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The work that makes our democracy work.

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So, this morning was a little different from 2008. It actually wasn’t the first time I returned to the polling place, thanks to Virginia’s strange gubernatorial schedule, but it felt more similar, thanks to the national coverage about what’s at stake. Today, I pulled out of the driveway with the baby at 7:24, drove to the polling place, parked, got her settled in her stroller, checked in, voted, got her back in the car and was driving off into the sunrise by 7:37.

But it still felt like a community. The people handing out sample ballots were chatting with each other regardless of the color of the paper they were handing out. People held the door for me with the stroller and poll workers waved at my daughter and gave me a “Future Voter” sticker to put on her bunting (one major difference, other than the complete absence of a wait in line was the temperature, which was around freezing this morning).

Lines were longer at the baby’s daycare center, which also serves as a polling place, and people seemed more confused and stressed. Parking was more difficult thanks to the convergence of pre-work voters and parents trying to drop off their kids. The person handing out sample ballots (there was only the one on the parking lot side) was less cheerful and seemed frustrated by the mix of people and was taken aback by my cheerful “Already voted!”

Sometimes voting seems like work – it’s a hassle to get up early and make time to stop by the polls. A lot of the time it really feels like it doesn’t matter or make a difference. Taking the kids can be a pain, especially if there are long lines or there are a lot of things on the ballot. But it’s the work that makes our democracy work. It is the bare minimum of our job description as citizens. Less painful that taxes but also more of a conscious effort, voting is voluntary, but essential. Sure, you can do more – you can make an educated choice, you can campaign, you can rally. But our system of government, while heightened by these things, does not require them. But if you don’t take that 15 minutes, or 30 or 50 to make your voice heard, then it all falls apart. And if you don’t want to vote, that’s fine, but at least do it consciously. (Don’t) do it for a reason not because you just can’t be bothered. No matter who you vote for, we’re all in this together.

Written by emandink

November 2, 2010 at 8:06 am

The Divided Fifty States.

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A lot of people have been talking about the “divide” in the U.S. lately.  On one side are the Glen Becks, the Rush Limbaughs, the Pat Buchanans. The teabaggers, the birthers, the folks who desperately need a Political Theory class so that they can learn the difference between socialism, communism, National Socialism, fascism and why it is hypocritical to protest against government spending and against inadequate government services at the same time. On the other side are the rest of us.

But that’s not the only divide. In discussions of feminism and rape culture and kyriarchy, it is abundantly clear that there is another deep chasm, between those who think she deserved it and those of us who don’t. Between those of us who think that women are objectified and those of us who think its their right to objectify us. Between those of us who think that the victims of rapists are the real victims and those who think the rapists are the real victims.

The discussion of the false rape allegations at Hofstra taking place at The Sexist today is a glaring example of this divide. And like so many such discussions, it makes me want to throw up a little because the differences in the way we view the world are so fucking obvious that I start to wonder if anything can make a difference and if we ever really can be “United”. Because despite what Buchanan thinks, we never really were.

Written by emandink

September 18, 2009 at 5:15 pm

It’s Czar Mystery

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I find it interesting that one of the criticisms being leveled against the Obama administration is his appointment of various “Czars”. What evidently started as a birther/’bagger type theoryis now gaining ground in the Republican establishment. And like stories of President Obama’s fictional Kenyan birth certificate, there’s about as much truth to the idea that this is a new concept.

Reading  Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Sunday editorial over a morning bowl of cereal, in which she calls Obama’s appointment of Czars “unprecedented” and strongly implies that no such position has ever existed (no, she doesn’t say it, but absolutely nothing in the op-ed even begins to acknowledge the fact that such posts have existed for 20 years), I was struck by that thought – didn’t this defiance of the Constitution begin during a Republican administration?

The answer is actually more nuanced than I thought. I was thinking of the “Drug Czar,  a position that was created in 1988 (under Ronald Regan) and filled in 1989 (under George H.W. Bush), which was initially a Cabinet level position, and therefore, while still evocative of the Evil Empire, not a direct thread to the sanctity of liberty. Or something like that. Obama has made a change with respect to the Drug Czar, a move that is not entirely inappropriately called “unprecedented”, in that it is a move without direct precedent, of essentially decommissioning the position and removing it from Cabinet status.

But the first actual use of “Czar” as a title evidently goes all the way back to the Nixon administration, who, again, I’m pretty certain was Republican. Or does it go back even farther? Some of our lovely friends at Wikipedia would have us believe that the term has been used for more than 80 years, beginning with FDR. So, maybe it is the Democrats’ fault? Just for the record, this, kids, is why people mock Wiki as a primary source. Three different articles imply three different answers to this burning question.

What is not in question is that for the better part of a century, the White House made do with a handful of Czars. Then look at that jump – the leap not just back into double digits, but into the 30s, takes place not in 2009, as Hutchison would have us believe, but rather, in the 8 years prior. You know what that means, right?

Yet, where were all of these people when George W. Bush was was appointing “czars” right and left? I suppose no one actually thought that the poster boy for unremitting capitalism could ever be labeled a communist.

Written by emandink

September 14, 2009 at 9:30 pm

And the SMTP* award goes to…

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Today’s award for Spectacularly Missing the Point goes to House Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) for the following dazzling brilliance during a debate about whether to grant same-sex partners of federal employees the same benefits that married (opposite sex, natch) patners may receive:

“Doesn’t it discriminate in terms by giving same-sex couples greater federal benefits than opposite sex couples who may not be married?”

To which, I can really, only say, “Wha? What part of the fact that SAME SEX COUPLES CANNOT GET MARRIED IN MOST STATES DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND, DUMBASS?!?!?!?!”

Thankfully, Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly was slightly more eloquent:

“The screaming contradiction of that question is that marriage is available to people in that situation and it is not in all but a handful of states to those of same-sex partnerships so that’s why you have to look at other ways of trying to address the issue.”

Really, why is this so hard to understand?

* No, not those.

Written by emandink

July 9, 2009 at 9:57 am

Posted in Gay Rights, Law, Politics

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Things I love the sound of:

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President Barack Hussein Obama.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Shivers, I tell you.

Written by emandink

January 22, 2009 at 9:24 am

Watching the World Wake Up From History

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It suddenly occurredto me yesterday that in five days George W. Bush will no longer be President of the United States.  I’ve known that, of course.  All of DC is abuzz with the inauguration.  I’ve been reviewing contracts related to inaugural related events – at least tangentially – for over a month.  Half the local news on NPR is about closings and crowds and the chaos that is feared as the enthusiastic masses amass on Tuesday.

But yesterday, something clicked.  In less than a week, we will have a new President.  That’s pretty damn cool.  It is exciting to see new faces in the news, or old faces in new ways.  Hillary Clinton’s remarks during her Senate confirmation as Secretary of State sent chills down my spine.  Happy, elated, my god, someone who really gets it kind of chills.  I wondered why Obama chose that spot for her.  Now I know.  There have been a lot of moments like that in the past couple of months – moments where I’m struck by how different our government leadership could be.  The DOJappointments especially, make me grin with glee.  Eric Holder, Elena Kagan, a formal NARAL laywer  – all excellent choices.

Sanjay Gupta, maybe not so much.  Warren giving the invocation makes me want to vomit, Robinson notwithstanding.

Eight years ago, like so many others – half this nation – I looked toward January 20th with dread.  This year I don’t.  I find myself looking forward to a State of the Union address for the first time in almost a decade.  But I also look around me and I know this – Obama is not a superhero.  He is not the messiah.  He can, and will, do wrong.

The morning of January 21, the United States of America is not going to be a whole new and different place.  The sun will rise, it will be cold as hell over much of the country and traffic is still going to suck on the Roosevelt Bridge.  The economy will still be in a shambles.  All Americans will still not be equal based solely on the anatomy of the person they love.  My library books will still be due.  But maybe, just maybe, change will still be in the air.

Written by emandink

January 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

It was a dark and stormy morning.

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I woke up at 5:15 this morning.  It was dark.  It was chilly.  It was election day! 

I stumbled to the bathroom, threw on some clothes, stopped to make coffee, let the dog out and clean up some spilled apple juice, then I was out the door into the early morning dark and chill.  Happily, it was not yet raining.

I should have walked to the polling place – it’s only about 5 blocks away, but it was 5:30 and I was tired and not thinking clearly.  As it was, I got one of the last spots in the community center lot and joined a line that was already half a block long – at 5:35!  I’d guess that there were at least 100 people in line ahead of me. 

By the time the polls opened at 6, the line was starting to snake around the corner.

In one of those strange DC area coincidences, I started chatting with a couple of folks near me in line and it turns out that a man who had been voting at our polling place for 45 years used to live in NW Iowa near Sioux City and he would drive down to Springfield, Missouri every weekend fifty years ago to play at a country music bar there.   Two people behind him was a woman who grew up on a farm outside of St. Louis and who went to college at what was then called SMSU, where my mother worked for when I was born and later moved to Chicago.  So, we ended up chatting a lot about the Ozarks and Branson and Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the duration of our wait.  Maybe we live in a small town after all.

Once the doors opened at 6:00, the line moved fast.  Poll workers were on the ball, walking up and down the lines with portable electronic check in machines confirming that anyone voting at our precinct for the first time was actually on the voter rolls properly.  Check in was the most comprehensive I’d ever seen – they didn’t just check to see that our id matched a voter registration, but we had to give our full name and address – at least I did.  Again, this was electronic.

Then it was get in the last and final line for the vote itself.  We had a choice between touch screen machines and paper scan ballots.  I ended up going electronic – it was a fight in my gut – part of me had been hoping for the paper option and evidently a lot of local media watchers are saying that is better.  Then again, a friend of mine is now worried that her vote won’t be readable because the election officers at her Fairfax County polling place didn’t have pencils or black pens, which the ballot claims to require.   She has thusfar been unable to get a satisfactory answer to that issue. 

The last time I felt such a thrill marking and finalizing my ballot was in 1992, when for the first time ever, I had a ballot in my hand.  I voted absentee from college, which was sort of a letdown, although, given the tales of long lines at the campus precincts, it definitely saved me some time.  I remember filling out the ballot with the little punch card thing, frantically worrying about whether I was doing it right before sealing the envelope, kissing it for luck and sending it off to McLean County with its votes for Bill Clinton and Carol Mosley Braun.  That year I helped elect the first Black woman to the U.S. Senate.  Here’s hoping this year I help elect the first Black man president.

As we wait for the election returns tonight, I will leave you with this.  That’s pretty much what it’s all about right there.

Written by emandink

November 4, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Election 2008, Politics

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