Like his predecessor Bill Clinton from whose staff Obama has poached many of his top advisers, and John F. Kennedy, the young American prince to whom he's often compared, Barack Obama has developed an uncanny knack for moving the needle.
Hilary Clinton, she of 18 million votes is no slouch herself when it comes to getting people to tune in, which means that her appointment guarantees us at least four years of soundbites from Freud impersonators dissecting her relationship with Obama.
Unfortunately I have to disagree with my brother's main point.
Ferentz would have loved to see Hillary appointed Secretary of Education, if only as a way to bring high-profile recognition to the office and the work. It's true that recent Education secretaries have been stunningly low-pro, even in the face of NCLB. Ferentz believes that's an indication of how low-priority the work is, and is worried about that.
But he also asserts this:
In my estimation, the whole restoring America's image abroad narrative has been blown slightly out of proportion. George W. Bush was an awful President who made a number of horrendous decisions, but outside of Iraq and Afghanistan most Americans have been largely unaffected by the Bush's regimes decisions abroad, and it will therefore be difficult for us to really assess how much the world's image of America has changed.
Well. No. How about the results of: Allowing turbulence in Africa and Asia to become ethnic cleansing? Botching the peace process in Palestine and Israel? Pretending climate change doesn't exist?
Sadly there's lots more where that came from. All corners of the globe have been scorched in this fire.
Bush's free-market unilateralism has indeed been disastrous. It even undergirds the global economic crisis that has finally come home like the chickens, as Malcolm might have said. It's not merely an aesthetic thing of whether they like us or not. We've really fucked it up.
I think Ferentz hints at the larger ideological question now being played out beneath the surface. The nation has serious war fatigue--and, coupled with the economic crisis, it is leading to a strong vibe of "let's handle our own right now".
There was a moment, I thought, a few years back when progressives were trying to make the case that the wars abroad were creating the chaos at home. I think we made the case very well--and Obama reflected this in his own campaign, morphing easily from the anti-war candidate to the steady-hand-on-the-economy candidate. McCain had no desire to link the two issues, and so the progressive line carried the day overwhelmingly.
Now though isn't the time to forget how interconnected domestic and global issues are. It's not an either/or, it's a both/and, and that's the difficulty of the moment that we're facing.
posted by Zentronix @ 7:58 AM2 commentslinks to this post
Monday, November 24, 2008 The Impact of The Hip-Hop Vote
We now have some idea of how hip-hop may have impacted the presidential election. According to stats from CIRCLE, those under the age of 45 delivered all of Obama's margin of victory.
Those under 30 formed the core of his victory. 23 million young voters came out, and nearly 16 million voted for Obama. He won by 9 million votes.
Youth voter turnout increased to 53%, a 4% increase over 2004 and the highest turnout rate since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1972.
All demographics under 30 voted for Obama by huge margins--including 95% of African Americans, 76% of Latinos and 54% of whites.
We don't yet know what the turnout rates were for young African Americans and Latinos, or the precise racial breakdown of young voters. But we do know that 36% of Under-30 voters were not white, an 8% difference from 30-45s and 20% difference from over-60s.
We also know that 2004 marked a turning point for young African American and Latino voters. That year, for the first time, they made up more than half of all new voters. In this election, 43% of young voters were first-time voters, including 45% of African Americans and 61% of Latinos.
Credit goes to a robust Obama operation. It's the first time that a party has taken full measure of the importance of young voters and post-Boomer voters of color.
Credit also belongs with the many organizing efforts in the hip-hop world that were largely--and quietly--responsible for the 2004 surge. It's clear that without their success back then, an Obama candidacy would have been unimaginable.
There is one significant down-note. CIRCLE notes that there remains an economic gap in the voting population. It turns up as a gap in voters' educational attainment. Those with at least some college-going experience were about twice as likely to vote as those without any.
There are still lots of hip-hop heads alienated from electoral politics. But it's possible to say that the electorate looks a lot more like the one hip-hop introduced to the mainstream over a decade ago than at any time in the past.
posted by Zentronix @ 9:34 AM1 commentslinks to this post
Thursday, November 20, 2008 UCLA Education In Action Keynote Speech
Here's an excerpt of the keynote speech that I gave this past Saturday at UCLA, for the "Education In Action" student conference organized by APC, and a number of other student, staff, and faculty groups on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Asian American Studies.
Schisms over race and generation have defined 40 years of politics in this country.
This, in a nutshell, is the story of the hip-hop generation. It's the story of the rise of the politics of abandonment and the politics of containment. And the sorry results are all around us.
We have the tragedies of Katrina. The hurricane simply exposed the accumulated horrors this country's politics of abandonment have visited upon poor people of color for 40 years.
We have the biggest prison-industrial complex in the world, and an entire generation of young men and women of color behind bars in a society that no longer cares about rehabilitation, that's about locking people up and throwing away the key.
We have an immigration system that is inhumane and out-of-date, that divides families and closes the borders even as the destinies of nations are increasingly lashed together.
We have a nation torn asunder by economic policies that have exacerbated the wealth gap and hastened an environmental collapse.
We have pre-emptive shock-doctrine wars justified by Orientalist views of the world, and a ruthless disdain for its human toll.
Folks, we have issues.
Yet amidst all of this, conservatives wanted to raise the old racial fears in this election.
They returned the election to 1968, an era when racist housing covenants had only recently been made illegal and racial intermarriage had only recently been made legal.
Of course, it was the most ridiculous kind of nostalgia--a battle for a world that was already gone. But at the Republican National Convention, I watched Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin try to hype a newly discovered breed of subhuman: the community organizer.
They blew their racist dog whistles all the way until November 4th, and not without effect. Arab Americans and Muslim Americans were silenced by the loud racist whisper campaigns, until Colin Powell stepped up to ask the right question, "So what if Obama was Muslim?" Authorities foiled at least a half-dozen white supremacist schemes to kill Obama. And when McCain began his concession speech that night by celebrating Obama's history-making election as the first Black president, his supporters actually booed.
Conservatives all attempted to portray Obama as an unknowable Other. So maybe Obama really is our first API president? He was certainly treated like a stranger from a different shore.
And yet on November 4th, we saw past all of that.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and young people voted 2-1 to elect Barack Obama. In doing so, we became an essential part of the new majority.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 A Great Day In Baseball History
Congratulations to Don Wakamatsu, Major League Baseball's first Asian American manager. It's been far too long coming.
Won't be too much rooting for the Mariners, but will be rooting for Don, who was the A's bench coach this past year. Perhaps not so surprisingly, given the great number of them in the skipper position, Don played catcher in his college and 12-year pro career.
(While we're on the topic, here's a gratuitous shout-out to my childhood hero Lenn Sakata.)
Monday, November 10, 2008 Your Boy Got An Award!
From the official thang...
Today Jeff Chang was named a 2008 USA Ford Fellow in Literature by United States Artists, a national arts advocacy organization that invests in America's artists and illuminates the value of artists to society.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai'i, Jeff now resides in Berkeley, California. He has begun writing his third book, Who We Be: The Colorization of America (St. Martin's Press), on the cultural transformation of the U.S. over the past three decades.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008 It's A New Day Loric Frye. Photo By Paradise Gray (c) 2008
Throughout the north side of Pittsburgh, one of the city's three major Black districts, they lined up before dawn, hundreds deep in the 47-degree weather as if they were waiting for history to be made. Even after the polling places opened into an instant crawl, they kept coming.
And they kept coming all day.
One of them was a 19-year old named Loric Frye. Frye was a Pennsylvanian, and because of that, he was a key voter in the presidential election. Senator John McCain had staked his strategy on winning the state, hoping to steal it from Senator Barack Obama in his comeback bid.
But Frye was far from the kind of clean-scrubbed, neatly partisan first-time voter Republicans would ever think to appeal to or CNN would ever bother to interview.
Frye was a young brother in oversized pants. His young son was at home and his girlfriend was pregnant with their daughter. He had no high-school diploma. He had no fancy title. Frye was, no, still is in the process of putting it all together.
If you went strictly by the stats, he wasn't even supposed to have found his way into the voting booth yesterday. And truth be told, he almost didn't.
He admits that up until this year, politics didn't interest him. Barack got his attention. But the person who really turned him around was a man named Paradise Gray, a legendary hip-hop promoter and activist, who got Frye work as a community organizer doing voter outreach.
Frye spent the year canvassing, registering and door-knocking with Khari Mosley and the League of Young Voters. He started to feel deeply invested in the election and the political process. He spent the last few weeks doing get-out-the-vote work. All politics remains local. All transformations begin with the personal.
So Loric Frye was excited to cast his first ballot yesterday.
But when he showed up with his voter registration card, he was told he "wasn't qualified", he said. " Something about it was illegal."
At first he thought it was the fact that he had been arrested once. But he had never been convicted or charged. He called Mosley and Gray. They came and took him down to the Board of Elections. There, Frye discovered that there were 6 registration forms in his name. Faced with conflicting information, including different social security numbers, some clerk had decided to qualify him.
It was true that he had moved twice since filling out his first form. When you're young and you're trying to get yourself together, that kind of thing happens. But he was so hyped to vote he made sure to re-register his new address every time that he moved.
When the Board of Elections official pulled out the other three forms, Frye could see that they were fakes. The registering agents were from ACORN. They had apparently used his name, invented addresses, and forged his signature 3 more times. The irony of the ACORN voter fraud case is that, in the few instances that it did impact real people, it didn't affect McCain supporters, it affected the poor people most fired up to vote for Obama.
When dawn had broken, a massive national effort at election protection got underway, born of the nightmares from the disputed 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. It was aided in part by web 2.0 tools. A fraudulent text message and a hacker-produced email at George Washington University that urged Obama voters to show up on Wednesday were both exposed via the internet.
In battleground states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, the highest voter turnout in almost a century led to worries about a lack of ballots and slow lines. At South Carolina State University, a historically Black college, dozens of students were told that their polling places had changed. Student activists and the NAACP organized buses to get 32 students to the correct locations, but worried that at least 50 more were discouraged from voting.
Even Republicans circulated a memo detailing voting irregularities. Most of the incidents rose nowhere near the level of the kinds of voter suppression that Democrats faced in Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004. In fact, the first listed on the memo, an accusation of intimidation by alleged members of the New Black Panther Party at a polling place in North Philadelphia, was little more than a hilarious televised encounter between a Fox News reporter and a Black poll-watcher that seemed as if it was scripted for The Boondocks.
Republicans also explored allegations of double-voting by students in Georgia and media in Kansas who may have voted both in person and through absentee ballots, unfilled absentee ballot requests in New Mexico, missing military absentee ballots in Virginia, and calls in Pennsylvania with fake polling information.
But hours later, all this seemed moot.
As soon as the polls closed in California, all of the networks called a landslide victory for Barack Obama. The margin was nowhere near close. In the popular vote, Obama beat McCain by nearly 6 million.
Over 90% of African Americans voted in record numbers for Obama. But he also won among women, split the white working class, and picked up a much larger number of white male voters than John Kerry had in 2004. Obama's electoral college tally corresponded to his margin of victory among young people, Asian Americans, and Latinos: 2-1.
The election of the first biracial African American president in the history of the U.S. set off ecstatic celebrations all across the country. Twitter's server stopped for a few minutes, overloaded by messages. In Oakland, Berkeley, and Seattle, people poured into the streets and instant block parties sprung up as if it was the Bronx in the summer of '77. Crowds marched cheering to the White House. They filled Times Square as if it was New Year's Eve. They came 1 million strong into Grant Park to hear Obama deliver his victory speech, the very place where the Democratic Party collapsed in police riots 40 years ago.
For a small group of people in Pittsburgh, the victory began earlier that day, when an elections official restored Frye's right to vote and handed him a ballot. For Mosley, the League's National Political Director, a longtime community organizer and a veteran of the 2004 battle, it was a gratifying moment.
"The biggest thing I've seen today is the number of young African Americans from the hood that have never voted—teenage parents, the formerly incarcerated, just an incredible number of people voting," he said. "We're really seeing a sea change. The college students have been voting. Now we're seeing a movement among those who never did go to college. That could be monumental not only on the local level but the national level."
"Man, I'm happy as hell I get to vote," Frye told Mosley. "I'm just so happy to get my voice heard."
The victory would not just belong to Barack Obama, but to Loric Frye. "I'm hoping for change," Frye said. "I know it ain't gon' come today or tomorrow, but I'm hoping for change. I'm pushing for change."
posted by Zentronix @ 12:20 AM1 commentslinks to this post
Monday, November 03, 2008 Your Election Day Questions Answered
Got questions? Here are some important web resources that may have answers.
+ Need to find your polling place?
Check GoVote.org or use GoVote's mobile service by texting "pp" with your street address, and zip code, to 69866.
For instance, if you text the following to 69866: "pp 144 Biltmore Ave 28801"
you get a text back that reads:
"(govote.org) Vote at: Stephens Lee Community Center - 30 Washington Carver Street, Ashville, NC 28801 (by CREDO Mobile/NOI)"
+ Want a voter guide written by young voters in your area?
What Time It Is :: Wendell Pierce With The Last Word
For months, we have been telling you about how important tomorrow is. Now this is it. The last word.
We're going to Wendell Pierce, better known as Bunk Moreland from "The Wire". Maybe he's a dude you look up to. Maybe he's a dude you respect. He's not a hater, but he has a message.
Did you think hip-hop has helped or hurt Obama in his quest to become the first black president?
Well, I'm pretty much an old head so I don't listen to a lot of hip-hop. I mean you know, it's cool. Uh. You know, it's cool.
I mean, the fact is the youth of America, every election cycle has this sense of responsibility and sense of importance. But then it's inflated because they never vote. So while every election cycle we're like, 'Young people gon' get out and vote! P-Diddy said vote or die, what we're gon' do, you know man? I gon put this rap and talk about the real deal!' And you ask the majority of all those hip-hop heads, did you go out and vote?
See I don't see the lines of all those same young people that are sitting there trying to get into the Fox (Theater) in Atlanta...
But you should have seen Nas at Rock The Bells. He had 25,000 middle fingers in the air...
Right! I know. That's big. But you're not gonna see the same crowd outside the polling place. Cause I've never seen that. So if hip hop wants to impress me, bring that same amount of people and that same amount of energy at one time at one polling place.
I put a challenge out to Vibe. Show me in your December issue the pictures of the hundreds of thousands of hip-hop heads outside the polling places with their fingers up like that and their 'I voted' sticker on their lapel.
Hip hop has never ever had an impact besides selling records, popular culture. They've never made an impact on the political world because they've never been a part of it.
Can you imagine if we ever saw that many young people at 9am at one polling place in this country on November 4th?
I see Jay-Z sell out Madison Square Garden five nights in a row. If you would like to impress me, I would like to see those same numbers of people outside five polling places in New York City. When I see that, then hip-hop is gonna impress me.
Sunday, November 02, 2008 Q+A :: David Banner On What Tuesday Means
Rapper and activist David Banner has been one of the most compelling voices on the politics of the hip-hop generation. He took some time out with us to talk about why he supports Barack Obama and what Tuesday means.
A lot of folks are talking about this election as one of the most important we've had in this generation. How are you feeling about this election?
I definitely think it’s one of the most important elections, if not in our generation, in history. I think people are concentrating too much on the fact that we may potentially have the opportunity to have a black president, but I think as important is that we actually have an opportunity to get new blood in, somebody who wasn't necessarily grown to be the president, somebody who actually is coming up from real people, who in actuality has lived a normal life and has had the struggles that ordinary people have had so in turn can understand the trials and tribulations of regular people.
Do you think that once he gets in he'll be able to take care of the issues that people haven't seen taken care of for the last 4 decades and beyond? Or do you think he's gonna be under pressures from other forces to do the same old same old?
Well, I think those pressures will always be there. It's up to the man to make the decision on what he wants to do. I think what people should also understand is that Obama potentially is coming behind the worst president in history. So that means that he has a lot to clean up also. And I think people should be patient with him and understand that he has to clean up a lot of stuff. Imagine that even if the day he came in, that he ended the war, it still would take a long time months and months if not years to slowly bring the troops back home, phase them out of Iraq. So for me, we just have to understand that he has a lot to clean up. We are in a recession, so before we can make it better, we first have to come out of it.
You've done a lot of work around the Gulf Coast, around Mississippi and Louisiana around the folks that have been affected by Bush's policies. A lot of stuff came out around race in the elections this year. Do you think Obama is going to be able to do anything about those issues or is he going to have to dial it back—be kind of a Jackie Robinson? Do you think he'll be able to deal with the issues that were left by Katrina?
Well, this is what I need America to understand. I need America to understand Obama is going to be the president of the United States. Not the president of Latino people. Not the president of white people. Not the president of Black people. So as a leader he has to do what's best for the United States. As a person who has been in a position of power, sometimes you have to make a decision as a leader, you have to tackle problems that's best for the American population as a whole. And that's what I was trying to get a lot of people to understand.
There are situations that, yes, need to be handled. But there are bigger problems right now, i.e. the war, the recession, gas prices, stuff like that. I think the best thing for Obama is for Obama to pick issues that are actually solvable and for him to start solving problems that he knows he can accomplish so people can actually see some change. I think what happens a lot of times is we have the best intentions but we try to tackle problems that are gonna take, that are bigger than us. This is my personal opinion. But I think for the American population they looking to Obama to solve some things. He should pick problems that he knows he can solve, solve them so people can see some change.
A lot of folks are talking about how the South is going to figure into this election. One of the things folks are saying that this is the election that shifts the South and I wonder if this is what you're seeing on the ground, a shift from the old conservative white Southern strategy Nixon coalition to the New South.
I definitely agree with that. But what I need people to understand is that this election won't be the end of anything. If anything, it's going to be the very beginning. People are looking at Obama as the savior. People are looking at this election as the all and all. That's not the truth and we shouldn't put that much into the election. Yes, it is a very important election. Yeah it may be the most important election in history, but it won't be anything that will change things by itself. It's just the beginning. We as Americans have to change our ways. You even look at the way that Obama is helping to change the way that the world views Americans. Obama is one of the few presidents in a a long time that's loved and adored overseas, we need that right now! But it's only the beginning. We're going to have to work hard. We're going to have to continue this process. Let's say if everyone in the South gets out to vote, Obama gets in, you know—will that trend continue? That is the important thing.
Here's a last question because it comes up over and over again in the south. What if the vote doesn't count? What if you have all of these folks of color, all of these young folks to get out and vote and they still find a way to do what they did in Florida in 2000. What then?
This is what I tell people. Number one, the popular vote was way too close in both of those elections. This is why we have to get off our ass and make sure that we all vote. If the popular vote is too close then that leaves room for people to gibble and gabble, for people to hide in the darkness and the what-ifs. That is just the reason why we have to make sure that we get out and vote and it's obvious if they do it. Like the only time that you can hide a lie is if it's a little bit of the truth. Every lie has a little bit of the truth. But if Obama blows McCain out of the water, then people just have to righteously get up and take it. Then America will definitely expose itself for what it really is. So what we have to do is make sure that the popular vote is nowhere to being close.
posted by Zentronix @ 11:56 AM0 commentslinks to this post