Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chris Bell for Senate update

While I was out working my precinct this afternoon for Chris Bell, a nice young man from the Bell campaign knocked on my door (spoke with Mrs. Diddie). We're leaving no stone unturned in this runoff, believe me.

One of my concerns is the lack of a nearby polling place for early voting; the nearest one to this most Democratic portion of the district is Bayland Park Community Center at 6400 Bissonnet near Hillcroft). Our usual EV location -- the Fiesta Mart on Main near OST -- is not being provided. The CCO isn't appropriate for anyone except district residents who also work on the north side of downtown. Here's a Google map of polls throughout the district:

View Larger Map

I take that as a intention to suppress Democratic turnout by geographic location, particularly since other Harris County EV polls are even farther west into the Republican territory.

No matter; we will overcome.

Bell out-polled Huffman 3-2 on election day, but a December runoff election is a daunting proposition. The Republicans have done everything in their power to suppress support for Chris Bell. They recruited, got on the ballot at the very last minute, and even funded a stalking horse, carpetbagging, pretend-to-be Democrat candidate in the November 4 general election in order to siphon off enough Democratic votes to require a runoff. The governor purposely scheduled the runoff on a Tuesday in mid-December, when it will be hardest for many Democrats to vote AND to eliminate any weekend early voting, which typically provides the greatest opportunity for Democratic, working-class voters to cast their ballots.

So it is crucial that all Democrats participate actively in this runoff election. If every single Democrat who voted in the November 4 election will return to the polls on December 16, Chris Bell will win and become the State Senator from Senate District 17. If Democrats can just turn out our core, base voters in the district, we will have one more Democrat –- and a great one at that –- representing us in the Texas Senate.

Please urge every Democrat you know in Senate District 17 to vote in this runoff election -- and be sure to do so yourself if you live in the district.

Sunday Funnies (leftover turkeys edition)

And don't miss the ten best Bush photos ...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Turkey Day

We'll be having la comida Mexicana -- enchilada casserole, guacamole, sopa de frijole negro -- to honor the illegal immigrants of Texas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving thanks for illegal aliens, Jared Woodfill, and Jim Mattox

-- Rick Casey with the wish-I'd-said-that:

This year, as we gather for the feast, I am giving thanks for illegal immigrants.

I have a particular group of illegals in mind, but I confess that my gratitude to them does color my view of most other illegals.

I refer to the liars, debtors, opportunists and criminals who flooded into Texas in the first half of the 19th century, and then wrested the land from Mexico.

Their story is told in A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States.


These immigrants not only entered illegally or violated the terms of their legal entry, but rather than keep their heads down and try to fit in, they lived in active defiance of the law.

So much so that the Mexican government in 1830 passed a law barring all new American immigrants from entering Texas.

Among the illegals violating that particular law were David Crockett, William B. Travis and Sam Houston.

For the fact that tomorrow we celebrate the particularly American holiday of Thanksgiving in Texas, we owe them and the thousands of other illegals whom they joined our enthusiastic gratitude.

I also give thanks for those illegals who have worked hard to clean up the Galveston area in the past weeks, and have shown no interest in importing slaves or overthrowing our government.

Our history shows that immigrants — even illegal ones, especially when laws are out of whack — often make things better.

-- Via blogHouston, this little slice of hilarity from Mark Bennett regarding the latest Harris County Republican e-mail scandal, this one involving Judge Larry Standley and the county chair, Jared "Butthead" Woodfill (a brouhaha two years old, but coming back into the light; go here if you need the backstory):

Woodfill, unless he’s even more clueless about Harris County politics than I am, knew about these emails, including their specific content, in October 2006. If that content justifies calling for his resignation now, it has called for it every day for the last two years.

Woodfill pitches this as the party acting, but it turns out that party leadership met recently in executive session and did not decide to act against Standley. What Woodfill is doing is trying to give the idea of ousting Standley some legs before the party has to make a decision on it.

It’s a hatchet job. Not only is it a hatchet job, but it’s a hatchet job undertaken for personal revenge. Not only is it a hatchet job undertaken for personal revenge, but it’s a hatchet job undertaken for personal revenge against one of the fairest, most just misdemeanor judges in the courthouse.

And that’s what makes Jared Woodfill today’s Asshat Lawyer of the Day.

Do go read the piece in its entirety. Without an ability to pass judgment on Standley's jurisprudence -- his regular prudence being another matter entirely -- it's just entertaining to continue observing Republicans cannibalize themselves.

-- Lastly, Elise Hu has some photos from Jim Mattox's memorial service yesterday, and this recollection from a eulogist:

(Mattox) checked out a lot available at the (Texas State) cemetery a few months ago. He joked, "Let me try it out first" -- before lying down on the grass. He decided it felt right, and that spot is where he will be buried.

And don't miss Dave McNeely's historical retrospective of Mattox's time in the political limelight.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama and Noriega

Great news if he aced the interview and gets the job, whatever it happens to be:

State Rep. Rick Noriega of Houston, the unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate who served in Afghanistan and on the Mexican border as a Texas Army National Guard officer, met with President-elect Barack Obama today as Obama worked on filling leadership positions in his administration, according to confidential sources.

Democrat Noriega, who lost the Nov. 4 election to Republican incumbent John Cornyn, declined to discuss the meeting in Chicago. Obama's transition team spokesmen also declined to comment.

The meeting appeared to be a potential first step toward consideration of Noriega, 50, for appointment to an administration position, and no specific job was mentioned, according to people close to the process who spoke on the condition of not being identified.

I'd like to see Rick Noriega in Washington in January, though I'd still wish he were replacing a Box Turtle. And who knows? Perhaps we could still see him serving us in the Senate a couple of years from now.

Give Thanks: Coulter's jaw broken, mouth wired shut

She was probably getting a drink of water when someone slammed the toilet seat down. Since the news comes from deep inside the New York Post, we're forced to take it with a few grains of salt:

WE HEAR...THAT although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reactionary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut...

It's a Christmas Miracle!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why we're bailing out Chitigroup and not the Big 3

No unions to bust.

It's also important, of course, to prop up the make-believe economy (the one that pushes paper around and talks on the phone) as opposed to the real one. You remember that economy, right? The one that actually manufactures things.

That''s what we all went to college for, right? So we could wear white-collar shirts and not blue ones, like our dads? Not get our hands dirty?

And just to put another miserable conservative talking point to bed: the reason the auto manufacturers are in trouble IS NOT because their employees get too generous a benefits package. It's because their overpaid management (GM $20 million, Honda $1 million) keeps turning out a product that no one wants to buy. There's also that little-known fact that cars built in the US have built-in health insurance costs, while cars built in countries like Japan or Germany provide health insurance to all citizens, or they're built in places like Mexico or Brazil where the workforces are non-union and don't receive any health care at all.

Which model will we move toward?

Turkey Week Wrangle

Here's the pre-Turkey Day edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round-up, to be consumed while you bake your pumpkin pies, stuff your turkey, pack your bags, or perform whatever holiday traditions occupy your time.

jobsanger notes that some racists seem to think this election gives them permission to once again publicly display their sick beliefs, in "Racist reaction to the election".

The Texas Cloverleaf discusses the upcoming study that may result in a mileage based user fee rather than a gas tax for drivers in the US.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston reports the Texas Ethics Commission fines state representative Carl Isett $25,000.

BossKitty at TruthHugger watches, with the rest of the world, America: A Spectator Sport or Soap Opera.

Off the Kuff analyzes the precinct data for Harris County and declares the coordinated effort to get out the Democratic vote there a success, and that the Democratic base was everywhere you looked.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme claims the religious right exposes its dark underbelly with opposition to Prop 8.

McBlogger takes a moment to talk about the deficit, the economy and bailing us out. Because it's, you know, important.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the issues the Texas GOP is grappling with in the aftermath of thier massive defeats in The GOP brand is tarnished in Texas.

Barnett Shale radioactive waste is a bone-seeking carcinogen when airborne and has a 1622 year half-life, writes TXsharon at Bluedaze.

Environment and education have been greatly on the mind of the Texas Kaos community this week. Front pager TxSharon gave us a heads-up on Brett Shipp's expose of the Texas Railroad Commission on Bill Moyers Journal Friday, and diarist liberaltexan kept an eye on a Faith Based Initiative: Fundamentalist Religious Attack on Science in Texas.

Neil at Texas Liberal says that Galveston was a disaster before as well as after Hurricane Ike.

Vince at Capitol Annex poses a couple of questions about Tom Craddick's Secret Police and asks exactly why former state rep. and ex-deputy parliamentarian Ron Wilson is running around the Capitol with parliamentarian Terry Keel and serving as a media escort/hatchet man for the speaker.

The Texas Blue looks at how Tom DeLay's gerrymandering of the state has actually made Texas weaker on the national level than a fair apportionment would have.

The passing of Jim Mattox prompted some reminiscences from Texas bloggers and corporate media. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs assembled a few, ahead of Monday's memorial service.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How my precinct voted

Matt Stiles provides the data link; if you live in Harris County you can enter your precinct number and see how yours performed. As precinct captain I take great pride in these results:

Registered voters: 2,940
Votes: 2,133

72.55% turnout, well above the county average.

John McCain (R): 852
Barack Obama (D): 1,235

Forty-six of my neighbors voted for Bob Barr or some write-in candidate (or did not vote at all in the race for the White House). Obama carried my precinct 59-41.

John Cornyn (R): 844
Rick Noriega (D): 1,133
Yvonne Adams Schick (L): 67

Noriega's margin of victory, 55.4%-41.3, almost precisely matches the statewide result in reverse (Cornyn carried Texas 54.82 - 42.83, with 2.34% for Libertarian Schick).

Pat Lykos (R): 894
C.O. "Brad" Bradford (D): 1,031

Bradford won 53.55 - 46.45 while losing the county (and the contest) 50.21 - 49.79.

Ed Emmett (R): 987
David Mincberg (D): 967

Ah, the ticket-splitters are revealed.

Mike Stafford (R): 837
Vince Ryan (D): 1,064

Theresa Chang (R): 864
Loren Jackson (D): 1,025

Tommy Thomas (R): 783
Adrian Garcia (D): 1,159

The sheriff-elect got 59.68 % to the incumbent's 40.32, a little better than his overall countywide margin.

Paul Bettencourt (R): 944
Diane Trautman (D): 949
Jeffrey McGee (L): 73

The only real disappointment among my precinct's results.

It would be interesting to know what the straight-party votes were, as well as the outcome in the SD-17 contest. But I need to stay busy for the next month getting Chris Bell into the Texas Senate.

Sunday Funnies

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jim Mattox, 1943-2008

Former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, known as the junkyard dog of Texas politics who also served in Congress and battled Ann Richards in a vicious primary campaign for governor, has died. He was 65.

Mattox, a bare-knuckled political brawler while the state was still fiercely Democratic, died at his Dripping Springs home, his sister, Janice Mattox, said Thursday. She did not know the cause of death.

(Above: Jim Mattox with David Van Os, at the 2006 Texas Democratic Party convention.)

Mattox was remembered for his advocacy of the everyday Texan, a reputation that earned him the nickname the "people's lawyer."

Chuck McDonald, a spokesman for Richards during the infamous 1990 Democratic primary, portrayed Mattox as a populist who knew how to fight.

"Jim was the original maverick. He prided himself on being the voice of the little guy and took on every big money interest group he could find," McDonald said. "As a political rival, he was as tough as they came. He never backed down from a fight and he made all the candidates stronger."

Vince wrote the definitive eulogy.

Here's Mattox speaking at Hillary Clinton's HQ in Austin:

Here's the text of a conversation overheard in Denver at the DNC between Mattox and the late Fred Baron, from August of this year (just weeks before Baron himself passed away).

And Rick Dunham has a fine slideshow of some historical photos of Mattox.

Update: Former Attorney General Jim Mattox will lie in state in the Texas House chamber, Monday, November 24th from 10 AM 3PM to 7 PM. The family will be present from 5-7.

Funeral services will be held at 11 AM, Tuesday, November 25th at the First Baptist Church, 901 Trinity Street in downtown Austin. Burial will follow at the Texas State Cemetery.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Texas State Bored of Education

A trite headline, true. I'm just so sorry that it fits:

The move heads off unintended consequences of new math and science requirements but others say the decision runs counter to spirit of state's "no pass, no play" policy.

Sometimes the State Board of Education’s bad policy choices – and by “bad,” we mean votes inconsistent with two decades of education reform in this state – aren’t always the fault of the State Board of Education.

Such was the case this afternoon, as the SBOE’s committee of the whole passed a jaw-dropping measure to elevate athletics to the same stature as curricular courses in the high school catalog and allow students the option to begin substituting athletic classes for virtually all academic elective course requirements.

State law forced the board to the vote. The combination of the 26 credits for the distinguished academic diploma and the impending 4x4 math and science requirements make it impossible for a student athlete to play four years of sports.

To meet new standards, the highest-achieving student athlete – or lowest-achieving, if it means TAKS remediation courses – must quit athletics to pick up the required two academic elective credits to meet diploma requirements.

But hey, it's not their fault they had to lower academic standards; state law made them do it.

Oh well. If you weren't bothered by the fact that the SBOE is packed full of religious extremists who don't believe in evolution, then this probably won't bother you either.

International pariah

No one offers their hand. He doesn't offer his. He knows, after all, what an outcast he is.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Box Turtle's new chewtoy

Our freshly re-elected junior senator gets to be the boy that gets more Republican senators elected. In the glorious words of Bobby Knight: "He couldn't lead a hooker to bed":

In his new role, Cornyn will have to oversee a coming election cycle in which Republicans could stand to weather further losses. Among GOPers whose 2010 races are shaping up as potential nailbiters are Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky, and Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

The GOP in fact stands to lose even more seats in 2010 than they did this year. Kagro X:

The title says "National," but the party's increasingly regional. The hard-right rump of what used to be a national base. And the GOP's cure? A hard-right Texan, who is, rather fortuitously, a bit of a rump himself.

But really, what choice have they got? You choose your leaders from the Senators you have, not the Senators you might want, or might wish to have at a later time.

Now, my humble O is that these jobs are a little overblown. After all Chuck Schumer, who does the same thing for our side at the DSCC, did nothing that I could observe to recruit Barbara Radnofsky in 2006 or Rick Noriega in 2008, and even less to help them. Recall that Mikal Watts raised over a million bucks last year for Schumer (that he must have spent somewhere else besides in Texas, obviously).

Will Corndog be the referee that separates the scrum that develops if Kay Bailey resigns her seat to run for Guvnah in 2010? She doesn't have to step aside, so it may not be necessary to even do that unless she won, and then called a special election for 2011 to replace herself.

And what does Corndog think he can do to stanch the GOP bleeding? Raise more money? Recruit better Republicans in other states to run?

Good luck with that, buddy.

Countdown to 60 in the Senate

Mark Begich makes it 58 (counting Bernie Sanders and Joe the Plumber):

Sen. Ted Stevens' election defeat marks the end of an era in which he held a commanding place in Alaska politics while wielding power on some of the most influential committees in Congress.

It also moves Senate Democrats within two seats of a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority and gives President-elect Barack Obama a stronger hand when he assumes office on Jan. 20.

On the day the longest-serving Republican in Senate history turned 85, he was ousted by Alaska voters troubled by his conviction on federal felony charges and eager for a new direction in Washington, where Stevens served since Lyndon B. Johnson was president.

Alaska voters "wanted to see change," said Democrat Mark Begich, who claimed a narrow victory Tuesday after a tally of remaining ballots showed him holding a 3,724-vote edge.

"Alaska has been in the midst of a generational shift — you could see it," said Begich, the Anchorage mayor.

Courtesy of historian Carl Whitmarsh, we have more on the Alaskan Senator-elect:

[Begich] is the son of the late US Rep. Nicholas Begich, who was killed in a plane crash while campaigning for re-election in October 1972 with then-House Whip Hale Boggs of Louisiana (father of ABC's Cokie Roberts and lobbyist Tommy Boggs), whose wife Lindy succeeded him in Congress and served New Orleans for some 26 years. The elder Begich and Boggs were presumed killed when their plane disappeared in the mountains of Alaska and they were declared dead in December after no wreckage or bodies could be found. Mark Begich was 8 years old at the time of his father's death.

So a recount in Minnesota and a runoff in Georgia are the last remaining Republican roadblocks to a super-majority. The links detail the circumstances; Al Franken needs rejected absentee ballots examined for various technicalities (including undervotes that the state's optical scanners may have missed) to overcome Norm Coleman's 200+ vote lead, while Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin call up Libertarians and call on the heavy hitters (John McCain, Bill Clinton, Al Gore) to campaign for them.

A win in either race matches my prediction *buffs manicure*, and I'll go a little farther out on the limb and say that Franken pulls off the upset but Chambliss beats back the challenge, which would perfectly align with my October 28 prognostication.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

December 16 is Election Day for SD-17

QR's Daily Buzz:

Word out of the Governor's office late (yesterday) afternoon has Rick Perry setting Dec. 16 as the date for the runoff election between Democrat Chris Bell and Republican Joan Huffman to fill the unexpired term of retired Sen. Kyle Janek (R-Houston).

Early voting will run from Dec. 8 through Dec. 12 ...

That's four weeks from today, three weeks until the abbreviated early voting period. Another month-long sprint to the finish line to get one more good D into the Texas Senate.

Texas educators: teach evolution only

Yesterday's Texas Freedom Network conference call included Dr. Eve and these results of his survey, as Gary Scharrer reports ...

The verdict from Texas scientists is nearly unanimous: 98 percent favor the unadulterated teaching of evolution in public school classrooms, according to a report released Monday as the State Board of Education prepares to weigh in on the controversy.

A vast majority of the scientists say students would be harmed if the state requires the teaching of the "weaknesses" of evolution, according to the survey conducted for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, an organization that works on issues involving religious freedom, civil liberties and public education.

"With 94 percent of Texas faculty ... telling me it (teaching the weaknesses) shouldn't be there, I tend to believe them," said Raymond Eve, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Arlington who did the study.

More than 450 biology or biological anthropology professors at 50 Texas colleges and universities participated in a 59-question survey. Many of those faculty members help determine admission of students into Texas' colleges and universities, Eve said.

"Their responses should send parents a clear message that those who want to play politics with science education are putting our kids at risk," he said.

So if the college and university professors are all but unanimous, where is the disconnect?

Why, it's at the high school level (including the private schools and the home-schoolers IMHO, although those obviously fall outside the purview of the public education system).

The handling of evolution is the most contentious part in the state's rewrite of the science curriculum standards for public schools. The State Board will have a public hearing on Wednesday and vote on the new science standards early next year. The new guidelines are formally known as the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, or TEKS.

Social conservatives on the 15-member State Board of Education are likely to push for those standards to include a requirement that high school science teachers teach the weaknesses of evolution.

"There's no one on this board that is trying to inject intelligent design or creationism," said board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont. "They are trying to whip up into a frenzy over something that is not going to happen. But by trying to remove strengths and weaknesses, yes, they will get a fight."

Unfortunately we failed to knock Dominionist David Bradey off the SBOE. Here's another example of what we're up against:

Public school students should be exposed to all sides of the evolution debate, said Casey Luskin, a spokesman for the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank that advocates the teaching of evidence for and against evolution in public schools.

"It's a facade to pretend that there are no scientific weaknesses of evolution, and not teaching the scientific weaknesses to students will prevent them from learning about the facts of biology, and it will harm their critical thinking skills," Luskin said.

He downplayed the survey of Texas scientists.

"This self-selecting survey shows just how ideological the Darwinists have become because they are now resorting to scientific votes to reinforce a climate of intimidation that shuts down scientific criticism of evolution," Luskin said.

Ah, science goes up against the teachings of Jesus. "Scientific criticism" of evolution such as the belief that the planet Earth is less than 10,000 years old. Because that's what the Bible says.

And Texas high school teachers can teach anything they want once the door to their classroom closes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Weekly Wrangle

Here's this week's Texas Progressive Alliance blog post round-up.

Barfly at McBlogger takes a moment to remind all of us that we better not fu*k with Barbie.

Ruth Jones McClendon gets the Speaker's race dangerously wrong says CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at the race for Speaker of the Texas House and provides answers to two important questions: is a secret ballot legal and will a secret ballot doom Tom Craddick?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the SDEC yesterday

A report by the famous -- or is it infamous -- Open Source Dem:

The purpose, if any, of the initial meeting of the SDEC was to initiate newly-elected members into the peculiar ways of the TDP. The most notable aspect of the meeting was that which was not mentioned:

There was no mention of Barack Obama’s campaign or election.

There was no mention of registration or turnout differentials on statewide and local races.

There was no mention of the lawsuit newly filed in Harris County over voter-registration issues.

The SDEC itself was described as the “legislative” arm of the party. Members were told they were “conduits”; money up and message down. They were warned against tinkering with the rules or questioning received wisdom as to interpretation of statutes.

Some notable success in local elections was attributed exclusively to providential intervention of the late Fred Baron, his anointed prophet, Matt Angle, and their worshipful apostles in Austin. Since this divine guidance is already perfect, there will evidently be no need to consider lessons learned from success or failure, for instance, of 3.7 $MM in campaign expenditure (a) including no GOTV outlay, as directed by the previous SDEC, (b) disclosed only after the fact, and (c) mostly squandered on media in losing races.

So how'd we do?

Greg took issue with my contention -- I expected to disagree with him -- but the better and still-contradictory analysis is at Trail Blazers and the Texas Observer. First, from Robert T. Garret at the DMN:

Hey, let's start an argument. Did the Democrats' big push in Harris County succeed this year? It all depends on your expectation.

Mine were very high, especially at the end of Election Day, as I sat in the Harris County CCO with Beverly Kaufman and crew and watched the EV returns being tallied.

The bottom line:

If you're a Democrat who thought this year's effort was going to be like the old eyedrops Murine -- and take the red out of Houston -- maybe you should be seeing red.

But if you're a Democrat who was just looking for progress in Harris County -- which until Nov. 4 hadn't voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964; and in a countywide race, since 1994 -- you could be smiling.

And this take from Matt Angle (a fellow I have disagreed with repeatedly) nails it ...

Democrats won the straight ticket vote by over 40K while losing it by over 40K just 4 years ago.

None of this was an accident or good luck. Democrats worked together, devised a smart and realistic strategic plan and stuck to it. They raised money and spent it strategically, using sophisticated targeting and clear messages. They did not count on an Obama wave but were able to take advantage of the enthusiasm for Obama. They made a clear, strong case that Republican leadership in Harris County had failed.

Harris County Republicans were not caught off guard. They raised and spent more than Democrats. They simply got outworked and outmanuevered.

Harris County has moved from being a Republican County to one where Democrats have a marginal advantage. It will take continued work and commitment by local Dems to grow and lock in this advantage.

And this, from Dave Mann (third entry from the top), is also dead solid perfect:

Lower-than-expected turnout—especially on Election Day—scuttled Democratic hopes for a sweep. The Harris County Democratic Party hoped that 1.3 million voters would cast ballots. And during the early voting period, when more than 726,000 people voted, Democrats seemed well on their way to hitting their turnout targets. Most Democratic candidates led their races in the early voter totals.

But the plan fell apart on Election Day. Not even 450,000 voters turned out on November 4, roughly 200,000 fewer than expected. The GOP dominated among those voters. It was the scenario feared by some Democratic activists, who had worried that the Harris County coordinated campaign wasn’t devoting enough resources to get-out-the-vote efforts. They had few paid organizers focused on ushering voters to the polls.

Harris County is majority Democratic—at least on paper—if only they all voted, says Fred Lewis, who worked on Democratic campaign efforts in Houston. Democrats don’t need to persuade people with advertising. They have enough potential voters. The problem has been low turnout. And it still is.

Mann, like Wythe, doesn't blame any demographic or geographic for it, but there's going to be some devils in those details. And there's always a little room for finger-pointing and recriminations.

Sunday Funnies

Hatin' the player

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been "hundreds" of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

Yeah, it's a sick sad world, blahblahblah.

Other incidents include:

—Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

—At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."

—Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

—Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.

—University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

—Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

—Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

—A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

—In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Emotions are often raw after a hard-fought political campaign, but now those on the losing side have an easy target for their anger.

"The principle is very simple," said BJ Gallagher, a sociologist and co-author of the diversity book "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins." "If I can't hurt the person I'm angry at, then I'll vent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race."

"We saw the same thing happen after the 9-11 attacks, as a wave of anti-Muslim violence swept the country. We saw it happen after the Rodney King verdict, when Los Angeles blacks erupted in rage at the injustice perpetrated by 'the white man.'"

"It's as stupid and ineffectual as kicking your dog when you've had a bad day at the office," Gallagher said. "But it happens a lot."

These people are simply misfits in the 21st century. Yes, there's more of it in particular geographic regions of the country, and in certain areas within each state. Look at the counties in East Texas, for example, that have historically voted Democratic that were blood red this year. I think that it's wrong to characterize it as a "Southern problem", however.

I tend to give them some leeway if they are geriatric, somewhat less so if confined by their religion or lack of education no matter their age. But young, intelligent people indoctrinated by conservative elders get no pass with me.

Waiting for the enlightenment of others -- particularly the others who are entirely capable of knowing better -- is a game I will not play any longer.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Playing ketchup

I passed attending today's SDEC post-election confab in Austin today. With a sick spouse (recuperating), and after two consecutive 9-hour days in a hotel conference room with a sixty-minute commute at rush hour on either end, the last thing I wanted to do today was drive 2 1/2 hours to sit in a hotel conference room for four to six hours. And then drive back tonight. But I'll get some reports that I will likely blog about.

Meanwhile at last night's Chris Bell organizing event for SD-17, I had a couple of interesting conversations about the election last week.

After sleeping on it, I'm convinced the evidence in Harris County -- the granular precinct and statehouse district analysis -- will reveal a few discomfiting things about how we voted last week.

In fact I would submit (and for the record, I have not seen the data; I'm positing the following based on what little I do know) that African-American Democrats voted for Hispanics on the ballot, but Hispanic Democrats may not have returned the favor to black Dems. More telling, "what's in a name" had as much to do with who won and lost as party label, the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on teevee advertising, or anything else. And that naturally would not be due strictly to just Democrats and their biases.

We already know that Hispanic neighborhoods in the county voted at a 40-45% clip, and African-American ones were 60-65% and higher. And we also know that a cursory glance past the presidential results reveals that Adrian Garcia tallied the most Democratic votes in Harris County, and that Rick Noriega and Linda Yanez also ran ahead of John Cornyn and Phil Johnson here. Further down the ballot, Democratic judicials won most of the contests, but a look at those races that Democrats lost is where the brutal truth may lie.

The defeated Democratic courthouse hopefuls were named Goodwille Pierre, Mekisha Murray (she's Caucasian, FWIW), Andres Pereira, and Ashish Mahendru. And Alexandra Smoots-Hogan (an African-American married to a Caucasian) and Josefina Rendon (Latina, obviously) had very narrow victories.

The evidence accumulates that Latinos delivered the White House to Obama by virtue of their turnout and votes in states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida -- where the Cubans' changing of the of the generational guard is lumped in with the "Latino rise", much to Cuban chagrin. And the perhaps-contradictory evidence that Harris County defies the national trend placing Texas slightly outside the mainstream of the political currents is still to be determined by the precinct analysis left to others better than me, like Kuffner.

So maybe we Democrats were a little bigoted about our votes last week, and maybe not so much. Maybe it was a little tilted in one direction than another, maybe it wasn't.

And maybe it's just me stirring the pot a little. Especially if you overlook all the Democrats in California and other states that denied gays the right to marry last week. That wasn't racial either.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bettencourt sued over provisional ballots *update*

Final Update: Alas, the results don't change. But the TDP will press forward on Bettencourt's shady actions...

(Wednesday morning at 10 a.m.), at the federal district court hearing regarding the disposition of provisional ballots in Harris County, tax assessor/collector Paul Bettencourt’s attorneys told the court that his office had processed all of the provisional ballots by 7:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. Additionally, Bettencourt informed the media that he had actually finished the ballot process the afternoon before the hearing. However, the Harris County Ballot Board received additional ballots as late as 4:00 p.m. after the hearing, in direct conflict with what Bettencourt’s attorney told U.S. district judge Gray Miller.

"For some time now, Paul Bettencourt’s unusual effort to reject legitimate voter registration applications has raised public concerns, but misleading a court of law for partisan purposes would be beneath contempt," said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie. "Whether Paul Bettencourt is incompetent or indifferent, neither is a legitimate excuse."

Furthermore, we have received reports that Bettencourt had a private meeting with Harris County Republican Party chair Jared Woodfill the Wednesday after Election Day, after which Bettencourt’s processing of provisional ballots slowed to a near halt, despite a state law that requires complete processing of provisional ballots by the Friday after Election Day. Then yesterday, at least two witnesses observed Woodfill and an unidentified Anglo male in a private meeting with the Republican ballot board chairman, Jim Harding, between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., just hours after the District Court assumed jurisdiction of the matter. Additionally, we have received reports Bettencourt personally called Harding and berated him regarding his comments in today’s Houston Chronicle.

In response to these reports, the Texas Democratic Party General Counsel has sent a letter to Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill asking him to report his actions to Judge Miller.

Further developments in future postings. More at Off the Kuff.

: Bettencourt got his job done, so the court action scheduled for this morning was rendered moot. But the implications on two judicial races hang in the balance, with the last votes being counted even as I post this:

In a miniature version of the 2000 Florida vote drama, election officials prepared to work late tonight toward counting the last leftover votes that could switch outcomes in two Harris County judicial elections.

The tedious work lurched forward when county voter registrar Paul Bettencourt delivered his reports on about 7,000 ballots that were cast by people not listed on the Election Day voter rolls. Some of those residents had been omitted from registration records by mistake, and their votes will be added to last week's totals.

Bettencourt's move led Democratic Party officials to drop their request today for a judge to order him to complete the tallies and open his staff's work to monitors. However, Democrats said they will press ahead next year with the part of their lawsuit that accuses Bettencourt, a Republican, of illegally rejecting voter registration applications.

He sent his work on the 7,000 or so provisional ballots to a bipartisan ballot board that will decide which ones will be added to the Nov. 4 vote total. About 1,400 of the 7,000 are expected to qualify for addition to elections for countywide offices, election officials said, in addition to about 400 ballots sent by overseas voters.

If those ballots contain votes on judicial elections, they could reverse the outcome in two contests where fewer than 600 votes separated the winners and losers as of last week. ...

Democratic candidate Goodwille Pierre, who trailed Republican state District Judge Joseph "Tad" Halbach by fewer than 600 votes, said he had faith the new totals will make him a new judge.

"I believe it will definitely show that we are ahead," he said.

In the other closest race, Republican state District Judge Elizabeth Ray trailed Democratic challenger Josefina Muniz Rendon by 135 votes.

After a court hearing today on the Democrats' lawsuit, their lawyer, Chad Dunn, implied that Bettencourt had dragged his feet on processing the provisional ballots as the deadline for counting them neared.

"We are disappointed ... that it took a lawsuit to get Mr. Bettencourt to do his job," he said. "The Texas Democratic Party will consistently stand up for the voters' right to cast a ballot and have it be counted."

Alan Bernsten's report from last night is in full below. I won't comment on it for now except to note that I don't expect to be a party to this myself, but know some who will:

Texas Democratic Party officials are asking a federal judge in Houston to block what they call illegal moves by Harris County voter registrar Paul Bettencourt as the last few votes are added to the totals from the Nov. 4 election.

U.S. District Judge Gray Miller was scheduled to consider the complaint against Republican Bettencourt at 10 a.m. today.

Bettencourt, who was re-elected last week as county tax assessor-collector, denied the allegations in general Tuesday. He said he had to withhold specific comments until he read the lawsuit and consulted with outgoing County Attorney Mike Stafford.

With two judicial races in potential limbo because they were decided by a few hundred votes, the lawsuit focuses on about 7,000 ballots that were cast before and during Election Day but have yet to be verified as ballots that can be added to the totals.

Called "provisional ballots," they were cast by voters whose names were not properly listed on voter rolls but who signed affidavits saying they nevertheless had properly registered.

A few hundred by-mail ballots sent by overseas voters also have been processed since the election. Those ballots could have been counted under state law if they arrived by Sunday.

No results from the overseas and accepted provisional ballots have been made public yet. The mailed ballots generally favor Republican candidates while the provisionals are expected to favor Democratic candidates, according to several political experts.

Since last week's election, Bettencourt's voter registration staff has been checking those provisional ballots against records and reported on each one to a ballot board, whose members are appointed by political parties. Technically, the board decides which votes will be added to the totals before the election results are made official by Commissioners Court, which is scheduled to accept the results Monday.

But, the Democratic officials said in the lawsuit, Bettencourt is providing incorrect information to the board, delaying the counting, refusing to let in observers and has illegally denied voter registrations.

The list of Democratic plaintiffs includes lawyer Goodwille Pierre, who trailed Republican state District Judge Joseph "Tad" Halbach by fewer than 600 votes in the election. In another civil court race, Republican Judge Elizabeth Ray trailed Democratic challenger Josefina Muniz Rendon by fewer than 200 votes.

About 1 million votes were cast in each of the two judicial races in which the opponents are currently separated by less than 1,000 votes.

Bettencourt said his staff would be done with the 7,000 or so ballots by late Tuesday — proof, he said, that he was not keeping the ballot board from making decisions by today, the flexible counting deadline suggested by state law.

Bettencourt said he gave a Democratic representative, Collyn Peddie, a tour of his provisional ballot processing system last week but refused on the advice of the Secretary of State's Office to allow anyone to serve as a monitor.

In an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, Peddie cast doubt on Bettencourt's system based on her one-hour presence. She said she saw provisional ballots "set aside" despite notes showing they had been cast by voters who had registered to vote at state Department of Public Safety offices.

The suit charges that Bettencourt may also be improperly blocking votes only because voters had listed commercial, rather than residential addresses and had not been given a chance to explain any discrepancy.

Bettencourt acknowledged to the Chronicle in July that a few voters' registrations had been delayed because they lived in new dwellings previously listed on property rolls as non-residential.

Obama ballin'

Instead of shirts and skins, it was "That One" vs. "This One":

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oh, PLEASE nominate the hillbilly diva in 2012 (and more bloggerhea)

That would be perfect.

I think what we're seeing here on our media today is someone who really, really wants to be your nominee, and is trying to keep her profile high for the next four years. Truly hilarious and pathetic at the same time. I just have to hope that the GOP will fall for the ruse.

-- Try to pace yourselves, player haters. It's going to be a long eight years. Trust me on this.

-- Who, or what, is killing the blogopshere?

Blogging seems to have entered its midlife crisis, with much existential gnashing-of-teeth about the state and fate of a literary form that once seemed new and fresh and now seems familiar and tired. And there's good reason for the teeth-gnashing. While there continue to be many blogs, including a lot of very good ones, it seems to me that one would be hard pressed to make the case that there's still a "blogosphere." That vast, free-wheeling, and surprisingly intimate forum where individual writers shared their observations, thoughts, and arguments outside the bounds of the traditional media is gone. Almost all of the popular blogs today are commercial ventures with teams of writers, aggressive ad-sales operations, bloated sites, and strategies of self-linking. Some are good, some are boring, but to argue that they're part of a "blogosphere" that is distinguishable from the "mainstream media" seems more and more like an act of nostalgia, if not self-delusion.

That paragraph opens Nicolas Carr's somewhat disconcerting opinion that a "corporate shakeout" of sorts is coming ... or perhaps has already arrived.

Bart seems a little bitter:

Kos the multi-gazillionaire makes so much money he's killing all of us. When people go to advertise on the web, most of that money goes to Kos.

He's the Wal-Mart of the Internet, killing the mom and pop bloggers.

Even Hillary stupidly spent her money there - nobody hates her more than Kos.

I don't know if this is a big deal or not -- or if it's any deal at all. Markos has certainly gotten awfully rich from blogging, something that is conspicuously not happening to anybody else. There is some stratification occurring but that might be just plain old capitalism and a maturing blogging "industry". The big boys like Kos and the second tier are certainly separating from the riff-raff (like me) through the self-linking strategy described in the link, but again that may just be part of the maturation cycle. I -- and most of the rest of us blogging in our parents' basement in our Cheeto-stained underwear -- don't do this for the money, after all. It'd be nice, but it's probably not going to happen at this point. And there are few new bloggers popping up as well (maybe that's not a bad thing either). But it used to be said that if you wrote well and often that people would find you.

I don't think that is altogether true any longer. What do you think?

Veterans Day 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Best-of-election-2008 Wrangle

Time for another Texas Progressive Alliance weekly blog round-up -- with a twist. In this edition, TPA member blogs bring you some of their best posts from the past year of election coverage. Enjoy this trip down memory lane, courtesy of the TPA.

Muse enjoyed all things Hillary leading up to the March 4th Texas Primary. There was the Hillary endorsement post that made her mom cry. A high point was the event where Muse fulfilled her lifelong dream to touch Bill Clinton. (Little did she know there would be a more up close and personal opportunity.) She got to see Hillary four times in person, including this event. Even her hybrid got in the act: Prius Owners for Hillary!

BossKitty at TruthHugger is angry that Sarah Palin's nasty rhetoric has ignited hateful fallout; she let the white Supremacist Genie Out Of The Bottle, Thanks Sarah. There are still 'stone aged' creatures marching around calling themselves Christians, wearing NAZI paraphernalia! Woe be to anyone who would harm the first family of America! On a more personal note, BossKitty has ideas about what to do when you lose your job ... but, the most daunting agenda on our plate is that our New America Must Reduce Its Seven Deadly Sins if we want to survive as a nation.

Brains and Eggs had the good, the bad, the ugly, and some TBD in a series of election postmortems, and then a little more of each. PDiddie wrapped last week with the finger-pointing and recriminations that marked the last throes of the McCain-Palin campaign, which included a luxury undergarment update.

It's been a tumultuous week for everyone, but at McBlogger it was remarkably calm. We're chalking it up to a change in prescription medications. First up was Donna Keel attacking Austin Interfaith. Then there was an attack on Diana Maldonado by her parish priest and for us that was enough religion for all week. The funniest thing we saw was a commercial shot by former celebrities going after Al Franken that made us want to move to Minnesota and vote for him. There was also some funny about people upset that they weren't getting help from the Federal Government, even though they didn't need it. Wrapping everything up was our final farewell to those who loved them some Austin Proposition 2.

Justin at AAA-Fund Blog covered the presidential prima-caucus in Texas including Clinton’s sweep of Asian American surrogates and both candidates' Asian American outreach . Justin also scolded Hubert Vo, evaluated Rick Noriega’s immigration plan, and was amazed that both Barack Obama and Sherrie Matula were "That Ones."

Off the Kuff has some early observations about what happened on Election Day, plus a look at turnout figures and statewide trends.

At Texas Kaos, the bitter and the sweet mix together as we look back on an amazing rollercoaster of an election season. While it looked like there was a contest for the U.S. Senate nomination, Boadicea put together Rick's answers for Democracy for Texas to paint a picture of the candidate: This is Rick Noriega-Texas Progressive Leader. Covering the snark beat, our friend from the Soggy North, Fake Consultant, gave some pointers to a hockey mom thrust onto the national stage in On Dressing for Success, Part One, or How Much is Armani, Anyway? and followed up with more helpful tips in On Dressing for Success, Part Two, Or We Costume Palin… for 2/3 off! Lightseeker took a reasoned and sober look at a more serious element this election: Respecting Life, Making Hard Choices and finally makes the point that the Nov 4 vote was not an ending, but a beginning, Looking Now, Looking Forward.

Ah the memories, at The Texas Cloverleaf during the 2008 election season. The candidates would make their case on WWE Monday Night Raw. We learned that McCain would lose early on, with our own Congressman Michael Burgess advising him on healthcare. We wished Governor Palin well on her first Grandparents Day. We learned Texas Republicans can't figure out education, much less spell it correctly. But we finally came out on top with Barack Obama, and some mixed Texas results. Here's to a classic 2008!

Vince Leibowitz of Capitol Annex focused a considerable amount of energy this cycle covering Texas Democrats' attempts to retake the Texas House of Representatives. From racist mailers and decitful TV ads in Dallas and Houston area House districts to the battle to unseat Texas' most ethically compromised legislator, down to catching Republicans telling blatant lies, this was a busy cycle in Texas. In the primary, he was one of a few Texas bloggers who supported Senator Hillary Clinton, and offered her this open letter when she left the race.

Neil at Texas Liberal offers up his post on early voting in downtown Houston. The post tells which Democrats Neil enjoyed voting for and also has colorful pictures that will please the eye.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme debunks 10 Republican excuses.

In the 2008 primary and election, Jobsanger continued his penchant for supporting losing candidates by backing Bill Richardson, Rick Noriega, Sherrie Matula and Nancy Moffatt, before finally breaking through with a winner in Barack Obama.

What a long strange journey it has been for the Easter Lemming. Gary has started pushing for a poll-workers union after working the primary and then another election this Spring. He found out people read blogs about as much as newspapers! Guess who the Easter Lemming supported? And finally, he ended too tired to party but not too tired to blog with a special mention that MoveOn.Org is bigger and more important than the NRA in politics now.

Hope you caught the Texas Blue on Election Day -- we did a "heckuva job" picking out the states that would and wouldn't matter for an Obama victory on Election Day. We also ran down the biggest federal, statewide and local results in our Election Day '08 executive summary, checked out how the fight for the Democrats' 75th seat in the Texas House is looking, and did some deconstruction of why the Republicans were never going to win the presidential election, Sarah Palin or no Sarah Palin.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Additional Funnies

All-GOP Texas will lose clout in DC

That's what we get for sending a bunch of minority party hacks back to Washington when the rest of the nation is trending blue:

From some Texans' point of view, Tuesday's election bought the Lone Star State a one-way ticket to the political wilderness.

A Democrat from Illinois won the presidency without Texas' help, potentially diminishing the state's leverage after it had provided two of the last three chief executives. Added to that, the state's voters reaffirmed the GOP's domination of their sizable congressional delegation — sending 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats to the House — while the Democrats strengthened their overall hold on Congress.

The upcoming departures of President Bush, the White House staff and several thousand presidential appointees are expected to cut dramatically the number of Texans working in the top echelons of government. Sensitivity to all-issues-Texas could ease. The White House and Cabinet's response to state-level crises could be slower.

"It's just going to be harder for Texas to look to Washington for a bailout next time," says Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist.

Obama took money out of Texas and spent it in places like Nevada and Virginia for TV advertising and GOTV, but more critically he sapped manpower and shipped it to New Mexico and other states. It's been a history of recent Democratic presidential nominees to use Texas as an ATM but the Obama campaign also vacuumed up the cheap (as in volunteer) labor.

But this post is about what Texans did to themselves, particularly in the rural counties of the state, who voted to send all the Republicans back to the Congress and the Texas Supreme Court. (And the Houston suburban Republicans sent a crazy one to replace poor old Nick Lampson.)

Adds Republican Pete Olson, a former Senate staffer who defeated Democrat Rep. Nick Lampson in a Houston-area district, "We're just going to have to work harder to be unified and look for opportunities to stand together."

In addition, the Republicans in the delegation must look elsewhere in Congress for help.

"My advice to Republicans in the Texas delegation in the House is to make friends with your Senate delegation," says Christopher Deering, a political scientist at George Washington University.

Texas is, in short, the last remaining power base for a withered GOP buried deep in the minority in the nation's halls of power. I expect them to do what they do best: obstruct, obfuscate, and prevaricate. Whatever New Conservatism arises from the focus groups and conference calls held going forward for the battered conservatives, Texas -- more so than Utah or Alabama or anywhere else -- will have a strong hand in the mix. They'll be influenced by their state party apparatus, whose chair also has higher ambitions -- which means they will be dominated by extremists, such as those 23-percenters who believe Obama is Muslim.

Pridefully ignorant, powerfully dishonest, xenophobic to uncharted extremes. Clinging tighter to their guns and Bibles than a pair of rednecks double-teaming a table vise.

The urban areas -- Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso (notably not Fort Worth) -- and a swath in the Rio Grande Valley as well as my old stomping grounds of Jefferson County are thankfully blue oases in the sea of crimson, but nowhere else in Texas outside of those areas considered "votin' for the ni@@er", unlike say, Western Pennsylvania.

We have another uphill climb ahead electing a statewide Democrat in 2010. And no, neither Bill White nor Kinky Friedman honestly qualify as real Democrats.

As the proud signature at the top of this blog says, Texas remains icy even as the rest of the country enjoys the warm sunshine of Obama and strong Democratic majorities. We just have to keep fighting 'em on the ice.

Update: One area of significant concern for the Houston area would be the future of NASA. Sending a freshman Republican -- under investigation for his own personal voter fraud -- to represent the interests of the massive government project was an epic fail on the part of Clear Lake voters.

Sunday Funnies (one, not so much)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

New dealer shuffles the race card

Shortly after leaving the voting booth, 70-year-old community activist Donald E. Robinson had a thought: "Why do I have to be listed as African-American? Why can't I just be American?"

The answer used to be simple: because a race-obsessed society made the decision for him. But after Barack Obama's mind-bending presidential victory, there are rumblings of change in the nature of black identity and the path to economic equality for black Americans.

Before Tuesday, black identity and community were largely rooted in the shared experience of the struggle — real or perceived — against a hostile white majority. Even as late as Election Day, many blacks still harbored deep doubts about whether whites would vote for Obama.

Obama's overwhelming triumph cast America in a different light. There was no sign of the "Bradley Effect," when whites mislead pollsters about their intent to vote for black candidates. Nationwide, Obama collected 44 percent of the white vote, more than John Kerry, Al Gore or even Bill Clinton, exit polls show.

In Ohio, domain of the fabled working-class white swing voter, where journalists unearthed multitudes of racist quotes during the campaign, 46 percent of white voters backed Obama's bid to become the first black president, more than the three previous Democratic candidates.

Remember "we're votin'for the ni@@er"?

Obama did not define himself as a black candidate. So Robinson now feels free to define himself as something more than a black community activist.

"We've taken that next step. It's moving toward what we call universal brotherhood and sisterhood," Robinson said after voting for Obama in his northwest Washington, D.C., neighborhood. "We shouldn't be split and have all these divisions. That's why I say it's a bright day."

L. Douglas Wilder, the first black person to be elected governor of Virginia, shares Robinson's sense of American identity. "But I can tell you, when you say that, people take umbrage," Wilder said. "They believe that you are dissing them, putting blacks down. I don't have to tell you what I am, you can look at me and see that I'm not white. So what difference does it make?"

It took Obama's election, however, to make that idea real.

"It's immediately transformative," Wilder said. "It immediately changes the level of discussion. This thing is bigger than we thought it was. It's too big to get our arms around, and it grows exponentially each passing day. It sets us on a brand-new course."

It's honestly the most remarkable thing about the Obama phenomenon to me; the ability to have conversations about race, about race relations, about racial taboos with people of other races that simply weren't happening before.

To acknowledge the attitudes without being invested in the emotions. You know what I'm talkin' about, right?

Yet the past is a heavy burden to shed. U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, a former civil rights activist who was jailed during the protest marches of the 1960s, said that Obama's election does move America toward a "more perfect union." But when it comes to self-definition, he believes the current state of that union leaves him no choice.

"We don't come into this world defining ourselves," Clyburn said. "I was born into a world that had defined limits for me. I had to sit on the back of the bus, I couldn't attend the nearby school. My wife had to walk 2 1/2 miles to school, walk past the white school to get to the school for blacks. She didn't define that role for herself. That role was imposed upon us."

Certainly racism did not disappear after Obama's white votes were counted. No one is claiming that black culture and pride and community are no longer valuable. Many also dismiss the idea of a "post-racial" America as long as blacks and other minorities are still disproportionately afflicted by disparities in income, education, health, incarceration and single parenthood.

Ah yes. Still a long way to go in terms of economic and not just social justice.

So the prospect of a black population that is more of "America" than "black America" has profound implications — especially for the civil rights establishment that continues to battle for blacks who remain at the bottom. ...

"My grandmother told me when I was 5, 'Boy, if they ask you what you are, just tell them that you're an American," said Benjamin Jealous, the 35-year-old president of the NAACP. "The reality is that our heritage, our culture, our families, our community have been extremely important to us. It's always been our right, and in many ways what we fought for, to be seen simply as Americans."


Update: "Mutts like me"...

"Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me," Obama said with a smile. "So whether we're going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household."

In his first postelection news conference, the man who will be president in just over two months described himself as a mutt as casually as he may have poked fun at his jump shot.

If he thought nothing of such a remark in his first news conference, doesn't that signal that over the next four years, the country is likely to hear more about race from the White House – and from the perspective of a black man – than it ever has before?

It's not necessarily that he will make a crusade about the issue once he takes office. There was little sign of that in his election campaign, in which he ran on issues like the economy with a broad appeal to all Americans.

But it does underscore that the president-elect clearly does not see race as a subject best sidestepped or discussed in hushed tones. To Obama, race in all its complications has long been a defining part of his life, and he is comfortable talking about it.

And many of the rest of us will get there, too.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Houston ATB (After the Bushes)

Former Texas Monthly writer Mimi Swartz, from the New Yorker blog:

It was a quiet evening for the precinct captains working the polls at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, partly because so many people had voted early, but mostly because an era had already passed. The once modest and now grand St. Martin’s—it was converted, in 2004, into an updated, Texas-sized version of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres—sits in Tanglewood, a once modest and now grand Houston neighborhood that has been, and is now, home to George and Barbara Bush. St. Martin’s, known here casually as “the Bushes’s church,” seemed to grow and expand with the family fortunes, and it was icing on the cake that its vast expansion coincided with George W. Bush’s reëlection. Houston, after all, is dotted with tributes to the Bushes, from public libraries to elementary schools to the major airport. But on this night, St. Martin’s, the polling place for the staunchly Republican precinct 234, seemed almost vestigial. The television cameras were nowhere to be seen—the Houston Chronicle hadn’t run the traditional photo of George and Bar heading proudly to the polls—and people seemed sanguine about the election’s outcome. They looked more like well-moderated ’41 Republicans than fire-breathing ’43 Republicans: whites who were prosperous but not flashy, the men in khakis, the women in sturdy, appropriate heels, younger people who looked slightly older than their years. The poll workers’ snacks were ample but reasonable: homemade cakes and brownies, tuna fish—canned with mayo, not seared—chips and dips, pimento cheese, and, of course, salsa. Voices were politely hushed.

Since the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Texas in general and Houston in particular have had the feel of occupied territory. The senior Bushes served as local proctors, whether they meant to or not, Barbara playing bad cop to the Senior George’s good. They thrived surrounded by courtiers in their beloved Tanglewood, and their appearance at social events (rare) and charity events (frequent) made everyone stand up just a little straighter, lest they be found wanting. Except for a handful of people who had really known “Junior” growing up—they were the ones who quietly admitted they awakened each morning stunned that “George” was President—it was accepted that the 43rd President was “a good guy,” and part of proving your loyalty involved ponying up for Barbara Bush’s literacy galas and 41’s birthday benefits. Book signings for assorted memoirs generally produced queues of fans that would rival those for Beatles- reunion tickets. Contributing to Neil Bush’s entrepreneurial ventures, such as Ignite!, an educational software company for “different” learners, was not a bad idea either. The Houston Independent School District got in on that one.

This loyalty took on a maniacal edge after 9/11, with what you might call the Dinner Party Litmus Test. Suddenly, at events in fancy, deeply Republican neighborhoods like River Oaks and Memorial, there were more closeted Democrats than closeted gays. To mention opposition to the war was to risk excommunication, not just from the Houston social scene, but from the kind of friendly business deals that grease the city’s wheels. The writer John Judis once sucked the air out of a room at an otherwise cheery River Oaks gathering by voicing the sentiment—not so uncommon elsewhere—that the Iraq war was a catastrophe. No one dared put a Kerry sticker on his or her car in 2004, lest a crazed Tanglewood carpool mom take aim with her Ford Explorer. “You weren’t allowed to speak. If you weren’t on the team, you might as well have left town,” one longtime social observer noted, still cautious about speaking for attribution.

Then, like the tide ebbing, or a glacier slowly melting, Houston—which, by the way, voted Democratic in both 2000 and 2004—came back to itself. Certainly Bush’s lame-duck status, in 2004, cleared the air a bit, as did the quagmire in Iraq. But it was Hurricane Katrina, in the fall of 2005, that made many here take a second look at their favorite first family. While the rest of Houston busily displayed its beneficent side—reaping copious international praise in the process—Barbara Bush looked around at the shell-shocked evacuees in the Astrodome and voiced her fear that they might stick around: “…so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.” It wasn’t that she said it—people knew she talked that way in private—but this time she was quoted locally, and the spell was broken. The run-up to 2008 turned into an old-fashioned Houston free-for-all, and for the first time in ages, the Democratic Presidential candidate carried Harris County. Even if Tanglewood went for McCain, the people at St. Martin’s knew it was over. They packed their tuna fish in plastic containers, and went back home.