Sunday, August 24, 2008

The wonders of the internet (or you may be coining a phrase without even knowing it)

I've been a user of the internet for a very long time, and a talk show fan even longer.  The reason these intersect is how both have broadened the participation in opinion-making and creating catch phrases.  What got me started thinking about this has been the 'Bradley effect' question being brought up in relation to the Barack Obama campaign.

For those unfamiliar with the term, the 'Bradley effect' refers to the 1982 campaign for Governor between Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and state legislator George Deukmajian in California.  Bradley was the first black to win the Democratic nomination for Governor, facing the white Republican common referred to as "Duke."  Polls all the way up to election day had Bradley handily winning the gubernatorial race, then the strangest thing happened:  "Duke" won.  What many opined is what happened is that white voters were telling pollsters what they thought would make them look non-racist, as in supporting Bradley, then when they got in the polling booth they voted for the white guy anyway.

Which brings me back to the subject of my post here.  I was living in California at the time that happened, working as a night watchman at a leather tannery and listening to the San Francisco talk radio station KGO (unlike most of today's con or lib stations, it was a nice mix of both at the time).   I was feeling disappointed in the election results and listening to KGO's late night talk show host Ray Taliaferro discuss what the election switch was all about.  I decided to call and suggested that we give this a name, "The Bradley Effect."  Ray liked it, and as far as I know, I was the first to give that electoral surprise it's name.

That might have been my only contribution to the American political vocabulary.....until the internet got going.  On the web, I think I did it about 3 more times.

Let me set the stage a little first.  I've been a politics junkie since 1972 but always had to wait 2 years for election campaigns and my 'fixes'.   Then came a politics addict's dream - the internet.  I no longer had to wait for election years and the opening of campaign offices to get my high, all I had to do is log on and there it was.  There was daily political news but then I found Nirvana - there were actual chat rooms about nothing but politics filled with other junkies just like me!! 

I was in heaven!

By accident, I also discovered something about the internet - namely, you never know who you're talking to or who is reading what you have to say.  One day during a politics chat room session, the subject was how political points are repeated to get them across and how it was particularly successful for the conservatives to much of our dismay.  Offhand, I referred to this habit of the right as a 'mantra' (a particular phrase repeated over and over during meditation).  The next day, in the bad old pre-Air America days when we who loved talk radio were stuck listening to only rightwingers, I heard none other than the 'great' Rush Limbaugh refer to the left's mantras - a term I'd never heard him use before.

Was he in the chat room when I posted that or was it just coincidence?  Who knows?!!

The other two catch phrases that I think I started weren't accidental at all.  It was the election of 2000 and the Republican members of the Supreme Court had essentially assured the first term of George W. Bush by stopping a statewide recount in Florida.   The fury of us on the left-of-center side was palpable at what we saw as the theft of a national election, and it didn't stop at the Republicans as we watched the Democrats roll over and let it slide instead of fighting (seemingly an never ending and aggravating trait of the Party of D).

I decided, after cooling down a little bit, that these thieves didn't deserve the names supporters of other Presidents who won fairly had earned.  Reagan had his Reaganites and Clinton had his Clintonites - I decided the Bush people didn't deserve such honors. So I went for something that I thought would demean them a bit - I called them "Bushies" at every opportunity on the web.  In fact, I'd decided that theentire conservative movement deserved a taste of that for doing the deed of making the #2 guy the President no matter what.  So, again online, they were no longer right wingers - they were to be "righties".

And I'll be durned if that didn't catch on to the point where I was seeing "Bushies" and "righties" everywhere I turned.  Again, I don't know whether I started those terms or not, all I know is that I was the first and only one to use those terms where I went online for quite a while before they started popping up in calls to CSPAN and liberal opinion pieces.

Whether that could happen now is a good question - back when I believe I started some phrases the internet was much smaller with fewer platforms than the thousands of political chatrooms, blogs and email groups there are now. 

Can it still happen?  I think so...I mean really, I can't have been the first to refer to John McCain as "John W. McSame"....could I?




Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Why Obama, Why Now

Between now and November, you're going to be seeing a lot of fluff and stuff about the major candidates:  who misspoke when, who's staff is doing what to who, etc. etc.  You'll be seeing and urged to read all manner of policy papers and positions.  Various ads will be on your TV, radio and in your newspapers telling you that that guy is plain awful, and our guy is the greatest candidate ever to walk upon the Earth. All very important, but when it comes right down to it you're going to be asked to separate the chaff from the wheat and decide who gets your vote.
I'm going to make my pitch for that vote to go to Barack Obama.
First, a little about myself.  I've been active in Democratic campaigns for 36 years, mainly in California and now in my adopted home state of Oregon, so understand up front that this is not exactly going to be unbiased.  I've worked in campaigns for everything from state legislators to Presidents.  I've heard great speakers and ones that desperately need help to keep from putting the audience to sleep.  I've been chairman of a county Democratic Central Committee and currently an elected Democratic precinct committee person going on my 3rd term.
I've been around a while and I'm not given to seeing any candidate as a messiah or savior, having seen all of them as the humans they really are.
This year has been a strange one for me, in that I would have been happy no matter who had won the Democratic nomination but my choice from before he even announced was Barack Obama.  Was it his speaking style?  No, I've heard better.  Is it his outstanding stands on the issues?  No, he's kind of liberal some of the time, moderate most of it, and only varied by slight degrees from everyone else who ran as a (D).  I even understand that he'll be fortunate indeed if he gets near half of what he's promising on the campaign trail through Congress and sent to his desk to sign if he wins in November. 
What got me on the Obama bandwagon was a simple message that he's never wavered from:  we really need to pull this country together if we're ever going to get anything done.   Now, I'm a happy partisan and unabashed liberal who will battle any Republican or conservative anywhere, anytime beit in print, on the air, online, or in person.  It's a fun way to pass the time because neither me or you reading this (unless you're an elected officeholder, of course) really get to set national policy.  However, when that battling isn't just among us pundits - paid or amateur - that means the country is in a bad way.  We just can't afford to keep going this way.
I know, I know - every candidate for President promises to bring us all together and claims to be "a uniter, not a divider"  in one form or another.  The difference with Obama is that this guy really means it.   He said it giving the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention and he's repeated it everyplace he's stopped during the campaign.  I've even seen him say it live and in person and what struck me most is that this is no put-on.  Listen close when he talks too - he doesn't say he will do this, he calls on us to do it with him.
Don't misunderstand this position - this doesn't mean the man is a wuss who will avoid all conflict to achieve this unity.  He understands that there are people with a vested interest in the divide and conquer approach to American politics and he doesn't give them even the hint of a break.  What they represent is mainly themselves and really couldn't care less if the country does well as long as they do.  If that means they'll lie to you, let the lies flow.  If that means fostering distrust and dislike, then pump up the hate.  I don't need to tell you who they are.  They speak from the floors of Congress, the boardrooms, out of your radios, and through your cable.  Their country is the United States of Me and they will do any and everything to take care of #1.  Those people we don't unify with, those people we stop.  Now.
As to the rest of us, I and I think Obama consider us all patriots who want to see the best for our county - we just disagree how to get there.  We can talk about the disagreements but we must seek common ground for our common good.  We have a great country but we also have great problems that need fixing.  We'll never do that as long as half of us is busily tearing down what the other half is building.  Imagine what we can do if the whole of us are the ones solving problems and building a better nation.
Barack Obama is imagining that, and so am I which is why I'll be voting for him in November.  I hope you'll join me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I guess it's been more than a little while since I've made a post here, so I guess I should get around to it.

So, we've survived the Democratic primary season and have a nominee.  Hillary made a hell of a run and I'll leave it at that, beyond saying that she should not be Barack's choice for the #2 spot.  A little personal note on the historic Obama nomination - besides enjoying being a participant in such an event, this will make just the 2nd time the person I first picked to support for the nomination actually won it.   To give some idea about my track record, the last time I supported the Democratic nominee from announcement to nomination was George McGovern in 1972.

I do, however, believe that I will be participating in a personal first this year - supporting a Democratic nominee from announcement to the White House

Why Obama from the start?

I was impressed by the man from when he gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic nomination, and no it wasn't because he was this enthralling speaker.  With over 30 years of Democratic activism under my belt, I've seen and heard better and worse than Obama.  What hooked me was the man's message, then and now.  The bottom line is this:  we can fight other Americans over the direction of the country forever, and stay bogged down, or we can start to come together and get things done.

I've done my share of battling with the right, online and otherwise, but most of the time I do respect the other side (excepting the genuine looney fringe who aren't conservative but all the way reactionary) for this - they, as well as us more to the left, are patriots who care deeply about the country.  We all want the best for it and us - we just disagree on how to get there.

As we approach the day the most divisive President in my lifetime finally leaves office, jumps into his pickup and drives off into the sunset, it's time to start thinking about how we really put this country back together.  Obama is certainly no messiah and, like most candidates, will be lucky if he gets half of what he wants to accomplished in even 8 years, but he does have the right idea here.  It's fun and games for some great argument therapy, but we really can't go on with the idea that one side is exclusively right and the other eternally wrong and evil.   Enough with the red/blue, right/left, con/lib warfare - disagree we will, but this doesn't have to be a mother of all battles all the time on every issue.

Going back to the first man I supported from the start to the nomination, George McGovern was asked about the two sides in the political debate.  Paraphrasing here, he said that we really need both in America - we need conservatives to slow things down when liberals get overzealous and we need liberals to speed things up when the conservatives drag their heels too much.

Not an unreasonable position if you ask me.

Of course, we're still going to have to deal with the haters on the right.  Even if we do get it back together, there'll still be the Coulters, Limbaughs, Savages etc. trying their damndest to tear it back apart.  I'm old enough to remember when those types were considered to be nothing but hateful crackpots, deserving of nothing more than ridicule and dismissal.  And as the once-powerful voices like the John BirchersKKK etc. faded away, so will these.  We do go through these cycles from time to time, and their day in the sun is starting to go dark as it beginning to get brighter on our side.

About time too.