.

There was a book I had when I was a kid, "Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain." The farmer watches the cloud build over his dry land, standing on one leg, leaning on a spear. The cloud builds, but it won't break. He sees the lightning. But the cloud is impotent. It won't break. Not till he throws the spear into it. Then the rain falls.

We've spent these long years watching the world around us grow darker. We slowly slumped, our heads watching only our feet as we shuffled. We needed the lightning of Iowa to make us look to the sky again. But in the end, lightning only lights the dark so we can see how thirsty the land is. It breaks the shadow so we can see cracked earth, the dry crops, the dessicated trees. But in the lightning we see only a heap of broken images. The cloud never lifts until the rain comes. Until the cloud breaks, we'll never see the sun. In the lightning, we see flashes. And when the lightning fades, if we were watching, we know what we didn't know before. We don't need lightning, we need rain.

10 minutes after Barack left the stage tonight, I had fielded 7 calls. People calling to tell us to keep our chins up. People I've been chasing for weeks without success, now asking if they can come to volunteer tomorrow. One woman called. She was in a wheelchair, she told me, but she could sit on a corner and hold a sign. She could make phone calls, if there was a ramp to get into the office. She said to me, "I was undecided between Obama and Hillary, but that speech just made up my mind. What he said, you know. Even though he lost? That sealed it for me."

It's been awfully dark lately. Too dark to look at anything but the ground, for fear of stumbling in the shadow. The lightning last Thursday made us look up. We saw the cloud building, we saw the possibility of rain, our throats burned suddenly, and we watched the shadows, remembering the light. Tonight, a dry wind blew across our open lips, parching our tongues. Tonight, we looked again and saw not what was waiting, but what is. We saw power scratch. We saw power bite, claw, kick, cry and scream. And power has a way of holding things back. Power has a way of keeping us in our place, of telling us that we're better off keeping dreams hidden, our heads down. But we also tasted a raindrop. At least those of us on the ground, here in the real, true, non-metaphor desert in Nevada tasted it.

Have you smelled rain in the desert? There's nothing like it. The first drops taste like dust. But if it keeps falling, it washes everything clean. It pushes the dust down. It makes the grass stand. And in the night, after the rain, the crickets sing.

One of the students sent me a text message, at 7:59, local time. It said:

"It's not over yet! But I promise to work as hard as possible to change our future!"

It's starting to rain, in the desert, but it's not enough yet. Power concedes nothing without a demand. The demand now is that we risk what we've settled for to gain what we dream of. This is our chance. So keep your hand steady and your eye fixed. Grip your spear. Aim for the cloud. Throw.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Early Results...

Recently, trying to expand on a theme, Mrs. Clinton worked on refining the concepts she first voiced when accusing certain unnamed opponents of raising "false hope." I'll avoid any serious commentary about the nature of her newest ploy, and note only that she apparently believes hope is somehow suspect. In defending her position opposing the one thing left in Pandora's box, she took an interview request from FoxNews (courting that far left organization's supporter base). During her discussion, she dropped this depth charge into the Primary Sea: “Dr King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the civil rights act of 1964… That dream became a reality, the power of that dream became real in people’s lives because we had a president who said ‘we’re going to do it,’ and actually got it done.” (NOT paraphrased.)

Hmmm. Bill Clinton may have "gone with more black women than Barack," as Clinton supporter and civil rights icon Andrew Young claimed not long ago. Not in the best taste, to be sure. Similarly, in the taste department, I believe deriding the single most important and universally beloved figure in the history of the civil rights movement as a purveyor of empty hope may not be the best route for Mrs to take. Perhaps she should learn to use Google's new Cultural Sensitivity Map. I mean, I'm no scientist, but I'm pretty sure if you want people to like you should generally say NICE things about cultural heroes.

Meanwhile, in early results...
For those who aren't fully up to date with the rules that govern the nation's constitutionally mandated first primary (mandated in the NH constitution, that is), towns with a total population fewer than 100 people may open at midnight and close as soon as all registered voters have cast ballots. Two towns traditionally cast the first ballots in the nation: Dixville Notch and Hart's Location. In Dixville Notch, with 100% of the vote counted, the results stand:

Obama - 7
Edwards - 2
Richardson - 1

I'm not a mathematician, but I'm pretty sure 0% is not good, even if only 10 people are voting. Hart's Location had a slightly different take. 100% of vote counted, the results stand:

Obama - 9
Clinton - 3
Edwards - 1

I guess all things considered that's a pretty good result, comparatively.

So as of this moment, roughly 01:42am local time, the results from the NH Primary stand

O - 69.6%
E - 13%
C - 13%
R - 4.4%

As my old friend Disco Stu once said, "If these trends continue... heeeeey."

In any case, there's a lot of voting and counting left to do. But it's always nice when you go to bed with a little good news.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

And We're Going to New Hampshire, and South Carolina, And...

The blogosphere is going nuts. Declarations of earthquakes. Declarations of a sea change. Mitt Romney referenced Barack Obama in the GOP New Hampshire debate last night, and followed it promptly with a claim that he, The King of Swinging Opinion, is the candidate of change. The repubs were falling all over themselves trying to prove which of them was the MOST like Barack Obama. My problem is that they called the race at 6:24 PST, which means I was still in the office when the word came down. Blake (not my dad) and I frantically scanned the FM and AM dials on the 30 minute drive to the party site, but were unable (?) to find a single channel with commentary. When we arrived, the room was wall to wall. Everyone wanted a hug or a high five. Most were close to crying if they hadn't already, and the rest teared up when Barack finally started talking. I sure did. I think it was when Barack gave a shout out to a bunch of 20-something kids who organized Iowa for him. It's something he does everywhere he goes in Iowa. Brings the Field Staff onstage, introduces them to the crowd, acknowledges their role, sets them loose on the undecideds who're silly enough to raise their hands. And everyone says it's all well and good and shows how much he understands the importance of ground game, and what a down to earth guy he is, and wow, that Barack sure does know how to organize. But you don't recognize your grunt laborers when you're claiming the most improbable electoral victory in modern history. So that's about when I started tearing up. Most of the girls were leaking when he gave the shout out to Michelle. I could go on and on about the assorted ramifications of the Iowa results. I could discuss the metrics and the implications, but you can read those on everyone else's blog. Or the NYT. But I got an email from my aunt the other day. She said,

"So, hey, a story on NPR about the Iowa Obama campaign said that one of its innovations was designating dozens coordinators to work specifically with groups of young people, which was a large reason for the high turnout of young voters. Very smart. Is that true in other states? Is that what you’re doing in Nevada?" And the answer is yes. I told a group of them yesterday, "Some people said we were wasting our time on young people." They didn't care much for that. It's been incredible to see the way they respond. One of my best student interns went home his first day with the policy pack I give them all. Some read it, but it usually takes a week. He texted me an hour later. When we were first talking, he told me about an election that they had to run for government class. Groups of four had to develop a platform and run against each other. His text said something like, "hey, just finished the policy. A lot of it is like the stuff we came up with for school. Especially with education."

I think it took him a week or so to realize that most of what Barack wants is actually common sense. He's a precinct captain now, probably the youngest around at 17, and his precinct has gone from 54% to vote goal to 93%. I've got kids who spend 12 hour days over their Christmas break making phone calls, knocking on doors... One of them asked me yesterday if she could come here to hang out and finish her homework.

We're getting over giddy, finally, and getting ready for a fight. It's still the wild west out here. Most of the time, the conversation goes something like, "If Obama wins NH, he'll go on to South Carolina with a great deal of momentum." Or they'll say, "After NH, the third important contest will be in South Carolina..." It's funny that no one realizes we're here. They'll be waking up on Wednesday morning and see that their ticket says "Nevada" and then this town'll turn into a zoo. But we're ready. Ready to play our role. I guess I'm mostly saying that you shouldn't expect to hear from me much till the 20th. Watch for the red shirts on the news, and you might even catch a glimpse of me waving a sign behind some CNN camera. So see ya after the 19th. Let's hope that I have a very happy birthday, turning 29 the day Barack leaves with a victory in the West, on his way (at last) to South Carolina.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

18 hours...

Or is it 18 hours? Probably by the time you read this, it'll be 10. Maybe 2. Maybe it already happened. I dunno.

Quick Campaign Update -

We are getting ready to shift gears, and hit the pavement hard to Get Out The Caucus. Check your local program listings for a Field Organizer or volunteer coming soon to a telephone or door near you (in NV).

Chris Matthews had this piece of completely objective, fact based reporting to do today:

Every few generations, America makes up its mind to change things. We decide we`re in a rut. We decide to get ourselves out of that rut and we take the necessary leap. That`s what we did when we were stuck in the Great Depression in 1932 and picked Franklin Roosevelt. That`s what we did in 1952, when we were stuck in Korea and picked Dwight Eisenhower, what some of us did in 1980, when we were stuck with double-digit inflation, double-digit interest rates and double-digit hostages stuck in Iran and chose Ronald Reagan.

Barack Obama on the eve of Iowa is the very name tonight, the very statement, the very being of the word "change." If I sit here tomorrow night reporting that he has won the Iowa caucuses, the world will hear it and the world will be stunned because the United States of America, despised by so many for lording it over the world these days, for dictating regional solutions by virtue of our military power, will be saying, No more. No more of invading countries. No more of dictating a war Americana. No more our way or the highway. No more Bush doctrine. No more Bush.

Of course, it would be nice not to be compared to Reagan, but I'll take it. One of the guys in my office insists that it's an endorsement. I dunno, sounds like a pretty equitable and irrefutable statement of objective fact to me...

Tonight, all the candidates (with sufficient $$$) went on the air for 2 minutes in Iowa, in the middle of the evening news. Here's what Barack had to say.

Seriously, if you're still not sold, you should really stop reading my blog by now.

As far as personally, the campaign higher ups are still mum on my possible addition to staff, which means I still don't know if I'm gonna have to cruise out of full time participation in order to look for gainful employ. Some of my student interns were shocked this evening at the concept that I don't get paid. They can't imagine an 80 hour week without financial compensation. It's hard to explain to a 16 year old exactly why it's worth it in terms they'll understand. I think, perhaps, you have to work a soul crushing job or two before you understand the value of doing something that makes you happy. Not that I can pay my rent with happy, but it sure would be nice to both be happy and pay bills. Hopefully it'll happen.

So wish us luck. If you try to call me for congratulations or condolences Thursday night, I'll probably either be screaming or crying or both, and in either case almost definitely drunk. So what I'm saying is don't bother. Call me Friday. Not that I'm asking you to call me, I'm just saying if you were predisposed to do so, don't do it till after tomorrow.

I'm off. Not sure I'll be able to sleep tonight, but here's hopin'...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The West Wing and Beyond

It's not every week that a former personal assistant to the President spends a week in the office, but that's what we had for about the last week. Ok, Ok, so she was the personal assistant to the imaginary President, but for those of us who spent 7 years in Aaron Sorkin's fantasyland, it was just like it. Kathryn Joosten, AKA Mrs Landingham, personal assistant to POTUS Josiah Bartlett. See a little video here:

If you look carefully, you can see me doing apparently nothing on the right side of the first shot. My hair's bleached, for those of you who haven't seen me in a while.

It's always nice when celebrities turn out to be decent, down to earth folks. The best moments were when Kathy scolded one of us. Mrs. Landingham, in the hizzy.
Discussing a midday, weekday canvass:

Graves: "Who can go out with us in the middle of a weekday? What is this, the senior, unemployed, deadbeat, actor/writer canvass?"

Kathy (looking over her glasses): "Well, once I'm done being an old, unemployed, deadbeat actor/writer, I'll go back to work in Hollywood and make tons and tons of money." Grin.

(Please note, this is a very inaccurate transcript. The statements made above are reconstructed, and any resemblance to actual conversation are purely coincidental)

But really, what's important is that there's finally something happening. And I don't mean the DMR poll

or about Kucinich's semi-endorsement

I am in fact talking about the reality that, in a very short time, we will have an actual vote. Well, not really a vote. A result, though. I don't know when exactly you'll be reading this, so I won't say how many hours or days it is. I'll just let you see for yourself:

Come 48 hours from the moment at which I commit this to paper, someone will have been declared a winner.

If you want to know who it should be, and you somehow haven't decided yet, please, go here. Hell, go here anyway.

If you're still thinking about voting for someone else, I'm very, very sorry.