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.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fleeting Audacity of Inevitability

I admit I have never been drawn to Hillary Clinton. So when it appeared inevitable that she would be the Democratic Presidential nominee, I tried to talk myself into liking her. I knew she was very intelligent and had lots of experience, and I generally agreed with her ideology and policy positions, but I just did not feel comfortable with her. She seemed more calculating than genuine. When Bill was caught in the Monica mess, a lawyer friend of mine predicted Hillary would divorce him after his Presidential term expired. I did not agree with that prediction, but I do wonder how her career would be different if she had dumped him. Did she stay with Bill in spite of all his marital wanderings mostly because she loved him, or was it more for what he could do for her ambitions?

The plan of the Democrats was to have their candidate chosen on Super Tuesday in early February, confirming what the polls were showing, that Hillary Clinton was the inevitable choice. But here at Sense a year ago, our poll predicted unanimously [all three of us agreeing] that a black would be elected President before a woman. Let us remember from American history that black men got the right to vote more than fifty years before white women. White men, who have always held the reins of American power, in many ways identify more with black men than they do with white women. Black men were lynched for alleged crimes against white women not so much to protect the women as to protect the property rights of the white men.

Barack Obama has sent the audacious Clinton inevitability into free fall. Bill Clinton accelerated the fall with his campaign antics on behalf of his wife. Better amateur psychologists than me might be able to detect an element of intention on the part of the ex-President, based on some need to be one up on his wife, so that she will continue to feel she needs him. Imagine if Hillary had won, and then at the end of her Presidency she divorced Bill.

The Obama appeal starts from the overwhelming desire for change from Bush. His charisma, intelligence, oratorical skills and personal history all add to his appeal. His mixed ethnicity is the marble frosting. But he has made his campaign work by doing just what Hillary says she would do as President but has failed to do in her campaign. He has been following a well thought out plan, efficiently executed, disciplined and maintained. Through a glut of twenty debates, Barack has performed with acumen, which increased as the number of participants dwindled, culminating in his excellent showing on the last two against Hillary alone.

Hillary still gets sympathy from older white women who are upset to see yet another up and coming young man usurp what should have gone to the experienced woman with seniority. Hillary was supposed to be the admirable pioneering woman who would break through the ultimate glass ceiling. But as one young female black commentator said, it is hard to think of a white multi millionairess U.S. Senator whose husband was President for eight years, as an admirable underdog. And now that Hillary has in fact become the underdog, she has not only failed to gain any "root for the under dog" votes, but some of her long time supporters are turning away from her.

Next Tuesday, the Texas and Ohio primaries could be the final blow to Hillary. She had been hoping to win them big, but now is realistically hoping just to win both by even small margins, or maybe to win one, or maybe to come close in both. Barack has been winning the super delegate PR war as well as the battle over whether to count the boycotted Florida and Michigan results. The Clinton people have started talking about Pennsylvania in April as a firewall, but unless Hillary surprises everyone with strong victories in Texas and Ohio, the only wall that matters will be the one with the writing on it, "Barack Obama is the candidate of the Democrats".

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Going with the Flow

The flow continues to run in the favor of Barack Obama. Momentum is on his side. Hillary Clinton has had to shake up her campaign staff and is struggling to find a more appealing message. I don't think she is going to be able to do it.

Obama has taken the delegate lead and more super delegates are starting to announce for him. His campaign is flush with money from many small contributors, while Clinton had to personally loan money to her campaign to keep it going. John McCain is so concerned about the Obama fund raising momentum that he is already trying to maneuver Obama into agreeing to limit the general election contest to just public financing.

The exact role of the Democratic super delegates has come into question. I understood they were a somewhat undemocratic hedge against the masses choosing an unelectable candidate (like McGovern in 1972) or an un-re-electable President (like Carter in 1976). Since both Democratic candidates by consensus are considered excellent, the pressure is on the super delegates to go with the flow and accept the candidate who prevails through the caucuses and primaries. If the super delegates keep the nomination away from the voter favorite, the Democratic Party will pay a high price, and I think they are too sensible to make that mistake.

The Right is labeling Obama as the "most liberal Senator", a phrase which combined with his surname gets 38,100 Google hits. The label apparently originates with a survey by The National Journal, based on 99 votes in 2007 that the Journal selected, rated and weighed. Their criteria were somewhat complex, but the bottom line with any such subjective rating is to consider the source. That the conservative Journal would consider Obama quite liberal was a foregone conclusion.

Some Clinton inclined Democrats have implied Obama has ducked votes on some key issues. The 99 votes selected by the Journal were important to conservatives, and therefore should have been of concern to Democrats. Looking at how often either Clinton or Obama failed to vote on any of the 99 votes when the other one did vote, the result is quite interesting. Obama failed to vote one time when Clinton did vote. Clinton skipped 17 votes when Obama did vote. On the 99 votes important to conservatives, Obama won the "courage to stand up and be counted" prize by a vote of 17 to 1.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Caucused

This afternoon I attended my precinct Democratic caucus, one of eleven being held in the local high school cafeteria. Attendance was about three times what it was four years ago. We had 37 voting in our precinct. After an initial tally, we opened the floor to discussion, with one minute speeches of support, alternating between the candidates. Then we continued with some back and forth until everybody was finished. Our chosen chair facilitated an intelligent, civil and focused group dialog.

Our group had only one non-white, a slight majority of women, more older voters, some middle aged and a few younger, including about a half dozen that looked to be voting for the first time. The older women favored Clinton, the younger people Obama and the men generally split about even. While we were waiting for the caucus to start, I spoke with a woman who was undecided and told her why I changed from Clinton to Obama. When we signed in, she decided to go for Obama. We had only one undecided voter, a Kucinich supporter. After the discussion, he switched to Obama and there may have been one other who changed to Obama. Our second and final tally was 23 to 14 for Obama. We chose five delegates (three Obama and two Clinton) to send to district. A few people turned in written platform proposals to be presented at district. The entire process lasted about two hours.

The arguments in favor of Clinton all boiled down to believing she has more experience than Obama. The arguments for Obama were: he energizes and gives hope to the young; represents hopeful change for the future; has more experience than people may realize; was correct about not authorizing Bush to invade Iraq; will draw more young and independent voters than Clinton and will not energize Republican Right voters as much as Clinton, so will be a better match up to McCain; and will be more effective in trying to break Republican obstructionism in Congress. We all agreed both are excellent candidates and would each make a good President and that we would vote for either one if nominated. Two young people warned that some young voters are turned off by Clinton and will either vote against her or not vote if she is the nominee.

Last night CNN reported about 20,000 Democrats caucused in Washington and we chose Obama 68% to 32%. The Republicans had about 8,000 caucus and split fairly even among their three candidates. The Nebraska Democratic caucus was also 68-32 Obama. The Louisiana primary went 57% for Obama. CNN said 2,025 delegates are needed for the Democratic nomination and Clinton has 1100 and Obama 1039.

[Check out the comments to "Fast Campaign Developments" for some ongoing dialog comments about the caucus process, stimulated by John from Phoenix.]

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fast Campaign Developments

Things are happening fast. Super Tuesday voting sent a message to Romney and he has now decided to drop out, confirming McCain will be the Republican nominee. Whether Huckabee is making a sufficient showing to get a VP nod remains to be seen.

For the Democrats, Super Tuesday showed the race is close with Obama having gained much ground. I just realized Washington State will actually be picking Democratic delegates by the caucuses this Saturday, rather than by the primary election on the 19th, so I will be going to my caucus and supporting Obama. Obama will be in Seattle for an appearance tomorrow. It would be exciting to see him, but I have a schedule conflict.

The primary election on the 19th may in some ways be just a popularity contest, but it also has more relevant aspects. Popularity can equate with electability and thereby help with fund raising. It can also help influence the votes of the super delegates at the national convention. It will be interesting to make comparisons between the caucus and election results, both on turnout and on results. The primary ballots include some new and interesting aspects. For the first time. Washington State voters will have to take an oath of political party affiliation in order to vote. The affiliation will not be kept private. The Democratic party oath says, "I consider myself to be a Democrat", while the Republican one says, "I am a member of the Republican Party". I wonder how many voters will decide not to vote, rather than taking either oath. Also, there is no mail service the Monday before the election and I wonder how many absentee ballots deposited in mailboxes on Monday will not be counted.