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Posts Tagged ‘US elections’

  1. Obama Inauguration

    January 21, 2009 by superlative

    I nipped off from work a bit early yesterday and got home just before five, in time to see the swearings-in of Joe Biden and Barack Obama. The BBC commentators made a point of remarking during Joe Biden’s oath that it meant he could become president should anything happen to Obama during his term, and it felt a little bit like they were reminding us how close Sarah Palin would have been to the presidency if things had gone differently.

    Then there was some music from Yo Yo Ma and some other famous musicians, which I would have liked to listen to but which I couldn’t hear particularly well because the commentators chose to prattle on over the top of it.

    And then the time came for President Obama to be sworn in. And he fumbled his words, bless! He lept in too early and spoke over the swearing-in man (some sort of Justice I think), and then got stuck on the second line because he lost his rhythm. It was terribly sweet. His inaugural address went much better though with ne’ery a fumbled line in sight.

    What struck me most was the marked change in language to the previous presidency, with lots of words and references that I don’t think President Bush would ever have spoken in a speech. He talked about restoring science to its rightful place, and about combating climate change by harnessing solar and wind power. He said they would no longer accept that they had to choose between their safety and their ideals (bet that didn’t go down very well with Bush and Cheney). And he described America as a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and non-believers. Just that little reference to the non-religious section of society had a lot of impact for me and was very encouraging. It’s true that you still have to be God-fearing to be elected president, but it’s nice to know that anyone who isn’t God-fearing might get a fair hearing. I also particularly liked the line “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”. I can’t remember President Bush ever sounding so willing to engage.

    He worked hard too to remind peopel not to raise their expectations too high – there are still lots of problems facing the nation and the world, and they aren’t just going to get better overnight. I think that was good because he could have just ridden the euphoria and said lots of crowd-pleasing things. But instead he also said it’s going to be hard, we’ll have to work hard and make hard decisions, and it’ll take time.

    Of course, it’s just a speech, so you can’t place too much emphasis on it. You have to judge him by his actions and not just his words. But I enjoyed watching it, and I felt like the speech could easily have been directed at and relevant to the world as a whole, and not just the US. I think President Obama has generated an enormous amount of goodwill and hopeful thinking from a lot of people, and I hope that he can take advantage of that (and that it’ll last long enough) for him to make a real difference.


  2. They had to go and spoil it

    November 6, 2008 by superlative

    I was so excited to see that America doesn’t always just pick the safe choice, and isn’t always going to be governed by old white men, and that young people can be active in politics and make difference. But then today I find that, while some things change, some also remain the same.

    Having drawn a line under its segregationist history by electing a black president, some Americans have shown that they are still more than happy to oppress a minority for no particular reason other than they are different to them. Proposition 8 has been passed in California with 52% of the vote, amending the state’s constitution so that now only marriage between a man and a woman is considered ‘valid’. It’s such a shame that the country can seem so modern and free, but at the same time it regularly reminds us that is also hugely conservative and dominated by religion.

    I don’t really understand the argument that gay marriage being called marriage somehow undermines the value of marriage in general. Although the advocates of Proposition 8 state that they are not making an attack on gay couples, as they can still form legal domestic partnerships in California, if you probe their argument more deeply you can clearly see it is homophobic and discriminatory:

    Marriage is an important and valuable institution -> Gay people getting married reduces the value of marriage -> If the legal part of being married is the same in both circumstances, the key difference must be the gay part -> To say gay marriage has a negative effect on the institution of marriage is therefore to say being gay is negative and somehow ‘less’ than being straight.

    So how can they say it is not an attack on gay couples? And I’m sure lots of people who voted yes on Prop. 8 do believe being gay is wrong, and that was the reason they voted yes, not because of some principled stand on the value of marriage.

    And saying “well they can form a domestic partnership, it gives the same rights, so they have no need to call it marriage” merely establishes a parallel, but separate system. Hmm, where have we heard ‘separate but equal’ before, now let me thing…. oh yes, segregation. I thought we’d accepted that was wrong?

    So, although they’ve made a big step forward this week, they’ve also made a step back and there is still lots of work to be done.


  3. Morning after

    November 5, 2008 by superlative

    Quite sleepy today but pleased that Obama won. My alarm woke me rather harshly at 5.30am and I put the TV back on to find that McCain had already conceded and Obama had given his victory speech. Despite the fact that lots of the results are still forecasts, it seems pretty clear cut and everyone has accepted Obama won.

    So then I went back to sleep until 7, and now the news is just cycling around and around announcing his victory again and again. I’m glad I stayed up for Ohio, they always say you can’t win the White House without winning Ohio, so once he had that one it was fairly clear he was safe.

    I feel an unusual urge to go back to America now. I really enjoyed our trip there, and there are so many different places to see. Maybe we’ll go back, it’s a shame it’s so far and expensive. I might wait until we’re getting a few more dollars to the pound at least.

    I just hope Obama doesn’t get himself shot by white power extremists now, but I suppose getting shot at by someone is a hazard of the job for any president.

    So sleepy, clearly not doing any work today.

    (Updated a bit later on)

    It’s quite astonishing actually, I’ve just been through the list of key states I printed off yesterday, where the BBC said “Obama really needs to win this one”, or “a victory for McCain here will keep him in the race”, and for basically every single one Obama won. He didn’t even need to win all of them, but he has, and sometimes by quite big margins. They include Indiana, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Nevada. Poor old John McCain only seems to have won the safest Republican states, and it just wasn’t enough.

    Clearly the mobilisation of the black and youth vote really made a difference for Obama. I wonder what the overall turnout was? Might look that up.


  4. Election Night Fever

    November 4, 2008 by superlative

    23.20 – Right, it’s twenty past 11, I’m esconced on the sofa in dressing gown and duvet, and the BBC coverage is just starting. Come on Jeremy Vine, wow me with your graphics… I’m going to set my alarm for 3am in case I drop off, and then if it’s all over sooner or it’s looking like a landslide I’ll just go to sleep.

    23.30 – First polls are due to close in half an hour, so exciting! There are a couple of key ones as well – Indiana and Virginia. Not feeling too tired yet.

    00.15 – First couple of poll predictions are in, one state to McCain and one to Obama, 8:3 on the electoral college votes. No surprises so far though. Starting to get a bit tired, not sure how likely 3am is looking… Need some more states to come in to keep me awake!

    00.55 – God this is taking forever! Only one more state called, also for McCain but predicted to be so anyway. I thought it was quite amusing the David Dimbleby talked about North Hampshire, bless. He should really have learnt the names of the states before the show. Quite a few states haven’t been called yet despite them being usual Republican strongholds. That seems to indicate the race is closer there than expected, so this might take a while. Maybe I should go to sleep for a bit if that’s the case?

    01.00 – Oo, bit of excitement, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have been called for Obama. These were quite key for McCain to capture if he was going to sneak in and win. And Illinois and DC and Massachusetts and Delaware too now! That gives Obama 67 votes, McCain 16. And a few more, can’t type this fast enough to keep up. It seems to have settled on 84:27 for the moment. It’s a shame they are only network projections though, don’t want to get too excited based on that, but the pundit guys are saying that’s a few good ticks in the Obama column that he needed if he’s going to win.

    01.40 – Hmm, lots of states still haven’t been called despite having closed a while ago. I think I may as well stay up until after 2 now, when lots more close in a block, and then see how the land lies. I might have to have a sleep after that and maybe wake up at… 5.30? They should have some definite results coming in by then.

    02.00 – Two key phrases uttered on the BBC – death blow to the McCain campaign, and turning point of the evening, as Ohio is called for Obama by Fox. It’s only one network, so the BBC is remaining aloof, but if he does win Ohio that would take him up to about 200 votes now, with California’s 55 likely-Democratic votes to come, and loads of other states still in play. Might turn the computer off for a while now so I can doze in front of the mute TV for a while. I’ll try to wake up at 5.30 to see if any of these results have been confirmed.


  5. Not as good as Eurovision, but fun nonetheless

    November 4, 2008 by superlative

    It’s making your mind up day for America and I’m soooooooo excited. I’m already well into it, and most of the polling stations aren’t even open yet. I’m planning on staying up late to watch – or maybe getting up early to watch. It’s been such a dilemma deciding which way to jump, stupid time difference! If it’s going to be close, I’ll be better off getting up early as they won’t know for ages who’s won. If it’s not going to be close though they’ll know earlier and I could just stay up late. Hmmm…. I’ll probably do the latter.

    I’m currently monitoring the BBC News Live Text updater which gives you a few lines of update every couple of minutes. Apparently there are problems with the electronic voting machines and some places are having to resort to paper ballots, which is slowing voting down and could spell controversy later. We’ll have to see how widespread the problems are.

    Also, it took Barack Obama 16 minutes to cast his vote in the booth. What was he doing in there?? Getting confused trying to find your own name on a bit of paper is something I’d expect of George Bush not Barack Obama… Unless he suddenly thought “shit, do I really want to be president?” and couldn’t decide whether or not to vote for McCain.

    I can see it’s going to be a long and unproductive afternoon at this rate!

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  6. Halloween, brought to you in spoooooooookyvision

    November 3, 2008 by superlative

    Hmpf, well I’ve calmed down a bit since my 2am rage, but I’m still not happy about it. Daniel and Eoghuoauon got more votes than both Austin and Rachel? Really? Really?? What’s wrong with the British voting public? This is surely a serious argument against universal suffrage; if people vote like this on the X-Factor, can they be trusted to vote for a government? Maybe you should have to sit a sanity exam before you can register to vote, I might run for parliament and suggest it.

    Anyway, I had a marvellous end of week and Halloween weekend. I was off work Wednesday – Friday (two day weeks rule), and we had some friends down for the first couple of days so we went and did lots of nice things like eating out, shopping, going for drinkies, letching shamelessly at hot bar staff, and flashing CCTV cameras in bar toilets.

    Then Friday was the first part of our Halloween Extravaganza – Halloween Super Dynamite Boogaloo. We made loads of effort with our outfits this year, and I’m really glad we did because lots of people had really really dressed up! Chris was the Joker, very topical this year, and had excellent make-up, and as an accessory to that I went as Robin. Robin is not the sexiest of outfits (I was a traditional Robin rather than a Chris O’Donnell one), and I did verge on the Rodney Trotter Robin, but I think the outfit was still a triumph, especially as it was all homemade. Several people said to me “wow where did you buy your outfit?”, which is surely a ringing endorsement.


    Halloween Boogaloo was good, especially as so many people had made the effort to dress up. I have to say it was freeeeeezing weather for hotpants and a t-shirt though, and I was particularly annoyed to arrive at the club after 11 (supposed to open at 10.30) only to find they had not even opened the doors yet and we had to stand outside for 10 minutes while my legs went slowly numb.

    Then on Saturday we went to a friend’s Halloween House Party, where we bobbed for apples (much harder than it looks) and played slightly disturbing Halloween Twister. We re-used the same outfits of course, it’s not every day you get to wear a metre of yellow satin, and a Catwoman turned up at the party so we had a bit of a theme going. I think girls can be a bit lazy when they dress up actually, they’re always witches, cats, naughty devils, or occasionally bunnies. Where’s the imagination ladies??

    And Sunday was my and Chris’ 10 year anniversary, bless. I don’t know where the time has gone. Actually I do know, it’s gone on a year of A Levels, a four-year degree, and five years of young professionalism, but it still feels like it’s whizzed by. I’m just glad we both managed to remember the anniversary this year, one of us has forgotten for the last three (me twice, Chris once) and I was determined not to let it happen for such a big one as the tenth.

    And now it’s back to work and it’s all rather dreary. On the upside, we are unexpectedly going to see Alphabeat tonight, which should be fantastic, and tomorrow is the US election about which I am soooooooo excited. I may get up at 4am to start watching the results come in. I’m not sure why I care this much, it’s not like I live there, but it is important and having read about it constantly in my Economist for the last year I feel pretty invested in it. Go Obama! You’re a bit of an unknown quantity, but what the hell, let’s spin the wheel for a change.

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  7. Barack, Hillary and Margaret

    June 5, 2008 by superlative

    It looks like Barack Obama is going to win the Democratic presidential nomination in the US, after a very long and drawn-out battle with Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure if I’m pleased or not, as from the beginning I had favoured Hillary a little over him. I know she is hated by a lot of people (although I’m not really sure why), but he just seems a little young and inexperienced.

    I suppose I was comparing Hillary in my mind a little with Margaret Thatcher, who was also widely hated and still is, as they are among the few women to accede to top political positions (or almost accede to them anyway, sorry Hillary). Despite the general venom that is elicited when you mention Margaret Thatcher to anyone, I actually quite admire her strength and what she did for Britain, although often you’re vilified if you dare defend her. Yes she crippled the trade unions and closed the coal mines, but I’ve never cared for trade unions particularly and the closure of the coal mines was a necessary stage in the globalisation of our economy. We are still benefiting from the world class economy we inherited from that era, when we could otherwise have slipped into economic obscurity. I also think it was very clever of her to stockpile loads of coal beforehand, so when the miners went on strike she could just say “fine, you strike, I’ve got plenty of coal thank you and now I don’t have to pay you”.

    So I wonder if it was that same strength in a woman that makes Hillary so unpopular with some? Qualities that would be admired in a man can be viewed differently in women, and they get perceived as a bitch or a ball-breaker, which is rather unfair. I’d rather have a female leader who can exercise strength and authority when needed than a testosteroney man who’s only interested in posturing and looking macho.

    It won’t matter much anyway, as Hillary is expected to concede on Saturday and we’ll be looking at a Barack Obama / John McCain presidential race. John McCain is rather old, and hopefully that’ll count against him. I don’t want to see another Republican in the White House, George W Bush has been pretty much a global disaster. I just hope that all the campaigning Hillary did to illustrate the failings of Obama won’t actually have been leg work for McCain.

    A lot will depend on who Obama picks to be his vice-presidential running mate, as that position could help bring some of the supporters that favoured Hillary back. An obvious choice is Hillary herself, but she brings a fair bit of baggage including Bill and there’d be a risk the two of them would get more attention than Obama himself.

    And of course, whatever happens, you can’t trust the American public to vote in any rational way. They elected George W Bush after all, and conservative religious whites still hold a lot of sway in American politics. And some won’t want to vote for a black man, which will skew the polls until results day as people rarely say “yes I’m a racist” when asked about their voting intentions.

    Still, at least it looks like the Democratic race is over, and whatever happens in the end we’ll still get rid of that chimp from the White House – thank God for a limit on presidential terms!

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