I don’t have time to write a regular post right now, mostly because I’ve been partying too much, which if you’re me translates into “entertaining your husband’s visiting high school buddy by going out to pizza dinners and hearing stories about the movie shorts they made as teenagers, Gay Gangsters and Gay Gangsters II, which despite their titles are not porn, but rather adolescent, homoerotic, homophobic noir.” Because of the Gay Gangsters, I haven’t remotely gotten my work done this week, so I am sitting in a coffeeshop drinking something called “Organic Raw Kombucha,” which tastes like apple cider vinegar mixed with grass (Kentucky blue, not Maui Wowie), and which hints that it may just cure all current and future diseases I have. I’m hoping the kombucha will perk me up so that I can answer hundreds of student discussion board posts about Emily Dickinson.

At any rate, Alex, the high school pal of K.’s, and I went a round on the Clinton/Obama issue, which was the same as pretty much every other round I’ve gone with anyone: he argued that Hillary and the Clintons were corrupt, warmongering establishment wonks with no right to still be in a race that Obama “has already won,” I argued that apportioning delegates by population is problematic but the Dems’s stupid rules aren’t Hillary’s fault (I’m still hoping for a nationwide, closed Democratic primary next time, although I guess that will never happen because local vendors would miss out on all the campaign events business — it’s always the economy, stupid) and that she’s the better candidate because of her ideas about health care, gender and race equality, and education, plus the fact that she’s the candidate with the highest percentage of minorities on staff. (Thanks, Weboy.) He said he just hated Hillary and that he “believed” in Obama, I said it was a mistake to assume that Obama is so much better just because we haven’t seen all the private interest and political crony strings attached to his back. I’m getting kind of tired of that conversation because, as I’ve said before, I’m sure there must actually be reasons to support Obama, but every time one of my callow, overprivileged, self-styled egalitarian friends talks to me about it, it becomes a Hillary hatefest.

We didn’t resolve anything, of course, although the conversation ended with Alex saying, “I’m sure you can out-argue me on the actual facts, because I don’t know them, but that’s not really part of why I support Obama.” And with K. leaning down to whisper in my ear, “I love it when you annihilate people, baby. It’s so sexy.” (I would have chosen a different word for it…say, “obliterate.”) Then he took Alex out for a beer and left me to tend the screaming infant rather than sleeping, which sucked because, of course, some people were too tired from their trip to the pub to get up and help with breakfast in the morning.

But I did have a few minutes in between child-minding to try to shed my irritation with that conversation. And I didn’t have any friends to talk to about it because, as I’ve mentioned before, I am the Obama demographic in so many ways that discussing my candidate preferences with friends is like advertising a special on B.L.T.s at the Arby’s in South Williamsburg (the Hasidim are not really down with the B.). So, in a transparent attempt to cash in on the fact that my dad and I agree on something for once, I wrote my dad and told him about it, then asked what his peers were doing.

I include his response because it showed me that even though my dad is a sixtysomething engineer whose first language is not English, he still has the power to delight and surprise me with his command of its subtleties (note: the opinions expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the management, particularly those on “reverse bias;” try to be charitable and keep in mind that the man has immigrant-must-excel-I’m-not-white-and-I-did-it-so-you-should-too mentality and his perspective on reparative justice is thus skewed). The last line, in particular, is priceless:

Daughter,

I am, of course, peerless.

I am still troubled by the double standard, the fact that black voters are demonstrating reverse bias by going for Obama to the extent of 80%-90%, by the fact that in all this time, Obama has yet to propose anything substantive other than selling “change we can believe in”, and by the fact that Bill’s issues still drag Hillary down. Whatever happens, though it will be cold comfort for her, Hillary is still the most competent candidate with the best intentions and ideas.

I hear Hillary raised $2.5 million just last night so hopefully Barack’s huge bankroll (really no strings, really change we can believe in, really not the same old politics?) won’t prevail.

Of course, these are just words and I am not bitter.

Love,

Dad

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I admit that my hope, like that of many Clinton supporters, was flagging. Obama did seem invincible. The timing of his ‘charisma surge’ and the ensuing ‘tsunami of drool‘ (Christopher Hitchens, you’re a revolting, cranky old hater, and your Vanity Fair spread was patently ridiculous, but you do still have a way with words) odds seemed stacked against Hillary. I was resigning myself to the prospect of a dilemma: fulfilling my promise to support any Democrat and vote for Obama in November, or voting my conscience and disposition, which says “third party candidate!”, especially if that candidate is Matt Gonzalez. (In creating that link, I just realized that Matt Gonzalez bears a strong resemblance to my favorite demicelebrity, the only person who, if I were a 13-year-old girl, would have his posters tacked up on my wall: Robyn Hitchcock. Sigh. Dreamy. Now if only Robyn Hitchcock would run for president, with Matt Gonzalez as his VP. Too bad he’s probably still a British citizen.)

Oh! I’m sorry. Was that boring? Hearing about how hot I find a political figure? Hearing about my girlish crushes? Having me conflate my errant attractions/projections on unsuspecting famous people with a decent reason to cast my vote for our next president?

I do beg your pardon. Back to the matter at hand: it would be a tough call for me. I’ve become increasingly impatient with Obama’s posturing, his churlishness when he’s not in the position of power and adoration, and his inability to say anything substantial or interesting about any of the (admittedly small) policy points on which he differs from Hillary. I think the whole NAFTA dust-up is pretty sloppy (tsk, tsk) and doesn’t bode well. And I wonder if Obama isn’t far too easy to poke holes in. He does great when he’s basking in teh love. He’s ugly when he’s on the defensive.

But I was feeling discouraged. The momentum seemed too great to even check, much less overcome. In fact, I was trying really hard all day Tuesday not to read the paper or click update on the cnn political results page (I only did it four or five times). But when the baby woke me up at 1 a.m., I had to know. And I found out that Ohio came out big for Hillary and that, more surprisingly, she’d also won in Texas and Rhode Island. I wasn’t really expecting that. Obama had been making himself at home in Texas, and I kind of thought the “dude vote” would prevail.

Well, there’s always room for nice surprises. At a little past one on Wednesday morning, I found out that I shouldn’t be such a pessimist. I realized that I, too, had underestimated Hillary Clinton. She gave a great speech Tuesday in Ohio: classy, populist, presidential. She’s endured more setbacks and more discouragement on this campaign than any candidate in my lifetime, not to mention more random sexist bullshit (and yes, Obama is still getting a pass on the — at least overt — racist bullshit, ’cause, you know, we just don’t talk about that in public). For sheer perseverance (or, as our current president would say, “persevating”), she deserves a medal. And she’s doing well to cast herself as a survivor. I forget who cast her as a “dented pickup truck,” but it’s a pretty apt metaphor. Americans love their dented pickup trucks, be they Fords or Toyotas.

More serious politics writers, like NYCweboy, have made a more studied commentary on what this all means for the nomination. And it seems very possible that Hillary might be our nominee. But I’d like to add a few more ephemeral comments from my immigrant, minority, American success story, and ‘political maverick’ (voted for Bush in 2004, coming out strong for Hillary this year) pops:

Her story is compelling (won the big states instead of the small, inevitably red states, has more experience, more substance, more intelligence, good heart, etc.) If one looks for trends, no president has been elected without winning the Ohio primary. If you are superstitious, more presidents were born in October than any other month (she was, Barack was in August – on your sister’s birthday). Her only real negative is Bill.

Well, I’m Chinese, so of course I’m not immune to the lure of astrology (numerology…fatalism…feng shui…etc. etc.). And I have to say that learning that Obama’s a Leo explains it all, especially since he apparently shares the birthday of my batshit crazy, card-carrying member of the Church of Solipsism sister. For Leos, it’s all about me, me, me. They do fine in positions of strength, where they can be magnanimous. They become whiny little bitches when they feel threatened. Obama has demonstrated this time and time again, and if Clinton’s smart, she’ll keep him snapping, which is when it’s hardest for the Obama crush contingent to bat their eyelashes.

Here’s hoping she is. And you know, Dad is right: October is a banner month for presidents. And on the astrology tip, any armchair astrologer can tell you that you just don’t pit a Leo against a Scorpio. Because while the Leo is busy falling in love with the sound of his own voice, the Scorpio will sidle over and get out that stinger. Between the grand geste and the nitty gritty, the latter usually wins out in the end.

Oh, and confidential to Hillary: don’t forget to thank Obama for giving you a challenge this primary season. It’s only fair, and I want to see him clench his jaw when you do.

I’ve long said that what this country needs is a Democrat in the White House. I’ve said that I’d be giving my vote, my time, and my money to whichever Democrat wins the nomination, despite the fact that of the three biggest contenders, none really caught my fancy, and despite the fact that as the Obamaniacs get more strident and more self-congratulatory, I’ve had to swallow back my gag reflex (he, like Clinton, is a corporate Democrat, and I maintain that Clinton has already fallen as far as she reasonably can — has attained a sort of stasis in her ability to compromise her positions and ideals, whereas Obama has several notches farther to fall, which is why I think HRC would make the better president). But I’ve been losing enthusiasm lately. I’m tired of hearing Obama’s same old smug and empty rhetoric, and I’m tired of watching Hillary try to poke holes in that balloon that are immediately sealed up again by the momentum of popular approval and that just make her look petty and pedantic and slightly querulous, like the A student who says “It’s not fair!” to the teacher when the position of valedictorian goes to the most popular boy; if there’s anything this primary season has taught me, it’s that it isn’t fair, that any color of man is preferable (because less of a comedown for other men) to a woman, and that if Hillary were a man, she’d have walked away with the nomination long ago; she maintains a lead among Democrats (as opposed to Independents and Republicans voting in the Democratic primaries), which does make you wonder what the superdelegates are really going to do if they claim to represent the interests of the party rather than of the general population in choosing their nominee. But, you know, I realize how powerful the media is, and the media is saying Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. So I’ve been getting ready to vote for him.

Then Nader announced his candidacy. Full disclosure: I voted for Nader in 2000 (in a state that went, as I thought it would, blue) and I don’t regret it. I tend to believe that buying into the two-party system by refusing to consider other options only makes the two parties more monolithic. I tend to think that the wild-eyed desperation with which fearmongers would cry “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush!” is a bunch of crap and that such fearmongers are acting contrary to the spirit of democracy and the principles of freedom and populism upon which I believe (on a good day) the country was founded.

But I’m not too hot on Nader anymore. My pal Don expressed his misgivings thusly:

Nader. Oh, dear. I was once a stalwart, and voted for him both in 1996 and in 2000, without any regrets. But in 2004 he showed his ego and poor sportsmanship after the Greens failed to nominate him as their candidate (he had never even become a party member); he said that they had consigned themselves to irrelevance by failing to nominate him again. I thought that was in incredibly bad taste. I held my nose and voted for Kerry, and felt like a chump the morning after. I think Nader’s run in 2008 just shows his own failure to grasp his own irrelevance. I have no problem with a left “spoiler” independent race for president, given how conservative the Ds are. But Nader is no longer capable of uniting even the left.

–and I mostly agree; the only part I might qualify is “no longer capable” of uniting the left, as I don’t believe Nader ever was capable of uniting the left (this could just be my stubborn belief that “the left” consists of more that 2.74% of the population, which is what voted for Nader in 2000, at his zenith). Still, I agree with Don that Nader has become a somewhat unappealing figure, if not a polarizing one.

And yet I find myself considering voting for him.

Why?

Matt Gonzalez. Matt Gonzalez is a person I admire and appreciate tremendously. He was the only serious contender for Green Party mayor of a major city (San Francisco, of course, in 2003), and I campaigned for him, made t-shirts (I still have a couple: they’re bright yellow and read “Matt Gonzalez is a real person”), participated in a memorable fundraiser evening at the then-struggling Club Waziema, an Ethiopian restaurant and bar on Divisadero, which he was then helping, if memory serves, to get its liquor license. Matt Gonzalez was president of the S.F. board of supervisors; he got 47% of the vote that year (to Gavin Newsom’s 52%, I believe, and you can bet a few people are wondering what they were thinking voting for Newsom at this point), he’s a former public defender, a poetry lover, a smart and unpretentious person, and all-around, right up there on the top of my list of people who would really change this country. He is, in short, a true progressive, not a recent and incomplete convert, like Edwards, or a panderer whose identity appeal is a huge selling point, like Obama and Clinton (and he writes a great commentary here).

And yes, there’s probably no chance that a Nader/Gonzalez ticket would get anywhere near the White House, and yes, Ralph Nader, excellent consumer advocate and promoter of consumer responsibility and education though he is, has lost a lot of his appeal. But I am still a person who believes that kneejerk acceptance of the two-party system is a dangerous thing, and Matt Gonzalez is the first candidate I can get excited about.

Now if only they would switch roles. Talk about bringing out the Latino vote!

Gonzalez 2008: Change you can actually believe in.

Hello, Wisconsin! Nice to know you’re not above falling in line with “the wave” of coolness. Nice to know that, chubby and Germanic and working-class though you are, you, like your coastal brethren, can still fall prey to the latest trends.

Another busy week, coupled with some nastiness at work reminiscent of, say, having a root canal done by a dentist who failed to clean raw sewage off his hands after a water main break. But anyway. The coverage of this year’s primary rolls on, and NYCweboy has wondered out loud if the press has won, writing their story of Obama’s meteoric rise as they have, casting Hillary as an evil stalwart of the corrupt old guard. It’s depressing, and maybe it’s true: the vast majority of people I know (who, demographically, are mostly in Obama’s camp: the educated, the relatively well-off, the snooty, the idealistic, and the young; those who can afford to sing along with Scarlett Johanssen and erupt into fits of hormonal giddiness about Sir Talks-a-Lot’s oral prowess) don’t seem to really care what Obama is about, because his movement is real. Yee-haw.

So here we go, and I promised I’d give money and time to Obama if he gets the nomination because, obviously, nothing could be worse than another four or eight years of retrenched social and political conservatism in the form of aggressive foreign policy, failure to reform health care (although Obama has amply demonstrated he doesn’t really know how to do that either), and pandering to upper tax brackets. And I will. But I’m starting to feel less and less enthused about the Anointed One, mostly because I think that, however corrupt/calculating/disingenuous you find the Clinton camp, their criticisms are right on:

1)Obama is all about soaring rhetoric and not so much about ideas.

2)Obama plagiarizes his rhetoric. The evidence is pretty egregious. And yeah, maybe I’m a pedant, and certainly I’m a nitpicker, but it sticks in my craw that his obvious plagiarism of Deval Patrick’s speech is getting a free pass from the media, and from Patrick himself, even though the governor was obviously taken aback at his endorsee’s duplicity.

So maybe NYCweboy is right. Maybe the press decided this for us, and we went along, because that’s what we do, except for those of us who don’t. I’m a contrarian and an outsider from way back, and I see in Barack Obama an ability I never had: one to take all the characteristics that might have alienated people from him and play to their sentiments, to make himself the cool kid, the B.M.O.C., the one who makes you forget what he looks like or where he comes from. I don’t envy him it or begrudge him it, but I just don’t find it that appealing. Because to me, it ought to be more than a popularity contest.

I know I’m in the minority — where else would I be? And I know I’ve got about a snowball’s chance of seeing Hillary, whom I originally viewed as similar but now, due to what Christopher Hitchens accurately termed a “tsunami of drool” bestowed on Obama, see as the red-headed stepchild in this equation, get the nomination. But hey — “right” ain’t about “fair.” I’m not going to completely give up hope; to do so would be to say that the rest of this little democratic process doesn’t matter. So I’m going to keep gunning for the stepchild.
I have never been a political donor, but I’ve now given money to the Clinton campaign. Twice. And though I’ll vote for the Democrat this fall, I have just one wish if that Democrat is Obama:

Take a cue from Hillary. Turn up the substance, turn down the charm, figure out when to shut up.

Oh, and one more thing while I’m passing messages to the candidates:

Confidential to John Edwards: join forces with HRC. This is your chance to be a kingmaker, shake things up on Pennsylvania Ave., and actually fix a few of the things that are broken around here. As far as I can tell, being veep under B.O. will be all about making the cool kidz happy, and that’s no longer your thing, ennit?

I’ve been feverishly polling my friends and relations about who they’re going to vote for in the primaries, mostly because I can’t vote in the primaries and am thus desperate to live vicariously through them, and partly because I like arguing with whatever their choice is. It’s actually not been much fun on the devil’s advocate front, because most of the people I know are relatively privileged and relatively young and in stereotypical liberal careers, like teaching or urban planning or perpetual adolescence graduate school, and so they all wishy-washily tend to probably kind of like Obama, so I’m honing that argument but not getting a lot of practice knocking Clinton or Edwards (and my Kucinich-supporting friends have either given up or long since shut up, judging from the lamentably Dennis-free state of my inbox).

So it was with a mixture of anticipation and dread that I hurried to meet my father for lunch, leaving the first (and perhaps only) baby shower I have ever attended (for two mothers from Thing One’s preschool, and even though the invite said “families welcome” and I brought mine, it was like a coven of witches, if witches cooed instead of cackled and amused themselves by flinging miniature pastel outfits at each other while charging tables full of jalapeño dip and chocolate bundt cake, and K. was the only man there and was desperately ill-at-ease even though I reassured him that, since he not infrequently wears pink and reads Vogue, he should feel right at home). Both feelings could be traced to the same source: I was bubbling with curiosity about how the author of my days would be voting, and just as fearful that I wouldn’t want to know. Why, you ask? Because my father, the Sr. to my Jr., the person probably most intellectually and temperamentally like me in all the world, voted for George W. Bush.

Twice.

Now, apart from the obvious chagrin any designer-college-educated liberal such as myself might have at a family member who’d support a quasi-literate warmonger, my basic objections were just that: basic. My dad is not supposed to vote Republican. My dad is an immigrant, a scientist, a person of color, a product of public schools and the University of California (though he did go private for grad school). He should be a Democrat. I’m comfortable with the notion of him being a faintly socially conservative centrist Democrat, like a lot of the rich people I know, but he should, nonetheless, vote donkey.

I didn’t really discuss the Kerry election with him, but I remember very clearly his rationale for voting Dubya in 2000 (and the only argument that might have convinced me to vote Gore instead of Nader was the argument that it would cancel him out): character. Oh, he was concerned about the economy, and he wasn’t thrilled with how the Dems were taking care of him financially, but the crux of his argument was that the single most important factor in choosing a president was character, honesty, basic goodness and humanity, and he thought Bush edged out Gore. Yup, he had decided Bush was more pure of heart, which may have something to do with being exponentially dimmer, but the tragic part of it all was that his hierarchy of Existential Goodness went like this (first pick to last):

Bradley

McCain

Bush

Gore

–So in the race as it turned out, his vote went to the man who sent thousands upon thousands of troops to Iraq to kill and be killed, commit war crimes, and generally destroy their own humanity and that of their hapless victims. He was pretty much manifesting that old Winston Churchill chestnut about how everyone ages conservative if they know what’s good for them, and it was making me want to eat nails.

So today I was pretty worried, mostly because I think John McCain is the antichrist, which you understand is a figure of speech because I’m not a Christian. But I was sure my pop was going to be helping propel McCain to the GOP nomination, and this alarmed me because I’m pretty sure the American public is more likely to elect Craggy War Hero than it is Bug-Eyed Evangelist or Mormon “Hair Club for Men” Model. I’m really hoping Romney gets the nomination because my concept of reality won’t admit that the entire country could elect him, and that means the Dems will win. I’m afraid if McCain is the nominee, we’ll see another four or eight years of social conservatism and warmongering, and no, I am not reassured by the fact that McCain is against torture. Yeah. Is he going to go hang at Guantanamo Bay and make sure no waterboarding takes place?

So all this was present in my mind when I asked how my dad was going to vote. And just imagine my surprise when he said, “I think both your stepmother and I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.” Her I expected (my stepmother practically is Hillary Clinton, and is a staunch Democrat to boot), but he threw me for a loop. His reason? Because he thinks Clinton will be better for the economy, and he thinks she’s competent and observant, and he imagines she’ll have the sense to keep sending Bill to Africa (he loathes Bill, mostly because he sees Bill as a silver-tongued Evader of Consequences, and he’s not wrong).

So today I’m going to crack a Bud* and toast my dad, who has executed an amazing feat today: he’s articulated a preference for Hillary that has nothing to do with her gender or her spouse, something the rest of America seems to find impossible. In fact, all of my semi-young and reasonably cool ‘liberal’ friends keep citing Bill, or “the idea of Clinton dynasty in the White House,” as a reason not to vote for Hillary, and I am continually dismayed by this, because the idea that you could sincerely believe that you were a Populist Crusader by trying to Keep a Clinton Out of the White House strikes me as delusional and idiotic. And on the flip side, 56% of her supporters polled in New Hampshire said they would’ve voted for Bill if he could run again (presumable, Hill was the next best thing).

The idea that a person (woman) is necessarily so heavily influenced by her spouse as to make her independent thoughts and actions irrelevant in the face of his (witness the way people responded to this story about Bill’s Nevada exploits) is not just disrespectful and depressing, it’s indicative of an inability to see women as actors. It seems much of America suffers from this limitation. I’m wondering if maybe my dad not being among them has been an enormously freeing force in my life, one that I am only now coming to appreciate.

I’m thinking maybe it is. I’m thinking that a lot of the women I know have families who give lip service to the idea that women have brains but still embrace a lot of insidiously misogynistic ideas, and a lot of these women grow up with the nagging conviction that they can’t really do or think or be anything without a man in charge, and I’m thinking I’m damn lucky not to be one of them.

*A figure of speech; naturally, I only drink microbrewed beer (when pressed), and prefer single malts, Sapphire, and Bordeaux.