Progressive Women Rising in Power; Palin Off the Mark

September 3, 2008
Women's Suffrage March, 1912

Women's Suffrage March, 1912

Celebrating Women’s Power in Denver

Tuesday, August 26th, was the 88th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote—and here in Denver it was quite a celebration.

During the Democratic National Convention (DNC), Emily’s List (a PAC dedicated to building progressive women’s power in politics) shared the news that 55% of the electorate will be women this year—the highest ever. The DNC Women’s Caucus met in a sprawling ballroom filled with a thousand energized delegates and fellow travelers, celebrating the fact that about 60% of the overall Democratic vote every year is women.

Die-Hard Hillary Supporters Take To the Street

At that very same moment, that same sentiment was sweeping down Denver’s Colfax Avenue.

Just as thousands of Convention women celebrated their power and role in the Democratic Party, hundreds more women gathered to march down Colfax. Out in the streets passionate Hillary Clinton supporters had traveled to Denver from across the Country to celebrate the woman who nearly claimed the presidency. They filled Colfax sidewalk to sidewalk, banged drums, chanted Hillary’s name, and promised to put a woman in the Oval Office within ten years.

Some of the marchers were adamant that they would never support Barack Obama, because he had stolen the nomination from the experienced and prepared Hillary Clinton when she had already put in her time, and because Obama was allegedly sexist for paying his male Senate staffers more than his female staffers. To get a sense of the flavor of the march, including some interviews with the Hillary supporters in the street, go here and scroll down to audio reports on the August 26th Hillary Clinton supporters march. Or you can see what some of the delegates inside the Convention Center hall had to say here:

And to cap it all off, on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton addressed an adoring crowd of thousands in the Pepsi Center, in a moment that will be be remembered through history in the same breath as suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton herself.


Rising Women’s Power = Rising Progressive Power

The growing power of women in American politics is big news for politics and big news for progressives.

Progressives take heart in the growing political power of women, because women vote Democrat. Since 1992, Democrats have enjoyed about a 10 point “gender gap” in presidential elections as women have preferred Democratic candidates by an average of 10% over the Republicans.

This gender gap is present as well in 2008 pre-election polling. Obama enjoys a 12% pre-convention lead among all women voters—while younger Millennial women voters give Obama an incredible 30 point lead.

chart source: http://www.emilyslist.org/programs/powerpoint.pdf

Here’s more good news for progressives. Younger women, are now 57% of all college students. And as college graduates are increasingly female—they are likely to grow their civic participation even more.

The future female powerhouses of the country are even more liberal than senior women. 46% of young women believe that America’s growing racial diversity is entirely a good thing—only 30% of senior women think that. 36% of young women believe that it is good that the Christian tradition is declining in strength—since there are traditional notions of patriarchy embedded within it. Only 26% of senior women shared this idea. And 53% of young women believe in full acceptance and inclusion of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered in the community—while only 26% of senior women agree.

Sarah Palin Pick Misses the Progressive Boat

This is the heart of the trouble for the McCain pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Although Palin made an explicit appeal for Hillary Clinton supporters and women of all stripes to vote for McCain since a woman was now on the Republican ticket

“It was rightly noted in Denver this week that Hillary left 18 million cracks in the highest, hardest glass ceiling in America. But it turns out the women of America aren’t finished yet, and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.” — Sarah Palin’s Vice-Presidential announcement speech

It is becoming clear that women voters are not lining up behind the McCain/Palin reasoning. The Palin reasoning seems to be that Hillary Clinton’s advantage with women, is driven more than anything else why women’s desire to vote for a woman, not matter who she might be. Even though Palin’s politics are profoundly different from the liberal politics of Hillary Clinton (e.g., Palin is pro-life, believes in teaching creationism in schools, is opposed to gay rights, and is a fiscal supply-sider), and even though Palin has no national experience and is only 44 years old, she asserted that Hillary Clinton supporters would be excited to support her in order to advance female solidarity against the “good old boys” network.

But come to find out, women are voting for Democrats not because the Democrats run more women, but because women align more closely with the progressive values and policies of the Democratic party. That is why early polls show women LESS likely to vote for McCain after the Palin pick. Palin’s conservatism, her lack of experience, and perhaps the “insult” that some women feel with McCain’s transparent attempt to woo women voters with an arguably inexperienced female candidate just isn’t appealing to female voters. It shouldn’t be that great a surprise. Polls from some time ago have shown that Hillary’s strongest supporters were more attracted to her politics and her experience than to the fact that she was a woman. This is why the leader of a PAC dedicated to enhancing women’s power in politics (Ellen R. Malcolm of Emily’s List) spoke out so strongly against the Palin nomination.

“How ironic that, on his 72nd birthday, McCain has raised the question of whether his running mate is prepared to be Commander in Chief and lead the country. Governor Palin and John McCain are a good match because they both want to overturn Roe V. Wade, they both want to continue the failed economic policies of the Bush administration and they both offer more of the same that has led this country down the wrong path. McCain clearly sees the power of women voters in this election but has just as clearly failed to support any of the issues that they care about. His choice for vice president only reinforces that failure”

Though Sarah Palin has not been welcomed by a mass movement of women voters—Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party has been. That’s because women voters tend to have Democratic/progressive political values—far more so than men. And these progressive women are rising in power. As Hillary Clinton addressed the American people during the Democratic National Convention, she represented a real and fundamental transformation in American society. Like never before, the future of American politics is in the hands of women, and especially young women—progressives can take heart in the future these women will build.


Schaffer Versus Udall: Clash of Negatives

August 28, 2008

If this wasn’t a presidential election year, this one could be put on pay-per-view. Bob Schaffer, with oil and gasoline exuding from his pores, clashes with Mark Udall, spotted owls flying from his nostrils. One is a fascist. The other is a communist. They are both faithful, poison-tipped spears from the far right and left. Both of these fine demons from different hells will fight until humanity is annihilated just so they can get elected to the U.S. Senate.

In many senate campaigns, one can hardly tell the difference between Democrat and Republican. Ken Salazar demonstrates this all the time. As candidates dance to the middle to get elected, they hide from their extreme bases and their core beliefs. This will not be happening in the Bob Schaffer – Mark Udall Armageddon, I mean Election. Colorado will have a wild choice to make. Some will call this a Hobson’s Choice because of the extremes to choose from.

So far, the campaigns have spent over 8 million dollars in negative advertisements (Michael Riley – Denver Post, Public Ad Buy Information – 8/22/2008). By the last total on Friday, August 22nd, the anti-Schaffer forces have spent 2.68 million. The anti-Udall forces have spent 5.95 million. For a senate race in Colorado, that is a whole lot of character assassination!

The Schaffer camp wants to paint Mark Udall as a deep ecologist, willing to let American children starve rather than drill next to a couple of caribou and gulf water shrimp. They want to show him as a flip flopper and an absentee legislator.

The Udall camp wants to frame Bob Schaffer as a hired mercenary for the oil companies, hoisted up into this campaign to make sure that Colorado’s beauty is strip-mined of its shale and that Exxon-Mobile can ravage the earth with impunity.

Now these are 527 hench-groups, with some of their own agendas and freedom to be looser with the truth. However, the messages are not being renounced or forbidden. The war is on. Schaffer and Udall have already met in debate. Schaffer successfully cornered Udall to promise he would keep Congress in session until an energy bill regarding offshore drilling was ironed out. Udall’s plane was late getting back to Washington and he was blamed for ruining the lives of millions of people.

This is only the taste of things to come. Bob Shaffer is an admirable and terrifying debater. Many people in Colorado politics remember how he disemboweled a rather highly regarded but political inexperienced Pete Coors in a primary contest. T.R. Reid wrote it well how Schaffer outplayed his fellow Republican:

In a debate, the wily Schaffer demanded to know whether Coors agreed with Paul Martin on U.S.-Canadian trade. Coors fell right into the trap. “I’m not sure I know who Paul Martin is,” he said warily. Schaffer pounced: “A U.S. senator needs to know who the prime minister of Canada is.”

-T.R. Reid, The Washington Post, 7/25/2004

In a debate meant to address energy issues, Shaffer pulled a great debating trick over Mark Udall on the Iraq question. He quoted one of Udall’s pre-Iraq statements that was pro-invasion. The crowd exploded with cheers and boos. The anxious mediator implored the crowd to stand down. The war continued.

Udall gave an answer but Schaffer won this joust, knocking Udall off his horse. Udall’s campaign will be wise to avoid too many rounds with the debater from hell. He will have to rely on his personal appeal and on Schaffer’s attachment to oil companies. The environmental 527’s have done this well, highlighted, in my opinion by a well-designed commercial from fingerprintbob.com and the League of Conservation Voters.

This fight will be energetic because it plays to two sides of Colorado culture, both wanting more power than they have. Bob Shaffer represents true conservatives. Mark Udall represents true liberals. They have to get nasty to influence those in the middle. Believe it or not, most people in Colorado want energy independence and a protected environment. Most people in Colorado are more reasonable than the ads that have played and that will come. The winning candidate may very well be the one who convinces Colorado voters that the other is farthest to the extreme, whether it is to the left or the right. The war will continue.

Stephen Noriega


Is Biden Good for McCain?

August 28, 2008

So now that the Democratic National Convention is in full swing, buzzing with promising speeches, celebrities and well-meaning anarchists, let’s talk about the Republican. John McCain, and the rest of us, now knows who the vice presidential candidate will be. Barack Obama announced Joe Biden as his running mate at 3:00 in the morning (Saturday) in a texting blitz to his closest trillion followers. Joe Biden is an interesting and strategic pick for Obama. Biden’s acceptance speech at the DNC was serviceable, almost paling in comparison to his touching biography and introduction by his son, Beau Biden. Joe Biden looked really happy to be the candidate for Vice President and his energy and smile looked younger than his years. For McCain, there are openings to go at Biden as a VP choice but some serious pitfalls as well.

AP Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast – 8/7/2007

Joe Biden is a seasoned senator and politician with decades of experience in Washington. This length of experience is jaded less by the fact that he really seems to be a good, Catholic family man, avoiding the personal scandals of many of his colleagues. Joe Biden is a gray haired (Hair Club for Men?) sage character with plenty of spring left in his step and lots of wind left in his lungs.

That is where McCain can get him. Joe Biden has probably said more words while in the Senate than any other politician. Ever. He is famous and infamous for his verbosity which at times has run him afoul of the press, the people and even his own party. Some patience should be required but Biden will probably say some things that get him in trouble. He will know how many houses he owns but he will also end up offending the Realtor Association and immigrant house contractors.

Gary Markstein, Copley

McCain shouldn’t think that one episode of Biden’s foot-in-mouth disease will carry him through to the election. Biden is quite capable of apologizing for remarks (something he has had to do many times) and his friendly charm gets him forgiven quickly, often within a news week (Monday at 8:00 to Friday at 3:00)

Another caution McCain should take is not to extrapolate Biden’s loose tongue and treat him like a dolt. Actually, McCain has known Biden since the beginning of the Triassic and he will not underestimate him. If his campaign does, they will pay the price. Joe Biden is an expert on international affairs. He talked about the federalism of Iraq before others and worried about Afghanistan when most eyes were still in Baghdad. His acumen and experience might make him an insider but he is a very capable compliment to Obama’s fresh look and perceived inexperience. Biden is a classic lawyer and has kept his debating knives sharp and serrated for any unprepared schmuck that might face him on television in the fall.

The McCain campaign must use four things against Biden to neutralize him as an effective vice presidential candidate.

  1. Biden’s mouth.
  2. Biden’s time in government.
  3. Biden’s plagiarism trouble in the past.
  4. Biden’s hair (for radio pundits only)

We have already discussed his mouth, so just wait and play when he oververbosifies.

Joe Biden won his first election to the Senate in 1972, making him one of the most senior members. He sits on very prestigious committees, like the Foreign Relations Committee. Sometimes this is good to demonstrate experience. This can also be held as a walking symptom of government that does not work, crushed by the weight of career politicians. At the same time, McCain must be painted as the Maverick or else the same argument can be hoisted upon him

Joe Biden “borrowed” a speech written by a British politician (Neil Kinnock) in 1987 during his first presidential campaign. That pretty much ruined his run at the white house (http://www.famousplagiarists.com/politics.htm). In his first year in the Syracuse Law School, Biden was accused of plagiarism on a paper. He was not disciplined as far as the records indicate but the suspicions can carry their own weight (http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/08/joe_bidens_plagiarism_problem.html).

This can be brought up again to erode at his credibility, especially if he happens to give a great speech. The attack dogs can wonder out loud, “Geez, I wonder where he got that one?”

Biden has some interesting hair. He is obviously bald when viewed from the back. However, he had a nice, gray bird’s nest in front. Who knows if those are plugs or a runaway comb-over or what. The official campaign should leave it alone but if any intelligence comes in about bit, it should be disseminated to the Limbaugh network. The comedian/pundits will tie the comb-over in with insincerity and “follicle plagiarism” if they can.

The McCain campaign should not go after him as an elitist or some rich guy with a trophy wife. Joe Biden has a very good reputation for working for the common person and less wealthy groups. He also championed the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Act in 2007 (Huffington Post, 2007), something that McCain and others voted against. Joe Biden lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972. He remarried after an appropriate time of mourning in 1977. Joe Biden goes to church, for real. His wife is attractive, but not right out of high school (Thompson) or looking like she’s worth 300 million dollars (McCain).

Dr. Jill Biden – flickr.com

So McCain can neutralize Biden but must be smart about it. Joe Biden could be a valuable asset for Barack Obama. If he can keep his feet on the floor and out of his mouth, his value rises past any strategy on McCain’s part. If he does slip, then his other faults can be exploited and the McCain campaign can drag Obama down by the tongue of his vice presidential pick. So far, in five and a half days of campaigning, he hasn’t left an opening for the McCain camp.

Stephen Noriega – The McBeat


Anti-War March at the DNC: But Where Were the People?

August 27, 2008

I happen to live in Denver, and recently was tapped by a local community radio station dnc.kgnu.org to report on the news during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) (For an audio version of this post, see here ). This position means that for the past weeks, and all during the DNC itself, I have been attending community meetings, reporting on demonstrations, interviewing delegates, and witnessing the DNC program at Denver’s various convention sites.

But if the street demonstrators had their way, none of the thousands of journalists in Denver for the DNC would be covering the events inside the staged convention hall at all—rather we would all be covering the drama in the street as tens of thousands of demonstrators showed up in Denver to shut the whole show down.

Protestors Call For Action

On the website of dncdisruption08.org, the street activists issued their call to action.

Unconventional Action’s strategy at the Democratic National Convention will hold the Democratic Party accountable for promoting unjust policies: environmental degradation, the enforcement of arbitrary borders, attacks on the poor, complacency in war, and racist policing.

We will expose to the nation that the Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin, both parties funded by the same corporations and upholding the same unjust political system which fails to meet the needs of the vast majority of people. Anarchists and Anti-Authoritarians are urged to engage in a broad variety of tactics to disrupt fundraising events and prevent Democratic delegates from voting for no-choice candidates. Unconventional Action will honor and support autonomous actions while coordinating a highly publicized assault on the pageantry, violence, and abuses of the Democrats and the two-party capitalist system.


Unconventional Action will target a variety of the 1,500 proposed fundraisers, countless delegate hotels, and designated institutions perpetuating global injustice. Using space reclamation, street theatre, direct confrontation, positive action, and a broad array of other tactics, we will force the national media to question the Democratic Party’s failures, hold Democratic candidates accountable for their abuses of power, and engage in
direct actions that reflect our ultimate goals of joy and liberation through creativity and confrontation.

As demonstrators organized throughout the summer of 2008, preparing for the coming convention, they predicted that 25,000-50,000 demonstrators would descend on Denver, committed to public demonstrations on the scale of the 1960s , to force the Democratic party to recognize the anti-war community in America, the crisis of global warming, the shame of sweatshops.

Bad Portents and Dismal Protests

But as I talked to delegates arriving in Denver for the DNC, I heard bad portents for the upcoming protests. On Saturday, I asked a superdelegate from Wisconsin , chairman of the DNC youth council, about his thoughts on demonstrations by groups such as recreate 68, and he answered bluntly: “never heard of them.”

Here in Denver we’ve heard plenty about such groups, and their plans to disupt the convention. Some of the demonstration leaders estimated 50,000 people would show up for Sunday’s anti-war march. The local dailies predicted 10,000 would show.

But come Sunday morning of the march, the anti-war crowd simply didn’t show. Only about 1000 showed —at least 10 times smaller than predicted. The anti-war demonstrators called for the voice of the people, but only found the voice of a few friends.

Where Were the People?

What can account for such a result? Where were the people?

As I wandered throughout the crowd of demonstrators, the answer was almost always the same—it was the paranoid fear-mongering of Denver city officials, and overblown police presence: the officials made people scared to come downtown (see reports of the action here (click link for Monday 08/25) and at dnc.kgnu.org). Or just watch these clips and look for the police…


Others suggested that the low turnout reflected the fact that the Iraq War has lost its urgency. Both parties now talk about timelines for withdrawal, fatalities are down, and domestic economic crisis has trumped other concerns. People just aren’t paying attention to the war.

Both of these reasons play a part in accounting for Sunday’s surprisingly low turnout—but the most important reason why demonstrators did not “Recreate 68”— is simply because it is NOT, any longer, 1968.

2008 is not 1968

In 1968, the Democratic nomination was entirely decided by Superdelegates—the popular vote in the primary was meaningless—and when the anti-war votes of millions in the primary were ignored by insider Democrats committed to the Humphrey, the war candidate—you can bet it catalyzed a street anger that can’t be matched today, when the popular vote is decisive in choosing the Democratic nominee.

In 1968, 18-20 year olds couldn’t even vote, though they were being drafted to fight and die in Vietnam. A lot of those young people showed up in Chicago—and registered their discontent in the streets, as the ballot-box was off limits.

In 2008, 18 year olds can vote, and they turned out in record numbers during the primaries—voting for Obama 4-1 over Clinton. Now that he’s the nominee, on the strength of the youth vote—it’s no surprise that young energy has been diverted from the streets, into the party.

And speaking of the draft. In 1968 they had one; in 2008 we don’t.

In 1968, King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated and the party fell apart while the street exploded. In 2008, the Kennedy of our day is leading the party, while the street seeks direction.

Is 2000 1960?

In fact, 2008 looks more like the hopeful 1960 than like the angry 1968. In 1960 as in 2008, the progressive hopes and youthful energy of a nation centered on the Democratic Party and its charismatic leader, and the party had not yet proved bankrupt.

Barack will likely win this election as Kennedy did, as the hopes of the left wrap themselves into the Democratic party rather than into the passion of the street. If Obama wins, he and his party will have their chance to respond to the national call for change. Will Obama fail? Will the party that captured the hopes of a record number of primary voters prove bankrupt? Will the hopeful “yes we can” of 2008 become the disastrous Democratic disintegration of 1968? Obama will likely win this election–And then we, and the street, will see.


Convention Choreography and Street Disruption

August 25, 2008

In 1972, it was a bit of a scandal when a secret script for the upcoming Republican National Convention was discovered. In The Boys on the Bus, author Timothy Crouse reported on the details of the script—calling it a “stage-managed coronation of Richard Nixon.”

“Spontaneous cheers will interrupt the convention secretary in mid-sentence and at 10:33 the President will be nominated and there will be a ten minute spontaneous demonstration with balloons..”

The Republicans were planning their convention rather than just letting events unfold unpredictably, and this shocked the establishment! Back then conventions were a raucous affair, where it was often the case that delegates didn’t know who would win the nomination when they went into convention, and where serious and divisive debates about platform planks (should the Democrats stand for civil rights in the South, for example) would tear the party to pieces. The fact that the Republicans were working to remove any division or unpredictability from their convention was a surprising new development in 1972—but this strategy was quickly adopted by both political parties.

Today, the primary election process insures that the presidential and vice-presidential nominees are already chosen, debates over the platform have all been worked out , and all other sources of party division are almost always resolved before the convention ever begins. The line-up of speakers has been carefully vetted and planned to the last detail .

So what’s the point? Why do the parties even continue to hold a convention and why do so many voters watch?

Conventions continue to play several roles for political parties, including serving as a single place where thousands of delegates representing different factions of a party can gather to build solidarity and excitement for the hard work ahead in winning an election and serving as a star-studded occasion where lot of big-money donors gather for fund-raising dinners, invite-only parties and other special events to raise necessary millions of dollars for the party.

One of the key functions of a political convention is to serve as a carefully choreographed advertisement to share the values of the party and image of its presidential nominee with the voters.

“Contemporary conventions are staged primarily as mega-media events designed to electrify the party faithful and to woo undecided voters by dazzling them. Scholars have demonstrated that support for the party’s nominee is boosted immediately after the convention, and the prevailing nostrum seems to be: the better the convention, the bigger the boost. Elaborate effort—and resources—are now lavished on the conventions by party leaders to orchestrate, anticipate, plan, schedule, rehearse, time, and script every detail of every minute of the convention—especially those proceedings that will be aired during prime time.”

— Costas Panagopoulos, 2008 http://www.bepress.com/forum/vol5/iss4/art6/

For four days, the Democratic and Republican conventions will feature long lines of speeches, tributes and video presentations revealing what exactly the party stands for, what kinds of people associate with the party, and what the party intends to do once in power. It is a rare moment for voters to truly watch the party present itself—and this serves a vital purpose for American democracy.

We certainly can’t rely on the mainstream media to help voters learn about core values of a party. Studies show that the average amount of time that a candidate or official is allowed to actually speak, in their own words, on the television news is about 7 seconds. Seven second sound-bites are hardly enough time for parties to present their ideas or values in any kind of nuanced ways.

But at a convention, candidates can give lengthy speeches, and they aired in their entirely o various news stations. Video tributes to party achievements and great party leaders are aired for the voters to experience and learn from . Some people call it a useless advertisement, and there are even some in the mainstream media who suggest that none of the convention should even be covered (in favor of what? 8 second soundbites?)—but the convention experience is not so much a useless advertisement as it is a multi-media classroom that voters can enter to learn about the party and its nominee.

Voters are certainly interested in what goes on in that classroom. Although viewership has dropped in recent decades (although there have been few studies of alternative ways of following a convention such as on-line or through casual conversation with friends), at any given moment, 15% of all television viewers are watching the convention—no small number. And the number jumps during the big speech by the nominee. 15% of all voters also make up their actual election decision while watching the convention—a number matched only by the presidential debates.

Conventions are a way to convey the party and its values to the voters—but the choreography of a convention is always threatened by events in the street organized by demonstrators who are intent on challenging a party, confronting it with opposing ideas, and thrusting an alternative narrative of grass-roots priorities upon the national stage. In 1968, convention demonstrators in Chicago were so numerous and so unruly (as were violent police, intent on squashing grass-roots demonstrations in the city) that the Democratic party looked out of control to voters who saw it all unfold on television. They responded by voting in a Republican president.


To this day, demonstrators seek to recreate the energy and drama of the 1968 anti-Vietnam protests, and party officials try to minimize and silence such street demonstrations that distract from the party’s message.


This year in Denver, party leaders worked with the city of Denver to create a carefully planned parade route for demonstrations that would go nowhere near the convention itself, and passed a rule that all parades had to end before the convention events started for the evening. They designed a “freedom cage” (see previous post on the subject) where other protestors could go to speak out at the convention, also out of sight of delegates and hidden behind a large white tent.

But Denver organizers have threatened to tear it all down. Groups in Denver have named themselves such things as Recreate 68, Unconventional Denver , Disrupt DNC 08 , and Tent State University—and they have claimed that up to 50,000 protestors will be descending on Denver to march in the streets, ignore the rules relegating protestors to small cages, and push the Democratic party to take more strong stands against the Iraq War, against poverty, and against global warming (for example).

Will the demonstrators be able to steal the stage from the Democrats? Do convention demonstrations have a role to play, similar to the Convention choreography itself, in teaching the nation about the political lay of the land? In Denver and in St. Paul over the next few weeks, we will see who truly has the upper hand—the party in the halls of power or the movement in the street.


Don’t Act Like Him, Don’t Talk Like Him

August 14, 2008

Stephen Noriega – The McBeat

I just stopped watching John McCain give a press conference on the Georgia situation. He should be able to dominate Barack Obama in this. Obama released a less than inspiring release from Hawaii about the invasion by Russian forces into Georgia. For all of you who do not understand, yes, Russia is driving tanks down Peachtree Avenue, has captured Atlanta and only John McCain cares.

But seriously, John McCain looked good. He touted his experience with Georgia, his trips to that country, and his relationship with the leadership there. He almost had this in the bag until he mispronounced the name of the president.

New School Politics 2-2008

Now, Georgian names are not easy to pronounce for us English speakers. Josef Stalin was a Georgian and his original name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. The Minister of Foreign Affairs is Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili. The President is Mikheil Saakashvili (Not Sashkavili or Shashkvili). The capital city is Tbilisi. This is translated from a writing system different from the Roman alphabet or the Cyrillic system used by the Russians. Still, it has become somewhat important to know these names.

McCain has now mispronounced his Georgian friend’s name at least four times in the media.

Normally this would not be a super huge deal. As Americans, we do not expect our leaders to give much linguistic respect to other states or their leaders. However, this election is a little different. This election might actually have to do with intellect, articulation and pronunciation.

It is a political given that the far left will make fun of McCain and the far right will make fun of Barack Obama for any gaff statements. Likewise these sides will defend their candidates to the very end. The Democrats and Republicans will not see massive defections. This is just not historically supported. The two campaigns need to focus on a particular group of people that have leaned to the right but make no promises for 2008.

The group that has awarded Bush in the last two elections for his personality more than his eloquence is the GDI – The God Damn Independents. They have looked at issues like national security, taxes (valid enough) and whether they would like to have a beer / go bowling with them (not so valid). Even with the GDI having major concerns about Iraq and a runaway deficit, they chose President Bush over Kerry. Kerry just was not one of them. While they worried about small business taxes and Al Qaeda, Kerry went windsurfing.

Amerika.nl 2004

In similar times, the dreaded elite label could drag Obama down. His snubbing of certain beverages and foods on the campaign trail while drinking organic teas and Starbuck potions could cost him much. His misguided and aloof comments in San Francisco about certain people clinging to guns and religion could be a death nail in 2004. However, in 2008, it is not.

Chicago Sun Times 2008

The GDI, as well as many more in the middle of political America, are less concerned about with whom we want to have a beer, or organic tea for that matter. The people in the middle have started to feel their own embarrassment glands ache as the world laughs at our leaders. It is not becoming enough to drink a beer with the President. The President needs to get things done. John McCain can fit the bill, but he must avoid looking silly. This is a rare time for any Republican candidate, trying to honor the brand of the party while still trying not to appear too much like the outgoing, two-term president.

Huffington Post 2008

I am willing to bet that Barack Obama, on his way back from Hawaii, is practicing names like Medvedev, Saakashvili and Tbilisi. McCain better do the same unless he wants a highlight reel like the one below. Unfortunately, McCain’s reel will be shorter because he will pay better attention or because he will lose the election.


Democrats Ascendant in the Rocky Mountain West

August 12, 2008

It’s been a long exile for Western Democrats. The last time Denver hosted a Democratic National Convention was over one hundred years ago, with the William Jennings Bryant Democrats of 1896. Since those heady days for Western Democrats, the Western path to the presidency has been something of a lost El Dorado. Rather than looking to the interior mountains, Democrats have conventioned in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami, avoiding altogether the flyover states of the Rocky Mountain West.

But the tectonic plates of American politics shifted in 2004, when several Western states elected Democratic state houses, governors and Members of Congress; followed by the big electoral earthquake of 2006, which shattered the old mold and revealed a new electoral geography.

The West is turning blue.

Democrats are suddenly running and winning in races from Arizona to Montana, all across the once reliable eight-state Republican region. Leading strategists (here, here or here are advising the Democrats to drop their southern infatuation and follow the Western route to the presidency, and once again the Democrats are bringing their national convention to Denver.

“I have long believed that the essence of a Democratic victory goes through the West,” Party chair Howard Dean has noted.“If we are going to have a national party, we are going to have to have Westerners to vote Democratic again on a reliable basis.” The demconwatch.blogspot.com website presents a plethora of insider excitement over rising Democratic prospects in the West: “In the West, it is our time,” stated Denver’s DNC host committee president, Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, upon learning that Denver had been chosen to host the 2008 DNC. Colorado Senator Ken Salazar added that “Colorado is an ideal site to showcase the Democratic Party’s resurgence and our hopes for the future,” while Harold Ickes (deputy chief of staff for President Clinton) weighed in that “I think Denver, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West are an area that’s increasingly in the Democratic focus and out to be”.

Colorado is the showcase of the changing West, electing a Democratic state legislature and a Democratic Senator in 2004, choosing a Democratic Governor in 2006 and sending a Democratic delegation to the U.S. House

Montana, a state that hadn’t elected a Democratic House and Governor for decades, recently turned its state house and Governor’s office over to the Democrats, and sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

Five years ago, the eight-state Rocky Mountain region boasted eight GOP governors. Today, there are only three. Even Wyoming has a Democratic governor.

And that’s why the Democrats are coming to Denver for their convention. Win Colorado or New Mexico, and Al Gore wouldn’t have needed Florida, back in 2000.

What accounts for the Democrat’s Western strength? Some point to the Latino surge—Latinos are rapidly growing in the West, and they vote Democrat. Certainly party strategists and scholars are focused on the behaviors of this growing Latino vote.


Some point to the Cowboy Democrats as the source of western change—its all those libertarian rural cowboys, fed up with a GOP that has lost its way; they’re turning Dem or sitting it out.

And, some (here or here) point to the Californians—its all those new creative class liberal transplants pouring in from the Coast—they’re Californicating Colorado.

I’m part of a research team covering this subject, and we’ve run the numbers for a forthcoming article, and here’s what I can tell you. It’s the Californians. The engine of liberalism in the West are those migrating in from other states—with California the biggest contributor.

What about the other two theories? Latinos are indeed growing in the west, and they tend to vote Democratic, put the fact is that Latinos post very low voting rates (many of them are ineligible to vote, and many others have simply not yet been mobilized into dependable political participation). Every year, this group grows as an electoral force, but to date it cannot be said that Latinos are voting at high enough levels to be the driving force behind change in the West.

As for the Cowboy Democrats—the actual voting data shows that the cowboy counties (those most sparsely populated and most dependent on agriculture, especially in states like Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Montana) are actually NOT trending towards the Democrats. The more cowboy the county, the more likely it is to buck the Democratic movement in the West and actually be trending towards the Republicans. So it’s not the Latinos and it’s not the cowboys driving the West left-it’s the Californians.

Interstate migrants into the West hail most often from California counties that are substantially more Democratic than the Western area they are moving into, they are more likely to be single, childless and white-collar than existing residents, more likely to work within the “creative class” sector of the economy; and they catalyze rising Democratic strength wherever they show up.

When new migrants pour into once isolated rural counties by the thousands, moving into the West from the coastal regions, bubbling into the rural hinterlands out of Democratic powerhouses like Denver, and bringing a new, creative economy with them—they are announcing an electoral transformation that is shaking the foundation of the existing geography of political power in America.

And that’s why Obama is coming to Denver—to ride the Californians to the presidency.