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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

June 9, 2008


McBush Doesn't Get It

There is a John McCain sighting after all. The man running as the Republican contender for the White House; the man who admitted to knowing nothing about the economy; the man who thinks that the Bush tax breaks for millionaires - the same tax breaks he, himself, voted against on their first go-around is finally chiming in on the horrific jobs report of Friday afternoon with his :Statement By John McCain On Today's Jobs Report":

"Today's news about unemployment is a stark reminder of the economic challenges facing American families. As the worst single monthly increase in the unemployment rate in two decades clearly shows, Americans across this country are hurting, and we must act now to support workers, families and employers alike. This means getting our economy back on track by providing immediate tax relief, enacting a HOME plan to help those facing foreclosure, lowering health care costs, investing in innovation, moving toward energy independence and opening foreign markets to our goods. These policies will help small businesses create the jobs that families need today. The American people cannot afford more inaction from Washington.
"The wrong change for our country would be an economic agenda based upon the policies of the past that advocate higher taxes, bigger government, government-run health care and greater isolationism. To help families at this critical time, we cannot afford to go backward as Senator Obama advocates."
-From JohnMcCain.com

McCain doesn't get it. The guy who once said "I don't know too much about the economy," should stick to his statement and get someone into his campaign who does. McCain's ignorance about what can save our nation's workers, falling dollar and her economic health is staggering in its depth. Surely he can see that the Bush economic policies of the past seven-plus years, which have gotten us into our current economic quagmire, need to be reversed, not endorsed today.

Doesn't he?

George W. Bush has surrounded himself with those who will blindly follow him regardless of how bad things get, how low our dollar falls or how many jobs are lost. john McCain's plan seems to be even worse: To follow Bush's lead no matter where it leads him, and us.

McCain's statement is nothing but pandering to those who still support President Bush and those who think that this tax break for millionaires is really a bonanza for them. Those who have lost their jobs, their homes and/ or their health care don't need a tax break, In fact, many, if not most, aren't paying taxes at all. It's hard to pay taxes when one has no income, after all.

Tax cuts won't pay for health care. McCain's "plan", if you can call it a plan, has our treasury handing out checks of $2,500 and $5,000 to single and married persons, respectively, to pay for health care coverage. With the average health care plan costing in excess of $12,000 per year, very few who can't afford it today will be able to afford it tomorrow. That is, of course, unless they no longer need food, gas or fuel in the Winter.

And those tax give-backs for health care will cost those same Americans an additional $700 billion each and every year. Add that to McCain's lowering of the corporate tax rate (from 35 percent to 25 percent) and his "100 year plan" for Iraq and one has to wonder where all of that cash is coming from.

But the thing that bugs me the most is McCain's alignment with President Bush. I get it that he needs the Bush faithful in order to get the big bucks into his coffers. After all, he does have an uphill battle in his bout against Senator Barack Obama this November. The Senator Formerly Known as "The Maverick" is just a Photo-Op away from being John McBush.

McCain obviously thinks that his only chance is to get those Bush supporters behind him, and to do so, he has modeled his campaign after President Photo-Op. It's even beginning to appear that McCain is now taking the advice of former GOP leaders and former Bushies alike in order to get his campaign, and its financing going. And do we really want another four-to-eight years of Bush's people making decisions for us again?

I don't think so.

In the end McCain will stick to Bush's policies because he has no real ideas of his own. The economy will continue to slide under a McCain-McBush presidency. When the dust finally clears, the United states will no longer be model for the rest of the world it used to be. We'll be just another third-world nation with a few rich people running roughshod over the rest of us.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

On June 7th, after 17 months of grueling campaigning that staffers less than half her age had trouble keeping up with, Hillary Clinton officially suspended her campaign for president. Her speech, attended by more than 50,000 people in Washington, D.C., was breathtakingly inspirational. Clinton said many things, but the only one Democratic Party officials wanted to hear was her enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama.

Enthusiastic she was. To a fault. Even the media, which has had a tone of overwhelming disdain and belittlement of Clinton throughout her historic campaign, could find no fault with her speech. Obama himself said he was “thrilled and honored” by her comments and “immensely grateful” for her support.

Now if only Obama’s supporters could acquire some of their candidate’s graciousness in victory.

In the days between Obama’s announcing he had garnered enough super delegates to put him over the magic number to become the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee (he won’t officially be the nominee until the convention nominates him in August in Denver) and Saturday when Clinton gave her speech, the vitriol from Obama supporters was extreme. For those who don’t understand why the candidate who won the popular vote, but not the delegate count needed to let her supporters down easily, let me explain.

While the media was realizing their dream of seeing Obama become the presumptive nominee and those of us who grew up watching the hard-won changes wrought by the black civil rights movement reveled in the reality of a black man shattering the fetters of racism in America, the 18 million Americans who voted for Hillary Clinton and passionately supported her were seeing their dream crushed.

It’s important for all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, to understand that for women and girls of every race, ethnicity and religion, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy represented the possibility of gender equality for the first time in American history.

I worked on Clinton’s campaign from New Hampshire until the last primary in South Dakota–which she won–on June 3rd. I worked hard and long and passionately for a candidate I admired and respected and felt would be the best president we’d had in a generation.

Contrary to the media representation of the Clinton demographic, it was vast and diverse. In Philadelphia, her headquarters was run by two African-American women and staffed by women and men of all ages and ethnicities. In fact, when I first went to the office, I was thrilled by that diversity, having been told time and again that only white women over 50 supported Clinton.

Instead I saw college students–male and female, black, white, Latino and Asian. I saw an extraordinary support from African-American women and men. But mostly what I saw was a determination and a dream: The workers for Hillary wanted nothing more than to see the first woman president in their lifetimes.

I understand the thrill African Americans–regardless of whether they supported Obama or Clinton–must feel at Barack Obama’s ascension. I grew up with parents deeply engaged in the black civil rights movement. I was privileged to meet some truly great men and women as a young child, including the estimable Rep. John Lewis. There can be no question how momentous Obama’s achievement is in U.S. history when Jim Crow laws were still in play less than a decade before his birth.

But my excitement and that of other Clinton supporters over that barrier being broken came at the expense of our own dream of equality being crushed. Why can’t Obama supporters understand that? Why can’t the media get it? Our bid for the presidency was just as historic as Obama’s; the legacy of inequality for women runs just as deep if not deeper than racism in America.

If there has been one cold, brutal realization in the hard-fought Democratic campaign, it has been the realization that sexism and misogyny predominate in America, still. Those of us who grew up during the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s saw that writ large during the Clinton campaign. And it is the breach created by that realization that will have to be healed if Obama wants to win in November.

In her speech on June 3rd, Clinton spoke directly to her supporters, asking them what her next step should be. This was considered bad form by the pundits who have tried to orchestrate this primary election from beginning to end and slant it toward the newcomer. But even a glance at American presidential history shows that very few primaries have ever reached this stage to begin with. And none has resulted in the winner of the popular vote *not* getting the nomination.

Male candidates have taken their battles to the convention floor and those candidates did not have the weight of numbers on their side. Ted Kennedy battled Jimmy Carter in 1980, even though he didn’t have even half the votes Clinton had. Gary Hart battled Walter Mondale in 1984, even though he didn’t have the votes either. Clinton had the votes–but was told no, no, no by the Democratic Party itself.

Many Clinton supporters will tell you that Hillary Clinton was cheated of the nomination. Perhaps, perhaps not. The Democratic Party system is so convoluted and skewed it amazes me that anyone is ever nominated. I don’t understand why Clinton had to have 11,500 votes to capture a delegate and Obama only needed 10,000. I don’t understand why caucuses are allowed when not everyone can vote in them. I don’t understand how delegates and super delegates get to make choices about who the favored candidate is, when actual voters should be making that determination. I don't understand how the candidate who won all the major states takes a back seat to the candidate who won none of them.

All those factors were in play in this primary. Plus, the disastrous debacle over Florida and Michigan likely lost the Democrats thousands of voters for November. As one friend in Florida told me, “Why should I vote in November for a candidate I don’t want when I was told my vote in January for the candidate I did want doesn’t count?”

Obama’s move into the presumptive nominee spot was accompanied by poignant video clips of the black civil rights movement in all its hard-fought reality.

Those images are moving and compelling for those of us who grew up either before or during that era. And while Obama’s unique ancestry–his father was a Kenyan immigrant and his mother was white and he grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii–means that he doesn’t actually share the legacy of most blacks in America, for his African-American supporters, those images linked with his presumptive nomination equal a dream realized. As one Morehouse College student noted, “Dr. King talked about the dream. But usually you wake up from a dream. This time we woke up and the dream was real.”

There was newsreel footage in the heads of Hillary Clinton’s supporters, too, and it is also about civil rights--for women. My personal newsreel includes images of my maternal grandmother, a suffragist, who chained herself to the gates of the White House along with other women who were marching for the right of women to vote. I was a college student marching for the Equal Rights Amendment 30 years ago, just as my grandmother had marched for the right to vote. I still have my Mondale/Ferraro t-shirt commemorating the first woman ever on a major party ticket.

And I have the images of the assault on Hillary Clinton, too, which was an assault on all women. Throughout the primary I heard pundit after pundit on cable and network news refer to Hillary Clinton–a sitting U.S. senator and former First Lady–as a bitch, whore, the C-word, ballbuster, cry baby, whiner, witch, man killer, scold, the first wife every man hates, the mother every man hates and numerous other slurs.

I read stories about her in respected newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post talking about her laugh, her cleavage, her thick thighs, her pantsuits covering her fat ass, her wrinkles, her sexlessness, her voice being too high, too shrill, to screechy.

I listened to pundits I had previously respected say that the only reason she could run was because she got a sympathy vote from people because her husband cheated on her. I heard one newscaster say on CNN that she did well in March because it was “White Bitch Month” and another say that she was called a bitch because “some women deserve to be called that.”

I have had male friends tell me that the sexism that has pervaded the campaign is “no big deal” and that I and other women, especially Clinton, should just “get over it.”

But the reality is that Clinton had a much harder path to forge than did Obama. Obama had hundreds of years of male presidential candidates and male privilege to follow–including plenty who ran on a “hope” campaign, most recently Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton had no models for her run. She had to consistently cope with men, men and more men telling her that she wasn’t tough enough or she was too tough. Obama himself made a PMS reference about her, while other men in politics and in the media repeatedly questioned her as a woman, not as a candidate.

No male candidate has to run against gender. It’s presumed that a man is a man. But a woman has to run against being a woman: She cannot be too soft or she’ll be perceived as weak and unable to stand up to foreign leaders. She cannot be too hard or she’ll get the bitch/ballbuster moniker. The line Clinton had to walk was a tightrope with no net and she had to walk it constantly.

In her speech on June 7th, Clinton reminded the huge crowd that although she hadn’t completely penetrated the glass ceiling of the presidential nomination, thanks to their votes and support that ceiling now had 18 million cracks in it and a lot of light was shining through those cracks.

Clinton also spoke about all the little girls and young women who had flocked to her speeches, telling her that now they knew that they too could run for president.
When I was working the polls on primary day in Philadelphia in my 95 percent black neighborhood, I tried to convince many of the African-American women who came to vote for the first time to vote for the woman candidate. I asked them to vote for their daughters as well as themselves and their mothers.

Several African-American women working the polls with me that day–for Obama–whispered to me later that they had voted for Clinton. It was a revelation to me; they had gotten in the booth and chosen to vote gender over race.

One friend said that choice was very hard. “I wanted to vote being black and being a woman,” she told me. She felt like a race traitor, she said, for voting for Clinton.

That’s part of the issue of this campaign. For months we have heard predictions about what would happen if Obama had the nomination “stolen” from him by Clinton. Yet no one objected when Obama quietly filed lawsuits to prevent re-voting in Michigan and Florida. Nor did anyone ever suggest that women voters might not vote come November if *they* perceived the election was stolen from *them.*

Yet that is where we are today. For months I heard Obama supporters tell me that they would vote for John McCain if Clinton were the nominee. I heard Michelle Obama say she wasn’t sure she could support Clinton if she were the nominee. I waited to hear Obama himself say that he would support Clinton if she were the nominee as she had repeatedly said she would support him–and heard nothing.

I heard the DNC express outrage whenever there was an even marginally racist comment floating in the news. But I heard resounding silence when outrageous, violent, sexist statements were made daily in the media about Clinton.

Since Obama clinched the presumptive nomination, his supporters have continued to bash Clinton. When he said something in support of her campaign on June 3rd, the audience booed. There was no such booing when Clinton congratulated Obama.

Pundits and politicians have said that it’s Clinton’s job to heal the party.

No, it isn’t. It’s Obama’s job to heal the party. It’s the DNC’s job to heal the party. Clinton didn’t create the atmosphere of sexism and corresponding outrage. That was done by a triumvirate of the media, Obama’s campaign and the DNC.

Clinton made a lovely case for supporting Obama on June 7th. She gave a rousing and inspirational speech that proved once again what a strong, valiant and courageous candidate she truly is. But her speech does not undo the damage done by Obama’s supporters and the DNC to women in the Democratic Party.

Obama’s campaign and his supporters have always behaved as if they don’t need the half of the Democratic Party that voted for Clinton. They have always acted as if the female vote is a given that they can count on.

But as Clinton noted in her speech, there have only been two Democrats elected in the past 40 years: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. So thinking that there isn’t a fight ahead is foolhardy at best. John McCain is a formidable candidate and the media loves him just as much as they appeared to love Obama. Now that the media no longer has Clinton to be the scapegoat for all their bile, they’ll have to choose a new victim. And McCain has been a favorite for a long, long time.

McCain is also wooing the women who now feel so disenfranchised by their own party, the women who the DNC shrugged off as unimportant. He is lauding Clinton the way the Obama people should have been.

I congratulated a neighbor I know supports Obama last week. He told me Clinton still had atoning to do. This is the kind of poor sportsmanship that will lose Democrats the election in November if they don’t reel it in.

Hillary Clinton fought a harder fight than Barack Obama, because she had to fight against him, the media, gender and–sadly–her own party. She garnered more votes than any candidate in a primary season in the history of American politics and she won the popular vote. But she did not win the nomination. That glass ceiling really is impenetrable and women voters now know that it will be a very long time before they see another woman candidate–or even the same woman candidate–running for president again.

It’s the end of a dream for millions of Americans. So when the media and the Obama supporters question why many of us are not ready to jump on the Obama bandwagon, remember all the commentary from the other side about not supporting Hillary if she won.

Rev. Jesse Jackson said on June 7th that the best way to heal the party was to have Clinton on the ticket with Obama. Jackson is a veteran of civil rights battles. He sees that women are hurting and angry and need to be drawn back to the party. If Obama is the man he claims to be, the man who unites and doesn’t divide, then he should start with his own party. Because if he cannot woo the women back, then he doesn’t have a prayer come November and *all* our dreams go up in smoke.

In response to Eddie Konczal's plea for Democratic Party unity, Victoria Brownworth responds:

I want to thank Eddie Konczal for being the only respectful Obama supporter I have met in six months. Thanks for that. Clinton workers (myself) and voters have indeed had our guts kicked. The execrable behavior of both the Obama campaign and the media has made it difficult to imagine voting for Obama. But I totally agree that one cannot vote for McCain. How could I work for Clinton for six months and then vote for someone who is antithetical to her platform? It makes no sense. But I can vote for Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party with a clear conscience. It would be great if Obama and his campaign could pay attention to folks like Eddie and stop re-gutting the Clinton supporters. McCain is wooing Clinton supporters. McKinney is wooing Clinton supporters. Obama? He's letting his surrogates continue to trash Clinton. You'd almost think that he doesn't want to win in November.

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-Noah Greenberg