Lincoln and the Questions of Our Lives

Are we fitted into the times we are born into?  So asks Abraham Lincoln in the new film that should be required viewing for all – more so for modern-day Republicans than anyone else.  The Lincoln in Lincoln is the dream of any Democrat or Republican.  A nation so divided as ours is today, riven by intense ideological rivalries and regional, sectional differences, could use an individual who commands the respect of all to ask the eternal question we ask of ourselves with often vague success, How and where do we fit?  Lincoln did not ask the more important question that has dogged humankind since it attained the power to reason, What does it all mean?  No, he asked the one that we should be able to answer, for we do have the power to control our lives.  Incumbent in Lincoln’s question is the degree to which each citizen and resident of the United States understands his or her responsibilities.

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Asking More from Marco

Marco Rubio has gotten himself into a pickle, hasn’t he?  Is the shine off the apple, or is there something behind that Bush?  These questions forced the first of the faux 2016 presidential candidates to show up in Iowa 10 scant days after the election to give a speech.  Rubio officially found out on Nov. 6 that Americans rejected the fearful-anxious movement that catapulted him onto the national scene in the first place.  The Tea party is not dead but it does not have as much of a future as the ink it gets.

What Marco Rubio said during his transparent trip to Iowa last week is not going to cut it for him or his party – or the nation.  The country today needs real leadership – political brinksmanship, even – not the cautious catnip Rubio offered last week.  The country needs more from all of us.  It needs us to be less ideological.  It needs the no-tax pledge signers to understand fiscal reality.  It needs environmentalists to understand natural gas development.  It needs a new integrity.  It needs less media.  It needs a new way to fund campaigns.  It needs a lot more than what we are giving it.  And it certainly needs more from young telegenic Hispanic/Latinos like Marco Rubio who are supposed to be a great part of the future.

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Far, Far From a Status Quo Election

Years ago as a young boy in the small town of West Texas where I grew up, I would daydream along the railroad tracks in the shallow valley below our home.  I would wait for the high, mighty trains that I imagined came roaring from Los Angeles from the west or Atlanta from the east.  The trains would slow down as they sped by an old salt lake but even so would displace enough air to create a powerful force that on occasion sent my thin, reedy body reeling and crashing into the brown dirt.  While other boys were sniffing glue, I was getting off on sudden blasts of air from caravans of steel that the day before might have sat idling near the Pacific or come from the other side of the country where Sherman ran roughshod over the Confederacy.

One day, one of the trains slowed to a pace slower than usual.  A clump of rail yard workers not far from me waited.  One of the crew stood by a thick iron stick that he pushed away from his body.  As he did, the tracks moved and separated in part.  I watched with fascination.  A new set of tracks appeared suddenly and diverted the massive train to another set of tracks.  That decades-old image came to mind as I sat with my old college roommate watching the returns of the election of 2012 that some observers have characterized as a status-quo election.  It was anything but.  In fact, it was a shattering election – far more important than the pedantic conclusion that Democrats retained control of the White House and the Senate and that Republicans maintained their majority in the House.

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Teetotaling the Tea Party

The baying at the moon began the instant it became evident that none of the swing states were going Mitt Romney’s way on Tuesday evening.  Like gargoyles atop a cathedral, the faces of Republican strategists and their sidekicks on right-wing television looked stunned with surprise then were etched by gall.  After denial could no longer hold back the reality of the night, horror began to grip their faces.  Barack Obama would be President until 2017, and the billions of dollars that the Supreme Court had sanctioned for corporations to buy the election started going down the drain as each race for the Senate was called.  Their only consolation was losing a handful of seats in House of Representatives – and that only because state legislatures throughout the country have so gerrymandered congressional districts that Democrats cannot mount competitive races in most states.

And so before the night was out, the discussion turned to how Republicans “reach out” to HispanicLatinos, who generated supermajorities of as much as 80 percent in some states for the Democratic ticket.  Continue reading

Before Legacy, Think Opportunity

With the election over, there is no question we have entered the age of the new demography in which the changing internal populations of countries are remaking their politics.  HispanicLatinos, millennials, African Americans, independent women, gays and lesbians and a host of fair-minded voters not blinded by religious fervor or abject racism came together and delivered a good win for President Barack Obama.  The uncertainty is whether the United States will give itself the chance to take advantage of its demographic transformation to secure its future.   In that sense, we have entered a new age of opportunity.  But it is also clear we have entered the age of climate change.  The assertion of the new demography came simultaneously with Hurricane Sandy that should have blasted smugness for all time.

If I may, a personal, self-serving note: If Florida, as expected, is finally given to Obama, it will confirm the call I made on October 29 that nailed the election’s outcome on the button in the Electoral College.  On the popular vote, I was also very close.  I said the spread between Obama and Mitt Romney would be three million votes.  The spread currently stands at about 2.7 million.  You can read that blog at:

Now, after the election, what?  The first few days are important for President Obama and will determine if the nation does push forward.

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Navarrette Denies Himself — and the Rest of Us (Again)

It is almost impossible to understand Ruben Navarrette.  On the heels of trying to take down Olympic hero Leo Manzano a couple months ago, Navarrette in a column published by CNN on its website is trying, in effect, to keep HispanicLatinos from voting for President Obama.  It is no longer important to understand what makes Navarrette tick, though his point is well taken:  HispanicLatinos are not yet respected fully by the political system.  But his answer to the problem is particularly atrocious.  Navarrette wants HispanicLatinos to vote for neither Mitt Romney nor Obama — a half no-vote for each.

Navarrette when he votes today thereby would deny a full vote to Obama, the one of the two candidates more likely to nominate a member of the Supreme Court likely to defend the constitutional rights that HispanicLatinos need to…become respected fully by the political system.

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Election Post-Scripts as Tea Leaves and Footnotes

Whether President Obama wins re-election tomorrow, some electoral post-scripts will be engaged immediately.  We will know if the HispanicLatino vote was important as expected, especially in the swing states.  One of the two campaigns clearly will not have done enough to win – while hundreds of thousands of HispanicLatinos who did not vote could have made the difference.  In either case, the HispanicLatino vote becomes ever more important.  On the very day after the election, they will add more potential voters for 2016 proportionately than any other group.

If Obama wins with the HispanicLatino vote having proven decisive, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio will shoot to the head of the pack in his party, and his political action committees will begin to attract immediate money.  Just as important, he will draw additional, competent political advisors with national experience to make sure the young legislator does not misstep and try to turn his party away from its harsh anti-HispanicLatino rhetoric.  For those reasons, Rubio and sophisticated political analysts – not necessarily the ones on television every morning – will look closely at the results from three distinct congressional races across the country to read tea leaves about the future and to consider other possibilities.

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Feels Like It Is Going Obama’s Way

On the weekend before the election, it feels it is going President Obama’s way.  My own sense of how it ends, made earlier this week, is only an educated guess.  The inside-the-Beltway crowd insists the election is a close contest.  The savants in the newspapers and on television assert that the election is a near standoff between an aroused Tea party financed by this century’s version of robber barons and the presumably more sophisticated Obama ground game.  That is a simple narrative that might prove imprecise.  After all, the Tea party derived its sweep in the 2010 midterm elections from a smaller and therefore different electorate.

In 2010, about 91 million people voted – 38 million less than the 129 million who voted in 2008 when Obama won by almost 10 million votes.  It seems it would take less effort among Obama supporters to generate as many Tea party voters.  So the worry about lagging enthusiasm among Obama’s supporters that the pundits fuss over probably is not as appropriate as they surmise.  Obama would have to lose close to 100 percent of his winning 2008 margin and suffer other desertions from his ranks to lose the election – ranks that have grown naturally, too.  It could happen, of course.

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Channeling Harry: An Obama Win

Before President Obama’s self-admitted off-night in Denver, when he allowed Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate to conjure himself into someone he is not, some writers were hinting at and others were outright using the ‘L’ word.  So sloppy had been Romney’s campaign and so error-free was Obama’s leading up to that night in Colorado that a burgeoning Democratic lead in the polls was building the narrative of an inevitable Obama win, perhaps by a landslide.  But that seems to have changed. Now what?

Romney supporters and some knowledgeable observers use the 1980 Carter-Reagan election – when the bottom fell out from under incumbent Jimmy Carter in the closing two weeks of the campaign – as the model to project a Republican win next week.  Other pundits think the 2000 Bush-Gore model will predominate.  In that scenario, George Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote, a result that could retain Obama in office.  Other observers influenced by a Romney surge are proposing a Romney landslide.  Hmmm.  For my part, I am thinking 1948, when incumbent President Harry Truman came from behind and walked away with a hard-earned victory over Tom Dewey.  I think this for several reasons.

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HispanicLatinos: Progressive Voters. True or False?

The current election, however it turns out, presents an opportunity for progressive-minded activists to confront their sometimes-hidden fear that HispanicLatinos could form an antediluvian, conservative wave as they become a larger share of the national population.  Indeed, if HispanicLatinos vote in the near-70-percent range for President Obama and he wins re-election, they might give progressives the wrong idea.  Worse still would be if Obama loses re-election and progressives see no need to develop the HispanicLatino vote for elections to come.  If HispanicLatinos remain within the Democratic fold in future elections as they might on Nov. 6, they undoubtedly could make the years ahead grim for Republicans.

The degree to which HispanicLatinos become truly progressive/liberal is a key question for progressives and Republicans alike.  And so now is the time for both to appreciate fully the power of the entire changing demography of the country – not just of the HispanicLatino population – and therein lie lessons to be learned regardless of how the 2012 elections turn out.  An indication of how HispanicLatinos might be trending politically comes of late from researchers at the Pew Center.  They reported last week that 52 percent of HispanicLatinos approve of same-sex marriage – a turnaround from 56 percent opposed six years ago.  Among HispanicLatino Catholics, approval was higher, at 54 percent — a little higher than the national norm..

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