Saturday, November 8, 2008

POTUS Post-Mortem

For the last two and a half months I have been running a Mutants & Masterminds campaign based around the 2008 Presidential election. The heroes are Secret Service agents assigned to the first superhero candidate for President. I'm doing a post-mortem of the campaign on the M&M forums, the Atomic Think Tank.

Interested parties are encouraged to read or comment.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts from the Campaign Trail

When this election began two years ago (!) I was not in Obama's camp. Of course I would vote democratic, but I was a part of the "anyone but Hilary" camp. This may alarm some readers, since Hilary Clinton is a smart, determined, and extremely well-educated individual who might very well have been an excellent President. My basis for ruling her out as our nominee was based not on her talents, but on her last name. I don't believe our country should be run by political dynasties. I thought Bill Clinton was a pretty damn good President, but when our nation was founded it was not the intent that we should pass executive power from one member of a family to another. And yes, that goes for Bushes and Addamses and Kennedys. If Hilary had not been a Clinton, I might very well have backed her. 

Instead, I settled on Edwards. This was, of course, before we found out that Edwards had an affair in his background which would have associated our party -- yet again! -- with adultery and deception. But it soon became clear that this was a race between two superstar candidates, Clinton and Obama, and no one else really had much of a chance. When Edwards dropped out, I moved to the Obama camp with initial uncertainty. The more I learned about him, the happier I became. His Pennsylvania speech on race was, I thought, extraordinarily convincing. I didn't much care about Reverend Wright; what persuaded me was that we had a Presidential candidate who was talking to me like I was an adult and not a moron.

Of course Republican pundits continued to push Clinton as the candidate because (they thought) nothing else would fire up the Republican base as well as another Clinton on the ticket. And as much as I disapproved of her candidacy the fact is that we owe Hilary a huge debt. Not for putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, but for running a tough campaign over many months. That refusal to surrender led Obama and Howard Dean to build an incredible GOTV machine that could pivot seamlessly from the nomination process to the Presidential campaign. Hilary Clinton does not read this blog, but I thank her anyway. Without that primary season, we would have gone into the election without one of our most potent weapons.

There are two lines from this campaign that I especially remember, and Barack Obama didn't say either of them. The first was from Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention; there, he noted that the world has always been more impressed "by the power of our example than by the example of our power." I'm not sure whether that line is Shakespearean in its perfection, or Sphinx-like in its obscurity, but I'm inclined to go with the former mostly because it embodies a notion of America's influence on the world stage which I firmly agree with. Let us live by example. Let us not torture, let us encourage civil rights, let us woo the world through our good behavior.

The other line came soon after, and restored much of my confidence in Obama's victory. The selection of Sarah Palin energized the Republican base and there was, for a few days, a notion that she would also bring around smart and successful women who had been Hilary supporters. This belief was shattered when we all discovered that Governor Palin is an under-educated buffoon. When Saturday Night Live became funny again, Palin was transformed into an albatross around John McCain's neck. If Bill Clinton was this year's Henry V, Tina Fey was our Falstaff.

"And I can see Russia from my house!"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tomorrow Morning in America

I feel a bit sorry for those of you who may have come to this blog and expected interesting ideas related to my academic and professional interests -- comics, gaming, Renaissance and Medieval literature, writing, and so on. Now that the elephant in the room has been kicked to the curb, I look energetically forward to writing on more of my favorite topics and perhaps giving the rest of you something to think about. In the meantime, I can start wrapping up some thoughts on this election.

Four years ago today I was a complete wreck, and I wasted a lot of calories in stress and tension over Kerry vs. Bush. But after our economy imploded on September 15th, I pretty much stopped worrying about this election. An economy in the tank is an economy in the tank for Obama, and when you combine this with the fact that John McCain's long career in government means that he has passed his expiration date, I was able to more or less unclench and turn politics into a spectator sport. (Jonathan Rauch is the man who determined that American politicians have a 14 year expiration date.) 

None of this, of course, kept me from calling in sick to work and spending the evening glued to MSNBC. I realize that, it being the 21st century and all, I should have just been hitting endless "refresh" on dKos, but let's face it: being hunched over the desk peering at my laptop was just less fun than curling up on the couch and watching Chris Matthews call Tom DeLay "a man who knows how to hate." Keith Olbermann had a pink tie. Rachel Maddow was dreamy. Good times.

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to also learn that Bill Hendrick, whom no one outside of Riverside will have ever heard of, upset 15 year incumbent Ken Calvert, who was a real tool. I mean that in the most literal sense: when the Bush-Cheney administration needed to ram some piece of crap raping of the Constitution through Congress, they reached into the tool box and wrapped their fleshy hands around Ken Calvert's long, cool, handle. In 1993 he was arrested for trying to hire a prostitute. He's been named one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress for three years in a row. The only time he's broken with Bush on a significant issue was to oppose Bush's immigration reform efforts -- which is one of the few things that Bush did right. Despite all this, Ken had one big advantage running for office in Riverside: he's a Republican.  We had token candidates opposing him in past elections but this year Bill Hendrick and the folks at Democracy for America rode the Obama wave and worked their asses off and they deserve a huge heaping bowl of delicious praise. Congratulations to Representative Hendrick.

Unfortunately, not everything came up roses for us last night. Homophobes in California were convinced by homophobes running the Mormon Church to amend the California constitution to ban gay marriage. There's nothing I can say that can top Andrew Sullivan's eloquent and heart-felt thoughts on a matter has fought so hard on, so I'll just say: what he said.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reality Bites

Sometimes the best ideas for stories are found in real-life events, which leap out of their brown paper bags and bite us in the ass.