Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 Midterms: Are you Enthused!?

Can you barely contain your excitement? Are you laying awake at night wondering who’s going to take that contested congressional seat in Ohio? Are you bursting at the seams wondering who’s undisclosed campaign contributions are going to beat out the other candidate’s undisclosed campaign contributions? Are you pumped as you can possibly be pumped to vote for New York City mayoral term limits!?

That’s right folks, we’re just 6 days away from the 2010 midterm elections, and what seems like a campaign that started the day after Inauguration Day 2009 is almost finally over. As races tighten around the country in one of the most bizarre elections in history, most analysts predict Republicans are poised to take the House, and are very much within reach of taking the Senate. The reasons for this are all over the place, from the rise of the Tea Party, to massive amounts of spending from outside groups, to general disenchantment with President Obama’s domestic policies and the ever-lagging economy.

As this all wraps up, the flurry of media talking points pretty much centers around the “enthusiasm gap” between conservatives and liberals- those energized to take back congress from the left and those who feel betrayed by Obama and the Democrats they elected two years ago. While Obama has been out on the road campaigning to packed stadiums and college campuses of thousands of adoring fans, it’s interesting to note his approval ratings have jumped from 48% to 54% crossing over the all important 50% mark. Democrats are hoping that might be enough to close up the tight races around the country and keep their balance of power.

But while Republicans have stuck to one national message, opposing the “out of control spending by Obama and Pelosi”, and “socialist government takeover” of…I guess everything, Democrats have focused on each race locally. This means they lacked an over arching message, and more often than not ran away from what’s been accomplished the past two years and more or less pretended to be Republicans.

Look at Governor Joe Manchin III, the popular West Virginia Democrat and senate candidate’s latest campaign video. Usually a supporter of the president, in this ad he wants to “repeal the bad parts of Obamacare” and literally SHOOTS A BULLET through a page of Cap and Trade Legislation. Let’s all please just take a look at this.

I really like how it’s just one page. “Tax on Carbon Emissions and…SHOOT HERE JOE!”

Many have been asking “has Obama betrayed his base?” but a more interesting question is “has the base betrayed Obama?” After all, he’s one guy, and we live in a democracy filled with hundreds of elected guys, and compromise is inevitable. It’s understandable to feel bummed out. There was no public option in the health care bill, the stimulus could have been bigger, we escalated in Afghanistan, the list goes on.

William Upski Wimsatt wrote a book in the early 90’s called “Bomb the Suburbs,” about social activism. The other day he was on the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC talking about his new book “Please Don’t Bomb the Suburbs”, an updated account of what it takes to be a responsible activist in the Obama era. One thing that struck a chord with me was when he said “Don’t be demoralized by what hasn’t gone right when we’ve taken huge baby steps." He mentions that the stimulus was the biggest anti-poverty bill in a generation, and every economist who isn’t being paid by the Chamber of Commerce will tell you it saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and staved off another depression. In addition to that, it doubled funding for public schools and was the biggest government investment in science and the environment in history.

Let’s also not forget AN ENORMOUS HEALTH CARE BILL PRESIDENTS HAVE BEEN TRYING TO PASS FOR SEVENTY YEARS. If you’re reading this and under 26, you can go back on your parent’s plan, you can’t get denied for heaving a pre-exisiting condition, and 30 million new Americans will be able to receive affordable health care, albeit through a private insurer, but at least with government help if they need it.

There was also the financial reform bill, a huge expansion in public service through Americorps, and a recently passed jobs bill to try and bring down unemployment, among other things that are easy to look over when searching for signs of “change.” While the White House may exaggerate what’s been done so far, Democrats could have really benefitted from sticking to a unified, national message talking about all this stuff. Then maybe we wouldn't have to have Democrats you know, shooting guns at legislation that doesn't even exist in their ads.

Of course, it’s always important to keep pushing. When civil rights leaders in the 1930’s approached FDR about being more aggressive he said, “Make me do it.” Presidents respond when people show up and tell them to do something. Obama gets more frustrated when the left protests against him (most notably with gay rights activists), more so than with any tea partier. But while the Tea Party has organized and made their voices heard in ways the left did in ’06 and ’08, this year the left has been Grumbling for America rather than Organizing for America.

If Republicans take the House that means they take over the heads of each committee in the House. That’s a big deal, because they control the general business of Congress and have the power to investigate the White House. And with all the bizarre accusations coming from the right towards the White House, that looks like it could be over anything. There was an article in the Times today about lobbyists warming up to Republicans who are set to take over those chairs from defense contractors to accounting firms.

Nydia Velazquez, Killin' it for BK.

Here in New York City, Nydia Velazquez is the Congresswoman for the district that covers much of Greenpoint, Bushwick, Williamsburg, Red Hook, Sunset Park, Ridgewood, Maspeth, and part of the Lower East Side and the East Village. She’s also the chairwoman of the Small Business Committee, and has brought in a lot of money for public housing projects in Brooklyn over the years. Her re-election is pretty safe, but it’s important to go out and show your support to make sure we have a strong Latina woman who’s a real force for her constituents at the head of such an important committee, as opposed to some dude from Missouri who’s set to take her place if Republicans win the House on Tuesday.

This race isn't just a referendum on the Democrat's handling of the economy, it's a validation of if we approve of how far to the right those running for office have moved in the past two years. No matter where you live, it matters to show it's not okay for the Carl Paladino's and the Christine O'Donnell's to get away with what they say.

If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote you can check here. When I checked I didn’t show up, so I called my borough office (which was surprisingly pleasant) and found out I was indeed registered so I’m not actually sure how accurate that site is. No need to fret if you’re not registered, or not sure if you are at your current address. You can still show up to your local polling station and fill out an affadavit ballot, so your vote is counted AND You’ll be registered at your current address. Isn’t that nice?

I’ll be doing live tweet coverage on election night (that’s Tuesday, Nov. 2nd), so tune in for the most imprecise, irreverent commentary available on the internets minute by minute as the results pour in! And if you don't have any other reasons to vote there is always the universal truth...The Rent is Too Damn High!

Monday, October 18, 2010

New York Gubernatorial 7 Man Steel Cage Match

Just two weeks away now from midterm elections and tonight was the New York State Gubernatorial debate. Rolling seven deep, fisticuffs were to be had. Not only Democratic and Republican candidates Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino were a part, but five other third party candidates including James McMillan of the “Rent’s Too Damn High Party. “ and Kristin Davis, the former madame who allegedly sold Elliott Spitzer prostitutes, campaigning to legalize Marijuana.

This babe could be your next governor and she loves smoking weed.

It was a real shit show, with each candidate having 30-90 seconds each to answer questions, usually just ending up shouting towards the end trying to yell over the moderators to get some last words out.

The clear winner of the debate was James McMillan, who ended every statement with, "and that rent is too damn high!" To bring down the rents that are too damn high, he would call for an economic state of emergency, and use the funds provided from the Obama stimulus to cut taxes and bring down rents across the state. (?) He also claims to be a karate expert, and has strong views on gay marriage. "If you wanna marry your shoes, I'll marry you." You can check out his amazing website here.

Jimmy Thunder.

Cuomo came off polished, with well-crafted rhetoric that sounded better than most Democrats around the country. Paladino was...Paladino. It's really something strange to hear the guy talk. Paladino, the millionaire real estate developer from Buffalo, who's stunts over the past few weeks have ranged from goofy and weird to ugly and offensive, railed against Albany with the zeal of a senile, bigoted grandpa. He tried to come off not as angry (which he did), but as a regular guy who cares about your kids (which came off creepy). His promises went from unrealistic to bombastic, pledging to totally strip down government, talking about people "feeding off parasites." In another hard to explain statement, he talks about the "shame" of taking five- and six-year-olds and putting them in "urban schools."

Cuomo was sent to the lions from both the left and the right, with Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian Warren Redich coming out with the Zingers, taking him on for special interest donations such as a Manhattan parking lot with a Delaware address, as Redich claims. Redich actually came off the most well spoken, a libertarian who's smart enough to disguise what that really means for a New York audience. I think he literally said, "schools, parks, and bridges" every time he spoke.

While as strange and surely entertaining it was to listen to seven candidates, most with no chance of winning and just wanting to talk about issues, it seemed like overall a safe night for both Cuomo and Paladino. While initially Paladino was egging Cuomo on to debate him, it's clear his lack of er- rhetorical skills would've left him dusted by Cuomo. And for Cuomo, he didn't have to risk sitting next to Crazy Carl. Surprisingly, with the exception of Redich, no one called Paladino out on any of his behavior. Most of the shots were about Cuomo's camaign money and business ties, which he never addressed when attacked on. It's safe to say Paladino can safely set himself up on the wingnut talk circuit in the next few weeks, and with the democrats facing serious threats around the country, it seems like New York, surprisingly or not, will go against the trend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Sunday Steze: Obama Chills in Your Yard. Eats a Burg. Whatev.

Guess what folks? We're less than one month away from midterm elections and you know what that means! Only a few more weeks before you get to cast your ballot for your pick for senator, congressman, governor, local representative, dog catcher, rodeo clown, art project, etc.

Last week President Obama hosted a raucous rally in Madison, Wisconsin which drew around 17,000 supporters, in what probably felt like for White House officials, a vindicating moment of "I told you we still had it." In this rally and in a recent Rolling Stone article, Obama lists the things his administration has accomplished, and in a moment that must have suprised even him, the whole freakin' arena goes nuts when he mentions the health care bill, like Lady Gaga just played...that song she plays.

What's important to look at about this rally, and about this article, is Obama once again engaging with the huge amount of young people who elected him, many of whom might not even realize there's an election right now. There's one point during the rally where he's saying something along the lines of, "They're saying it's all over. That they've got it won. That you guys aren't energized- that you don't care." Than he catches himself, and says, "Well, you know- you read the newspapers, you watch the television." But the truth is, that many of these supporters don't, and have totally lost touch since the election which energized so many young people.

And while many have simply just lost touch, lost interest, fatigued from the political whirlwind that was 2008- there's of course a huge number of liberals disenfranchised with the Obama Administration and see no reason to go to the voting booth to elect a bunch of bumbling Democrats who watered down and prolonged legislation for months and months, and now refuse to campaign on these issues. And while I'll be the first to point out the pitfalls of the first two years of the Obama administration, it is pretty gratifying to hear the president list off the things we've achieved legislatively. The health care bill, the financial regulatory bill, the stimulus (which may seem like a waste because of the vast unemployment, but saved us from another depression and was a huge investment in a number of progressive causes), and a list of other things that have gone virtually unnoticed.

The bummer of the whole thing is we spent a lot of time trying to get bills passed. We had Rahm "fucking" Emanuel (Who announced he was peacing out this week out to run for mayor of Chicago) running around strong arming and sweet talking congressmen into voting for this stuff, and an extremely focused and united Republican blocking it and delaying it to a point of sheer ridiculousness. And this still goes on. Nothing can get done. And what's sad about it all, is if those 17,000 in Madison had made the fuss in the way the Tea Party had, had been as loud as the right has been, they probably wouldn't have been able to have gotten away with it.

Following the rally, Obama attended some much smaller, and not as welcoming events, trading in the arena for the back yard. The older folks got a little testy with him, and he got a little testy back. At one point one older fellow said "I'm very concerned about you raising taxes on those making over $250,000-" to which Obama replied curtly, "You haven't seen your taxes go up at all under me." He's gotta be sick of repeating that one.

Next week I'm going to go on another big long rant about Carl Paladino. Get ready. Have a good week.