Predictions for 2012

election_day

Here’s something I started writing on December 29, 2011. I saved it as a draft, and never gave it much thought until I discovered it this morning. Other than overstating Obama’s electoral vote totals, I think I was pretty prescient. Here’s my not-quite-a-year-ago predictions:

OK, so I’m not that much of a prognosticator, but there is a whole new year stretching out before us in a matter of days, so here’s my best guess:

President Obama will win reelection. I think he wins a majority of states, and probably 350+ electoral votes. Lots of money will be spent, and the media will try to make it a “down to the wire, anybody can win” race, but it won’t be close in the end. Obama won’t even have to break a sweat.

Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination. The primary season will fizzle out after the big Super Tuesday results, and nobody will be able to stop Romney as he runs away from the field.

Nobody–Ron Paul included–will mount a third party candidacy for President. Such campaigns are ultimately doomed to fail, and Paul and his people will decide not to go there.

Stone cold numbers

My older daughter began her academic career at Stone Scholastic Academy in Chicago. In the days that she was there, the Chicago Public Schools made a concerted effort to keep their magnet schools at an even racial balance between whites, African Americans, Asian-Americans, and Latinos. And Stone actually achieved this balance very well, with all four groups being somewhere near 25% of the student body. It didn’t reflect the racial realities of this city, but it was a pretty neat thing to see when it was put into practice.

I thought of this as I looked at a national exit poll that was produced by Fox News.The numbers revealed that President Obama won just 39 percent of the white vote, and Governor Romney won 59%. But that’s the only victory that Romney won, as Obama got 93% of the African American vote, and upwards of 70% of the Asian-American and Latino vote. So three of the four racial groups went for Obama, and by large enough margins to offset Romney’s advantage with white voters.

Unless the Republicans can find some way to change these numbers, they’ll never again win a presidential race. They’ll win congressional races and senate seats in places where the population is mostly white people, but in a national race–where everyone gets to vote–the Republicans are now officially doomed. How long it remains that way will be entirely up to them.

Standing at the Wall

It’s the night before a Presidential election, which will be the 12th one of my lifetime (although that first one was just a few weeks after I was born), I’ve been tired of the process, as it has played itself for well over a year now. Since I voted early, it’s almost as if tomorrow will be anticlimatic, except for the part about getting to find out who actually won. I’ll probably be watching the returns with bated breath at this time tomorrow night.

I was driving home tonight, as still another political ad was playing on the radio. In the depths of my despair over this, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I knew it was there, and have driven it past it hundreds of times before, but tonight it demanded my attention. So I turned off into a parking lot and went to answer the call I had received.

Inside the Brown line station at Western Avenue on Chicago’s north side, there is a complete section of the Berlin Wall. The wall was put up around an existing wall in East Berlin beginning back in 1975, and lasting until about 1980. A child my age who lived in East Berlin back then had only known life behind that wall.

The West Berlin side of the wall section has lots of colorful graffiti on it, while the East Berlin side is gray and solemn. You didn’t mark on that wall–or even get very close to it–without putting yourself in considerable danger. And free elections on that side of the wall? No way. That’s just how life was on East Berlin’s side of the wall.

I chose to stand on that side of the wall tonight. I realized very well that those behind the wall could have only dreamed about the chance to make their voice heard on election day. Over the course of a generation–from the early 1960s to the very end of the 1980s– hundreds of East Berliners died attempting to get over that wall. Those who lived on communist side of the wall would certainly wonder where I was coming from with my disdain for the electoral process, and the choices it allows us to make.

I snapped a few pictures, one of which appears above. Then I shut my eyes and tried to imagine growing up behind a wall. The thought that the wall might ever come down simply never occurred to me, as I growing up far, far away in the United States.

I’m sure that East Berliners would have loved the chance to hear a political attack ad on the radio, and then go to a polling booth and cast a vote. None of them would ever feel the way I do about this, either.

So I counted my blessings, standing there on the East Berlin side of the wall. I felt glad to live in the country that first tried out democracy, and then kept on practicing it for centuries afterward. As the United States was guarding its democracy, the Soviets built a wall which, as John Mellencamp once sang, came crumblin’ down back in 1989. I never thought that would happen, either.

For those with no large section of the Berlin Wall nearby, I would suggest considering the Cold War, and what seemed like the permanence of it all up until the end of the 1980s. See if that doesn’t make tomorrow’s election appear in a positive new light.

And If you haven’t done so already, go out and VOTE tomorrow. I approve this message!

Pride and Joy in Illinois

My best guess is that this picture was taken in 2003, when my oldest daughter was four years old. It was taken at the annual Pride parade in Chicago, on Broadway Avenue somewhere between Belmont and Diversey.

When I was her age, back in the early 1970s, the idea of a Pride parade was unheard of, except in New York and a couple other places, including Chicago. But in the time between my being four, and having a four year-old of my own, a lot has changed. And on this front, it’s moved in a direction I’m happy with, because rights are rights, no matter who you are.

My right to be married is, at present, dependent solely upon my sexual orientation. It’s not about procreation at all. If it were only about that, people who are sterile couldn’t get married, and those who married but did not have children would be charged with a crime. Neither of these is the case.

People who happen to love someone of their same sex don’t have the same rights that I have. It’s wrong to give me the right to marry one type of person, and while denying me that same right when it comes to another person. I’m already married, so this doesn’t directly apply to me, but anyone else could make that same argument themselves. So I’ll make it for them here.

I’d like to believe that I would have been on the right side, historically, of past civil rights struggles like abolitionism or women’s suffrage. That would have taken courage, though, to go against long-established social norms. The easy thing to do is to go along with things as they’ve always been. If that denies people of basic human rights, though, it’s the wrong thing to do, as I see it.

So back to the four year-old holding the Pride flag. So much has changed in society during my lifetime, and gay rights is high on that list. Saying something or somebody was “gay” used to be a huge put-down in the time and place where I grew up. I want to believe that “gay” is a term she’ll never use to make others feel badly about themselves.

I also want–when she comes of age–for her to have the right to marry anyone she wants to, whether it’s somebody named Steve or somebody named Sally or somebody with any other name that I can’t imagine right now. Denying her–and everybody else–that right has gone on long enough, in a nation that calls itself the land of the free.

Today was a huge day in my home state of Illinois. Both houses of the state legislature voted to give all of the state’s citizens the right to marry whoever they want to. And as someone who’s lived here every day of my life, I couldn’t be any happier.

Becoming Lincoln

Election fatigue is setting in, after all of these months of campaigning. And it’s true that I want the election to end quickly, but I think that there might be a post-election fight, just like there was in 2000 when George W. Bush was awarded the presidency by the Supreme Court. I very much hope I’m wrong about that.

But my real reason for wanting to flash forward a few weeks isn’t for the next president, but the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The movie posters are up all around town, and the trailer is now in all the theaters and online. It occurs to me that, for all the pictures I’ve ever seen of Abraham Lincoln, I’ve never seen him smile. I’ve never heard him speak, either. I realize that Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t going to be Abraham Lincoln, but from the look of everything I’ve seen, he is going to become Abraham Lincoln. And that’s no small thing, either.

Seeing Lincoln onscreen will be challenging, in a way. He’s always existed as the face on the penny and the $5 bill, or the sculpture in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, or up on Mount Rushmore. To see Lincoln walking and speaking and laughing and riding a horse will be a new one for me.

I remember Sam Waterston’s portrayal of Lincoln in the 1980s, but I never really bought him as being Lincoln. And I’ve seen Lincoln impersonators before, but I’ve never gone all in with them, either. But Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis will be spending two hours and more making us believe that we are watching the Great Emancipator onscreen. I’m hoping they succeed at this, too. We’ll all find out soon enough.

Still worthless

I picked my daughter up at school today, and then we proceeded to drive home. Along the way, we stopped at a red light, and there was a restaurant off to my left. I glanced at the TV screen inside the restaurant, and was greeted by Brian Williams doing the NBC Nightly news. I couldn’t hear him, but still my eyes remained on the screen while the red light was in effect.

The screen then changed, revealing an image of Barack Obama on the left, shaded in blue, and Mitt Romney on the right, shaded in red, with 47 percent under each of their smiling visages. I tried to get my cameraphone working in order to capture the image, but before I could the light changed and it was time to move.

Back in July, I wrote something on this issue and sure enough, things haven’t changed a bit in the three months since then. It will be 47% for each candidate, right up until the time the election takes place. Why? Because the media that produces the content that fills our airwaves needs it to be so. They need a horse race, and so they give us a horse race. And they will never give us anything but that. The only thing to do is to recognize it for what it is, and turn away from their profits-driven, democracy-killing game.

Vote for Obama, vote for Romney, vote for any candidate you want, or don’t even vote at all when the time comes. Just don’t expect the media to ever provide anything other than the 47%-47% horse race that they always do.

Home, home again

Wednesday evening, O’Hare Airport

The plane touched down a few minutes early and the plane de-boarding began as usual. The terminals at O’Hare seem excessively long, especially late at night when the bustle has ended for the day. But there are bags that must be claimed, and a cab that must be hired before the short end-of-the-summer trip can officially be declared over. So it’s time to get walking.

After the bags have been picked up from the conveyor belt, I followed the arrows toward the cab stand. And I noticed a television with Paul Ryan’s face, and his strangely hypnotic gaze. The sound was down, but the captions were on, any anyone who had an interest in what he was saying could have stopped to listen to the points that he was making. It shouldn’t be too surprising that no one did, however.

There are airports and other public places where Ryan’s speech might have gained interest, and perhaps even great interest. But here, nobody was listening to his sales pitch.

This is President Obama’s backyard, and Illinois will go for the incumbent this fall. And  the bombardment of political ads in the “battlegound” states, such as the one that I just came from, isn’t happening here. And for this reason, among many others, I tell myself I’m glad to be home.

What “that” is

Thursdays are the last day that I drive into the office during the week. Friday traffic in Chicago is bad, no matter where you’re driving to or when you’re on the road, so fortunately I can work at home on Fridays. But I had an epiphany of sorts when I was on the road this morning, and I wanted to explain it here.

Every time I’m on the road, I see dozens of the vans or trucks like the one pictured above. I think of them as “ladder vans” because they’re pretty easy to spot with the ladder on top. And the people driving them are the people that Mitt Romney is trying so hard to mislead, based on something that President Obama said recently in Virginia. So I’m going to do what I can to clear things up, to the extent that anyone pays attention to what’s in this space.

Here is a video clip of the president’s remarks (with captions included):

The president’s remark about “You didn’t build that” doesn’t refer to the business, as epitomized by the van with the ladder on top. The “that” being referred to is the American system of roads and bridges. The things that exist for the ladder vans to be driven on in the first place. The things that make it possible for these vans to get to wherever their jobs are that day. Without those roads, which all of us pay for and all of us collectively own, those ladder vans have no purpose at all.

This might sound like socialism to some, but when it snows, who clears the streets? We all do, through our tax dollars. If a big pothole opens up in the street, does any one citizen have the burden of fixing that hole? No, we all do it, through public funding which comes from the taxpayer.

Anyone who buys a van or a truck and puts a ladder on top and uses that van or truck upon the public roads reaps the benefit of the “that” which President Obama was referring to. And if there’s someone who doesn’t get the President’s point, and continues to believe that a van or a truck is all it takes to make a business grow, there really isn’t too much more to say, except “ain’t that a shame” how someone can be mislead so easily.