This is the diary entry of a very good friend of mine for over 15 years. Both of us love international travel, and we exchange postcards from our trips. He’s sent me postcards from exotic places like Goa, India and Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. On noteworthy dates, he sends an e-mail to all his friends documenting the day. He is African American and an economist in Washington D.C. I love getting the perspectives of African Americans in today’s politics – especially considering the ethnicity of our President. The fact that he lives in the epicenter of all things political just adds to this perspective. Anyway, this was his play-by-play of last night. I enjoyed it, and I hope you do too.
Tuesday, November 6:
8:38 AM: ELECTION DAY. I arrived here in the office before 7 AM today after making a stop at Union Station to buy some Orange Trident chewing gum, a king-sized Nestle’s crunch chocolate bar, and a large Strawberry Lemonade (sans glace) and salt-free hot pretzel with honey mustard from Auntie Anne’s. I needed to make change, so having a place — or rather, places — within stone’s throw of the Metro made it easy to do that.
Considering the gravity of the day, I feel calm and composed, dressed in faux khaki (with a silk, maroon tie tastefully studded with colorful squares) from head to toe. I’m usually one for browns (in their various shades), blues and blacks whenever I’m formally attired M-Th. Flamboyance is something I usually shy away from when it comes to elegant attire. Earthy colors tend to draw me in, though I also love colors like mauve, flashes of silver, purple, muted reds, paisley, burgundy, Shantung, teal, and Fullard. Sometime next year, I’d like to broaden my sartorial repertoire by buying some more well-made dress shirts, slacks, and a few ties. Frankly, I need a few more ties.
Looking back over the last 4 years, I marvel at how President Obama has managed to maintain his balance. I’m thinking back now to one of the State of the Union Addresses he delivered to Congress, when one of its members – a GOP congressman named Wilson from GA – yelled at him: “you lie!” It has long been the standard in Congress — in contrast to the House of Commons in the UK, where MPs heckle the Opposition during Prime Minister’s Questions whenever they find fault with some matter of government policy and/or practice as a way of showing disfavor or getting their point across — that respect and deference is shown by all parties to the Office of President of the U.S., NO MATTER WHO THE OFFICE HOLDER IS. Frankly, Wilson should have been suspended forthwith from the committees in which he was a member and apologized to the President. (Had I been head of one of those House committees, I would have taken Wilson aside, read him the Riot Act, made sure he apologized to the President, and suspend him from meetings for a month.)
From what I can recall, Wilson was made to apologize, which was rather lame. There was also the time that Associate Justice Alito (a spineless Justice if ever there was one — one of the Fraud’s appointees) yelled out “that’s not true!” in response to another State of the Union Address in which the President expressed his criticism of the Citizens United decision. In that decision, the High Court ruled that all private and public organizations were free to contribute as much money as they want to any political campaign without having to identify themselves nor the exact amounts of money contributed. No accountability whatsoever. Consequently, the estimate (as I heard it yesterday) is that 3 BILLION DOLLARS has been spent toward this election. That’s obscene! For anyone wanting to aspire to a run for President, if you’re not born to wealth and privilege or can’t get access to beaucoup bucks and the political and corporate movers and shakers, you’re sunk. Be prepared to get a second mortgage (provided you already own a house), beg your friends and colleagues for greenbacks, and max out your credit cards.
We really need to reassess the way political campaigns are run in this country, set airtight limitations on how much money can be spent, and — if it were up to me, I’d limit the period of active campaigning (for Presidential and Congressional elections) from January 1 of the year in which an election (or elections) is (are) scheduled to take place up to the week preceding Election Day. There would be a total, ONE WEEK, blackout for all domestic broadcast media prior to a national election, as is the case in France. Let the networks howl! I don’t care! They would have had almost a year to explore and analyze the various facets of a political campaign. What needs to be made plain is that free speech — as practiced in the current political campaigns through corporate and private spending — is NOT equal across the board. Corporate money (and also trade union dollars, though I confess, being from the Midwest, I’m partial to unions because I regard them as a largely benign factor in politics — besides, since Reagan’s day, they haven’t been able to exert as much muscle and influence nationally as they had in earlier decades in the wake of the passage of the Wagner Act during FDR’s New Deal) is much more abundant and can be easily harnessed and channeled to bear more weight in campaigns than any contribution by a private individual. That was something that the Supreme Court failed to take into account in the Citizens United decision. Given the present polarized climate, I think that another generation will pass before this issue is revisited and reassessed.
Whoever said that “President Obama is the Jackie Robinson of American politics” (as I heard it said several weeks ago) summed it up perfectly. Robinson, from the time he began playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, had to bide his tongue and keep his peace his first 2 seasons in the major leagues. He bore with stoical sobriety the slings and arrows from racist ballplayers of opposing teams who gave him grief on the field. And all the while, Robinson played superbly. (In fact, he won the National League Rookie of the Year honors.) So, it is with President Obama. Sure, he has made a few missteps. What President hasn’t upon entering office and learning the ropes?! What matters is that a President learns and shows that he can bear the weight and demands of the office, and displays a willingness and ability to work with the Opposition on the Hill in crafting and passing legislation. Obama may not have the bare-knuckled forcefulness a la LBJ in dealing with Congress. He has used a more nuanced approach with it. Generally, the GOP has rebuffed him, which leads me to think that their leadership regards him rather dismissively — if not with outright disdain.
The matter of RACE lurks beneath the surface in this election as it did in the previous one. When Barack Obama won the Presidency 4 years ago, within days, there was this talk about a “post-racial America” by many of the pundits. When I first heard this term, I was insulted. Racism in America dissolved overnight? WHAT A JOKE!!!, I thought. Who could’ve been so utterly naïve to think that because the U.S. elected an African American to the Oval Office in 2008 that suddenly all white Americans had had their “Damascus moment” and were now fully accepting of African Americans. Liberated from the scourge of racism, the germ excised from their consciousness. Nonsense!!! I never believed in that notion for a moment. I don’t think racial prejudice in America (which has been perpetuated – although more subtly since the end of Jim Crow segregation — for several centuries) can be simply wiped away, leaving nary a trace. Old attitudes die hard because there are many people who find comfort in them. “O, it is an ever fixed mark/That looks on tempests/And is never shaken.” Racism remains a malignancy on the U.S. body politic. It impacts upon all of us. Indeed, it’s still too much a touchy subject for many of us to grapple with together openly and honestly in a constructive fashion with a concerted aim to muting its effects. The beast still has teeth, and if given free rein, it will BITE.
Though it is not widely expressed, I perceive that President Obama is an affront to many white people in this country (and some other non-white people as well) because they’ve never wanted to accept him as President of the U.S. In their psyche and mindset, Black people are inferior and are politely tolerated by them in public. (I’m speaking in broad, general terms here, because I know there are white people [and other ethnically diverse people] who are fully accepting of Black people as fellow human beings worthy of respect and understanding). There is still, alas, this undervaluing, underestimating and marginalization of Black people in this country. And sadly, some African Americans buy into this line of thought by engaging in negative and socially unacceptable activities and behaviors. Frankly, it embarrasses me at times when I see ‘brothas’ and ‘sistas’ comporting themselves like minstrels on the Metro. Many of them loudly swearing for effect, all the while unmindful of giving offense to their fellow riders of all stripes. People in general need to be more civil and respectful of one another in public. And in turn, we need to demand of our national politicians that they think less of advancing the agendas of their respective parties (“the public good be damned!” — as the GOP would have it; Romney summed up this sentiment so well when he spoke with contempt last spring of the “47%” of the general population he regards as being beyond help and amenable to his political/economic credo) and more of promoting the broad interests of ALL AMERICANS. The Democrats won’t need any persuading, because they are already more attuned to the interests and needs of regular, hard-working people. It’s the GOP that is wholly in thrall to the corporate cliques, and a few, scattered elements of religious wackos and far-right adherents. The moderates in that party carry no weight at all. This is a far different GOP from the one I became aware of while growing up in the 1970s and 1980s when they had sober-minded, sensible politicians like Senators Hugh Scott (PA), Jacob Javits (NY), Chuck Percy (IL), Mark Hatfield (OR), Howard Baker (TN), Lowell Weicker (CT) and Congressman Bob Michel.
In the meantime (11:20 AM), I’m distancing myself from all the news about this election. Once I’m home and rested, I’ll deal directly with the developing electoral outcome later tonight after 9. Right now, I want to keep my cool and focus my mind on work and more pleasant, enjoyable themes.
9:31 PM: I just turned on the TV to PBS to see the developing outcome, while keeping my ears attuned to WBAI-FM (online). To the best of my knowledge, the President has carried WI, OH & PA (so far as that can be determined in both States), NJ, and the Northeast. I have no idea what the Electoral College results are so far. My state (Michigan) is being called for the President, too. Romney has carried TX, which was to be expected. Long lines have been reported at many of the polling places across the country. Irregularites? Hard to say. But both parties have teams of lawyers throughout many of these polling places to check for any possible inconsistencies in the vote.
Jesse Jackson, Jr., who has had some serious problems to deal with this year (e.g., spending time at the Mayo Clinic for severe depression, as well as being cited for ethics violations), has just been projected to have maintained his Congressional seat in IL.
The Democrats are maintaining their hold on the Senate so far, picking up new seats in MA and WI (both women for whom I’m proud to say I made my first political contributions ever this year). MN is now projected by ABC News to be for the President.
9:58 PM: NM is projected to go for the President, while he maintains a 1.0% lead in FL. MT is projected to go with Romney. No surprise there. Romney carries UT, too. Senator McCaskill is projected as the winner in MO, thus keeping her seat. Her GOP opponent, a wacko named Akin caught grief earlier this year for citing “legitimate rape” in an interview he gave to a local TV station in the Show Me State. What a ridiculous term! He strikes me as decidedly misogynistic, believing that women should not have primacy over their own bodies.
10:14 PM: Listening intently to WBAI. Progressive radio. Romney projected to carry NE. The GOP apparently picks up a Senate seat there.
10:31 PM: There’s a dead heat in the Electoral College vote so far: 163 to 163. The President is now ahead with 173 electoral votes. He needs 97 more votes to be re-elected outright. Romney projected to win in AZ. Voter suppression reported going on in OH (again!) This country is a sorry excuse for a democracy when you have some of our state political leaders from the GOP bent on suppressing the vote among voters not traditionally Republican. This is terrible. It shows the clear and utter contempt the GOP has for certain segments of the general population. Romney now with 174 electoral votes. UGH! NC and VA are too close to call now.
10:57 PM: NC just declared for Romney. Again no surprise there. Tim Kaine projected to win the Senate race in VA against George Allen, the erstwhile GOP Senate holder from 6 years ago. What a relief! George Allen is such an obnoxious jerk, oozing this slimy slickness. ID goes for Romney.
11:10 PM: Waiting, waiting, waiting. IA goes for the President by a comfortable margin. The Denver Post has projected that the President will likely carry CO. The President now has 250 ELECTORAL VOTES. Romney has 203. NBC NEWS has just said that OH has gone for the President. That’s enough to carry him over the top!!! BARACK OBAMA HAS BEEN RE-ELECTED. This country did something right today!
11:17 PM: Watching the scenes in Chicago. McCormack Place is absolutely PACKED. People waving their flags. I AM SOOOO RELIEVED. FOX News has now called the election for President Barack Obama. When FOX, the standard bearer for the right-wing, says that, even the Opposition has to concede that the President’s re-election is a fait accompli.
Though I know that what happened tonight a few minutes ago is a beginning (to what I have no way of knowing), I can now sleep easy.