Thursday, October 16, 2008

political phrases that need to die

After watching the (thankfully) last presidential debate between Obama and McCain, we heard some old tropes and some new ones that deserve a quick axe from our political discourse. In no particular order they are:
  1. Litmus test As in, I will not use Roe as a litmus test for my appointees to the US Supreme Court. Both candidates lie about this, and it is only due to the Georgetown Cocktail circuit that they have to maintain this fiction that Democrats won't appoint pro-Choice judges and Republicans won't appoint pro-Life judges. Give me a break. This is especially disheartening since there is an article about John McCain privately pledging to social conservatives that he would do just that the last time he ran for president (when he was running much more as a moderate Republican). I think the American people can handle the truth on this one.

  2. "How are you going to pay for that?" This is another Beltway Bloviator hang up. The Sunday talk show hosts and their wannabes still believe it is 1990 or something when the Concord Coalition had a point about balancing budgets and fiscal conservatism. But here in 2008, we are on the brink of a global recession with our financial systems in as bad a shape as they were in 1929. And in order to prevent it from becoming the Second Great Depression, we need to listen to the economist who helped get us all out of the last one: Maynard Keynes. FDR taxed the rich heavily, engaged in deficit spending on infrastructure in the 1930s and tanks bombs and airplanes in the 1940s and as a result, we came out of World War II with a global economic boom and with America as the number one economic power. Obama hinted at his support of Keynesian economics last night, but had to be oblique because the gasbags are obsessed with the gotcha question of balancing the budget and squaring a campaign's plans with basic math. All of us who know the basics of the legislative process know that whatever passes out of the 111th Congress will be drastically different than Obama's campaign literature. So get over yourselves moderators, that was the second time that question was asked, and the second time the candidates chose not to answer it.

  3. Main Street The linguist Geoffrey Nunberg shows that even when the term first debuted (1928), the phrase was nostalgic to a time long gone. America is an overwhelming urban and suburban country. Most people do not live in small towns/cities. The idea of "Main Street" is evocative of 19th Century America, a time when women couldn't vote (but could be raped by their husbands), blacks were enslaved, Native Americans were slaughtered, and children worked in factories. Personally, it is not a time I look back at with much fondness.

  4. Joe the Plumber/Soccer Mom/Hockey Mom/Joe Six-pack/NASCAR Dad I could really write a bit on each one of these, but they all are essentially the same thing: making voters into demographicial stereotypes. You never hear politicians or pundits say, "I'm a middle aged upper income male." Or "my policies make sense to unmarried women." But somehow it is OK tell suburbities they are just cliches. Last night's repeated reference to "Joe the Plumber" was annoying even to the pundits. Turns out too, that the real Joe is a tax deadbeat and might be related to John McCain's old friend Charles Keating. So much for your average blue collar small businessman.

  5. Kitchen table as family budgetary HQ They are called Kitchen Table Issues, Joe Biden talks about families sitting around their kitchen table discussing how they are going to make ends meet. I don't know about you, but I pay bills online/at a desk, and discuss my family's finances with my wife any place and time. In fact, the only place we haven't done budgetary stuff is at the kitchen table. That's reserved for EATING FOOD.

  6. Thanking the moderator and the venue for hosting a debate in opening and closing statements Is this just buying time to remember your talking points? Why waste a minute or two thanking this folks publicly when you only have about 45 minutes at best to describe all of your policies each time? I am sure the host and moderator appreciate it, but it would be no less polite and gracious to thank them privately before and after the debate. Americans don't need to hear you thanking them, they need to hear what you will do as president, governor, senator, congressman, etc. This thanking ritual is an invitation for viewers to tune out the rest of your statement. Someone please have the guts to drop it next time.

  7. strict constructionists and legislating from the bench These phrases are code ones for conservatives to mean "overturn Roe v. Wade" and "put them gays in their place." When the Supreme Court reads into an amendment designed to prevent former Confederate states from excluding newly-freed blacks from basic civil rights to mean that giant corporations--such State Farm and Exxon--cannot get punitive damages assessed against them in excess of a 9:1 ratio, these so-called strict constructionists don't say a peep. If your policy ideas are so great, you should not need to hide behind euphemisms that only your followers understand.

Oh, and this freeze frame to me summed up last night's debate:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

my generation is talkin' to your generation

(The "You talkin' to me?' scene from Taxi Driver)

Zach Exley, an "original cast member" of who I had the pleasure of meeting in 2003 at a Kerry Meetup in DC, has a must-read piece about the nature of Obama's ground game. It really is mind-blowing, and explains why even if McCain does well in tonight's debate, it won't be enough for him to turn it around in several swing states. A) Obama has votes in the bank, tens of thousands of them (right now he is leading in early voting in places like Georgia, for instance) B) He has more people more excited and ready to go to the mat for him than McCain.

The energy comes most strongly from Teens to Thirty-somethings--the age group that supports Obama the strongest. Not only are they organizing their campuses, co-workers, and neighborhoods, but they also using their powers of persuasion to go after their parents and grandparents who might otherwise be reluctant to vote for Obama. For example, swing state Sens. Klobuchar (MN), Casey (PA), and McCaskill (MO) all endorsed Obama in the primaries over their colleague Sen. Clinton at their children's urging.

This isn't something new for the general election, although it is much more intensive. For example, this Columbus Day Weekend, young Jews traveled (or should I say schlepped?) to Florida to convince their grandparents to support Obama. Sarah Silverman's now viral video was a bit dirty, but funny way to galvanize the effort.

Go to the site and watch the CNN and CBS stories on two young Jewish men who talked their grandparents (and some of their friends in the complex) into supporting Obama...sometimes, they had to resort to the "I'll marry a nice Jewish girl if do" card. The videos are hilarious, it is hard to believe there are some elderly people in Florida that really do seem to fit the stereotype. Another is a campaign from parodying the anti-drugs ads to urge my generation to talk their parents out of voting for McCain.

While both use humor to accomplish the goal, this is the generation whose primary news program is the Daily Show and Colbert Report. The Obama-Biden effort however, is deadly serious about changing minds and it is scaring the crap out of young conservative activists.

Even my son has gotten into the act of trying to convince his parents (thanks to loyal reader Jamie):

Monday, October 13, 2008


[Rep. Sheryl] Allen, R-Bountiful, has called [Rep. Greg] Hughes' offer to former Rep. Susan Lawrence, R-Holladay, a bribe, but did not join in filing an ethics complaint against Hughes.
Isn't a bribe something that requires an ethics investigation?

Here's another thing I don't get:
Hughes has filed a complaint against [Rep. Phil] Riesen [R-Holiday], claiming he abused his official position by leaking the ethics complaint to the news media.
Yeah it is abuse of power to inform the public that one of your colleagues allegedly attempted to bribe another colleague in exchange for voting in favor of a bill. Given how the ethics committee has operated in the past (even the Treasurer's race investigation this year was slow walked), forcing the issue by leaking to the media wasn't a bad idea.

Hughes has a good attorney representing him and the entire Utah GOP party establishment behind him. The public, however, might be another story. Where is a poll on his reelection when we need it?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

protect the integrity of the election

If you are an attorney, a law student, a paralegal and you want to make sure nefarious individuals are not able to subvert this election, you can volunteer and not take sides.

The nonpartisan Election Protection 2008 coalition is seeking legal volunteers to staff Election Protection Hotlines and to work as mobile volunteers on the ground across the country. Call 1-866-Our-Vote or go to Those with legal training can volunteer here. Those without can volunteer by clicking here. Fill out the forms and help out. This election is too important to leave it to people leaving flyers that you can vote on the wrong day, voting machines hackers, tire slashers, sign stealers, and those who bribe homeless people with cigarettes.