A voice of hope and optimism from Minnesota

R.T. Rybak, the former long-time mayor of Minneapolis, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and CEO and president of the Minneapolis Foundation,  lends a voice of hope and optimism to these otherwise dark days in America.  Let’s hope he is right. Here he is, on his Facebook page:

“My heart sank Friday as I walked down Pennsylvania Av in Washington and saw a giant reviewing stand had been built in front of the White House. Eight years ago this is where I was so filled with pride when I saw our new President Barack Obama, and his family, as they were about to enter their new home. Knowing it was now about to house Donald Trump was almost more than I could take.
I felt so hollow when I thought about all we have had, and what we will lose. But something really wonderful happened next and I hope it gives hope to those of you who love President Obama as much as I do:
I went through security into the White House because the President invited me in to come by for a few minutes before he left office. I turned the corner to the Oval Office to see him looking more energized than he has in months, and with that huge smile on this face that has lifted so many of us so many times.
I gave him a copy of my book, told him that now that he’s mastered this POTUS gig he was ready for the big time as a Mayor. Then I handed him a note from my wife Megan O’Hara recalling what it felt like nine years ago when we stood in the Des Moines Convention Center, just after he won the Iowa caucus, and the announcer said: “And now the next First Family of the United States of America.”
I was really overwhelmed as I was telling him that because it was such a moment of pride, a beginning of a long path to him getting to the White House and, now it was over. He put his arm on my shoulder and looked at me intensely, saying, “We aren’t done yet.”
I wish I could have bottled the look in his eyes so all the people I know, and don’t, who feel dishearten now, who are so fearful of what comes next, and who feel a sense of loss, know he is absolutely not, under any circumstances, going to stop fighting for what we believe in.
“I’m going to take a little vacation,” he said, “get a little sun, but then we are right back at it. ”
He told me about the work he will be doing on youth and families, on getting more people engaged in voting, on protecting liberties. Then he said the words that meant the most to me: “The best is yet to come.”
I believe Barack Obama was the greatest President of my lifetime, but as I heard him talk, I remembered he is about more than political office. At so many times—his amazing speech about race in the first campaign, his powerful words after Sandy Hook, his second inaugural when laid out the imperative of attacking climate change—he has moved us beyond politics to elevate our values. This is his great opportunity now; just as America faces a crisis of values, a great debate about who we really are at our core, he will be speaking not as just a politician, but as a moral leader. In many ways we need that even more today than great politicians.
In the couple minutes we had left we talked about what I am learning in my own evolution from political to civic leader; about what you can and can’t do in and out of office, and how much can be done if each of your statements aren’t filtered through the cynicism people have for politicians.
We said goodbye and I walked out of the White House, past that reviewing stand, but didn’t feel the same sense of dread. Donald Trump will be my President and I won’t try to delegitimize him even though many, including Trump, tried to do that to Obama for eight years. But we can fight for what we believe, and fight back, hard, when we see something wrong. And, remembering that look in the President’s eye when he told me, “We aren’t done yet”, and remembering all we have seen during his remarkable Presidency, I know he will be with us every step.
Later that night Megan and I went to a farewell party at the White House. I talked to Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan who has gone back to Chicago to work on youth violence prevention, to former Attorney General Eric Holder who is organizing opposition to unfair redistricting around the country, former White House political director and Ambassador Patrick Gaspard who is working on citizen engagement with George Soros, Gabby Giffords is fighting the gun violence that robbed her and so many others of so much, activist actors like Alfre Woodard who has been through waves of social movements saying she’s now ready for the next phase. Obama has been a President but Obama is also a movement that isn’t done on Jan 20.
Back in 2007, when I was working with activists around the country in the Draft Obama campaign, I wrote a blog on a national website saying: “Barack Obama is a great man but this is not about him. It’s about setting off a movement.” The next day he called my office, said that’s the way he saw it, that he was community organizer who wanted to light the spark, and he recruited me to volunteer for what was then a long-shot campaign. I still feel that way, and it’s clear he does, too.
And after those few wonderful minutes with him as he gets ready to leave office, I feel, like him, that “the best is yet to come.”

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Democratic inevitability vs. Republican uncertainty

Inevitability on one side, uncertainty on the other.

I am talking about the American presidential election campaign and about the Democrats, on the one side, and the Republicans, on the other, jockeying for positions as that race, which in America never really ends, is heating up.

I had hoped to avoid this topic, at least for a while longer and maybe until the beginning of next year, while glancing longingly at other democracies in West Europe and Canada with their three-week or even month-long election campaigns, but…here we go!

The inevitability among the Democrats and the likelihood of Hillary Clinton running was underscored today in a Politico article by Mike Allen. She really is preparing and will likely announce her candidacy in April.  Does she have any opponents? Vermont’s grumpy, but charming, independent, democratic socialist U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders, Maryland’s former governor Martin  O’Malley, who could not even get his own lieutenant governor elected last year,  or Virginia’s quirky former US senator Jim Webb are all sort of — come on!

So the Hillary Clinton juggernaut keeps rolling on, and, unless something extraordinary happens, the only interesting discussion is who will be her running mate?

And as to the Republicans, there are a lot of names and a lot of — come ons! Who do these people think they are? First of all, Mitt Romney. Enough said. And then Sarah Palin, who said the other day that she was seriously interested in running.  And then the Canadian-born Texan Ted Cruz, the libertarian Rand Paul, the South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham. And then there are the governors: Chris Christie from New Jersey, Scott Walker from Wisconsin , and John Kasich from Ohio, plus one former governor, Jeb Bush from Florida.

To learn more about Jeb Bush,  I recommend the recent article by Alec MacGillis in The New Yorker called “Testing Time.”  It’s not a flattering profile, on the contrary, some of the things he stands for a pretty scary, but I believe he has a real chance to capture the Republican party’s nomination.

And so, as much as I hate to admit it, it looks like a battle next November between two dynasties, the Clintons and the Bushes, two legendary juggernauts fighting for their place in history. It’s a sad verdict on American politics that there really are no new and exciting names at this time who have a real chance to win, but that is the way it is.

So enjoy, or despair!

America’s voters chose Obama and the future

And so, America did the right the ting and chose the future.

The historic election of 2008, when the American voters made Barack Obama the nation’s first African-American president and bade farewell to the old America, was re-enforced yesterday when Barack Obama got enough support for another four years in the White House.

His victory was not quite as overwhelming as four years ago, when Obama beat John McCain by ten million votes and won 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173, but it was a solid, even sweeping, victory. The coalition that Obama built up with the young, women, African-Americans, Hispanics and white union members in the Rust Belt, lost only two states, Indiana, traditionally Republican, and North Carolina, both of which Obama surprisingly had won in 2008. Yesterday, he won the rest of the battleground states: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Florida, although his victory in Florida is not yet official. If his lead there is confirmed he will win 332 electoral votes against Romney’s 206.

When Obama gave his victory speech in Chicago, the joy and jubilation from the Obama coalition of whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young, old, knew no bounds. They belonged to the new and once again victorious America, and they represented the country’s new politics. Over 90 percent of the country’s black voters chose Obama; over 70 percent of the Hispanics and the Asians voted for the president; over half of the women gave him their support; and the trade unions members in the Rust Belt also voted for the man who had saved the auto industry early in his first four years in the White House.

They did not want to retreat and turn back to a time that had led to two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to the deepest U.S. economic crisis since the ’30s depression, to return to the old America, dominated a white electorates, like that overwhelmingly white crowd in Boston who had voted for Mitt Romney but who now somberly, almost in shock, listened to their candidate’s concession speech.

That old America was not enough yesterday, as it had not been in 2008, to win a presidential election. The conclusion must be that it is no longer possible for the Republicans to win a U.S. presidential election only with the support of the country’s white voters. There are simply no longer enough white voters – 72 percent of all voters yesterday were white – to win. That trend will continue and even strengthen in the coming years because of the continued demographic changes in America’s population. America will be less and less white. Republicans need to think about and change, but if they are able to do so is an entirely different matter.

Much of the campaign focused on polls and forecasts and many questioned if they were right in their predictions. They were. Forecasters such as Nate Silver on his New York Times blog FiveThirtyEight had predicted 307 electoral votes for Obama, and Simon Jackman, the Stanford professor, who in his Huffington Post blog also had predicted over 300 electoral votes for Obama

More later today. Meanwhile, here’s President Obama’s rousing victory speech last night in Chicago.

The New Yorker: “The choice is clear”

It’s of course no surprise that liberal The New Yorker endorses Barack Obama for president in its next issue, but they way the long editorial puts it is well worth a read.   Here is the conclusion:

“The choice is clear. The Romney-Ryan ticket represents a  constricted and backward-looking vision of America: the privatization of the  public good. In contrast, the sort of public investment championed by Obama—and  exemplified by both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the  Affordable Care Act—takes to heart the old civil-rights motto “Lifting as we  climb.” That effort cannot, by itself, reverse the rise of inequality that has  been under way for at least three decades. But we’ve already seen the future  that Romney represents, and it doesn’t work.

The reëlection of Barack Obama is a matter of great urgency. Not only are we  in broad agreement with his policy directions; we also see in him what is absent  in Mitt Romney—a first-rate political temperament and a deep sense of fairness  and integrity. A two-term Obama Administration will leave an enduringly positive  imprint on political life. It will bolster the ideal of good governance and a  social vision that tempers individualism with a concern for community. Every  Presidential election involves a contest over the idea of America. Obama’s  America—one that progresses, however falteringly, toward social justice,  tolerance, and equality—represents the future that this country  deserves.”

Uphill for Ryan — only 39 percent are happy with him

The first opinion poll is in and the verdict is not encouraging for Paul Ryan, the new Republican vice presidential candidate.

According to USA Today/Gallup, only 39 percent of Americans are satisfied with Romney’s choice while 42 percent are dissatisfied. It is the most negative numbers since George H.W. Bush in 1988 chose Dan Quayle as his running mate. Support for Ryan is even lower than for Sarah Palin four years ago, when 46 percent felt that her appointment was “excellent/very good,” while 37 percent deemed it “weak/bad.”

Now, Bush/Quayle won anyway, so there is still hope for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, especially since 39 percent of Republicans in the poll called the appointment “excellent” and 29 percent “pretty good,” which is promising for the Republican voter turnout in November.

Romney’s choice of Ryan has stirred up the campaignpot plenty, and just in a couple of days the previous debate on the weak economy, high unemployment and Obama’s handling of the economy, has become a whole new debate about how America’s future should look like and how the American society should meet and resolve the major economic issues.

In this debate, Obama’s/Biden’s vision of justice — “fairness,” where the rich help to share the burden through higher taxes and where the government and the government plays an important role in protecting the elderly and the poor stands in stark contrast with Romney’s/Ryan’s vision where the rich get more tax cuts and where the social security program is radically cut down as the role of the government is gradually reduced.

Paul Ryan is the Republican Party’s chief spokesman for the anti-government, super capitalistic America, and Mitt Romney, now with Ryan as his number two, is closely tied to that vision. With Ryan, Romney has been transformed from a moderate Republican, a man of the Republican establishment, to a member of the radical Republican right wing, where the born-again Christians and the Tea Party supporters feel so at home. And the Obama campaign will not let Romney and the American electorate forget that.

So, have President Obama’s chances of being reelected increased with Paul Ryan’s appointment? Yes, is the short answer. Ryan does not broaden the support for the Republican ticket — the independents find him too far right, the seniors want to keep Medicare, the poor need their Medicaid, and the women are largely pro-choice.

But let me add that vice presidential candidates do not directly decide elections, and two thirds of respondents in the Gallup poll said that who is that person does not affect how they will vote. Thus, the election in November will be a choice between Obama and Romney, although in a close race, Ryan can be a decisive handicap.