(Copyright 2008)


By Tony Walther

OBAMA BECOMES FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT-ELECT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA NOW AT 8 P.M. Pacific time, it has just been announced on CBS and other news outlets.

I never thought this would happen in my lifetime.

Now at 8:15 p.m. MSNBC projects the electoral vote count at 306/146 Obama. More importantly, John McCain is giving his concession speech, with boos by his supporters when he first said Obama’s name, but he told them “please” and went on to praise Obama for the inspiration he has given the American people and comments on the momentous occasion of electing the first Black president, helping to right the wrongs of the past, and now gets applause.

And I should add that Obama took the vote in Florida, a state that went to George W. Bush in both of his elections — you know, the one with the hanging chads back in 2000, the one that a right-leaning Supreme Court halted the recount in that ended hopes for the Democrat Al Gore, who had actually won the popular vote of the electorate of the nation as a whole.

— Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnestota, the man John McCain did not pick for his vice presidential slot, but maybe should have (as opposed to Sarah Palin who polling shows has cost him many votes), says that in the future the Republican Party needs to “do a better job reaching out to modest income people”.

That’s a good new lead for my running election day blog here at about 7:45 p.m. I just heard him tell that to CBS’s Katie Couric. And Couric says Obama supporters can now “almost smell victory.”

Currently, Barack Obama leads John McCain 207/142 (projected) — he needs 270.  Gov. Pawlenty admitted that since Obama has apparently taken Ohio and Pennsylvania, it is virtually impossible for McCain to win. The talk now seems to be that Obama is just waiting for McCain’s concession call (I’m saying that, not Pawlenty).

There had been fear that Obama, headed to be America’s first Black president could not attract enough white working class voters. But in Ohio polling shows he attracted 46 percent of that vote.

And now they are saying that this is an historic shift, political realignment in politics. The Reagan era is finally over. We’ll see. You know, government is the enemy — maybe folks think now they need government as a friend.

Another updated lead to my blog at about 6:40 p.m. Pacific time. Barack Obama is projected to win Ohio (an additional 20 electoral votes),  the state that has the longest history of picking the winner. And that was from an NBC report. They put Obama at 200 electoral votes to John McCain’s 90 at this time.

 — A tough loss apparently for John McCain. CBS projects now at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time as I write this updated lead that Barack Obama will win Pennsylvania. The McCain camp had said they had to win Pennsylvania to win the election.

Obama leads in the projected electoral vote count,102/54, according to CBS. And while thousands gather in Chicago for a big Obama bash, many fewer gather in Phoenix, where the mood among John McCain’s top staff is “stoic”, as the CNN reporter puts it.

Election night coverage is almost like that endless commentary during the Super Bowl, with the difference being that no plays can now be made to change anything — unless it would be close and there was a legal challenge, I guess. And I always wondered why all the during the game commentary? Why not just watch the game and see how it comes out or why not during the election just go to bed and see how it came out tomorrow morning? But being the political junkie I am, I think I know the feeling of those rabid sports fans — I wouldn’t miss it for anything!

Just heard a TV report about a newly naturalized citizen from Germany. She voted for the Green party candidate because she could not decide between Obama and McCain.

Never have seen anything like this in my lifetime: people are waiting five hours in line to vote in Detroit in a line estimated to be one-thousand people long, according to CNN.

Meanwhle, I’m just your average progressive white guy here with one good omen and one bad:

The good: early ballot counts in New Hampshire show it Obama  by a landslide.

The bad: two Youtube posts I just watched purportedly show some black thug-looking guys with billy clubs standing in front of a polling place in Philedephia. The first shows them there. The second shows the real police arriving and seemingly escorting them away, although it ends there and I don’t know what happended next. Could find nothing on the official news as of yet. The hysterical or maybe not so hysterical types are already blogging that it’s part of an earlier announced plan by the Black Panthers and others to intimidate voters. They claim that they were planning to discourage anyone who “looked” like they might not be voting for Obama. I love the internet because you get immediate, unfiltered news. Unfortunately it is also unverified and a lot of hard details and facts are missing. Welcome to the new internet news age.

Kind of doing a running commentary here — I have heard nothing further on the intimidation reports on either side, except for a running story about Democrats in some areas getting robocalls informing them that they are not to vote until Wednesday. But as one pro-Obama commentator even conceded: if someone is naive enough to believe that, maybe they should not be voting in the first place.

I went to bed late last night after I heard that Barack Obama beat John McCain 15-6 in the nation’s earliest voting in Dixville Notch, N.H., which took place just after midnight Eastern time. He also beat McCain 17-10 at Hart’s Location, N.H., I learned this morning.

McCain must feel the ground moving beneath him – that would be the Obama landslide!

Of course I don’t actually know that it will be a landslide, but it sure seems so from everything I am reading and seeing on television. When all the Republican (nearly all) spokespersons and Republican leaning commentators predict an Obama win, what else could one conclude?

(Yes, I said I probably would not blog until I got word on the winner or at least not until much later today, but I could not help myself.)

The record surge in voting across the nation is heartening. All of my life I have witnessed the hand wringing about the lack of voter participation in the United States. Well, finally, maybe, folks had a reason to vote. For most of my life it has been tweedle dee vs. tweedle dumb at the top level of the ticket. This time, I don’t think so. There is a stark contrast: basically we have one candidate — Barack Obama — who appears to represent the people (as a whole), a man who is too young to be part of the entrenched establishment, which in my opinion for whatever reason does not represent the people as much as it should, a man who promises change (and apparently a lot of people think change is needed), and a man who personifies change because he is black. I’m white. But somehow his being black does not scare me a bit. Okay, he’s half black, but by appearance, he is African-American (I like to call myself German-American, but I doubt my appearance shows it). And although folks like Jesse Jackson might resent it, this new guy does not carry the baggage of the civil rights movement. He benefitted from it, but he did not suffer to any extent from racial prejudice, so he is more broad minded.

I don’t see him as the messiah, but I certainly have hopes that he will indeed have a different approach to government. Admittedly, he does not have a clear or long paper record, but he has demonstrated by his speaking that he has an ability to see both sides of the equation and that he is willing to consider differing points of view. And I think what I did not see much of in his campaign is vilifying the other side (fair criticism is fine, but mudslinging, lies, and innuendo, not so fine).

Okay, and then you have John McCain. Frankly, I can’t recall what he has said he has to offer, except patriotism, which in and of itself is fine, but not enough. Oh, yes, I know he claims to be a maverick and that he too will shake up Washington – he even co-opted Obama’s message and said he too is the candidate of change. But how can he do this? He’s a Republican, the same party that is in the White House now. If he is so much against his own party, why did he not become a Democrat?

Ironically, the Republicans, the party of self-reliance and free enterprise, have resorted to socialism of our banking system, while calling the Democratic opponent a socialist. It seems that socialism is okay when it seeks to help the big money interests, but not so okay when it seeks to help those farther down the scale.

I see little difference between McCain and Obama on national defense, except that McCain is a little more hawkish on Iraq, but even Obama has hedged his position somewhat on Iraq and he calls for an emphasis on Afghanistan – does not sound anti-war or anti-military to me.

The only concern I once may have had (not so much now) on Obama is that he might neglect the military. I served a brief second stint in the Army during the Carter administration and witnessed first hand the low morale of a neglected military – the federal government at the time actually let the military go past a payday without issuing checks (the Republicans caused the problem, but I think Carter could have issued an executive order as Commander in Chief that the military be paid on time). But nothing Obama has said really indicates to me that he would let the military suffer. In fact, he calls for providing troops with the best equipment available to a fight a war, something the current administration has not always done (although poor supply for troops even happened in World War II – logistics and procurement is a complicated thing, often rife with graft).

I don’t know what to think of the tax issue. Using shorthand here, McCain proposes to leave the tax cuts in place for the wealthy and proclaims he will not raise anyone’s taxes. Obama proclaims he will only raise taxes on the wealthy. My problem with this is that if we are trillions of dollars in debt and we are fighting multiple wars, and if millions of Americans are losing their jobs and need assistance, how do we pay down the debt and finance our government without taxes? And is it fair to soak one class of people on taxes? Somehow I think both candidates are unrealistic on the issue. If either of them had any real guts on that issue they would have pushed for a complete overhaul of the tax system: no deductions, flat tax, consumption tax? I don’t know the answer. Certainly a large part of the answer has to be that we have to get the economy going so there will be a surge in tax revenue. It will likely take a lot of government assistance (and the government is really all of us) to fix our economy, or we could revert to laissez faire and let the natural law of supply and demand and the miracle of the free enterprise market place do its thing (not likely under Obama), but we do have to have regulation. And with the current mess, we might all starve to death waiting for the free market to work. So we are back to square one.

– Why are there seemingly so many problems with voting? I guess I have been fortunate to spend most of my life, not all, in relative low population areas. Voting has never been a problem for my wife and me. For several years now we have voted absentee. It used to be here in California that you had to have an excuse to do so, but sometime many years back they opened it up to everyone. We could send our ballots in by mail, but we always drop them by the county elections department. This year, we didn’t even have to go inside, we just dropped them in a slot they had outside. And how hard is it to register? We never have had to rely on someone helping us or persuading us to register – well there was this one time: we lived in Porterville, Ca.  and were shopping several miles away at the county seat of Tulare County, Visalia, and someone approached us and asked if we wanted to register to vote. We had recently moved to the area and took them up on it. Problem was, they never turned the forms in. But we re-registered. Subsequently we moved. I called the Tulare County registrar and they allowed us to vote (they sent the ballots to us – I guess some nitpickers might cry foul). Even with all of that, it seems we have never really faced obstacles in voting.

— Why can’t we use paper ballots and count by hand? I recall voting at a school many long years ago – no voting machines. We used a rubber stamp to mark our ballots. What with the worry about some types of voting machines being unreliable and the concern about the lack of a paper trail in many types of machines, I have to wonder why we can’t just go back to paper ballots. So what if it took weeks to count the paper ballots (it did not when we used them, usually). What is the rush? In the presidential election the new president does not take office until next year. Sure we all want to know as soon as we can this evening – but do we have to?

– Fox News last night was still spewing out the anti-Obama message and Greta Van Susteren seemed beside herself at the prospect of an Obama win. I don’t really understand Fox News. On the one hand, I understand that the thinking may have been at one time that the regular network news was a little biased toward what has been called the left (true or not), but I don’t see how having a cable network that is openly biased (fair and balanced being their empty slogan), so much so it is almost comical, solves the problem. I guess it’s kind of like the adversarial approach in a court of law where both sides are biased and you the listener are the judge. NPR does a much better job in the way of being impartial, although I often feel they are a tad left leaning at times (you think?). Objective news reporting is difficult. In some ways it is much better when you can interpret a story by calling it as you see it, but on the other hand, doing so, means that there is a bias and you may be ignoring different points of view. But going out of one’s way to be balanced (really balanced, not the fake Fox kind) can be misleading – when you have to give an absurd point or view in the interest of being balanced – and decidedly dull at times. Nevertheless, I prefer the objective approach. Look at it this way: if you were building a house or trying to figure out which is the best deal in buying a house, or if you were fixing your car, wouldn’t you want clear objective information? So why in issues of politics or public policy do some folks seem more comfortable with people telling them only what they want to hear?

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