Saturday, April 26, 2008

More On Appalachia

From Kos diarist DHinMI:
How Kentucky, West Virginia and Racism Could Screw Up the Clinton Exit
Way back in February, the day of the Potomac Primary, I wrote that what happened in the mountains of Virginia and Maryland could presage what would happen in the Appalachian parts of other states. Clinton pulled up to 90% in some of those counties, and she's won the Appalachian regions of every state contested.

The region also has given Barack Obama by far his lowest share of the vote; this map by Kossack Meng Bomin shows that outside of Arkansas that Clinton's biggest wins (depicted in red, vs the Green Obama counties) have almost all been in Appalachia:


George Packer offers some evidence that in Appalachia it's racism:
On Wednesday, I was in Inez, Kentucky, the Appalachian town where L.B.J. declared war on poverty forty-four years ago this month. John McCain was on a tour of "forgotten places"...After [McCain's] speech, I left the county courthouse and crossed the main street to talk to a small group of demonstrators holding signs next to McCain’s campaign bus. J. K. Patrick, a retired state employee from a neighboring county, wore a button on his shirt that said "Hillary: Smart Choice."

"East of Lexington she’ll carry seventy per cent of the primary vote," he said. Kentucky votes on May 20. "She could win the general election in Kentucky." I asked about Obama. "Obama couldn’t win."

Why not?

"Race," Patrick said matter-of-factly. "I’ve talked to people—a woman who was chair of county elections last year, she said she wouldn’t vote for a black man." Patrick said he wouldn’t vote for Obama either.

Why not?

"Race. I really don’t want an African-American as President. Race."
Many pundits have declared that Obama has a "race problem," or a "working class problem," or more specifically a "white working class" problem. Meng Bomin's map doesn't suggest a racial problem; Obama has done extremely well in many parts of the country that are almost entirely white, including several places with primaries instead of caucuses. …
It appears that Appalachia has an Obama problem.
The good news is, it's not fatal.
If doing well in Appalachia—which has only about 18-20 million of the almost 300 million people who live in America—were necessary for an Obama win, he would be in deep trouble. But there aren't enough people in Appalachia to present a big problem, especially since the region makes up a relatively small part of the population of most of the states it touches. (The Appalachian counties of Pennsylvania are a bit different than the rest of the region, as they are much more Catholic than the rest of Appalachia and more ethnically diverse, with a decent number of Italians, Slavs and Germans mixed in with the most Scots-Irish and descendants of the 18th century immigrants from the English backcountry that dominate the rest of Appalachia. Those counties, in fact, are the only part of Appalachia where Obama did OK, and actually improved on his performance over similar counties in Ohio). 

Taking Jackson Down

Years ago, back when I was writing Pan's Garden, I looked at the national political landscape and realized that the old, misty-eyed maxim "The South will rise again" had actually come to fruition. With the rise and triumphalism of crazy Christian (well, Southern Baptist) conservatism blaring from every media outlet, with the ascendence of Tom Delay, Trent Lott, W, and the rest of the lot, it occurred to me that the southerners had indeed won their long-sought-after victory over the North.

It was particularly galling to see the glee with which main players like the execrable Delay rubbed the rest of the country's nose in their political wins. 

Southern politics is and has for most of this country's history been dominated by the Jacksonian mindset. This jingoistic, violence-prone, anti-intellectual worldview has been to my mind poison to our polity. 

It's been pointed out that the mindset conspicuously coincides with large populations of Scots-Irish immigrants (which isn't to suggest causality)—so much so that the terms are used virtually interchangeably. Examples of this mindset are listed above: W., Delay, Lott, etc., etc. John McCain, like Reagan before him, is the apotheosis of this ideology, sharing both the mindset as well as the ethnic and cultural background. 

Well, fortunately and finally, most metrics show that their wave has crested and the pendulum is swinging back away from this ideology—and not fast enough if you ask me. But Hillary's recent wins in the Appalachian regions of the country have re-inflamed my frustration both with this way of thinking and my lack of understanding of why/how people with such proud, thoughtful ancestry should have devolved into their current nativistic, xenophobic, and culturally retarded state. I'm just not Marxist enough to put it all down to poverty, though that must play a large role.

Which is all just a long-winded and not particularly well-written way of saying, "What the fuck is it with these people?"

Well, as if to answer my angst-ridden question, Michael Hirsh explores the issue in his latest Newsweek article.

Choice cut:
How the South Won (This) Civil War
The coarsened sensibility that this now-dominant Southernism and frontierism has brought to our national dialogue is unmistakable. We must endure "lapel-pin politics" that elevates the shallowest sort of faux jingoism over who's got a better plan for Iraq and Afghanistan. We have re-imported creationism into our political dialogue (in the form of "intelligent design"). Hillary Clinton panders shamelessly to Roman Catholics, who have allied with Southern Protestant evangelicals on questions of morality, with anti-abortionism serving as the main bridge. Barack Obama seems to be so leery of being identified as an urban Northern liberal that he's running away from the most obvious explanation of his association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weatherman Bill Ayers: after Obama graduated from college he became an inner-city organizer in Chicago, and they were natural allies for someone in a situation like that. We routinely demonize organizations like the United Nations that we desperately need and which are critical to missions like nation-building in Afghanistan. On foreign policy, the realism and internationalism of the Eastern elitist tradition once kept the Southern-frontier warrior culture and Wilsonian messianism in check. Now the latter two, in toxic combination, have taken over our national dialogue, and the Easterners are running for the hills.

In Texas in particular, Lieven writes, we can see "the mingling of the Southern and Western traditions" that made its first appearance during Jackson's presidency, and which today so defines our current politics, culture, and foreign policy. Indeed, George W. Bush himself may embody this national trend best. In Bush there seems little trace left of the Eastern WASP sensibility into which he was born and educated, and which explains so much of his father's far more moderate presidency. The younger Bush went to Andover, Yale and Harvard, but he rebelled against the ethos he learned there. The transformation is complete, right down to the Texas accent that no one else in his family seems to have. Bush is a Jacksonian pod person.
Which reminds me of yet another reason I support Obama so strongly. When he wins (yes, when, not if, dammit), he'll be the first president with a non-southern, non-Jacksonian worldview in nearly a generation. (Sure, Hillary hails from the midwest and resides in NY, but she's so mentally attuned to Jacksonian politics that she may as well be from Alabama.) It really can't happen soon enough for me. 

I'll be ecstatic not just because we'll have the first liberal president since Carter (another Southerner by the way), and this time with an ascendant progressive movement holding his feet to the fire. And not just because we'll have moved a small step beyond the insipid and toxic Boomer culture wars. And not just because we'll have taken another step in racial healing. And not just because of his positions, his rhetoric, his charisma, and all of the other reasons great and small. 

But also because we'll have scored the first victory against the retrograde Jacksonian/Scots-Irish/Southern Baptist mindset in well over 30 years. (If you don't count 2006, which I think of as more of an opening salvo.) And when that day comes I'll be out in the streets, with a double-tall latte in hand, a very-French beret on my head, and dancing all over a Confederate flag. 

David Kelley Bitch Slaps SCOTUS

And, by god, it's a beautiful thing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Further Evidence…part II

The Obama campaign looks ahead to the general.
Obama-DNC Fundraising Deal
After a series of discussions, the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee have decided to file papers with the Federal Election Commission establishing a “joint fundraising agreement.” Under the law, such a committee can accept up to $28,500 from individuals, most of which would go to the DNC.

The fact that the Obama campaign is moving forward and Clinton is not at this time reflects certain important realities: Obama’s team is more confident that he will win the nomination than is Clinton’s — and Obama’s campaign has the necessity and luxury of thinking about and planning for the general election to come.
And his decision to run with Dean's 50-state strategy is both right and smart. Good to see he's pushing forward with it:
Obama Plans May General Election Organizing Launch
Pivoting to general election mode, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign announced a 50-state voter registration drive that will kick off four days after the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana.

"Vote for Change" will summon the volunteer army that Obama has amassed in the 47 states and territories that have already held primaries or caucuses this year, along with the nine yet to come. Deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand described the effort as a "sustained 6-month campaign" aimed at driving up turnout for all Democratic candidates in November.

Obama's campaign has waged aggressive turnout drives in individual states, including Pennsylvania, where nearly 230,000 Democrats registered before the April 22 primary, most of them Obama supporters. New registrations have hit 165,000 in North Carolina and topped 150,000 in Indiana -- and unlike in Pennsylvania, both of those May 6 states open the primaries to unaffiliated voters (and Republicans too in Indiana), meaning they don't have to register as Democrats to participate.

The program's other aim is to signal to Democratic leaders, and in particular uncommitted superdelegates, that Obama is the stronger general-election candidate. His 50-state strategy may have cost him votes in big states like California, Hildebrand and others have long argued, but the result of having campaigned everywhere is a nationwide grassroots organization, unlike any ever created by a presidential candidate.
A broad view, a deep understanding (not to mention deep pockets), and a killer strategy—why he's my pick. 

On The Other Hand

There's this insane example of terrible timing from former Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright, who decided now would be a good time for an interview. When I heard that he was going onto Bill Moyers' show, I thought little of it other than he'd have a chance to defend himself in friendly venue. Instead, he throws Obama under the bus with a passage that is so utterly undermining of Obama—so ridiculously stupid—that it just about makes my head explode:
"He's a politician and I'm a pastor. We speak to two different audiences. And he says what he has to say as a politician and I say what I have to say as a pastor, those are two different worlds. I do what I do, he does what politicians do so what happened in Philadelphia, where he had to respond to the sound bites, he responded as a politician."
Translation: Obama's just like any other politician who'll say whatever he thinks he needs to—but not waht he really believes—to get by.

This completely undercuts Obama's core message and leaves me wondering what Wright was thinking. Does he really believe that? Is he trying to hurt Obama? Does he feel so slighted by Obama, even though Obama stopped short of throwing him under the bus (as they say) last month, that he feels the need to damage him now? Was it more a latent, unconscious type of sabotage? What?!?

I agree with David Gergen and Todd Beeton from MyDD who says:
Obama didn't throw Wright under the bus during his Philadelphia speech but I agree with Gergen on this point, Wright very much did so to Barack Obama in this interview. What was Wright thinking and more to the point what is the Obama camp thinking not keeping this guy on a shorter leash? Have they learned nothing from the loose lips of their clumsy surrogates and advisors over the past couple of months? If this is the sort of message discipline the Obama campaign is going to insist on holding their friends to, i.e. none, then this is going to be a long general election campaign if he's the nominee.
How damaging this will be remains to be seen. Probably not much. But you never know what's going to be a fatal blow (well, until you do know, and then it's often too late). It's still early in the year, so hopefully this will just blow over and be forgotten by November. 

Campaign Defect

Just like after her NH and Ohio/RI victories, Clinton wins a battle but continues losing ground in the war. In what's beginning to look like a pattern, she wins a primary, crows about the victory, spins like mad for a day or two (e.g., the tide is turning)...then suffers a significant loss of support. So far, it's been the steady drip of superdelegates or endorsements going to Obama. This time around it's a major fundraiser—a so-called Hillraiser—that has defected. 

NBC's Chuck Todd 
has the story:
One of the things that both Dem campaigns are always nervous about is defectors. In particular, Clinton is more vulnerable to this problem since she's the candidate that is trailing. Well, NBC News has learned that a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, former Amb. to Chile Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon is leaving the campaign to join up Barack Obama's campaign.

Among the reasons for Guerra-Mondragon to defect, according to one informed source, was he was uneasy with the tone of the Clinton campaign and was beginning to worry about what this would mean for the general election.
Eventually, the writing on the wall will be impossible to ignore for all but the most diehard Clinton supporters. Let's hope it's sooner rather than later.

Update: That's in addition to the three superdelegates he's picked up since Pennsylvania. Clinton has picked up one.

Further Evidence…

…that my read on the political landscape—and my gut feeling—isn't completely off the mark.
Dems' suspense may be unnecessary
The torrent of speculation about the end game of the Democratic nomination contest is creating a false sense of suspense – and wasting a lot of time of the multitudes who are anxious to know how this contest is going to turn out.

“I don’t think anyone’s shaken,” a leading House Democrat told me. The critical mass of Democratic congressmen that has been prepared to endorse Obama when the timing seemed right remains prepared to do so. Their reasons, ones they have held for months, have not changed – and by their very nature are unlikely to.

One Democratic leader told me, “If we overrule the elected delegates there would be mayhem.” Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that she has, or will have, won the popular vote does not impress them – both because of her dubious math and because, as another key Democrat says firmly, “The rules are that it’s the delegates, period.” 

This pressure may not be enough to get the tenacious Hillary Rodham Clinton to quit the race, but, says a leading Democrat, “Sometime in June we will make it clear to her that this thing isn’t going to the convention.”

Keep Your Heads About You

In responding a Millennial reader's frustration with the primary, Sully echoes me for a change!

Choice cut:
The next generation, meanwhile, needs to get real. This was never going to be easy or simple. Real change never is. Abandoning the process in the face of raw cynicism is what the Clintons want. They have to freeze out the millions of new voters if they are to retain their grip over their party. But the truth remains: with these millions of new voters and new donors, they can be defeated - and have been defeated. Despite massive advantages, the Clintons have been singularly unable to close the deal that was theirs' for the asking only six months ago.
What they're doing now is trying to out-psyche us. It's all they have left. Don't let them get into your head!
That's exactly right. And if we all can keep our heads—and keep Team Clinton out of them—they won't succeed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

One Tremendous "If You"

Jon Stewart calls the Clinton campaign on its bs.


I've noticed that since Hillary's completely anticipated, game-unchanging win in PA the other night, there's been a lot of handwringing nervousness about whether Obama will actually win or be taken out by Team Clinton. 

Let me go on record as saying that it's wasted energy: Obama will win the nomination. He's ahead by every metric that counts. Clinton(s) only bests him in ability and willingness to scrape the bottom of the political tactics barrel. But come May 6, when Obama wins big in North Carolina and probably takes Indiana, all this will be forgotten. 

Now, that doesn't mean I think Clinton(s) will withdraw or concede. It's still an open question whether they'll take their smarmy sense of entitlement to the convention in August. But at the end of the day, I predict Obama will prevail.

There is danger, of course, in how much damage is done to him come the general election, but the fundamentals are still in place for this to be a strong Demo year. (Hell, that's why Clinton(s) are fighting so hard. They know that whoever wins the nomination has a large chance of winning in Nov.) Bill and Hill could kill him in a death by a thousand cuts. They could implode the party with a floor fight. Their diehard supporters could sit out the election, depriving him of a fairly large share of Democratic votes. Any number of awful things could happen between now and November. 

Is there cause for concern? Sure. But as of right now, it still looks good for Obama. It's myopic to lose sight of his strengths based on one primary.  

Closing The Deal

While Hillbots are flooding the airwaves with vapid snark like "if Obama is so great why can't he close the deal?" John Cole turns it around to ask the more pertinent question. And Kos follows with the answers:
John Cole:
If Barack is such a bad candidate, and he is so unelectable, and it is such a bad idea to have him as the Democratic nominee, why can’t Hillary beat him?

Why is she behind him in every conceivable metric? Why is she behind in pledged delegates? Why is she behind in the popular vote (and don’t insult my intelligence by trying to pass that sheer nonsense the morons at certain pro-Clinton blogs are lapping up)? Why are super delegates flocking to Obama, while Hillary has picked up only a handful in the past few months. Why has she won fewer states? Why is she trumpeting her narrow delegate pickup in PA, when it is less than the number of net delegates Obama picked up in a variety of other states? Why is she behind in fund raising? Why was she unable to turn her double digit lead a year ago into any actual primary wins? Why, with her starting financial advantage and name recognition, was she held to a tie on Super Tuesday?

Why to those questions and a hundred more like them. If your candidate is so much better, why is Obama kicking her ass? Why?
Because IF Obama wasn't black, and IF millions of people weren't supporting him, and IF he didn't raise all that money, and IF his campaign hadn't been run better than hers, and IF Red states hadn't had the gall to vote, and IF those damn activists didn't disagree with her on war in Iraq and nuking Iran, and IF MoveOn wasn't so effective, and IF latte sippers didn't vote, and IF we had the same system as Republicans, and IF the news networks weren't more like Fox News, and IF small states that don't matter didn't count, and IF Keith Olbermann didn't have it out for her, and IF Pennsylvania was the only state that mattered -- then Clinton would be the nominee.

You know, simple answers to simple questions.
Aside: A post within a post within a post. How meta of me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Socially Conscious Sex…

…isn't necessarily oxymoronic. 
Top 10 Ways to Green Up Your Sex Life
These top 10 ways to ‘green up’ your sex life show that even do-gooders are allowed to be bad in the bedroom without damaging their health or the environment. You try to buy fair trade and organic when you can, you take the subway instead of cabs, and you almost always say no to plastic bags. You work, live and play with a better world in mind - don’t let the magic stop when you’re beneath the sheets. Forget the carcinogenic lubricants and non-biodegradable toys topping off our landfills. You and your partner(s) can enjoy a fabulously fun AND healthy romp with this eco-kinky arrangement below. Be sure to leave a comment if there’s anything you’d like us to add!

Happy Earth Day From The Green Team!

Hoochie Coochie Gal

The inimitable Etta James jamming with Keith Richards, Robert Cray, and smoking piano player Johnnie Johnson while Chuck Berry looks on. If you want to know where Janis got her chops, look no further than this woman. (I think she must have sat at her knees coming up.)

Update: Oops. Turns out I let my enthusiasm mix with my ignorance and came to the wrong conclusion about Janis. Someone who knows way more about both of them than I (hint: we're married) informs me that, while Janis was influenced by Etta, both she and Etta were primarily influenced by Big Momma Thorton. I stand corrected.

h/t: The G Spot. Go there for more Etta vids.