Election Year 2008
Campaign Rhetoric and Politick
With record voter turnout already demonstrated in the Presidential Preference primaries, the 2008 presidential election represents one of the most critical in our nation's history. Ongoing Gallop polls reflect Americans' general frustration over the war and their economic reality, as well as their disillusionment with the current leadership in Washington. They are, no doubt, ready for a change.
The Sedona Observer will present this page as a regular section throughout the year until the final presidential election. We are honored to feature the work of widely recognized national political essayist, author and lecturer Paul Rogat Loeb, who has spent more than 35 years researching and writing about citizen responsibility and empowerment – asking what makes some people choose lives of social commitment while others abstain.
His books include Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, Hope in Hard Times, Nuclear Culture and Generation at the Crossroads: Apathy and Action on the American Campus. His recent anthology on political hope, The Impossible Will Take a Little While, was named the No. 3 Political Book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. It also won the Nautilus Award for Best Social Change Book of the Year.
See the WHO page for more information about Loeb, his books and Web site.
The Sedona Observer does not accept paid advertisements from political candidates nor endorse any party or campaign. In addition, the opinions presented on this page do not represent the editorial opinion of this newspaper. Instead, we provide space for political essays and columns as a community service to support individuals' freedom of speech. Anyone is welcome to submit an editorial. We do not run political press releases; rather, all candidates from all parties are invited to submit their philosophical commentaries to editor@SedonaObserver.com.
How Obama Could Create
a Long-term Democratic Majority
Senator Barack Obama
By Paul Rogat Loeb
Commentators are talking, and rightly so, about how young voters are flocking to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Their overwhelming support gave Obama his Iowa margin, kept him just a few points behind in New Hampshire and Nevada, and contributed to his massive South Carolina victory.
Young voters haven't always turned out, historically, but they're responding to Obama's message. Together with his equally massive support from African-Americans and strong appeal to independents, their passionate enthusiasm could help him expand the Democratic base enough not only to win in November, but to win decisively.
Obama also offers the chance to make this new generation part of an enduring Democratic coalition – because once young voters support a particular party a few times in a row, they're likely to gravitate toward that party for the rest of their lives.
That so many young Obama supporters are turning out to rally, volunteer and vote suggests that he might be one of those watershed candidates who really can bring a new generation into politics and help shape their long-term loyalties, permanently enlarging the Democratic share of the electorate. But because of Hillary Clinton's attacks on Obama, she risks destroying this shift just as it's beginning to emerge.
Look at the historical patterns: Studies from the past 50 years find that party loyalties tend to form early – for Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. It was true for the FDR generation, for those who came of age during the anti-war activism of the late Vietnam era, and with the young adults who helped cascade Reagan into office and whose compatriots have remained more conservative ever since.
Major historical events such as wars and economic depressions can shift this. So can political scandals as well as personal crises and conversions. Systematic organizing efforts can also shift voters' world view and context, particularly for those politically detached, which is one reason unions matter so much. Still, some major patterns get set early on, and that's likely to keep being true.
Generations need several elections to cement the pattern. The votes of 18- to 29-year-olds started shifting back in the Bill Clinton years. Young voters gave him an initial 9-point margin and increased it the next round, but their turnout dropped from the highest since 18-year-olds got the vote to the lowest in the same period.
In 2000, Gore led Bush among this group buy three percent, with Ralph Nader bleeding off another five percent. Led by increases in young African-American and Latino voters, they were the only generation to favor Kerry, and did so by a 10-percent margin.
These shifts accelerated in 2006. Fueled by the Bush administration's myriad disasters, young voters played a critical role, supporting Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a massive 60-to-38 percent difference. They did so in every region of the country, from a 3-to-1 split in the East to a three-point margin in the South. They provided the critical margin for Senators Tester, Webb and McCaskill, and fed the victories of the four other victorious challengers.
Had it been up to young Americans alone, the Democrats would have also won Senate campaigns in Tennessee, Arizona, and Nevada; Ned Lamont would have defeated Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, and a slew of additional House seats would have changed hands. The Democrats would have elected senators from 26 states, with Republicans carrying just four.
The passion of young people for Obama's campaign is fueled by the Iraqi war, an uncertain economy, major concerns about the environment and global warming and the religious right's attacks on sexuality.
But more than anything it's also fueled by Obama's eloquent insistence that change is possible and that ordinary citizens can play a key role. It's fueled by the sense that Obama's personal story anticipates the story of an America that moves beyond its divisions and tackles our fundamental problems. This group also seems to resist the idea that a presidency can simply be handed down like a dynastic succession.
Participating in numbers we haven't seen in decades, these new voters fervently want Obama to win. They're reaching out to enlist their peers and volunteering to help reach others. They can be a powerful force to help him prevail.
But if Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is nominated, this momentum will likely crumble. The young women and men who've been flooding the Democratic primaries and caucuses will feel betrayed by a candidate who's just finished doing her best to destroy the person they've invested their hopes in. And, as a result, they may simply stay home.
It's not just that Hillary is running against Obama; that would be fine. It's that she and Bill and their surrogates have relentlessly assaulted Obama's character in a scorched-earth style worthy of Karl Rove.
I've devoted an entire article to documenting just a fraction of these instances: her lying about his record (and her on) on critical Iraq and Iran votes and his votes on abortion choice; her unleashing surrogates like civil rights activist-turned-Wal-Mart pitchman Andy Young to explain how Obama really wasn't black enough; or Black Entertainment Television CEO Robert Johnson (a virulently anti-union corporate head who's backed Bush on issues like the estate tax and privatizing Social Security) to refer to Obama's youthful cocaine use, with Hillary standing next to him at a South Carolina rally.
When Hillary says Obama has no right to build up "false hopes," and Bill calls Obama's vision of history "a fairytale," how can Obama's young supporters not feel attacked in their own hope and dreams? Had she run a less-harsh campaign, like that of John Edwards, Hillary might expect to inherit Obama's passionate young voters – and volunteers. But given the virulence of her attacks, I just can't see them suddenly turning on a dime and enthusiastically supporting her.
Sen. Hillary Clinton
Young voters are historically the least likely to participate. The failure of the Democrats to stop Bush's war in Iraq has already made many cynical. Obama has reversed this cynicism but, if Hillary crushes the dreams of his supporters, a great many will stay home in disgust. Or, if they do end up voting, they certainly won't work to turn out their peers. As a friend said of his community college students, "The most active ones in my class say they won't even vote for her if she's nominated."
The same is true, of course, of African-American voters. The Clinton campaign's attempts to cage Obama in a racial box (for instance by Bill Clinton's dismissing his massive South Carolina victory as just an echo of Jesse Jackson 's 1984 and 1988 campaigns) could have an equally disastrous impact on African-American turnout if Hillary is the nominee come November.
She also risks the defection of people who fit neither demographic but are simply so furious at her support for Bush's Iraq and Iran policies and her massive corporate ties that they simply cannot let themselves vote for her. I get those responses every time I write on the subject.
Taken together, if these groups stay home (and Republicans mobilized by Hillary-hatred turn out), it's easy to see how a candidate like Sen. John McCain (D-Ariz.) could transform a prime Democratic opportunity into yet another needless defeat.
Sen. John McCain
If the youth vote affected only the upcoming election, the stakes would be massive. But it's worse yet because Clinton's nomination would likely shift the future votes of a generation.
If I thought Obama was simply an empty suit, I'd be skeptical too. Like any political leader, he has his weaknesses. I wish he deferred less to the senior Senate leadership on issues such as Iraq. But, then, I look at his record engaging and bringing together once-powerless individuals and communities, speaking out against the war and linking our health care crisis to his mother dying of cancer while her insurance company tried to throw her off their rolls.
I value his stress on empowering ordinary citizens to act. I see enough actions of courage and vision to suggest his presidency might just be able to equal the sum of his powerful words.
Then I look at Clinton and wonder why she's fighting so fiercely against her fellow Democrats, after doing so little to fight Bush's destructive policies when he was riding high in the polls. I think this is part of what the young voters sense, too, and why their hopes have soared with Obama's campaign. If we dash them now, we may be paying for this choice for far longer than the next four years.
Paul Rogat Loeb is an author, lecturer and political essayist who lives in Seattle, Wash. Visit his Web site at http://www.paulloeb.org for more information about his books and writings. To receive his articles directly, e-mail email@example.com with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles.Read his full bio on the WHO page. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Behind Obama's Wave of Victories
...The More They Know Him
Sen. Barack Obama
By Paul Rogat Loeb
In a race where Hillary Clinton seemed to have every advantage, why has Barack Obama now won eight primaries and caucuses in a row?
If you look at the rhythm of the campaign, this is the first point where most of America's voters have a chance to consider him as a candidate with a serious chance of victory and to genuinely engage his message. Democrats passionately want a candidate they can believe in, but also one who can win –and reverse the Republican disasters.
As the presumed nominee, Clinton did everything she could to play on this, proclaiming herself as tough, experienced and capable of taking everything the Republicans could throw at her. She lined up massive insider support, including commitments from 154 superdelegates (versus 50 for Obama) before a single vote was cast.
But, as Obama began winning, voters who'd been paying only peripheral attention have started taking him seriously. The more familiar they've become with him, the more they've liked his message and chances, while their reservations about Clinton have only grown.
Now, she and her surrogates are in a position of trying to rationalize eight straight Obama wins, including his 29-point Virginia victory in a state where she was up by 24 points less than four months ago, and her-23 point loss in Maryland, which she also led by roughly the same margin.
These recent losses, claims Clinton, were due to states with caucuses, major African-American populations, or large numbers of young liberal professionals. But not only did Obama rout Clinton in Virginia among younger voters, African-Americans and independents, but he also won a majority of white voters, staked a 55-to-43 lead among white men and led among voters in every income and education level.
Maine is one of the whitest and poorest states in America, yet Obama won it convincingly despite election-eve reports that blue-collar women might hand it to Clinton. And, if you compare caucus margins, Obama won Iowa by a modest nine points and narrowly lost in Nevada. Since then, he's now won Washington, Nebraska, Georgia, Colorado, Minnesota and Kansas by more than 35 points, as well as Idaho and Alaska by more than 50.
In my state of Washington, Obama took every single county, including the highly conservative rural ones and the blue- and white-collar suburbs and exurbia. These weren't just latte-drinking liberals. Participants in my caucus couldn't stop talking about relatives and friends who'd never voted Democratic in their life but were inspired by Obama's message.
The pattern in every state has been the same: Clinton started out with a massive early lead based on her (and Bill's) huge name recognition, connections with Democratic insiders and the early endorsements gained in significant part on the desire of key leaders to go with the inevitable winner. Then Obama started campaigning, people responded to his story and his message, and the gaps begin to narrow.
As recently as mid-October, national polls had Obama 28 points behind, and he trailed by 20 points going into the Iowa caucuses. He's now won 22 of the 32 legitimate elections, not counting Michigan and Florida. And given that he's now far ahead in recent momentum, even or ahead in national polls and ahead in elected delegates, Democratic voters who earlier dismissed him as a candidate are far more primed to take his message seriously.
Before Super Tuesday I remember thinking, "If Obama only had three more weeks." To establish his electoral viability, he had no choice but to focus overwhelmingly on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, hitting town after town to convince people who'd barely heard of him that he should be America's next president.
He had no choice about doing this –a Rudy Guiliani big-state strategy would have been disastrous, as it was even with Guiliani's far greater name recognition. But it meant that Obama had no chance to create more than the most fleeting presence in the 22 states that voted on February 5.
Although Obama and the other candidates did campaign earlier in some of those states, few voters were paying much attention until the caucuses and primaries began. And because of the massive compression of schedule, Obama didn't have time to do more than jet in and out of states that represented over half the total convention delegates.
Think about the states that Clinton ended up winning that day. Following his initial Iowa victory, Obama had time for just three brief visits to California, one to New York, one to Massachusetts, two to New Jersey, one each to Arizona and New Mexico, and none at all to Tennessee, Arkansas or Oklahoma.
Clinton faced the same time constraints, but began with infinitely more name recognition and institutional connections, and a superstar surrogate in Bill, so needed the boosts from her personal visits far less. By the time most Super Tuesday voters began to realize that Clinton was no longer inevitable, Obama barely had a chance to do more than briefly get their attention.
That doesn't even count the impact of early voting, where people made up their minds before they had the chance to be seriously exposed to Obama's ideas. As many as half the California ballots may have been cast well before Super Tuesday—before the Kennedy endorsement, Obama's major California campaign stops, or the massive Los Angeles Oprah rally.
Most were cast before Obama's massive South Carolina victory and the backlash against Bill Clinton's racially charged attempts to dismiss it. Early voting had a comparable likely impact in New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico and Tennessee, with Obama surging late, but with much of this momentum being moot for the significant numbers of people who'd already voted.
In the words of Clinton campaign director, Ace Smith, "Our whole campaign is based on reaching those voters….with millions and millions of ballots cast before Election Day. And we've been trying to identify those people for months."
No doubt the Obama campaign tried to reach these voters too, but they had far less initial visibility to use as leverage. Obama still emerged from the day with a plurality of delegates, but would certainly have had even more if voters had just had more time to get to know him.
Even in constituencies where Obama is still making up ground, you see the same pattern. White voters backed him in Virginia, for the first time in a Southern state. Maine was supposed to go to Clinton because of blue-collar women, but Obama won by 18 points.
He got 26 percent of the Latino vote in Nevada, and polls before Super Tuesday showed him getting just 19 percent of the national Latino vote. But he averaged 35 percent on Super Tuesday, even counting the early voting and other obstacles, and actually won Virginia's small Latino population.
Clinton began with massive advantages among Latino voters, having locked up early endorsements from people like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta. Their political networks helped immensely, but mostly the margin has been simple name recognition.
Clinton supporter Huerta joked that when Latino voters were interviewed about Obama, "…a lot of them would say, 'Señor como se llama?' They didn't know Obama's name." But, as Obama stressed in one of the debates, Latino voters did vote for him in his Illinois races and are beginning to in his presidential quest.
In the words of Obama supporter Miren Uriarte, head of a Latino research center at the University of Massachusetts at Boston: "What we've seen is the longer people become familiar with Obama's thinking, the more prone they are to vote for him." So his challenge with Latinos really does rest significantly on their simply not knowing him—a situation he's now beginning to change.
All this creates a critical argument to stress, both to residents of states yet to vote and to the superdelegates who will hold the convention's balance of power. In addition to Obama's dramatically expanding Democratic participation among young voters, African-Americans and independents, as well as polling ahead of Hillary when matched against McCain, it means that his baseline of support may actually be much greater than we've seen so far.
Those of us who support Obama need to raise this not as an excuse for complacency; we'll need to keep doing everything we can to get him nominated in August and elected in November. But we can make clear that his potential electoral strengths may just be starting to come into play. It seems the more voters know him, the more they like him.
Paul Rogat Loeb is an author, lecturer and political essayist who lives in Seattle, Wash. Visit his Web site at http://www.paulloeb.org for more information about his books and writings. To receive his articles directly, e-mail email@example.com with the subject line: subscribe paulloeb-articles.Read his full bio on the WHO page.
The Politics of Gender
Cartoon by Mark Hurwitt
Women and the Elections
by Kathleen MacThompson
“When I was growing up, I was taught I could do anything I wanted to do.”
“When I was growing up, I was taught I could do anything I wanted to do. Then I found that many people were taught that they could do anything they could get away with.”
The two commentaries, the former from a 25-year-old woman and the latter from a 60--year-old woman, represent some of the initial dialogue that occurred during a recent conference, “Speak Out: Women, Families and the 2008 Elections” held in Prescott earlier this month.
The forum included panelists, political parties, candidates, nonprofits, businesses, educators, and ordinary citizens aimed at getting women to understand the connections between the opportunities and challenges they face every day and the political arena, actors, and decisions made at the national, state, county or local level.
Planned by the Women’s Empowerment Breakthrough group of Prescott College in conjunction with other area organizations, the event featured workshops, panel discussions, candidate forums and an expo all designed to get women involved in the political process and help answer these questions:
How do politics affect women’s daily lives?
How can women take more action in their local communities and beyond?
Why should a conference like this matter to anyone, and especially women, concerned about the direction of our country?
Because the U.S. ranks 66th among the world's nations for women's representation in national public office. That puts us behind Turkmenistan.
Because among 98 elected and appointed offices in the city of Prescott, only 17 percent are held by women. And this is common around the country.
Because women in this country are persistently over-represented in unpaid and volunteer based activities and underrepresented in leadership positions.
Because women’s roles are more directly tied to the welfare of their children, yet they are too seldom in roles affecting policy.
Because women’s and children’s immune systems are more easily, prevalently and devastatingly compromised by environmental pollutants, yet they too often have little say in policy setting or regulatory matters pertaining to these issues.
Because women’s traditional work still pays lower wages than men’s traditional work, frequently leaving women with fewer resources to cope.
Because it is time to understand that, while many women may have faced more challenges than Hillary Clinton, few have had the opportunities or encouragement to take leadership roles. That needs to change.
The list is endless. Women work in more positions at lower wages and with fewer promotions, leadership roles and policy-setting positions – in educational systems at all levels, in all aspects of the health care industry, in nonprofit agencies, in the energy industry, in corporations, in governmental and political positions and in political parties.
Women comprise more than half of the population in this country and, unless we seek our own empowerment and advancement, nothing will ever change--for them, their children or their grandchildren.
The forum represents just the beginning of a new network of women taking back their power in the political arena. Stay tuned for more.
Meanwhile, just think of how much more Hillary Clinton has to consider when she prepares for a debate as the only female contender.
Kathleen MacThompson is retired from the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. She has had 40 years of experience in dealing with organizational and administrative issues at the level of small-groups, cities, state, national and international organizations, the U.S. Military and political parties. She worked extensively in the area of Gender Analysis and wrote a section of a United Nations manual on how to incorporate gender-nuanced planning into national agendas for developing countries.
The Top Three Issues
Where do we stand?
In a survey conducted in 16 states last month by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International for The Associated Press, Americans ranked the following issues in order of importance as party members:
- The Economy
- The War in Iraq
- Health Care
- The Economy
- War in Iraq
Read in between the lines to gauge the essential party differences. Still, the economy tops the list of Americans’ concerns in most recent national polls.
Message from an Independent
“We need to end two-party politics and transform our government.”
By Brent Maupin
I am running for the United States Congress in Arizona’s District One on an independent ticket. As a civil engineer, I have had my own business in the northern Arizona area since 1994. I am also a licensed architect and a licensed contractor.
I am running as an independent because, to me, the current two-party system is not effective in carrying out its duties. Our foreign policy is headed down a very dangerous path and, in my opinion, neither the executive branch nor the legislative branch has the leadership required to properly address the international and national issues that are now before us. My mission is as follows:
To bring a high standard of integrity into the United Stated Congress
To put an end to a foreign policy that promotes war for profit
To maintain a strong national defense
To put an end to party (partisan) politics
To demand accountability from all elected officials
To expose deceit and deception in the letting and billings of government defense contracts
To prosecute elected officials to the fullest extent of the law who have not upheld their oath of office
To promote sustainable living and strongly encourage American investment in alternative energy resources
Sometimes I am asked how it is I intend to carry out such a bold mission. The answer to this question is actually quite simple, but first I would like to share with you a life-altering experience that I had nine years ago to shed light some light on my path and my platform.
In 1999 I was diagnosed with follicular cell lymphoma, a cancer that the doctors said was incurable. In short, I no longer have cancer, and I have a CAT scan to back this statement.
In part, what I learned from this most amazing journey, which took me to the depths of my soul, is that when we empower ourselves as human beings, we can accomplish the most incredible feats.
This includes healing ourselves from what are considered “incurable” illnesses. So why not do the same with the “illness” of “ineffectiveness” within our government?
Part of what I learned is that when we act from a very high standard of integrity and accountability, we empower ourselves. In doing so, we can then begin to create the outcome that we are focused on.
This being said, here is my personal pledge to you:
Honesty: I will be HONEST in all I say and do
Integrity: I live by the absolute highest standards of INTEGRITY
Authenticity: All that I say and do will be AUTHENTIC
Accountability: I have the highest standards of personal ACCOUNTABILITY
Responsibility: I hold myself RESPONSIBLE for all of my actions
For more information on who I am, my campaign and how to become involved and join me in helping to transform our government, visit my Web site at www.winwithmaupin.com or call 928-300-4822.
Leaders with Vision
"The people need a voice that doesn't march in step with party politics."
By Howard Shanker
I am a Democratic Congressional Candidate for Arizona Congressional District 1. The seat is being vacated by the Republican incumbent Rick Renzi, who has run into some legal difficulties.
The fact is, the people need a voice in Congress. My goal is to be that voice. My only agenda is to do what is best for the country and the district.
My agenda, however, does not appear to be in line with the plans of Democratic Party insiders who have "anointed" an "insider" candidate for the seat. These times call for candidates with vision, as well as the ability and willingness to oppose the status quo.
Yet we elect good fund raisers, not leaders. We complain when our elected officials pander to deep pockets. Both the Republican and the Democratic parties understand this lapse in our collective sanity and take full advantage of it to promote their own. Whether out of some misguided sense of loyalty or simply political sinecure, make no mistake, they do have "their own."
We are mired in an unjust war of our own making with no concerted effort to implement an exit strategy. As a nation, we are borrowing money from Saudi Arabia so we can buy oil from, for example, Saudi Arabia.
We are faced with a national health care crisis; we don't have coverage. Our population is aging without adequate savings at the same time we have floundering Social Security and Medicare systems.
Our government is rife with corruption -- already infamous for selling off essential government functions on a no-bid contract basis. We do not have adequate infrastructure or services in place to meet the needs of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our elected officials continue to talk about global warming as if it is a political issue, rather than a scientific fact. We even have a viable Presidential candidate who rejects the theory of evolution. The list goes on. The system is broken. We need people to fix it, not to be part of it.
The question is, "Do the political insiders have a strangle hold on power?" The answer is, "Only if we let them." The problems facing our country are too important to hand off to political machines whose wheels are greased by cronyism. We need leaders with vision and the ability to stand up for what is right in the face of overwhelming odds. That is what I have to offer.
My priorities are clear:
- Development and growth must be sustainable, economically viable, environmentally responsible, and good for all Arizonans.
- Arizona should be the solar and wind energy capital of the world. We should be working to develop renewable energy sources to end our reliance on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote economic growth in the district.
- The character of our involvement in Iraq must change. We need to develop a responsible exit-plan that will bring our troops home safely. We must replace our current military posture with an international effort to rebuild their war torn country. We need to negotiate a political solution to the current morass.
- It is essential that our veterans are treated with dignity and respect, and provided with comprehensive healthcare and social services.
- Governmental fraud, waste, and abuse have become commonplace. It is time to elect responsible lawmakers. The wholesale privatization of essential governmental functions must stop.
I have a proven track record of standing up against the federal government and big corporate interests to protect communities, families, the environment, and the freedoms we all hold dear. Help me give the people a voice that doesn't march in lock step with party politics as usual. Help me bring democracy back to the Democratic Party.
I have clear positions posted on my Web site at www.Shanker2008.com. If there is an issue not addressed, call or e-mail me and I will address it; contact me with your suggestions and thoughts.
A shot in the arm or a slap in the face?
I am shocked by reports about the President's economic stimulus package. I've read that it will not provide anything for folks making generally less than $25,000 as stated in the following quote from The Washington Post:
A sticking point is what would happen to workers who file but make too little to pay income taxes. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson said Bush wants ‘broad-based tax relief for those who are paying taxes,’ implying that those who do not would receive no benefits. About 50 million workers make too little to pay income taxes, although they do pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that a family of four making less than $24,900 would get nothing under such a formula. (www.WashingtonPost.com, Jan. 18, 2008)
It is estimated that half the people in CD1 live below the poverty line and make less than this amount.
This is unfair to CD1 and a perfect example of why it needs a fighter in Congress.
If I were CD1 representative, I would be on the floor of the House objecting and proposing fair alternatives, on the phone with leaders explaining the needs of CD1 and working to make this package fair for all of us.
Democratic congressional candidate CD1