Friday, February 8, 2008

AV: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Hi sports fans. It's been a busy week on the political front and I've just written about it for my monthly San Diego Democratic Club newsletter column. I decided to post it here so I wouldn't just end up writing about this stuff in pieces.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

As I thought about what the appropriate subject of this month’s column might be, I reflected on what’s happened since the last one and realized, after the most recent development on the Marriage front, that I’ve come back to that infuriating encounter with the signature gatherer. I’ve also continued my conversation with my friend, the 20-something new mother as well as her young new-father husband. And we’ve all since gone to the polls.

The Good, as you might have guessed, is the extraordinary turnout for Democratic candidates in San Diego County. As of this writing (with some provisional and absentee ballots still being counted) this election counts 55% of voters selecting Democratic candidates compared to 44% for GOP candidates. Overall, San Diego saw 27% (that’s almost one third) higher turnout for our candidates than in the 2004 Presidential primary. San Diego voter turnout for Democratic candidates was the highest in a Primary election since … well, since a really really long time. This is most likely the result of several factors, among them: a closed GOP primary, extraordinary efforts in the last several months to register new voters (over 10,000 of them Democrats), and of course, the caliber of candidate on offer on the Democratic ballot as opposed to those from any other party, including the Republican party.

This last factor was the most important, in my opinion. Since this race began, I’ve watched the GOP field with something approaching fascination. Sure, we can’t underestimate the right wing (see the “Ugly” portion of this column later), but the early part of the race sure lacked anything remotely resembling direction. I’d hoped it would last a little longer, but sadly, it is not to be. Which brings me to the Bad and the Ugly.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, there’s some new money in the ongoing right-wing fundamentalist effort to write marriage discrimination into the California state constitution. Big money. Potentially enough money to underwrite the kind of over-the-top effort they need to gather enough signatures to get this hateful initiative on the November ballot. This changes the landscape a bit for you and me in the upcoming June and November elections. You can be sure, as a friend recently characterized it, it’ll be “All Marriage, All the time” not only in California, but locally here in San Diego.

I for one am not looking forward to the kind of enormous financial and volunteer drain this will be when so many of our agencies and organizations are already hurting for funding. The introduction of this bottom-feeding initiative on the ballot is a blatant effort to drain our wallets, our spirits, and to divide the Democratic vote in one of the largest electoral prizes in the country in a Presidential race in which so much is at stake.

So here comes the Ugly. You and I, my friends, are once again the identified faces of Demon Immorality and the Scourge of All That Is Good and American. That’s right. You, me, and our families are “Evil.” You and I will be used as fodder for the fundamentalist Christian of both the right and the left. We’ll be discussed and vilified and there will be much theorizing and predicting and focus-grouping and hating. And fundraising. And advertising.

Marriage for same-sex couples isn’t the only issue on the hotplate either. Let’s not forget the Presidential race. We have an extraordinary opportunity in the upcoming Presidential election to put a Democrat back in the White House. And not only a Democrat, but the first woman or African-American to hold the highest office in our country. That’s all Good, right? Sure it is. In fact, it’s Great and I think most of the party, if not America, agrees.

But let’s be real and prepared. Whether it’s the right of same-sex couples to legally marry or placing a woman or a black man in the Oval Office for the first time in this country’s history, the Ugly will also come at us from the people we think are our friends. Strange as it may seem, some of them won’t even know that they’re ugly.

To wit: recently received in two separate emails were images that shocked me in their malice or naiveté. The first was a “Driving Miss Hillary” movie spoof (featuring Senators Obama and Clinton, respectively) sent by an elderly friend of the family usually known for forwarding a non-ending stream of cute-kitten-and-puppy emails. You know the sort. The second was another spoofed movie poster, this time an adaptation of the “Mandingo” poster featuring Senator Barack Obama in the midst of a bevy of white women and Bill Clinton amidst similarly adoring black women. This offended me mightily, not only for the supremely distasteful nature of the stereotype, but that it came from someone who is working for social justice for other violently oppressed minorities here and across the world. This person knows better and I either have to attribute the image to an inexplicable ignorance, or to an inexplicable malice. I’m dismayed at either explanation.

This can get ugly, and honestly, much uglier than I had thought possible before these two emails – and the doings on the campaign trail in South Carolina.

Our job, my friends, is to keep the conversation real, above the belt, and to steer our enemies, our friends, our party AND each other with love, respect, and passion for everything our party stands for.

1 comment:

Rodney said...

RS: It amazes me the amount of ignorance or laziness or whatever with which people hit the "Forward" button. I finally got fed up and began responding with "Reply All" to hold senders to task. I didn't want to humiliate my childhood friend or silence her right to free speech, but the "Delete" button doesn't stop the spread of the poison. I certainly didn't stop the circulation of the hatefulness, but my inbox isn't nearly as polluted. Now, if I can only convince the internet gods that I don't need to refinance my home, increase my penis size (thank you very much), or purchase Viagra from an online drug store--not to mention the many other more explicit offers I receive. Well, dare to dream.