January 28th, 2008

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Hillary and black voters -- running against history.

So, Bill Clinton compared Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson's  in 1984 and 1988, where Jackson attracted lots of support from the black community...

Well, what Bill didn't mention was that in 1984 and 1988, the Republicans won the presidency, beating Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, respectively.

Now, I remember those races. All I can say is that Obama is much more popular than Jesse Jackson was across a wide spectrum of America. I can also tell you that neither Mondale or Dukakis' campaigns had the level of overt racebaiting as Hillary Clinton's campaign... and yet effect of Jesse Jackson losing the party nominations in both 1984 and 1988 led to a dramatic increase in black voter apathy in the general elections, both for Michael Dukakis and for Walter Mondale.
 
So, if Bill is right, and Obama is like Jesse Jackson, who is Hillary Clinton most like? Michael Dukakis, or Walter Mondale? 

Arguably, the best comparison is Dukakis... and from a demographic perspective, both Dukakis and Hillary Clinton appeal to the "Northeastern liberal establishment".  Arguably, the economy in 1988 was similar to today, with a huge deficit based on excessive military spending, that sparked a period of recession

The general mood in the country back in 1988 was not particularly supportive of the existing Republican president, Ronald Reagan, in the run-up to the election. In February 1987, Ronald Reagan had a 44% approval rating, his reputation damaged by the Iran-Contra Scandal. Compare that to today, in which the latest SurveyUSA poll gives George W. Bush a 39% approval rating, climbing noticeably from his lowest levels, presumably because Republicans are starting to believe that Iraq wasn't a total disaster. It's reasonable and cautious to assume that George W. Bush's approval rating may climb back into the low-to-mid 40s as the general election approaches, especially if Iraq continues to have relatively low casualties or if he gives taxpayers a financial stimulus check, just in time for the elections. This, obviously, would make winning the national elections significantly harder for the Democrats to do.

George Bush, Sr. was running for his first term as president. A veteran pilot, in many ways he ran against Reagan's record, with the goal of a "kinder, gentler America." More of the same, but with greater consideration. Compare this to John Mccain, a veteran pilot, arguably far more charismatic than Bush, Sr., running in many ways against Bush -- more of the same, with greater wisdom -- with the goal of reform, small government, and supporting the military. The biggest difference between Bush, Sr. and McCain? John McCain has an advantage, in that he will be trying to run *AS* Reagan, rather than against him.

In May 1988, in the run-up to the general election, Michael Dukakis was on the top of the world, with a 49% - 39% advantage over George Bush, Sr. according to the New York Times.  Republicans were defecting to the Democrats, with 28 percent of those who said they voted for President Reagan in 1984 indicating that they preferred Michael Dukakis over Vice President Bush. Michael Dukakis chose Lloyd Bentsen as his Vice Presidential running mate, despite the fact that polls indicated that having Jesse Jackson as a running mate would increase his share of the vote by an additional 3%.  

So, how did Michael Dukakis do on election day against a relatively uninspiring Republican leader, in the midst of a recession, after the final term of a relatively unpopular president?

    

In the end, Michael Dukakis failed to deliver the black vote, and lost the race by nearly 6 percent of the national vote. Had he received an additional 3 percent or so of the vote, the following states would've been either in his favor or too close to predict: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Vermont. It is also extremely unlikely he would've lost South Carolina by a 24% margin. 


But what about Walter Mondale, who ran with Geraldine Ferraro, the first female Vice Presidential nominee? Certainly, women voters would flock to her side, even if black voters didn't flock to Mondale, right?!



(Well, I guess not.)

My point being? Black voters matter. Without them, it's very hard to win not only the southern states, but a whole lot of other states too, where black voters oftentimes make up the very thin margin between victory and defeat.  It's not pointed out very often, but blacks often tend to be more active in helping Democratic candidates win their campaigns, doing a lot of the phonework and the footwork that white voters oftentimes look down upon.    

Despite all of Hillary Clinton's talk about how the black vote will rally around her if she wins the nomination, if history is any indicator, this is simply not very likely. In fact, the opposite is quite likely to happen, especially given the divisive nature of Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Lastly, it should also be pointed out that inspiring, unifying, charismatic leaders matter too. We don't need another Dukakis or another Mondale... and we can't afford another Clinton.  

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When will you feel that moment, Hillary?

The moment you know you've lost it, and that the world has moved on without you?

Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison, who once called Bill Clinton the "first black president", has endorsed Barack Obama today.

Here is Morrison's endorsement letter... 

Dear Senator Obama, 

This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate.  I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it.  One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril.  I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts? 

I have admired Senator Clinton for years.  Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate.  I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America.  Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s].  I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates.  That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age.  Or if we call searing vision naivete.  Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it.  Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom. 

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader?  Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed?  Someone with courage instead of mere ambition?  Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"?  Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities.  Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb. 

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us. 

Toni Morrison


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U2FU!

Paul "I want my fifteen percent!" McGuinness, longtime manager of the band U2, has called on Internet service providers to immediately introduce mandatory French-style service disconnection policies to end music downloading, and has urged governments to force ISPs to do so.

With an incendiary whine, McGuinness accused ISPs, telcos, device makers, and numerous Silicon Valley companies including Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Oracle, etc. of building "multi billion dollar industries on the back of our content without paying for it", and accused them of being "makers of burglary kits" who have made "a thieve's charter" to steal money from the music industry. 

McGuinness called on high-tech companies to not just share ad revenue with them -- presumably for streamed but not downloaded  music -- but to also collect money across the board from consumers who use their sites, products, and services.

So, the next time that loud, obnoxious music loads automatically when you visit someone's MySpace site, just remember... you're a thief, and you're gonna pay for it!

Here, Mr McGuinness is seen recieving Ireland's "Pennypinching Bastard of the Year" Award, as he tries to describe the giant sucking sound that his vision of the Internet would bring to music fans.  

The entire text of his speech has been posted to the frontpage of U2's website.