Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Finding Our Level

In 2000, after weeks of battling the Republicans in Florida, Washington D.C., and the rest of America, the Democratic party - and Al Gore, decided to "get over it" and conceded the presidential election to George W. Bush. Gore's concession speech (video above) marked the end of this disputed contest, one which, evidence shows, was actually won by Gore.

Some heralded Gore's move as a sign of bravery, some saw it as a cowardly gesture of defeat. Few, however, could foresee the dreadful consequences that lie in store for our nation as its result. This concession marked the dawn of the Bush era, a president who's doctrine can best be summed up as "What are you going to do about it?" This concession by Gore set the political tone for the next decade, a tone that, unfortunately, still echoes today.

During the course of events that played out in Florida and across the nation in the fall of 2000, Gore supporters were told to let go, to face the "facts", and give up the fight. They were told to reconcile with the inevitable, stop whining, to get over it. In the interest of the nation,for the good of the whole, as it were, the Democrats conceded, handing Bush an illegitimate victory. And so the stage was set for the era of political capital, executive privilege, and a win at all costs ideology more suited for the gridiron than for the Oval Office. The United States, as a consequence, has suffered its most dreadful decade in a century, enduring untold and unforeseen hardship, all the result of a winner-take-all, loser-silently-step-aside mindset that has corrupted our most basic principles of democracy.

So after eight years of Bush's presidency, and the aforementioned woes that have plagued us, how does the Democratic party respond? By stealing a page from the Bush playbook to hijack the core elements of our democratic system, and exploit the intricacies of our electoral processes to install a candidate who's candidacy and rhetoric ring an eerily similar, albeit dis-tonal chord to that of George W. Bush and his followers.

Now, nearly eight years later, with the Democratic party convening "in unison" - all delegates seated and present - to nominate their candidate for the presidency, many are again being told to "get over it", to stop whining, to get with the program; and while the victor's supporters may be looking forward to possibilities of an America unrealized, there are those who have already seen a crucial element of the American anatomy dissected and discarded: the ideal that contends that there is no truth too difficult to comprehend, no honest vote that shall be left uncounted, no voice left unheard.

In a political system where victory is the ultimate prize, freedom shall be the first casualty. We, as Americans, must ensure that our democratic institutions are honored and protected, and not exploited, no matter the convenience presented by circumstance. Democracy is not the folly of the weak, the sport of the treacherous, nor a spoil for the victor. It is the voice of a people, the protector of decency, and the beacon of our nation.

Final popular vote results for the 2000 presidential election:

Gore - 50,999,897 Bush - 50,456,002

Electoral Votes: Disputed

Final popular vote results for the 2008 Democratic primaries, tallying the votes of all states and territories who's delegates are seated at the convention:

Clinton - 18,046,007 Obama - 17,869,542

Delegates: Disputed

Clinton has now played her part by conceding, and throwing her support behind Obama. Now, as was the case in 2000, the burden of unity falls to the victor. Obama must make every effort to heal the wounds caused by this bitter contest, no matter how superficial they may seem to his core supporters. As was pledged by George W. Bush in 2000, this task must be given the highest priority. Unlike Bush, Obama must carry this duty through to completion and unite the party that nominates him.

Our nation has been bruised, but has survived George W. Bush and his flagrant misuse of power. The Democratic Party is not strong enough to sustain a similar misstep from one of its own.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

If We Were French

As the world has been transfixed by the amazing accomplishments of Jamaica's Usain Bolt at this year's summer Olympics, I cannot help but think of an alternate scenario, one which would see our nation cry foul over the unbelievable chain of recent athletic events. To fully understand this alternate reality, one must bear in mind that the United States of America has gone without winning a gold medal in any sprint (100m, 200m, or 400m relay) competition for the first time since 1976. Let us imagine for a moment, that instead of celebrating Bolt's accomplishments, as we have, the nation chose to view Bolt as a phony, an affront to our national pride:

Surely, for this transgression against our national pride to have occurred something must be amiss. How can we just sit back and let this arrogant perpetrator relish in his achievements, basking in what must be an artificially attained glory? How can we let the legacies of Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson et al be tarnished by such a blatant act of cheating? Usain Bolt, a promising sprinter prior to these games, but in no means a contender for greatest sprinter ever, has suddenly - and suspiciously hastily - thrust himself into the hall of sprinting greats. Are we to believe this is a product of will power, of determination, a spectacle displaying the extent of humankind's ability? No. Instead, remember Ben Johnson, Linford Christie, and the cacophony of foreign cheats that have repeatedly tried to soil our national parade ground that is the Olympic sprinting medals podium.

Sound pathetic and unbelievable?

In short, it is; and it's disgraceful as well. Of course, that hasn't stopped another nation from taking this exact course of action when one of their beloved sports was dominated by an outsider. I'm referring, of course, to the treatment of Lance Armstrong by the French. A national hero in America, Armstrong is, to this day, considered a villian in France. As with Bolt, there is no reason to believe Armstrong's heroics were the result of anything other than unmatched preparation and unbelievable execution. The French, sadly, have chosen to believe otherwise.

So, let us continue to praise Usain Bolt for his amazing feats, and quietly note our own abilty to gracefully acknowledge when we have been bested by a superior athlete; for sport is still one of the arenas where Americans still display all of the characteristics and qualities that makes us a truly great nation.

P.S. Even though it may go against a lot of the dignity I speak of in this article (and taking into account what a polarizing state Texas has become recently), you've still gotta love this bumper sticker (Lance has publicly worn a tee-shirt emboldened with the same phase):

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quick Hits

A few quick ideas that have had me thinking...

- While reading up on a CNN.com story this morning detailing the Obama campaign's efforts to defend their supporters against implications that they are "mindless fans", I noticed that I could enter the official Barack Obama webpage via a link on the page. I could not help but think that if the Obama campaign is trying to shake the image of a mindless herd of followers, maybe "Join Us" is not the best invitation. Perhaps "Find Out More" or "Enter"?

- This is not meant to be offensive or demeaning to any gymnast or their fans, but how is gymnastics considered to be a competitive sport? I understand the degree of difficulty, the mastery of the form, and the supreme physical condition that these gymnasts are in, but how can this be a sport if winning and losing is based solely on the opinions of judges? I understand that more traditional sports, via officials and umpires, etc. have their own opportunity for human opinion and error, but this is different. If gymnastics, figure skating, and the like are sports, why isn't competitive painting? Even speed painting, were it to exist, would have a time limit.

I understand that there are greater arguments over what makes a sport a sport. Is golf a sport? NASCAR? Darts? Maybe, maybe not. But let's put it this way: Kyle Busch won this past weekend's NASCAR race because he finished the race first, faster than anyone else. Jimmie Johnson had some really nice, artistic maneuvers along the way, and he drives a prettier car, to boot. He finished seventh.

- Gasoline prices, on a national average, have declined for 26 straight days. That's despite this period seeing a hurricane, two tropical storms, increased summer demand and an armed conflict in Georgia (the former Soviet Republic) that this morning shut down a major oil pipeline. What factor could be behind this suprising*, unexpected* drop? Hybrid technology? Stability in the Middle East? The discovery that liquified Alaskan Caribou antlers make a great synthetic oil?

It could be all of the above, but my money, literally, goes with the fact that this is an election year - and we've been down this road before. So the next time you are reminded how precarious the international oil situation is (and it is), warned that foul weather in the Carribbean, civil unrest in Nigeria, and not voting Republican can all have a negative effect** on oil prices, consider how effectively costs can be controlled when there is so much money on the line.
*To some
**For consumers