Project Wonderful

Saturday, August 20, 2011

To D or Not to D...

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I googled how to register to vote in New York City within 48 hours of moving into my apartment. 28 days and I'm fillin' out my registration form! As excited as I am to register in my new home, I'm facing a bit of a dilemma: should I register as a Democrat or a Republican? Don't get me wrong, I'm a Democrat. I would vote for all of my-exboyfriends-riding-a chicken-that-looks-like-John-Edwards-to-improvised-live-music-played-by-Georgia-O'Keefe-at-Urban-Outfitters* before I would vote for Michele Bachmann. But that's all the more reason to put myself in a position to vote against her in the primary, right?

Let's break it down. Here are the reasons I would register as a Democrat:

1) Because I am one. I have this annoying thing with integrity. Technically speaking, I believe you should vote in primary of the party to which you belong. I thought it was a little shady in 2008 when conservatives registered as Democrats so that they could keep Hillary Clinton out of the picture. At the same time, one of the reasons I believe Democrats lose is because they are less willing to fight dirty than Republicans, so I think my desire for that not to be the case may trump any moral qualms I would have had. Maybe all liberals should register as Republicans and write-in Mike Gravel in the 2012 primaries?

2) People will know. Non-political friends are often shocked and appalled to learn how easy it is to find out information about someone's voting history. The party in which you are registered and in many cases whether or not you voted in a particular election are but a few mouse clicks away. (Fear not. This doesn't mean I can find out how you voted, just how you were registered.) Much in the way I laugh in the face of danger, I also laugh in the face of anyone who suggests I might like to run for office, but who knows what twists and turns might bring me into the public eye? I don't want my youthful fancies creating a PR problem for candidates or organizations I work with in the future. Besides I might become severely campaignsick and decide I want to become involved with the local Democratic committee for which, one must usually be a Democrat.

3) In NY, sometimes primaries are the ballgame. Did I mention that my new Congressperson is Charlie Rangel? New Yorkers have a tendency to be brand-loyal to Democrats. (I know, call the papers! Our secret is out! We're a bunch of freedom-hating-gay-kissers over here.) Although this is NOT an excuse not to vote in the general, it does mean that to have a greater say in who represents me, I will need to vote in the Democratic primary. True, registering as a Republican would allow me to vote in the 2012 Presidential primary, but my local politicians will have a greater impact on my daily life than whomever we choose as the Republican nominee, especially because if we do our job right that person will lose.

So why would I register as a Republican?

1) I want to vote against Michele Bachmann. Remember that weird list of things I said I would vote for over her? *That is a list of almost everything I hate combined into one giant super-awful. Granted, I am not a fan of Mitt Romney or any of the other gay-hating, poor-ignoring, religion-manipulating liars running for the Republican nomination, but Michele Bachmann is a special kind of monster: the kind that makes me makes me think "well this is why women shouldn't be in politics." Michele Bachmann's husband is a (clearly gay) pray the gay away counselor. She has probably never befriended a Jewish person in her life and yet she accuses President Obama of having too much "chootspa." She doesn't know who the founding fathers were. She lies about global warming. She believes women should be "submissive" to their husbands. And not even in the sexy way! Do other Republican candidates hold the same views? Of course they do. I can't stand them either, but Michele "Words mean whatever I want them to" Bachmann is the only woman in the race. Michele Bachmann becoming the first woman to secure her party's nomination would be like Carrot Top becoming the President of funny redheads. She makes women look like idiots. Those are my people you're pretending to represent and I simply can't have that happen. I don't think she'll get the nomination and I don't think she'd win if she did, but I'm not willing to take the chance.

2) I'm a big elections nerd. (WHAT? I know, I'm dropping all kinds of news worthy shocktails in this blog post.) I want the phone calls. I want the glossy lit telling me how the other candidates want to tax my money and abort my baby. I love that. I live for that, and I'm really looking forward to enjoying the primaries as an interested disinterested party not drunk on John Edwards' placenta tainted Kool-aid. And for you, my adoring public, wouldn't it be interesting if I had a bevy of Democratic campaign operatives and crew helping me decide how to cast my vote in the Republican primary?

3) Really, why not? Rino, Dino, who's to say what makes a Democrat or a Republican? When does a cello student become a cellist? When she starts calling herself one. In response to my own argument that I should vote in the primary of the party with which I identify, who's to say I wouldn't be? I don't support every Democrat and I don't hate every Republican. In fact, I wish I supported more Republicans. Choosing between two ethical, qualified candidates in a general election rather than supporting the lesser of two evils is basically the electoral holy grail. Clearly the Republican party is not churning out candidates to my specifications, but maybe if better people voted in their primaries they would and in turn Democrats would have to produce even more compelling candidates to keep up.

So what do we think? Is New York City Nancy a Democrat or Republican? Vote! Let your voice be heard! (poll in the upper right corner of the page)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy 19th Amendment Day!

Ninety-one years ago today women got the right to vote! Well, I would argue that technically we always had the right but now it's legal. Despite Michelle Bachmann's recent showing in the super- undemocratic Iowa Straw Poll, I think we can agree that overall women's suffrage has been a good thing. Rejoice, my sisters!

You know who didn't think so? Woodrow Wilson. In 1876 he said "Universal suffrage is the foundation of every evil in this country." He later changed his mind when it became politically expedient, but I prefer to remember him as the racist, sexist bigot he was. Here, written by Wilson 1912, is maybe my favorite argument ever as to why women shouldn't vote:
The principal objection to giving women the ballot is that they are too logical. A woman's mind leaps instantly from cause to effect, without any consideration whatever for what lies between. She thinks too directly to be enfranchised en bloc. She would run into all sorts of trouble. For instance, a woman's mind works like this: If she were voting and taking an active part in politics as men do, and if she was desperately anxious to accomplish a particular thing she would ignore every obstacle in her path and try to get it by instant, direct action.

God forbid.

Advocate from Where You Stand: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

To wit. Can you believe this just came up when I google imaged Urban Outfitters?

Recently one of my soon to be classmates posted a "helpful" article about places to buy inexpensive, student friendly furniture in New York City. First on the list? Urban Outfitters. Ignoring for the moment that Urban Outfitters is not what I would describe as inexpensive, my brain exploded a little bit. I want to be clear that I don't blame my future friend for posting this article. Urban Outfitters was only one of many stores mentioned therein and many of the students entering school with me are international. There is no reason for them to know about the hypocritical political leanings of American companies. To be fair, I don't know for certain that they would object even if they did. I would LOVE if some of my future classmates were conservative, it would take some of the pressure off me not being a hippie, but I suspect that's largely not the case. I began composing a diatribe explaining why SIPA students should think twice before shopping at Urban Outfitters...and then immediately deleted it because I don't want to be that girl. Besides, I have a blog for that.

Far be it for me to tell you not to shop in chain stores based on political contributions. In the last 48 hours I have been to Target, Sears and Radio Shack. For the sake of convenience or staying within a budget, it's almost unavoidable. Furthermore, I don't blame CEOs for donating to Republican candidates. How often have we derisively accused Republicans of being pro-big business? As long as we're agreeing that money is free speech, it would be almost irresponsible of CEOs (regardless of their personal political leanings) not to try to secure the election of candidates whose policies would be favorable to business interests.

However, if there are two groups of people without whom my life would be markedly better it's hipsters and Republicans, and so of all corporations Urban Outfitters in particular incurs my wrath. There is something almost Dr.Claw malevolent about a company that sells t-shirts saying "I survived The Bush Administration" and "Obama for Yo Mama" and markets itself to a young, often gay, even more often liberal demographic, while its President donates thousands of dollars to right wing candidates. I am by no means a conspiracy theorist, but I can just imagine Urban Outfitters founder and president, Richard Hayne, watching droves of institution hating 22-30 year olds lining up to shop at his overpriced thrift stores. "Haha," he cackles "they're playing right into my evil plan!"

An excellent 2003 article from the Philadelphia Weekly sums it up nicely. "Despite its slacker aura and carefully calibrated antiestablishmentarian cachet, Urban Outfitters Inc. is in fact a very Establishment, hypercapitalist multinational retail concern...But the difference between stage-crafted storefront image and corporate reality doesn't end there. While the typical Urban Outfitters shopper is likely to be liberal-minded...Hayne himself is an ardent Republican. He is a financial supporter of arch conservative Sen. Rick Santorum, whose recent comments about homosexuals equated gay sex with incest and bestiality." The article also depicts Hayne's journey from genuinely liberal beginnings to seemingly conflicted Republican.

Liberal t-shirts and conservative donations not withstanding, Hayne claims that Urban Outfitters, which by the way also owns Anthropologie, is apolitical. "As a company, we don’t contribute to any cause except non-controversial things like a breast cancer walk. I don’t know anyone who is for breast cancer...our job as a business is not to promote a political agenda. That's not what we do. There are all kinds of political views held by my employees. Some would be horrified to learn that we contributed to Santorum's campaign, and others would be fine with it. We openly discuss and joke about our political differences." To me this is almost worse. He's not making political donations because it's in the interest of his stock holders, he just really wanted to see Rick Santorum's homophobic face in office. Though the distinction is certainly worth making, at the end of the day, money you spend at UO is eventually making its way to Republican coffers.

Still Hayne is not totally at fault for the success of his hypocrisy. Democratic and Republican alike, people will do what they can get away with. I blame the hipsters and liberals who still shop at Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. As I said before, I do knowingly shop at stores owned and operated by high rolling Republicans, but I make a conscious decision when I do so. If you're going to damn the man, you should at least know when you're giving him money. I don't think its too much to ask that people who actively purchase politically themed tshirts be as informed as Miley Cyrus.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pawlenty Out

Don't worry, there are still Pa-lenty of candidates to choose from.

Second DNC ad hits Iowa

Corporations, corporations who need people are the luckiest corporations in the world...

Congratulations to Mitt Romney on a) being a doofus and b) warranting a DNC ad over a year before a candidate is declared. Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

It's about damn time

That somebody made a music video to the FreeConferenceCall hold music.

*thanks to former intern to the stars and campaign professional in his own right, Richard Becker.

We'll See...

One of my favorite clips from one of my favorite movies from none other than Aaron Sorkin.

There's been a lot of this about President Obama lately. "Obama's not strong enough, I wish I'd picked Hillary," etc.

This clip, and the attitudes in these articles, make me think of my time in the 2007-2008 cycle. Edwards lost and I thought "how awful." He admitted his affair and I thought "Thank God he didn't win." When Obama became a candidate, I thought he could never win the primary. When he won the primary, I thought he would never win the general and if he did he would compromise too much. I thought his supporters would become disillusioned, and it seems I was at least partially right. When Obama refused to stand up for LGBT rights I thought "I was right about him." When his administration finally took a stand on Don't Ask Don't Tell I thought "I was wrong about him."

I don't think its fair or particularly useful to speculate how another politician would have dealt with the unique and complicated position of the Presidency at any given time. We are a fickle population prone to making vast generalizations about whether our leaders are effective or ineffective based on a myopic view of present circumstances. Will President Obama win the 2012 election? I think so. Will he prove to have been an effective President? We'll see.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

I've Been Everywhere, Man

About once every six months, for about fifteen seconds, I forget which state I'm in. Usually, I'm either at a political event or a chain store. For the record, I advocate buying local, but sometimes even I can't resist lure of the Starbucks Gold Card or the quick convenience of Target. And I have to admit there is something comforting about these stores to someone who moves around so much. Target is the same everywhere. And (sorry GOP candidates) so is a Fourth of July parade, a house party fundraiser, or a rally. There is no "real America."

Every campaign I've worked on local leaders have told me "That might have worked in New York/Colorado/South Carolina/etc, but we do things differently here in Colorado/South Carolina/New York/etc." I've worked on a lot of campaigns and this has never actually been the case.
As a general rule, the things that work work everywhere. That's one of the things I love about campaigns, the skills and experience are as translatable as the staffers are transient.

Sitting at a 10,000 person rally with Barack Obama in Connecticut last November, I could have sworn I was at the 2008 Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner. My boss, my organizer and I were all crying. My boss was crying because of tremendous amount of work that went into the event and its eventual success. My organizer was crying because she was hearing the President speak live for the first time. I was crying because of the ironic and yet delicious symmetry of campaigns. It wasn't long ago that in a very similar theater in another state, a very similar speech had brought me to tears of rage and frustration...and now I was working for the guy.

I recently got scolded by a friend who is moving from Cambridge to Ohio. How could I complain about moving to New York? It's a big city, I know people there, it's close to home. It should be the easiest move I've ever made. And, of course, in some ways it is.

But when you work on campaigns for a living, states and cities are more than mere locations. They're comprised of people, emotions, and memories.
They're even temporal. "I've known him since Connecticut." or "I didn't really start drinking beer until Minnesota." If you asked me, I'd tell you I hate Iowa, but the truth is Iowa City is a really fun town. I "hate" Iowa because of the experience I had on a losing, underfunded and poorly managed campaign. Had things gone differently, I might be carving a butter cow as we speak.

Right now, I'm stressed about moving to New York because of what it represents- change, commitment, and adulthood. It's a departure from campaigns and my carefree hiatuses in Boston. It doesn't matter where so much as what and why. If my friend loves her job, makes friends and is happy in Ohio (very likely) and I am lonely and frustrated in New York (unlikely, but still a source of anxiety) why does it matter how the late bars are open or the accessibility of public transportation? Home, as they say, is where the heart is.

The truth is both my friend and I will be happy in our new locations because that's the kind of people we are. Eleven states in four years has taught me that a place is what you make of it. Besides, if I ever wish I was elsewhere, I can always click my heels together and find a Panera.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Today In Voter Suppression

Warning: Do not watch if it is a bad time for you to be enraged.

Does anyone have the fire of a thousand suns I can borrow? I need something to compare to how much I hate these guys.

This is like Campaign 101

Cain, Paul And Others Selling Campaign Gear Not Made In U.S.A.

As Paul Constant puts it "This is like Campaign 101."

It really is. Once before an important event when I was an organizer our field director had us scratching off the "Made in China" from these tiny little light up maracas with even cheaper plastic knives. The whole thing took like eighteen people working for like four hours, sweatshop irony not lost on me. Despite her initial faux pas in purchasing the maracas and her gross (and characteristic) misappropriation of resources, at least she realized her mistake. Her decision to allocate so much staff time on this project right before an important event highlights the importance of not having a foreign marker on our campaign gear.

Seriously, Republicans, who is working on these campaigns?!

Campaign gear needs to not have "Made in China/Mexico/Honduras" on it. Also, if you're a Democrat it needs to have a union bug. Class dismissed.

Truth-bending in politics? Well, I never!

True, this article is from Fox News. But, seriously.
"In a case that could test the bounds of free speech, a former Democratic congressman has been allowed to proceed with his lawsuit against a prominent pro-life group that he claims contributed to his election defeat by spreading falsehoods about his record on abortion issues."
Basically, this Congressman (Steve Driehaus) voted for the health care bill, and this anti-choice group (Susan B Anthony List) used that vote to claim he supported government funded abortion. He lost the election and is suing them.

Okay, I agree, campaigns, PACs and outside groups should not spread lies about other politicians. When my politicians on my campaigns have been the victims of these lies, I have had the thought "There ought to be a law!!!" On the other hand, politicians or campaigns I support have been on the disseminating end of negative campaigning and I've thought "Well, people need to know." Our opponents have no doubt seen these attacks as unfair or out of context and that, my friends, is politics. So, what is "should"?

There is in fact a law, or a set of laws, but the bar is high.
Driehaus would have to prove that what the group said about him was an out and out lie and that they knew it was. As the article puts it, "While libel and defamation law protects most speech when it comes to public officials, it does not necessarily protect false speech."

So much in politics is a matter of opinion. The claims that Susan B. Anthony List made about former Rep.Driehaus are pretty outrageous, but so are a lot of claims I've heard. How far is the leap from "Congresswoman X voted for a bill decriminalizing marijuana" to "Congresswoman X wants your children to be able to buy drugs?" I once worked on a campaign where our opponent claimed that my candidate was attacking his learning disabled child. (In reality, my candidate was campaigning on being the only public school parent in the race.) Was my candidate attacking our opponent's child by touting his own experience with public schools? Clearly, not. Did our opponent really think this was our candidate's intention? Doubtful. Did we sue the guy? Heck, no. Then again, we also won.

He also needs to prove that it caused him economic harm. As part of his complaint, Driehaus argues, "The First Amendment is not and never has been an invitation to concoct falsehoods aimed at depriving a person of his livelihood." This is the part that really gets me. This isn't about healthcare reform or election standards, it's about a sore loser. I don't see how Driehaus will be able to prove that this ad campaign definitively caused him to lose the election. Even if he does, so what? People have voted politicians out for less valid reasons. Voters have the right (frequently exercised) to vote stupid. When you choose electoral politics as your profession, you're signing on for a lack of job security. It comes with the territory. You might not like it, but you don't get to sue somebody. If you can't stand the heat, get outta the kitchen.

If "economic harm" didn't play such a large role in Driehaus' complaint, I would be way more sympathetic. The question of how or if we should regulate lying in campaigns is compelling. The people who tried to deny their fellow Americans health care by lying for political gain should be smacked, but Driehaus himself just makes me want to call the waaaahmbulance.

And who is representing the anti-choice group in question? None other than our friend, James Bopp.

I love when a conversation comes full circle.