Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks for Obama

This Thanksgiving we can add the election of Barack Obama to our list of items for which we give thanks. Two years ago on Sense I wrote my view of a vision for what would be "The Best Thanksgiving Ever". With Bush in the White House, nothing has been done by our country to move in the direction of my vision. At Thanksgiving dinner George Bush would have totally disagreed with every hope I expressed. This Thanksgiving, I think President-elect Obama would be in complete agreement with the views I expressed and for that wonderful change I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where to?

The last time I rode in a taxi was 1969 in London, but I think taxi drivers still ask the entering passenger, "Where to?" As the driver of this blog and of my own daily activities, I am now asking myself, "Where to?"

During the long Presidential campaign, I concentrated my Sense postings on the political process. Now that the Democrats will be taking over the White House and working with even greater control of Congress, I expect my Sense postings will not be as intensely political. The passage of significant pieces of legislation may prompt Sense postings, but preliminary skirmishes may not be chronicled here. Between now and the Inauguration, there may be a farewell or two to Bush.

Our country needs to head out of Iraq, go after bin Laden and then head out of Afghanistan. On the home front, we need to navigate out of the current economic crisis and set a long range fiscal course of sophisticated nuance to replace the disastrous total free market approach that set the taxi on cruise control and allowed it to careen into a very deep ditch.

To go somewhere, we have to know where we are now and where we want to end up, in order to determine the route to follow. Our country did an excellent job of plotting its course at the time it was established. We have not had to alter the course very often through the years. The most important alterations have been in the direction of greater inclusiveness, ending slavery and adopting civil and voting rights protections for all races and genders. We have allowed some administrations to drive off course, usually in times of war, but we eventually get back on track, as I expect we will do now with President Obama.

On the personal side, I am continuing to work on my own navigation. The preamble of this blog begins with, "Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs". After emphasizing current affairs at Sense for the last two years, thoughts on life deserve equal time. Amateur blogs are narcissistic. I write for myself. My "wider" audience is extremely narrow and spotty, one or two contemporaries, and my children and maybe one or two of their contemporaries.

This challenging but hopeful time for our country is an opportunity to reflect personally on where we are in our lives and to ask ourselves, "Where to?" That's the next ride I expect to be taking with Sense.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-Elect Obama

Barach Obama has been convincingly elected President of the United States. His margin of 52.3 to 46.4 confirms the polls and dispels any concern about the accuracy of polls in a race involving an African American. Most significantly, the electoral vote map has been re-written, with the Democrat winning several states previously considered Republican and garnering an electoral vote lead of over 100, 79 more than needed for victory. (My prediction of 52-46 Obama with a 50-100 electoral vote margin was happily accurate).

This election was the first of a new era for America, as the Democrats have built a growing coalition of African Americans, Hispanics and young voters. Blacks have always supported Democrats, often asking themselves to what advantage in the years since passage of civil rights forty years ago. Now that question has been answered in the person of Barack Obama, the ultimate fruition of civil rights and equal opportunity.

As blacks helped swing some states to Democrats, motivated by the candidacy of Obama, Hispanics assisted them, and in some Rocky Mountain states, Hispanics definitely supplied the margin of Democratic victory. Any concern about Hispanics not voting for a black were overcome by the overall qualities of Obama himself and by his background as a child of a foreign born parent.

Young people identified with Obama and his message of change, hope and inclusiveness and hugely embraced the opportunity to be part of this historic change by participating in his election. Son Chris in Bangkok talked to me yesterday about his satisfaction in receiving his absentee ballot in time to put his Obama vote in the mail, and he told me about the excitement in the international community over the prospect of an Obama election, which they were expecting to celebrate at victory parties last night. Daughter Anna in Florida also spoke to me about what she was seeing there and about the heroic effort to get her absentee Obama vote postmarked before the post office closure at 6:00 PM.

As the victory was proclaimed, the TV images of celebrations throughout America, some organized and some spontaneous, carried tremendous emotional impact. Americans have taken our country back from the Bush-Cheney Republican travesty and have entered the 21st Century with a newly hopeful feeling that together we can put our country back on track and start to undo all the damage that has been done. Daunting though the task may be, the majority of Americans are ready to help President Obama as he takes it on. As President Obama takes office and shows how we can all work together, many who did not vote for him out of concern for his lack of experience or out of fear about his agenda will be reassured, and his support will grow.

As TV commentators remarked on the contrast between the peaceful and uplifting pictures of the crowd in the Chicago Park waiting to hear Obama and the memory of the violence perpetrated on anti -war protestors there in 1968, my mind went back to that time also. Hubert Humphrey, an old war horse liberal turned war hawk, a precursor to Joe Lieberman, had just been nominated for President by the Democrats, even as public opinion was starting to turn against the Vietnam War. The year before, my good friend Joe and I had worn tuxedos in each other's wedding, and in 1968 we were both wearing Air Force uniforms as recalled reservists. Last night Joe, of African-American heritage, called to share with me the excitement that he and his family were feeling at this historic moment. The racially inclusive nature of our wedding parties had been unusual back in the 1960s, and the racially mixed marriage of Barack Obama's parents around the same time would have been illegal in many places in this country. How far we have come is a reminder of the great distance we needed to go.

After the defeated Humphrey became old school, Democrats had very limited success with an old new southerner, Carter, and then some success with a young new southerner, Clinton. But Obama transcends all that. His roots are African and Midwestern, his early life environs include Asia and multi-cultural Hawaii, his education is Ivy League, his on-the-job training was in the hard knock school of Chicago community organizing and rough and tumble politicking, followed by the years of apprenticeship in bi-partisan State legislating and an introductory course in the workings of the US senate.

While America has overcome a great racial barrier, we may also have put the Vietnam era behind us. The last three Presidential losers all served honorably in Vietnam. McCain was a hawkish hero, Kerry a dovish hero and Gore a quiet non-heroic type. Future Presidents, like Obama, will all be post-Vietnam. Ironically, the two Vietnam War age men who made it to the Presidency never served in Vietnam. Clinton avoided service completely by legitimate deferments. Bush avoided service in Vietnam by illegal maneuvering into and within the Air National Guard.

McCain gave a gracious concession speech before an ungracious gathering at a ritzy hotel. His personal mission now will be to regain the honor he lost by his shabby campaign. He will be cooperative with Democrats going forward, but he has no Republican Congressional allies to bring along. That is one of the disadvantages of Maverickdom.

As expected, Obama gave a stirring speech about the historic significance of this election and about the great tasks we face and the need to work together for the good of all Americans, which he pledged to do. His tone was fittingly sober and Presidential, continuing to instill the hope and encouragement we need.

This new First Family is the most exciting since the Kennedys. Michelle Obama is a woman with classic middle American values, informed by her experience as an African American. She has a quiet charm that will endear her to Americans, and her appearances on the world stage will help restore America's image as the world leader on inclusiveness and opportunity for all. The Obama daughters are going to delight America, in stark contrast to the embarrassment the Bush twins generated, which required them to be closeted. Once again, a Democrat in the White House brings young daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, following in the footsteps of Chelsea Clinton, Amy Carter and Caroline Kennedy. Someday maybe another Democratic President will bring a son who can play in the Oval office as Caroline's brother did.

As Barack Obama builds his transition team and contemplates appointments, many eyes will be on an early choice. But this one will probably be made by the Obama daughters, subject to parental oversight. Dad and Mom promised a Presidential puppy if he was elected, a fact the President-elect confirmed last night.

Monday, November 03, 2008

My Prediction on the Election

The Sense article of this same name from a few days before the 2004 election retains much relevancy for this 2008 election, but there are important differences between the two contests.

In the 2004 election, Bush was given credit for 50.7% of the popular vote (he called it a mandate) to 48.3% for Kerry. But the electoral vote total of 286 to 251 could have been reversed by a change in the 20 electoral votes from Ohio, which Bush was credited with winning by 2%. I am not saying Bush won, because I believe Republican voter suppression of primarily black voters in Ohio reversed what should have been the true outcome. Consider that one black voter out of one hundred who gave up standing in line or who otherwise was prevented from having a validated vote, and one white voter out of a hundred who was "facilitated" by a short line or was otherwise aided could have made the difference.

This year the most objective polls all agree Obama has the edge nationally and in particular has convincing leads in the battleground states. He is projected to win the popular vote by maybe five points, and the electoral vote is expected to go his way quite handily. However, with a black candidate for the first time in history, pollsters agree they are not sure of the undisclosed racial attitudes of voters.

I predict the polls will be fairly accurate and there will be no empirical confirmation of any racial aspect lowering the actual votes for Obama. This may be a case of two inaccuracies making a correct answer, because silent affirmative action voters may cancel out silent anti-black voters. Most people who would not vote for a black probably vote Republican anyway. There are certainly some senior citizen white Democrats who have trouble voting for a black, but many will end up doing so because of the economy, and some may just sit this one out. Hispanics and Asians may harbor some prejudice against blacks or some backlash fear of black affirmative action under a black President, but most Hispanic values are consistent with Democratic values and the Asian vote does not seem to be significantly large enough in any strategic geographic area and the Obama connection with Indnesia could have appeal to some Asian voters.

Some silent voter factors should work in the favor of Obama. Some voters do worry about the age and health of McCain and about his mentality and temperament. The lack of Palin qualifications and the emphasis on her looks probably affects many more voters than say so, particularly women.

As in 2004, turnout is all important, particularly with new and young voters. Early voting is setting records and is heavily Democratic, especially blacks and young people. Young voters faded in 2004, but Obama is much more appealing to them than was Kerry, particularly given the stark contrast of the elderly McCain. Demographics favor Democrats, as the country grows less white and people of color take up residence in new areas. The Republican Party is relatively shrinking with the white population and the Republican exclusive mentality of rural and small town white America.

Even Republicans seem to agree Congress will gain more Democrats. It is not likely the Democrats will get the 60 needed in the Senate to block filibuters, but in 2006 it did not seem likely they would get a Senate majority, which they did. Republican moderates are losing, just as Democratic moderates are gaining numbers. This moves Congress toward the progressive end and leaves many of the remaining Republicans marginalized, since they are more interested in obstructing than in working with moderates and progressives. Even with 40 plus Republicans in the Senate, there may be hope to peel one or two away to avoid filibuster on any given issue.

To put numbers on it, I'll say 52-46 Obama on the popular vote and Obama wins the electoral vote with a 50 to 100 edge.