Saturday, August 30, 2008

Maybe We Can

So like a pompous narcissistic blogiator, I announced in my last blog entry to absolutely no one that I decided (pre-"The Speech", pre-McCain picking his VP-ILF) to not vote this coming November.

And then I was hit by a phenomenon described by Jan Hoffman in The New York Times.

April 8, 2008

Young Obama Backers Twist Parents’ Arms

The daily phone calls. The midnight e-mail. And, when college lets out, those dinner table declamations? Oh, please.

Senator Barack Obama’s devotees just won’t give their parents a break.

As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination continues, youthful volunteers for each candidate have been campaigning with bright-eyed brio, not only door-to-door but also at home. But the young supporters of Mr. Obama, who has captured a majority of under-30 primary voters, seem to be leading in the pestering sweepstakes. They send their parents the latest Obama YouTube videos, blog exhortations and “Tell Your Mama/Vote for Obama!” bumper stickers.

Megan Simpson, a Penn State senior, had not been able to budge her father, a Republican. But the day before the deadline for registering for the coming Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, she handed him the forms and threw in a deal-sweetener as well. “I said, ‘Dad, if you change your party affiliation in time to vote for Obama,’ ” recalled Ms. Simpson, 22, an Obama campus volunteer, “ ‘I will get you the paperwork the day after the primary if you want to switch back to being a Republican.’ ”

Thus did Ralph E. Simpson Jr., 50, construction company owner, become a newly minted Democrat. “I probably will switch my affiliation back,” Mr. Simpson said, “but I haven’t decided who I will vote for in the general election. If Meg keeps working on me, who knows?”

No poll has counted Obama supporters who made their choice at the urging of their children. But combined exit polls for all the primaries so far (excluding Florida and Michigan) show that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has edged out Mr. Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent, among voters ages 45 to 64 — those who are old enough, and then some, to be the parents of Mr. Obama’s young supporters.

But even politicians are mentioning the persuasiveness of their children, either in earnest or as political cover, as a factor in their Obama endorsements.

That list of Democrats includes Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

While politicians inevitably invoke children and the future, rarely have the political preferences of children themselves carried much weight with their elders. On the contrary: when baby boomer parents were the age their children are now, the ideological and social gap between generations was more pronounced. Parents were, by definition, authoritarian. Their children were, by definition, anti-.

But the sharp distinctions between generations have eroded. Parents now are exponentially more entwined with their offspring, inclined to place their children’s emotional well-being ahead of their own. Even when students live away at college, many parents call them and send text messages every day.

The Obama campaign was well positioned to capitalize on this veritable seamlessness. From the outset, Mr. Obama eagerly sought out young voters with his Internet operation and a widespread, efficient campus network. Those efforts are paying off: in all Democratic primaries to date (excluding Florida and Michigan), about 6 in 10 voters under age 30 have supported him, according to exit polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky.

For some waffling primary voters, the relentless push by their children was good enough reason to capitulate...

Two Minutes after Barack Obama finished his acceptance speech in Denver, my daughter Sara -- who has yet to be romantically involved with a single Jewish boy her entire torrid dating life -- sent me the following 2-line text message: "If you vote for him I swear I'll marry a jew. Magen David." In our family, saying "Shield of David" is as close as we come to saying "I swear to God and all things sacred."

So Sara has given me until the end of the Republican convention to choose. The deal is simple: if I vote for an audacious multi-racial Muslim-turned-agnostic-turned-Christian, I get an ironclad guarantee from my eldest daughter that she will never marry an audacious multi-racial Muslim-turned-agnostic-turned-Christian.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to work: No, we can't

It's been over 8 months since I last set foot in a classroom, thanks to a sabbatical piled on to a summer break. I've read a few books, written part of a new one, shepherded the editing of another, and researched for a third. I've visited Israel once and Minnesota 3 times. I've had my bathroom remodeled and I actually did all the painting of its walls. Much more productive than my last time on sabbatical. Well done.

During these last 8 months, I watched from Tel Aviv (oftentimes on a primary Tuesday at 4 am, so I could see coverage in real time), and then here in CT, an exhausting presidential campaign that still isn't over; in fact, it is only now ready to really begin. I've written an article which was generated by the comings and goings of the campaign, and now 2 months later, I still stand by it.

To put it simply, I can't vote for Barack Obama. Timing it to coincide with the Democratic convention, I've almost finished reading Obama's first memoir, Dreams from My Father, and still have still not encountered a single insight which would cause me to alter my original judgment of his candidacy, which I blogged back in January, 2008:

"I cannot vote for a vague, inexperienced 1st-term senator, however energizing the symbolism of his candidacy might be. Four years ago, he was nothing more than an Illinois state senator who voted "present" more than a hundred times on legislation, a few times which required a leader to take a stand. He was a US Senator for less than a year before he launched his campaign. There is simply nothing there, other than a symbol of youthfulness and racial amity. That for me is not enough."

I also blogged in January about Hilary Clinton, Obama, and the now discredited John Edwards:

"It looks like for the third straight time in a row, the Democratic party is going to nominate a candidate for President who will lose in November to a beatable Republican. None of the current Republicans look particularly impressive, and the Republican Party is in disarray, but the lemming-like death march of the Democratic Party towards a) a despised one-term senator with a ton of baggage; b) a neophyte senator who has cloaked himself in messianic pretensions (it is easy to imagine him saying "there is a mighty wind blowing"); or c) a one-term retired senator masquerading as William Jennings Bryan, will certainly result in a Republican victory."

I am a lifelong Democrat, whose only deviation from that record was my mistaken and misguided vote for Joe Lieberman in 2006. I consider voting a civic obligation and have never missed voting in any election cycle. I am a liberal, who has contributed money for the first time in my life to Al Franken's senate campaign in Minnesota. I cannot vote for John McCain under any circumstances, and I still think he is going to win. But the more I research about Obama, the more I am repelled. Obama spent some time as an academic at the University of Chicago; the more I read his memoir, the more I am convinced I would not want such a man as a colleague. Too po-mo; too trendy leftist in the worst sense of the word; too conflicted by internal rifts. I certainly think that a dispassionate intellectual advised by similar types within the Democratic fold would not make for a successful presidency.

So I am turning to George Carlin, who passed away during these past 8 months:

"I don't vote. Because I believe if you vote, you have no right to complain. People like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain', but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent people, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain.

"I, on the other hand, who did not vote -- who, in fact, did not even leave the house on Election Day -- am in no way responsible for what these people have done and have every right to complain as loud as I want about the mess that you created that I had nothing to do with."

This year, I am gonna take a pass.