November 16, 2004
"Youth" Vote? Maybe not . . . .
Reporting back to The Fresno Bee:
The University of California, Berkeley is one of the most politically charged universities in the nation. Our history of intense campus politics, from the Free Speech Movement in the early 1960s to the Ethnic Studies strike of 1999, has earned the student body a sometimes dubious label of being liberal, political, and active. This may be reflective of the general Bay Area liberal atmosphere, something we Fresnans scoff at, but there's no doubt about it, Berkeley is quite an original bit of political real estate.Continue reading ""Youth" Vote? Maybe not . . . ."
November 02, 2004
Oakland Hills Fire Station 8:15 AM
About 40 voters waited comfortably inside an Oakland Hills fire station this morning. Neighbors waved and flashed a series of signs to each other. In this absurdly Democratic district in Alameda County, the smiles, winks and thumbs up meant only one thing: we're here to vote for John Kerry and end the progressive's nightmare of the last 4 years. Six voters walked in their absentee ballots and handed them directly to the poll workers. One woman filled out a provisional ballot at a special table and had many quiet questions of the poll workers. As she left, another woman said to a next door neighbor, "If you hear me moaning across the street, you'll know what happened." It was all so very comfortable; ideology, fashion, and annual incomes enmeshed in perfect harmony. Then I envisioned another polling place, perhaps another fire station, perhaps in Texas, with 40 voters similarly enmeshed, similarly determined to keep President Bush in office. Two fire stations in total .... balance.
November 01, 2004
What’s the Matter with Marin: A Retort to Thomas Frank
It’s a sleepy Sunday morning in San Anselmo, but Patrick O’Heffernan is already outside the supermarket registering new voters. Though he is with the Marin Democratic Party, he is quick to add that he will “register anyone of any party.” Not that there are many Republicans to register. Not in Marin.Continue reading "What’s the Matter with Marin: A Retort to Thomas Frank"
October 31, 2004
Thirsty for democracy in Florida
For the fourteenth day in a row, Moises Yaber, 55, filled cups with water from an orange cooler he pushed around in a shopping cart for the hundreds of people lining up outside West Miami City Hall to vote.
His matching orange Community Relations Board T-shirt signified he was one of the Miami-Dade County employees volunteering to answer questions, aid the elderly and assist voters navigate whatever obstacles they faced during the two-hour wait between the end of the line and the election workers at the polls.
"We’re not involved in the election process. We’re just here to help people,” said Yaber.
While the rest of the country waits for a replay of the 2000 debacle to hit Florida this election, Yaber watches over his slice of it, reveling in his role in American democracy.Continue reading "Thirsty for democracy in Florida"
October 30, 2004
The Bush "Ground Game"
There have been multiple articles like this one, suggesting that he who gets out the voters wins the polls. Optimistic takes on GOP-GOTV can be found here and here. Here's my own anecdotal experience from Las Vegas this evening:Continue reading "The Bush "Ground Game""
Anecdotal Advertising Analysis
On Friday night in Las Vegas, I watched local newscasts for 95 minutes. I watched the 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. newscasts on KVVU, Las Vegas Fox affiliate, and the 11 p.m. newscast on KTNV, the ABC affiliate. Of the 50 ads broadcast, 32 were political.Continue reading "Anecdotal Advertising Analysis"
October 29, 2004
Situated in the Silver State
For the politically inclined out in predictably Democratic California, it's easy to be jealous of the battleground dwellers. They get to watch all the ads, be in on the whisper campaigns, and — mirabile dictu — the candidates come to ask them for their votes, not just the maximum allowable contribution. Able to countenance the situation no longer, I ventured to Nevada in search of a world where mailboxes are full of campaign literature, phonebanks flourish, and political advertising rules the airwaves.Continue reading "Situated in the Silver State"
October 23, 2004
Academics Debate Threat of Terrorist Surprise
by Shlomi Simhi
The set of debates is over, the polls show a closer race than ever, but it just might be that the presidential election will be decided by an event that hasn’t occurred yet. As October moves to its end, the possibility of an “October Surprise,” an event that would change the outcome of November 2nd elections, is diminishing. But it ain’t over until October is over.Continue reading "Academics Debate Threat of Terrorist Surprise"
October 19, 2004
Welcome to Appalachia - where God turns everything upside down
PORTMSOUTH, OH - Rolling into this Rust Belt town at the southern edge of Ohio, we drove almost all the way through the half-boarded up business district, before we found any signs of life.
Just before we reached the floodwall, built after the Ohio River nearly swallowed the city in 1937, we watched a man stumble from a bar and try to fit his key into the door of his truck.
And across the street through a storefront window, we saw an African-American church in service.
Intrigued by a congregation that would still be worshiping at 10:30 on a Monday night, we decided to start our reporting there. After introducing ourselves to the pastor, who was sitting next to her nodding-off grandson while the deacon read from the Book of Revelations, she responded:
"You think your school sent you here, we know God sent you."
That was only the first misconception we had.Continue reading "Welcome to Appalachia - where God turns everything upside down"
October 18, 2004
God and Jobs, Photography by Tristan Spinski
Michael Chandler and I traveled to Scioto County, Ohio on the week of October 4 to report and photograph an election story about church-going union members who are deciding between jobs and god. The Christian Right has mobilized a drive to “vote your values” – which in this election means voting against gay marriage and for George Bush. But the economy in this pocket of Appalachia has been wheezing since Bush took office, and people are torn between what’s more important – economic livelihood or homosexuals tying the knot.Continue reading "God and Jobs, Photography by Tristan Spinski"
October 15, 2004
Fact Checking the Bush Resume
by Ali Berzon, Tomio Geron, Marjorie McAfee, Felicia Mello, Claire Miller, Aliza Nadi, Emilia Pablo, Shlomi Simhi, Sandhya Somashekhar and Timothy Wheeler
A satiric resume of President George W. Bush has been making appearances in the blogosphere and the email accounts of just about every US voter with a friend fond of forward-spam. Entertaining as it is, the resume begged to be fact checked, and students in Susan Rasky’s J200- Reporting the News class took on the task.
Here’s the first of what they found (more to come):
In my first year of office, I set the all-time record for most days on vacation by any president in U.S. history (tough to beat my dad’s, but I did).
First of all, the wording of this question makes it false to begin with: It states that in his first year of office, Bush set the record for vacation days of any president – implying that it is comparing his first year against the four or eight year terms of other presidencies.Continue reading "Fact Checking the Bush Resume"
October 13, 2004
Knowing the Neighborhood
Enter the latest, greatest application for your handheld or phone, "Red or Blue,"which uses Global Positioning Systems to tell you if you’re in a Republican or Democratic neighborhood. It will also tell you how much the area has donated to either party or pull up information about the top 100 donors surrounding where you stand. It's obvious this would be a great tool for canvassers and fundraisers. And journalists probably won’t have to spend so much time knocking on doors or sorting through spreadsheets to find that one archetypal Republican or typical Democrat for their stories.
But look, my life is full of strangers and the unexpected and I’m stunned by the data gluttons who'd use this. It seems like this country has developed a whole religion for those who want to know everything about other people, clump those strangers together in predetermined groups, and then avoid the groups they don’t like. The world is addicted to prediction (even though it mostly ends up with simple-minded prejudices). And, there’s something creepy when a creative mind comes up with a “Geiger counter” for people, and something wrong about classifying the hell out of the human race.
October 08, 2004
"Red Catholics" and "Blue Catholics"
Whether or not you believe "values voters" are going to make a big difference in this election (and the Bush campaign is betting huge that they will), religion has consistently bubbled to the surface of issues in this election.
Looking beyond the ubiquitous use of religious phrases in presidential speechifying ("May God continue to bless America"), religious disputes appeared in everything from the prospect of Catholic priests denying pro-choice politicians communion to using lists of churchgoers as political mailing lists.
So it should come as no surprise that even a murky category of religious voters is sharply divided on where its votes will go. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter, who writes the most consistently insightful column on culture and religion, has done some informal polling of the Vatican and picks Kerry to win a hypothetical Holy See vote 60-40.
Allen breaks down two categories of Catholics: Blue Catholics are those who support strong international cooperation in global affairs, and those who prioritize a "culture of life" and oppose abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research are Red Catholics. Which to me sounds a lot like the breakdown of non-religious voting groups....
October 04, 2004
Out and About in Oregon
I live in California and I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of not mattering. We are the most populous state in the union, a state with the fifth largest economy in the world, and yet when it comes to this year’s presidential race, neither candidate cares about our vote. California is a solid blue-state.
So I was relieved, to say the least, to head north for the weekend to Portland, Oregon. As Robert Eisinger, a political scientist at Lewis & Clark College told the Portland Tribune, “Oregon is a battleground state, period.” Here, I expected, would be the home of the swing voter, that undecided creature who will determine the course of the country for the rest of us.
But the funny thing is that Portland seemed every bit as decided as Berkeley.Continue reading "Out and About in Oregon"
Vote For Change, or Michael Stipe dances like a meth-head attempting yoga
Detroit -- Last night, I felt old. In Cobo Hall, an old hockey arena downtown, Michael Stipe took the stage and a sea of bald heads rushed toward him in the pit. Yes, REM, a band of my youth, is now officially Dad Rock.
When Vote for Change, a Kerry-supporting concert series, was announced this summer, Democrats I know hoped the bands would bring out the youth vote. I nearly choked. Bruce Springsteen is not a draw for any 18-24-year-olds in my life. But, who would Vote for Change bring out and what impact would the music have?
Detroit -- What could be creepier than standing a few inches away from the car where JFK was shot? For one, standing next to that car and knowing the chair where Lincoln sat when he was killed was a few yards away (accompanied by a sketch indicating which stains were blood). For two, reading on a placard that Kennedy's blue convertible was painted black and then used by succeeding presidents all the way until Carter. But the situation wasn’t creepy enough to keep tourists at the Ford Museum yesterday from taking photos of the most infamous four-wheeler in American history.
As I watched families quietly pass through the museum exhibitions with the reverence and passivity reserved for church, I began to think the museum was more of a place of the dying than a tourist destination.
October 01, 2004
When Democrats Go Bad (Be Vigilant, Minnesotans!)
By John Letzing
Minnesota has a reputation for folksy, warm-and-fuzzy Democrats, from late Senator Paul Wellstone to Presidential would-be Walter ‘Fritz’ Mondale. This is the state where the Democratic Party is still officially known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, after all. But as the presidential election nears, do citizens of this battleground state have reason to fear a new breed of Democrat? An angry, out of control Democrat? The Republican Party of Minnesota thinks so. The local G.O.P. has launched a web site, WhenAngryDemocratsAttack.com, to warn constituents about a recent rash of anti-Bush hate crimes.Continue reading "When Democrats Go Bad (Be Vigilant, Minnesotans!)"
Down and out in Detroit
Detroit -- Last night, a source told me there were fabulous Arab restaurants that stayed open late in Dearborn. I misunderstood exactly where he meant and when I took my rental blue Chevy through road construction and over potholes after the debates, I couldn’t find anything. The pictures I had of people eating hashing out what Kerry and Bush had said over fresh tabouleh didn’t fit the well-lit and busy Bob’s Big Boy I passed. I ended up at Kroger’s, a super-super grocery store, where working-class families and crazies were still shopping.
The sales clerk said she works nights and her husband works days, because they can’t afford daycare for their daughter. I’m in Michigan to learn about the sea-change in Muslim voting during this election, and have been hearing a lot about the issues argued in the debate. But it’s hard to ignore that all of Michigan was hit hard by the recession. In poll after poll, residents say economy is their number one concern in the election, and whoever runs the country has to solve the problems.Continue reading "Down and out in Detroit"
September 28, 2004
How to Truly Enjoy a Debate
You knew it was coming. It was all but inevitable.
Wonkette has just posted a Presidential Debate Drinking Game.
Political debates have long since sacrificed a lively exchange of ideas for rote recitation of platitudes, leaving astute viewers to read between the lines for what is implied or else drift off, eyes glazed, into slumberland.
So while we at the PRP are analyzing the deeper meanings of the debate with assorted experts and political junkies, we exhort all of you out there in the ether to experience it in that age-old American way: by drinking your way beyond the point of caring.
Among the many gems of the Wonkette post:
- Anyone tells that story about Bobby Kennedy turning up the thermostat before the Kennedy-Nixon debate: Take a sip of a hot toddy.
- Someone shows a clip of Al Gore sighing: Recount your chads.
- A Republican operative compares Kerry to a classical orator: Drink an ouzo-and-hemlock cocktail.
- Drink one sip if one candidate interrupts another candidate
- Drink two sips if Kerry brings up Bush's "Mission Accomplished" moment
- Finish your glass if anyone attempts to speak Spanish to pander to Latinos
September 27, 2004
Let's Get Ready to Rumble
In a presidential contest that has increasingly centered on who is manlier, George W. Bush and John Kerry will finally appear head-to-head in the first presidential debate. And, after months of rhetorical wrangling and attacks by just-distanced-enough surrogates, it is time for the candidates themselves to “bring it on.”
It is Round One (at least for much of the country) in the bout for the presidency, with Bush hoping for the KO and Kerry looking to prove himself a scrappy (and electable) challenger.Continue reading "Let's Get Ready to Rumble"
Minnesota! The mushroom cloud's coming for you!
Dick Cheney only has one thing on his mind, according to this morning’s New York Times: death, death and more death. While trucking through the swing states with his wife, Cheney avoids the issues of jobs, the economy and the environment. He sticks with the War on Terror. In California, where our votes are sewn up, we can only imagine what that sounds like.
Maybe something like:Continue reading "Minnesota! The mushroom cloud's coming for you!"
September 23, 2004
This Ain't Mayberry
The Bush and Kerry campaigns this week agreed on the rules of engagement for three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate planned before the November election. In the negotiated memorandum of understanding,[7.2 MB PDF download] the candidates agree to fork over their notepaper for inspection before each debate to make sure nobody’s bringing cheat sheets.
They’re not allowed to bring props, either. This hopefully includes wetsuits and flight suits as well as charts and diagrams.Continue reading "This Ain't Mayberry"
September 22, 2004
How Will You Cast Your Vote?
In just under six weeks, citizens across this great land will trudge into a voting booth and cast their votes on either antiquated old technology or questionable new technology. While both forms have their own well-noted problems, a new Web site throws into sharp relief the profound problems with electronic voting.Continue reading "How Will You Cast Your Vote?"
September 20, 2004
And regulations defining "regulation"
So far, no news report has explained what the recent court ruling on campaign finance means. I appreciated Political Moneyline's attempt to summarize the decision in one sentence, which starts:Continue reading "And regulations defining "regulation""
September 19, 2004
Old woes new again?
To explain presidential elections, my cousin, an A.P. U.S. History teacher who puts American trivia questions on his answering machine, gave me a beaten-up paperback from 1983, America in Search of Itself: The Making of the President, 1956-1980. I didn’t think it would be relevant, since Reagan, Clinton and Bush have re-shaped the job description for Leader of the Free World. But now I wonder if I was wrong. Theodore White’s book is about the past, and was published in the past , but the last chapter I read got me thinking about the 2008 election.Continue reading "Old woes new again?"