Saturday, 31 May 2008

Me, Media Darling

So the BBC News 24 piece today appeared a little after 5:15, with me, Margo and Daniel Rivkin (giving the general party perspective). As soon as we got off the set we were stopped by a producer from BBC World, which broadcasts globally, asking us to come back and do the same thing tonight at 9:00 PM. So basically, most of my Saturday consisted of travelling to BBC Television Centre, travelling to Islington (to meet my husband for dinner) and then travelling back again.

It was fun, though, and I felt I achieved my main goals which were 1) Not say anything completely stupid and 2) bring the discussion around to the importance of getting every American to vote in November.

Which reminds me, it's time for your regular nagging session: if you haven't already done so, go to I shall be very put out with you if you are merely reading this and nodding your head without actually being prepared to vote. Already registered? Hurray for you! Now go find another American and register them. No rest for the righteous.

I'd be glad to answer any questions about the TV experience (yes, we got make up. Yes, we saw famous people - Andrew Lloyd Webber in the hallway for one. He's short.), just post them in comments.

More on the Rules and Bylaws Committee tomorrow, but it looks like we've got a reasonable compromise in the works in Florida, involving seating the full delegation at half votes. Michigan remains something of a pickle.

BBC News 24 Today at 4:30

I'll be on the BBC News 24 this afternoon discussing the state of the Democratic primary alongside Margo Miller from the Hillary campaign. If you happen to be near a television at that time, do tune in. If you like what you see, drop me a line and let's discuss it.

If I embarrass myself, let us never speak of this again. Cheers!

UPDATE: Now at 5.00 o'clock.

Michigan and Florida Voter Participation

As I have mentioned before, one of the biggest problems with any proposal to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations is the fact that every citizen of those states were led to believe that these votes would not count. Logically, you would expect that many eligible voters who would otherwise have wanted to participate might therefore have decided to stay home instead, and would then, ironically, be doubly disenfranchised by a decision to count the votes of those who DID participate.

But is there any evidence that large numbers of likely Michigan and Florida voters did, in fact, stay home on primary day?

As it turns out: yes.

The Rules and Bylaws Committee meets today - let's hope they resolve on a solution that everyone can live with. Sadly, I think large groups of people will be the loser no matter what is decided.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Obama in Africa Screening Tonight!

Just a friendly reminder that the screening of Obama in Africa I mentioned before is taking place tonight. Organised by London Obama supporter Bethany Torvell, this sounds like a fabulous event - hope you can make it and I look forward to seeing you there!

But remember to RSVP to Bethany on

The full event link it:

What Women Want

In the spirit of mutual understanding discussed here, I found this E. J. Dionne article about how many professional women feel Hillary has been poorly treated on this campaign interesting.

Nonetheless, even these very pragmatic female politicians who very much want a Democrat to win the White House are looking for signs of "understanding and respect," said Kopp.

"It's a campaign, someone wins, someone doesn't win, that's life," she said. "But women don't want to be totally dissed."

And I have to say: fair enough. It's true, women don't want to be dissed or dismissed because of their gender. And, yes, I do agree that there was some sexism on display at various points during this campaign. None of it, in my view ever came from the Obama camp, but the media has been Hillary-bashing for so long they've gotten very careless about it. I don't like that sort of thing.

But actually, I thought from the beginning of this race, and I still think, that the most remarkable part of the story so far has been how comparatively LITTLE sexism existed. For the most part, Hillary was taken at face value and treated primarily as a politician - not as a a female politician. Being taken seriously meant that while she was the front runner, her opponents directed their arguments primarily to her. It meant that the media was focussing their attention on her. It also meant that when she fell behind, people generally understood that she was not losing because she was a woman but because she had been beaten by another candidate (who happened to be African American).

This is in many ways the best possible advance for feminism - the first prospective female President has not been treated with kid gloves, nor dismissed. The next female candidate to run can rightly expect the same tough but fair treatment, which is all to the good since that future women is unlikely to enter the race with the huge name recognition and party apparatus advantages that Hillary did. Future female Presidential candidates (of which I have no doubt that there will be many in my life time) will be better off because Hillary was taken seriously from the start.

And, as an added bonus, the party is about to nominate a candidate in Barack Obama who is in fact a huge supporter of women's rights, has stood up for choice throughout his career, takes seriously the problem of ensuring women are treated fairly in the workforce (especially during their childbearing years), and is so comfortable around strong women that he married the woman who had been his law firm mentor!

So women want respect and equal treatment, and they will get it. No worries.

Thursday, 29 May 2008


Huge thanks to Jay Wyatt, who has just sent me this:

As I've said before, I think Jim Webb on paper has all the ingredients of a terrific VP pick for Obama. Plus, I think his fiesty populist persona could nicely compliment and add zest to Obama's unifying message.

But, already people have started writing the case against Webb as VP. I think the prospect that Webb's previous statements about women might exacerbate any problems we would have in bringing Hillary supporters back to the fold is worth taking seriously. On the other hand, Webb might bring in the very same white working class voters that Hillary claims she can win better than Barack. I think this is exactly the sort of thing that shows how important it is that Barack has started his VP vetting process now - there are a lot of implications that need to be thought through. But as a former resident of Alexandria, VA I'd love to see Obama win Virginia in this cycle.

What do you think?

Making Nice

Recently Bill Barnard, the Chair of Democrats Abroad UK posted a message with some very wise and reasoned thoughts about the importance of Democrats behaving cautiously and respectfully in this promary season. I wanted to post Bill's thoughts because I think they are worth hearing but also because it gives me a chance to talk about something I specifically wanted to say to every Obama supporter I know.

Here are Bill's thoughts:

To Members of the Council: I am not sure that we have fully grasped the extraordinary political opportunity that is almost ours. With a Republican President at an all--time low in the polls and with the Republican coalition beginning to crumble, with an unpopular war and an administration with no plan to end it or to define what `victory' might mean, with an economy on the brink of a serious crisis unlike any we have seen in generations, with a health care system whose benefits are not available to all, with a planet in ecological peril and an administration that denies science and refuses to recognize the seriousness of the crisis, with a continuing erosion of American prestige around the world—-with all of this, there is now a rising and almost irresistible Democratic tide. Of course, our focus has been primarily on the historic Presidential contest. And here we have the good fortune to have had an
incredibly talented array of Democratic candidates, a panoply that looked like 21st century America. (The Republicans seemed rooted in the 1950s—only one gender and one color need apply.) Now, we are down to two extraordinary candidates, either of which will make history. Our party has been roughly equally divided between supporters of Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. We face the dilemma—-the historic but exquisitely painful dilemma—-of offering to the nation either the first female candidate to have a genuinely serious chance of winning the Presidency or the first black American with a serious chance of doing so. It is a transitory moment of great sensitivity. And we can best navigate it with respect for each other and for our differing choices. Mutual understanding and civility are qualities all the more necessary in the coming weeks. For we are united in our determination to see an end to eight years of Republican mis-rule. I am convinced that we Democrats will prevail at the Presidential level, despite the kind of campaign of fear and misrepresentation
that the Republicans and their Swift-boating allies will undoubtedly wage. But we should not let the inevitable focus on the historic Presidential race blind us to the reality of what is achievable in the House and Senate. It was clear in 2006 that the old Republican coalition put together by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan was beginning to fall apart. Democrats retook both the House and Senate, winning in places (in the Senate in Virginia, where DA made a difference, and in Montana) where we weren't supposed to. The further consolidation of our hold on the mid-Atlantic and New England states was evidence too, with Senate wins against incumbents in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island and with a history-making clean sweep of the state government in New Hampshire. The Democratic tide still runs strong—with anticipated Senate wins this year in New Hampshire and again in Virginia, possibly in Maine, and with real chances where we have not been competitive in recent decades, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and even Alaska. In the House in the last two months, Democrats won three special elections—-in Illinois, replacing the Republican Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and in Mississippi and Louisiana in districts that had given George Bush margins of 20% or more and that had not voted Democratic in House races in a decade and a half. Significant gains in the House are also likely. What? Is it possible to think that Democrats could enter the next Presidential term with 60 votes in the Senate, breaking the stranglehold that has so frustrated every progressive effort of the last thirty years? The New York Times thinks it is. Yes, as I pointed out almost two months ago in the DAUK eNewsletter, we may well be on the verge of a genuinely transformational election, a realigning election, in which we prevail not only at the Presidential level but see a fundamental
shift in the tectonic plates of American politics, a shift that elevates a new Democratic coalition to majority status for perhaps a generation. That coalition will mean an even broader church—an even bigger big tent. We will need to approach those who agree with 90% of what we also believe but who differ on some matters, even some that are important to us individually, with a heightened degree of tolerance, understanding, and civility. The rewards in breaking the deadlock that has characterized Washington over the past decades will be worth it. So, in the words of an old spiritual adopted by the civil rights movement, let us keep our eyes on the prize—-not only on the Presidency but on the creation of a new Democratic majority as well. In our personal conduct—-in all we say and do—-let us lay the ground work for a unified party that can grasp the extraordinary opportunity that can be ours. The officers and the Executive Committee, with support from volunteers from the Council and from the general membership, are at work on a series of events that will permit us one and all to join together in unity to defeat John McCain and to retake the White House.

William D. Barnard

Chair, Democrats Abroad U.K.

Look at it this way - a lot of us got involved in Obama's campaign in the first place because he promised to help us see our country in a less divided way. "Not a red america and a blue America, but a UNITED States of America." Remember?

But no one ever promised that overcoming divisions and polaristion in our country would be easy or automatic - we knew it would be hard work. It's SUPPOSED to be hard work.

So it would be easy for Obama supporters to spend their time feeling angry, or smug. It would be equally easy for Hillary's supporters to feel bitter, or disrespected. But I don't see how that would help us win in November. Instead, I invite you to treat this schism within our own party in the same way that Obama is asking you to treat the wider political climate. Respect those who have a different point of view. Engage with them constructively and calmly. Understand where they're coming from even (especially) if you don't AGREE with where they're coming from.

Hillary Clinton is the first woman to arrive within touching distance of the Presidency. It's not surprising that many women feel extremely proud of her and are sensitive to any hint of sexism directed against her.

She is an accomplished Senator, a successful lawyer and a leading figure within our party. There's nothing irrational about her supporters' desire to see these achievements respected.

And while I dispute the notion that she has by any meaningful method of counting won more votes than Barack Obama, she's won many millions of votes from many millions of people who generally admire and respect her.

Those people will be disappointed when this competition concludes and she is not our nominee. They have a right to be disappointed. So, show a little human compassion as well as political savvy and do your small part to ensure our victory in November - be nice to the Clintonites.

Have you got a Clinton supporting friend who you haven't spoken to for a while? Give them a call. Hear them out. Remind them that, despite the real differences between the two candidates, on matters of policy - health care, civil and women's rights, ending the war in Iraq, restoring the constitution - Hillary and Barack agree a lot more than they disagree. And John McCain is on the wrong side of all these issues.

McCain Ignorant of Economy - Advisors Even Worse

John McCain has famously stated that he himself doesn't actually know very much about economic issues. By implication, however, he's liked to suggest that his advisors in this area can make up for this (rather significant) deficit.

Well, as it turns out his most prominent economic advisor - former Senator Phil Gramm - may be worse than merely ignorant. It's now emerged that Gramm not only played an instrumental role in bringing about the regulatory loosening that directly helped to create the current Sub Prime Mortgate crisis, but immediately upon leaving office he took a job as a paid lobbyist for the bank UBS, which was also a huge contributor to the crisis.

Good Problems to Have

Here is an interesting article about potential future Democratic tensions that might follow an expected increased Democratic majority in congress and takeover of the White House.

The Democrats, shrewdly, have sworn off ideological coherence in favor of a more decentralized strategy. In the Deep South, they've run as economic nationalists opposed to the Iraq War, mass immigration, and free trade. In affluent suburbia,
they've run as pragmatic cultural liberals staunchly opposed to the cruel vagaries of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Obama has managed to bridge this still-emerging divide, by drawing on the language of anti-war Midwestern populists as well as the soothing tones of the foreign policy establishment. This balancing act is what makes Obama a political virtuoso. But these divisions and contradictions, similar in some sense to those that divided the Democrats at their political zenith, will prove difficult to manage once something tangible is at stake. If, as looks increasingly likely, increased minority turnout and youth turnout contribute to a sweeping Democratic win, we will see newer generational and cultural tensions that will undoubtedly shape the future of American involvement in Iraq and the welfare state.

At the risk of invoking a "be careful what you wish for" curse, I can only say that I think it would be amazing if Democrats big problem were holding our broad governing coalition together. Here's hoping.

Oh Happy Day!

During a fund-raiser in Denver, Obama — a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School — was asked what he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office.

“I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama.

Now that ALONE would be well worth electing him for. Respect for the Constitution - what a concept!

Black Eagle

Obama has promised that he will reach out to each and every American - and I'm delighted to see that he is including the very first Americans in that promise, with an unprecedented outreach initiative to Native Americans in every state he visits. The Native American population is a traditionally Democratic voting block that he received relatively little attention from our leaders in the past. (Plus, you know, there's the centuries of genocide and land-grabbing. So they've got some cause for grievance.)

Obama was recently adopted by the Crow Nation and aquired a new honorary surname as a result: Black Eagle. I like it.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


This CBS news article on electability arguments is hereby noted with interest but without comment.

Pick Your Veep

The Obama campaign is not officially commenting on the subject of a possible Vice Presidential pick, out of respect for Hillary's ongoing campaign.

While I, too, wish to respect the primary process until the very last voter has voted - there's nothing to stop us from a Irresponsibly Speculating. I mean come on, without irresponsible speculation we couldn't HAVE a 24 hour cable new media. And what a tragedy that would be (sarcasm alert).

So here's a by-no-means definitive list of potential Obama Vice Presidential candidates - what are your thoughts? Please write into comments with your best arguments in FAVOR of any of these people. Note, however, that I am moderating the comments and I don't want to see anything that insults any member of our party (you know what I mean) - I want to hear your best case argument for why any one or more of the people below would make a great VP, either from a political, symbolic or policy point of view.

In no particular order:
  • Kathleen Sebelius
  • Jim Webb
  • Ed Rendell
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Tim Kaine
  • Claire McCaskill
  • Tom Daschle
  • John Edwards
  • Chris Dodd
  • Joe Biden
  • Wesley Clark
  • Janet Napolitano
  • Bill Richardson
  • and (just for fun)... Mike Bloomberg

Call to Action...

Since I mentioned earlier on this blog that Barack would be subsituting for Ted Kennedy in making the commencement address at last weekend's Wesleyan graduation, I'm doubly glad to find that it was a beautiful, inspiring speech touching on one of the issues dear to my heart: public service. It really is worth reading the whole speech, but here are some highlights.

You are about to enter a world that makes it easy to get caught up in the notion that there are actually two different stories at work in our lives.

The first is the story of our everyday cares and concerns – the responsibilities we have to our jobs and our families – the bustle and busyness of what happens in our own life. And the second is the story of what happens in the life of our country – of what happens in the wider world. It’s the story you see when you catch a glimpse of the day’s headlines or turn on the news at night – a story of big challenges like war and recession; hunger and climate change; injustice and inequality. It’s a story that can sometimes seem distant and separate from our own – a destiny to be shaped by
forces beyond our control.

And yet, the history of this nation tells us this isn’t so. It tells us that we are a people whose destiny has never been written for us, but by us – by generations of men and women, young and old, who have always believed that their story and the American story are not separate, but shared. And for more than two centuries, they have served this country in ways that have forever enriched both.

I say this to you as someone who couldn’t be standing here today if not for the service of others, and wouldn’t be standing here today if not for the purpose that service gave my own life.

Just for the Record...

I think this proposal for how to resolve the Michigan delegate conundrum is reasonably fair and logical.

Both the Florida and Michigan delegates are impossible situations for the DNC - there simply is no way of resolving the problem that is fair to the voters of those states, to both remaining candidates, AND to the other states which did follow the rules from the outset.

And although there has been a lot of talk about supposed concerns over "disenfranchising" those voters who chose to participate in the beauty election primaries in these two states, it would be equally problematic (in my view) to then disenfranchise those people who chose not to participate in what they had been told was a non-binding election. The voter participation in both states was considerably lower than it has been in other states this cycle as a proportion of the population- we have to assume that this is at least in part because some people who would have otherwise voted believed the words of the party leadership when they insisted that this vote would not be valid.

Also, consider the fate of the Michigan voter who is not allowed to vote for his preferred candidate, even in the "beauty contest" race - only Clinton, Kucinich and Dodd were on the ballots there, leaving not only Obama voters but also Richardson, Edwards and Biden out in the cold.

It sucks - it really does. What about a full re-vote in both states. A clear and fair solution, right? Well, yes and no. First of all, there was a concerted campaign by Daily Kos in Michigan to persuade Democratic voters to vote in the Republican primary in order (ironically) to keep that race going for longer. This would prevent those people from then voting in a new Democratic primary.

What's more, this resolution of the problem would effectively turn these two states and their new elections into by far the most important races of the primary so far - thereby penalising each and every state that chose to play by the rules from the outset. Look down the line into the next cycle - in 4 years from now, doesn't this give each and every state an unbelievably strong incentive to break the party rules and set their primaries even earlier? If we're not careful we'll be chosing our next nominee before we've even managed to elect this one! This is precisely the outcome that Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were ALL trying to avoid when Dean proposed the penalties and the candidates agreed to support them.

I'm not saying that excluding the Michigan and Florida delegates from the Convention is in any way desirable - but I just don't see any solution at all that is fair to everyone. And I don't want to argue this from a narrow, pro-candidate position either - this is about the long term health of the party. When the Rules and Bylaws Committee meets on Saturday, they need to find a miraculous solution that will take all these factors into account, be acceptable to both campaigns, operate under a clear reading of the rules, and hopefully draw a close to the whole discussion so we can move on to fighting Republicans. I just can't think was that miracle solution might be!

Can you?

Nagging - Again!

As I have said before - it is vitally important that each and every American citizen living overseas needs to register to vote this year and request their absentee ballot. Even if you have already registered last year, you need to do it again in 2008 to be absolutely sure that you will be sent an absentee ballot (otherwise they might simply assume you will vote at your US address).

Go to Obama can only win if we vote for him, we can only vote for him if we get our ballots, we'll only get our ballots if we fill out the forms. Step by step to victory! Tell your friends, please!

I'm Back

Didja miss me?

Funny how the world carries on seamlessly even if you do spend a few days without obsessively hitting refresh on Let that be a lesson to me.

Monday, 26 May 2008

I'm In the Lakes.. But Thinking Barack, as always

Just a quick note to let you all know that the silence on this blog over the past few days doesn't mean I'm not thinking about you all! I'm in the Lake District for a few days over the Bank Holiday weekend, so regular blogging will resume as normal on Wednesday.

Till then!