Afterthoughts on the election

November 25, 2006

I meant to write up my thoughts on the election results the day afterward, but I guess I was ready to just relax and take a break and celebrate victories. Basically, we won everything we had a reasonable chance of winning. Anyway, here are my ramblings about different aspects of the election:

Texas statewide races:

I was disappointed, obviously, but not that much because I expected it. Their are just too many Republicans in this state, and the Republicans are going to win all the statewide races in the near future. As far as the governor’s race was concerned, I take some consolation in that Rick Perry at least got less than 40% and Chris Bell broke 30%. I’m very proud of how well Bell did getting nearly as many votes as the combined total of the two candidates who were much better at the celebrity aspect of politics and got much more media attention (and in Strayhorn’s case money too.) Unlike other Democrats, I don’t blame the independents. If you look at the exit polls, Perry still would have won without them in the race. Kinky took as many votes that would have gone to Perry as would have gone to Bell. Strayhorn took more Bell votes than Perry votes, but not enough more to swing the election. For Chris Bell to have won, Strayhorn would have had to have been more right-wing in order to capture more Republicans and fewer Democrats, some of Strayhorn’s money would have had to gone to Bell, and Perry would have had to run his campaign as badly as George Allen’s campaign for the senate .

As far as the independents were concerned, both may have had a chance in the spring, but both lost it in the fall. Strayhorn is all image and no substance. In previous elections that don’t get that much attention running only on image worked, but in the governor’s race she came under to much scrutiny to succeed at it. It was obvious that she is a opportunistic and corrupt politician. Kinky was more interesting. He had some potential, but the problem was he over played the celebrity card which fatally hurt his efforts to portray himself as a serious candidate. And he didn’t do enough to be a serious candidate either. His downfall was that most people didn’t consider him to be a serious candidate or viable choice, not the racism charges or that Strayhorn or Perry outspent him (Bell spent about as much as Kinky and still got more than twice as many votes as Kinky.)

In the long run, Democrats in Texas need to work on the local level to capture different areas and expand, such as they have with Austin and Dallas, and build the party back up from the bottom in order to be competitive statewide again. We did make progress by capturing 5 state house seats and cutting the Republican majority in half in the house.

Locally:

Valinda Bolton won in a close election, taking the last Republican state house seat in Travis county. Now all 6 Travis county state house seats are held by Democrats, of which 3 were gerrymandered to lean Republican and 3 were designed to be solidly Democratic. The GOP screwed up when they tried to gerrymander 3 seats to lean Republican when they could have had 2 solid Republican ones.

My only real unexpected disappointment was John Courage losing to Lamar Smith in the election for U.S. Congress, and by such a large margin (Smith won with 60%.) I drank the cool aid on that one, hoping it would go into a runoff (since it was a special election, their were many candidates and a possible runoff in no one got over 50%.) It should have been predictable from the districts numbers, but I hadn’t seen them, and had only listened to what the campaign was saying.

I was very happy to see both Mark Strama and Lloyd Doggett win by huge margins, especially Strama who only took the seat four years ago by a small margin from the GOP in one of the Travis county state house districts designed to lean Republican.

Nationally:

I expected us to take the house, but I knew the Senate was somewhat of a longshot. We got very lucky on that one, since we had to (and did) win nearly all of the close races to get a majority. Rumsfield resigning was just icing on the cake. However, the future is still uncertain on the national level. The GOP has done a lot of damage, and Bush is still president. The Democratic majority in the senate is razor thin, and their isn’t going to be much passed except compromise legislation. The good thing is that we’ll be able to have some oversight of Bush’s illegal activities and Bush no longer has congress to rubber-stamp everything. The best, and often overlooked, aspect of the new Democratic majority is Bush can no longer appoint very conservative judges. The GOP can no longer do so much damage, but the Dems aren’t in a position to completely reverse that damage or make substantial progress moving us forward.

As far as Iraq is concerned, the GOP fears of the Dems “cutting and running” are bogus. The anti-war and/or isolationist faction doesn’t have command of the Democrats and is still in the minority. I no longer hold an anti-war position and so I think that the lack of power of the anti-war/isolationist faction is a good thing. I have a lot of thoughts on the Iraq war that I’ll post one of these months, but in summary I think that our focus should be on what is best for the Iraqi people, not what is best for our country or for us strategically. The arguments and positions of all sides focus too much on what is good for America, how American became involved, and America’s security, and not what is best for the Iraqis. On this issue I think the slim Democratic majority is a good because it creates an ideal condition for a bipartisan dialogue on Iraq that is realistic, nuanced, and productive, rather than the partisan bickering and sloganeering that we saw before the election or that we likely would have seen if one side had been able to roll over another. The situation is not a simple one and more than any other issues requires a rational and reasonable discourse in order for progress to be made.

On a personal level…

The election was a blast. I had tons of fun and learned a lot doing so much volunteer work on different campaigns and with University Democrats. I also developed my debating skills and political philosophy through countless debates on Facebook and elsewhere with Kinky Friedman supporters.; I even got into an intense debate with Kinky Friedman’s campaign manager. It was fun and so I guess I have to say that Kinky Friedman’s campaign wasn’t all bad 🙂 (though I never and still don’t claim it was.) In all, I love every part of it, even the tedious volunteer work done at the campaign office. And of course, the election parties (mostly victory parties) on election day and the next weekend were a blast.


How I voted and why I voted for Bell instead of Kinky

October 30, 2006

I’ve been meaning to post something about how I voted, and the specifics of my choice in the governor’s race. I ended up voting straight Democratic unless their wasn’t a Democrat, in which case I voted for the Libertarian (kudos to the Libertarians for running someone in every race.)

Up until a month ago I was a Kinky supporter. The reason I supported Kinky was because he is down to earth and honest and is very good on most of the issues. I liked him, and like most other Kinky supporters, without really taking the time to look into Chris Bell. After considering the merits of both candidates and especially their stances on the issues, I decided that Chris Bell has most of the merits of Kinky Friedman with few of his faults.

On the issues, they have a lot in common. I’m not going to go into detail on every issue because that would be long and pointless. Anyone serious about making an informed choice should read all of what they both have to say about the issues on their websites (Kinky’s, Bell’s.) As I see it, they both have good positions on the environment, education, political reform, and the trans Texas corridor. On gay marriage, Kinky is slightly better because he courageously supports gay marriage while Bell supports civil unions. However, in the current political climate in Texas at this point that is a distinction without a difference because on any issue that comes up about gay rights they will be on the same side. I also credit Kinky for being more outspoken about the death penalty (both support it in principle but question it’s use.) On immigration, both support increased border security and cracking down on hiring illegals, but Chris Bell has a nuanced view that stresses that you have to meaningful immigration reform to deal with the illegal immigrants already here, something I strongly agree with. When Kinky talks about immigration it tends to be dangerously close to sounding like the right-wing paranoia on this issue. Kinky supports non-denominational school prayer, which is not only stupid but unconstitutional.

The big difference I see is that Chris Bell is very intelligent, articulate, and knowledgeable. While I believe Kinky to be a smart guy, I think he is very naive about politics. He seems to understand the basic foundations of each issue so that he can come up with a reasonable position, which is fine for a citizen, but he has not shown that he has the depth of understanding and a command of the details and nuances which anyone involved in policy should have. With more than a year in this, he hasn’t shown that the time to really try get there. In all I think he just doesn’t take politics seriously enough. When he does talk about the issues he knows something about, he is usually very good. The problem is that he has spent way to much time being the celebrity and joker. It’s good for getting attention and the votes of stupid people who don’t take it all seriously, but for those of us who take politics seriously, it really hurts him. Because he has taken it seriously enough, people don’t take him seriously and won’t vote for him because of it, and that is what will and has doomed his campaign. It’s just as much a waste of our time when he makes jokes instead of having a serious response as it is a waste of time to listen to Strayhorn repeat shallow slogans. It’s more entertaining, but politics isn’t about entertainment. That is where Chris Bell is great. He isn’t colorful, but that is a good thing in my opinion. It means that he can’t get away with spouting BS non-answers like Strayhorn or Kinky try to do. Chris Bell spouts some amount of non-substance just like everyone does, but he has substance substantially more than Kinky or Strayhorn. And unlike with Perry or Strayhorn, Bell is honest about it. He is the only candidate, besides the libertarian Werner, who doesn’t insult the voter’s intelligence with lies and/or to many jokes and/or slogans. Kinky has no practical experience in politics beyond campaigning, and Chris Bell does, so Bell would most likely be more effective than Kinky would.

An argument I hear a lot for Kinky is that he is outside the corrupt two party system. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean that he’s better than a good person within it. Kinky has been trying to portray all of his opponents as corrupt, selfish, partisan hacks by describing politicians that way and then describing his opponents as politicians. His claim that he is the only candidate not slinging mud is disingenuous, to say the least. The other problem is that their is nothing that anyone has been able to show about Chris Bell that would make him deserve such a description. Even the GOP attack machine hasn’t been able to come up with anything better than attacking the guy contributing to his campaign and using the standard “big Washington liberal” label. When Kinky was on campus I asked his campaign manager Dean Barkley to tell me how Bell was corrupt and all Barkley had was that he was bad because he’s in the Democratic party. Sorry, doesn’t cut it. I asked Kinky why he’s a better candidate than Chris Bell, and he couldn’t give me anything (another example of his not knowing the issues in depth). I’m not fond of the two party system, but not all politicians, Republicans, or Democrats are bad. Nearly all of our great leaders have been one or the other. So to say that all politicians are bad, like Kinky’s campaign does, is a severe and unfair over-simplification. The fault is not with politicians in general, it’s with corrupt ones. Kinky is right that Perry’s experience hasn’t gotten us anywhere. That is because Perry is corrupt and dishonest. But that doesn’t mean experience is bad. We need both experience and honesty. Perry and Strayhorn have experience but no honesty. Kinky has honesty but no experience. Bell has both honesty and experience.


Frontline

October 13, 2006

Of the few television shows that I watch, the most intellectually stimulating is Frontline. For those that don’t know, Frontline is basically a different hour long in depth documentary every week. They cover a range of different issues, social and political. They are very well written, in depth, show multiple sides to every issue, and are engaging and interesting. For my college friends, you probably have seen one in class at least once. Frontline is on Tuesday nights at 8:00 on PBS. Many past documentaries, including the one for the current week, can be viewed online here. I like to watch them online in my free time.

Here were the ones I have the found the most interesting that I would suggest to people:

– “The merchants of cool” is about the relationship between corporate America and teen culture. We watched this one in sociology in summer school.

– “The insurgency” is a very good profile on the insurgency in Iraq, it’s motives, and it’s different branches.

– “Israel’s next war?” is an interesting look into something we don’t see very often, Israeli extremists.


Human understanding of the bible

September 29, 2006

This is from a post of mine on a Facebook group talking about taking the bible literally, with a few additions for this blog post:

Neither the human mind or languages allow for complete understanding. I admittedly have not done a lot of bible reading for myself, but in church small groups we have done some bible study. Most passages that we study have a good amount of ambiguity and are open to multiple interpretations. It is not humanly possible to have perfect understanding of such a complex thing as the bible. With every human idea and with humans interpretation of the bible, we are always subject to differences in what we place the most importance on, how deeply we go into a subject (the surface level interpretation may not always be correct), how we translate from one language to another, how much you build upon what you read, etc. How else do you explain all the many different denominations of Christianity, with many different ideas, all claiming to be grounded in scripture? Even if, for the sake of argument, the bible was infallible, our understanding of it is not and never can be infallible, because we are human. For that reason, we should never have unquestioned acceptance of what we read in the bible because we very likely could be misinterpreting it or reading a bad translation.


Illegal immigrants

September 9, 2006

Today I was walking out of Jester and a Hispanic man asked me where the cafeteria was.  After trying to give him directions he didn’t seem to comprehend, I decided to walk him to it.  When I asked him which floor he wanted, he didn’t seem to no what I was talking about (their are two different cafeterias in Jester each on a different floor), he just kept asking where the “cafeteria” was.  I asked him what exactly he was trying to do, and he said the word “job.”  It was pretty clear to me that he didn’t speak English.  I guided him to the entrance to Jester City Limits and left.

After reflecting on it, my guess is that he was an illegal immigrant who doesn’t speak English and was trying to find a job.  I felt really bad for him and how scary it must be to try to be looking for a job in a new country where you don’t speak the language.  I wonder what it must be like to be constantly worrying about being caught by the authorities and what the desperation is like that would make someone do such a thing.  Given his apparent confusion, my guess it that he most likely wasn’t able to get a job by just walking in like that.  I wonder at how he is feeding himself and how he is doing.

He is not alone; their are millions of other desperate illegal immigrants in America looking for any job they can get to feed themselves and their families.


School Spirit

August 30, 2006

As a new student at the University of Texas at Austin, I have something now that I didn’t have any of in high school: school spirit. Not the type of school spirit associated with sports, but just being proud of going to UT. UT is a great school, with great people, and in one of the best cities on the planet, Austin. I didn’t have that feeling when I went to Westlake high school; I would have and still would be more likely to talk about how bad it was than to bring up the good parts. I would not wear at Westlake shirt unless it was associated with something good such as choir. For UT I will.

This school spirit for UT doesn’t have anything to do with sports. I dislike how school spirit is linked to sports so much, especially football. I’ll watch an occasional game on TV, root for UT and get into it if it’s a good game (for example the game where UT football team won the championship), but nothing beyond that. School spirit isn’t about sports; it’s about being a great school.

Hook-em Horns.


Muslims in America

August 23, 2006

From a post of mine on Rightnation:

The funny thing is that America, which according to you all is weak and to lenient on radicals in America, doesn’t have a problem with homegrown Islamic radicals! How many American born Muslims do you see advocating for America to be an Islamic state? Next to none. It is precisely are openness and willingness to accept other cultures that makes Muslims feel welcome in this country and makes them want to integrate. The British attitude towards its Muslims isolates them and makes a large segment of them feel no loyalty to or identify with their country. Treating people like they don’t belong is a self-fulfilling prophecy. When we accept Muslims and their culture in America, they accept us and our culture and feel like they have an American identity. They even adapt to our culture and become a part of it. Tolerance is a two way street.

Remember the idea that America is one great melting pot of different people’s and cultures? That is part of what makes America a great nation. This is something America is doing right, and we should keep doing what we are doing. The British should be following our model.