Our place in history ...

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Chinese Proverb: "If we do not change our direction, we will end up where we are headed."


CALIFORNIA

Women are doing everything anyone could ever ask another to do in order realize the middleclass promise of the American Dream. Women belong to smaller immediate families than they did a generation ago a generation ago. Women are succeeding as business owners and entrepreneurs. Women are committing fewer crimes than men, and therefore facing fewer criminal consequences, and experiencing lower recidivism rates. And most importantly, women are working and going to school.

Yet, one in three American women, live in poverty or at its brink. If you’ve seen Maria Shriver or the Shriver Report, in the news lately, you’re already familiar with this fact. If you watched the HBO Documentary Film, Paycheck To Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, (streaming for free online) you’ve also learned that 28 million children depend on these women for their education, shelter, food, clothing, and overall wellbeing. Ms. Gilbert works in a nursing home. She belongs to a community of caregivers populated by 65.7 million people—one in three Americans. As the head of her household, her three kids count on what she takes home, working as many as eight days in a row, for $9.49 an hour. After the bills get paid, it ain’t much.

We’re used to this kind of narrative. It doesn’t impact us in any way to hear about a young woman who can barely get by. In fact, it often evokes some rather unsettling stereotypes. Sadly, this narrative, these stereotypes, and all accompanying partisan talking points, are as predictable as they are wrong.

In California, everything is supposed to be coming up roses. Our budget is running a nearly $5 billion surplus. We’ve added over 1.23 million new jobs since 2010. And the value of California homes is steadily increasing. Yet, the Golden State boasts the highest rate of impoverished people in the nation. 4 million Californians rely on public assistance from CalFresh, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) just to put food on the table. 77% of cash assistance and welfare-to-work services for low-income families (CalWORKS) resources go to meet the needs of children. And despite the state budget surplus, and the fact that 20% of California’s seniors live below the poverty line, regulated programs that allow the elderly, the chronically ill, and the disabled to live outside of costly nursing home facilities, such as in-home support services, (IHSS) are always on the chopping block. Unsurprisingly, nearly 9 out of 10 IHSS caregivers are women.

California Governor Jerry Brown wants to move forward with a 7% cut to IHSS funding, and has proposed capping the amount of hours for which IHSS workers can receive pay. This last move is an effort to avoid extending IHSS caregivers the overtime and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections President Obama just ordered the Department of Labor to extend to homecare providers nationwide. This means, for example, the downgrading and disruption of continuity of care for seniors battling Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as children and adults managing low-functioning autism. It also means IHSS caregivers, who’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, swimming against the current of income inequality that has eroded and continues to erode the American middleclass, will get pulled into the undertow of poverty and drown.

These proposed cuts and caps do not benefit Cherilyn, the infirm family member she cares for, or her two kids—one of whom remains hospitalized, after being senselessly struck by a stray bullet. They do nothing for Lorijon, the disabled brother she cares for, or her partner, recently diagnosed with cancer. They will not benefit Sheila, who sold her home in Arkansas, and moved her son and husband to a studio apartment in California, so she could care for her mother as her health began to rapidly deteriorate. And they turn Guillermina’s life upside down, as a social worker has determined that she must provide 258-hours’ worth of IHSS care each month to her son with low-functioning autism, and multiple developmental and physiological diagnoses. The proposed cuts and caps would strip away nearly 40% of her income, and Guillermina would be forced to endanger her son’s wellbeing by trusting his care to a stranger, and/or accept a life of squalor.

You see, in California, and across the country, the proverbial rub lies at the intersection of earnings and expenditures: It’s not just that women are paid $.77 for every dollar earned by a man. It’s that women are (a) disproportionately represented in low paying jobs that come without fulltime hours guarantees, sick days, benefits packages, or even steady schedules that allows them to receive pay on a regular basis for all of the hours they’ve actually worked. And (b) forced to stretch their paychecks to cover the needs of their kids, their parents, and in many cases, their partners, as well.

By 2050 there will be 89 million Americans 65 and older. One third will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Millions more will have a variety of challenges related to aging and/or adult diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Before the end of the decade there will be a 70% increase in the demand for homecare. Meanwhile, the millennial unemployment rate that surged during the Great Recession, remains above 16% nationwide.

It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.

The costs of higher education are breaking records. And student loan debt is at an all-time high—now exceeding $1 trillion, eclipsing even credit card debt. But so is the demand for caregivers. If millennial job seekers, including college students and recent graduates, were compensated fairly for homecare, then supply would meet demand, and the costs of education, and debt load would become more bearable. There is no reason to believe that caregiving and the other professions disproportionately populated by women will achieve gender balance in the coming years. But there is every reason to believe that increasing the pay of workers in these professions benefits us all. Women, and those they care for, including children and seniors, would escape poverty. Paying them middleclass salaries means their purchases of goods and services, investments in education, and entrepreneurial activities can create new jobs.

Women are doing everything anyone could ever ask another to do in order realize the middleclass promise of the American Dream. Yet whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, the vast expanse between the 1% and the rest of us, is felt most acutely along gender lines. Two thirds of working women are found in 54 occupations. In order to meet the challenges posed by the costs of childcare, eldercare, and special needs care, and the increases in the costs of housing, higher education, and healthcare, these occupations need to stop paying poverty wages.

To do anything else is to condemn women to live as second class citizens because of their socioeconomic status, and promote the decimation the American Dream until it goes extinct.

NATIONAL

One in three American women, live in poverty or at its brink. If you’ve seen Maria Shriver or the Shriver Report, in the news lately, you’re already familiar with this fact. If you watched the HBO Documentary Film, Paycheck To Paycheck: the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert, (streaming for free online) you’ve also learned that 28 million children depend on these women for their education, shelter, food, clothing, and overall wellbeing. Ms. Gilbert is the head of her household. Her three kids count on what she takes home, working as many as eight days in a row, for $9.49 an hour. After the bills get paid, it ain’t much.

We’re used to this kind of narrative. It doesn’t impact us in any way to hear about a young woman who can barely provide for her children. In fact, it often evokes some rather unsettling stereotypes about unwed teenage mothers of color, eschewing work in order to collect welfare checks. “Marriage incentives,” have formed part of the GOP’s national platform for generations, and even reemerged as recently as a plank in the most recent presidential election. Republicans have argued that the only way to escape poverty is to amalgamate as many households as possible where mothers and fathers are both present. On the other side of the aisle, Democrats, including President Obama, have argued that high school completion and continuing education represent the only guaranteed pathway out of poverty. Sadly, this narrative, these stereotypes, and all accompanying partisan talking points, are as predictable as they are wrong.

Single motherhood, without marriage, or after divorce, is a mainstream occurrence, not a marginal one. 41% of all American children are born into a household headed by a single mom. The fastest growth in motherhood without marriage, over the course of the last two decades, for instance, has occurred among non-Hispanic, white women, in their twenties, with high school diplomas, and multiple completed college course credits. Concurrently, over the course of the last two decades, teenage birth rates have declined, reaching an all-time record low—a trend true across all demographics, with a 34% decline in Latina teen births, a 24% decline in African American teen births, and a 20% decline in white teen births.

Between the Baby Boom and today, women of all ages, increased their participation in the paid labor pool, and came to consistently comprise half the workforce. In the 1960s twice as many men as women under 30 were college graduates. Today, for every 100 men in college, there are 135 women. And thanks in large part to women’s participation in the labor pool, and women’s continuous academic success, the workforce is more educated than it’s ever been. In 1968, approximately 48% of minimum wage workers completed high school. Today, over 79% hold diplomas or GED certificates. In 1968, only 1 in 6 minimum wage workers had attended or completed college. Today, nearly half have done so.

Again, thanks in large part to women the American workforce is more productive than ever. But you wouldn’t know this by looking at the paychecks women receive. From 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80%, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth that amount. Since 2000, productivity has risen 23% while real hourly pay has stagnated. The federal minimum wage, for instance, remains at $7.25, but it would be $21.72, if it had kept pace with increases in productivity. In over three-fifths of the country a fulltime minimum wage earner makes $15,080 per year. The federal poverty threshold is $15,825 annual income for a single parent with one child. The cost of meeting the basic needs of a family of four is between $42,000 and $64,000 per year.

The ten largest low wage occupations are populated by a majority of women workers: In fact, seven out of the ten occupations paying less than $10 an hour, are populated by two-thirds or more women workers.
72% of cashiers, 85% of housecleaners, 83% of personal care aides, and 95% of homecare workers are women. Women are the majority of retail workers, especially in food service and clothing stores. 67% of minimum wage workers are women. And an increase in the minimum wage to $10 would benefit 17 million women workers. But what’s more, 70% of tipped wage workers are women. Hourly pay for these workers has remained a meager $2.13 for twenty years. Restaurant workers experience poverty at a rate three times higher than the overall workforce. Raising the salary of any of these occupations by $5,000 per year would pull not only a woman worker out of poverty, but
a family of three as well.

With low salaries, and only 24 hours in a day, women are trapped in poverty or at its brink, because of structural obstacles, anachronistic public policy, and an institutionalized bigotry that shortchanges caregivers. 29% of working parents experience childcare breakdowns, resulting in absenteeism, tardiness and reduced concentration. Absenteeism resulting from childcare breakdowns, alone, costs US businesses $3 billion annually. Meanwhile, the cost of childcare has increased eight times faster than the rate of family income growth. In every state, the average cost of center-based infant care is over 25% of the median income for single parents. Yet, while the costs of childcare have risen, the salaries of childcare providers have not. This is, in large part, because 97% of childcare work is done by women.

The eldercare landscape is similar. The average cost of placing an elderly family member in a private nursing home is $94,170 dollars, and is increasing at a rate of 3.6% annually. Whenever possible, homecare represents a much more affordable option, with an average cost that is nearly 70% cheaper, and around one third of the rate of increase. Nevertheless, providing in-home care for someone who is elderly, ill, or disabled, requires a tremendous amount of time. 65.7 million Americans (nearly one in three) devote an average of 19 full days per month to caregiving. These services have $450 billion annual price tag, and the need for them will escalate dramatically, as the number of Americans who are 65 and older will double in a little over a decade, and come to exceed 71.5 million. Yet once again, despite the booming demand for caregivers to assist those managing chronic illness, disability, and/or aging, pay for those who provide care remains inadequate. And I contend that this is, in large part, because 95% of homecare workers are women.

Women are not irresponsibly throwing away educational or professional opportunities in order to raise kids on public assistance programs. Women are half the labor force. Women already own 30 percent of businesses nationwide. A percentage that’s growing, thanks in large part to immigrant women who establish 40% new businesses in their communities. In fact, women have been starting business at rates higher than men for twenty years. Women owned businesses will create over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by 2018. And the unemployment rate among men is higher than the rate of unemployment among women. Yet women workers still lag behind when it comes to the amount of money they earn and can take home—even women with college degrees continue to earn less than men with college degrees.

Women are doing everything anyone could ever ask another to do in order realize the middleclass promise of the American Dream. Women belong to smaller immediate families than they did a generation ago. Women are succeeding as business owners and entrepreneurs. Women are committing fewer crimes than men, and therefore facing fewer criminal consequences, and experiencing lower recidivism rates. And most importantly, women are working and going to school.

The proverbial rub lies at the intersection of earnings and expenditures: It’s not just that women are paid $.77 for every dollar earned by a man. It’s that women are (a) disproportionately represented in low paying jobs that come without fulltime hours guarantees, sick days, benefits packages, or even steady schedules that allows them to receive pay on a regular basis for all of the hours they’ve actually worked. And (b) forced to stretch their paychecks to cover the needs of their kids, their parents, and in many cases, their partners, as well.

By 2050 there will be 89 million Americans 65 and older 65 and older. One third will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Millions more will have a variety of challenges related to aging and/or adult diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Before the end of the decade there will be a 70% increase in the demand for homecare. Meanwhile, the millennial unemployment rate that surged during the Great Recession, remains above 16% nationwide.

It doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.

The costs of higher education are breaking records. And student loan debt is at an all-time high—now exceeding $1 trillion, eclipsing even credit card debt. But so is the demand for caregivers. If millennial job seekers, including college students and recent graduates, were compensated fairly for homecare, then supply would meet demand, and the costs of education, and debt load would become more bearable. There is no reason to believe that caregiving and the other professions disproportionately populated by women will achieve gender balance in the coming years. But there is every reason to believe that increasing the pay of workers in these professions benefits us all. Women, and those they care for, including children and seniors, would escape poverty. Paying them middleclass salaries means their purchases of goods and services, investments in education, and entrepreneurial activities can create new jobs.

Women are doing everything anyone could ever ask another to do in order realize the middleclass promise of the American Dream. Yet whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, the vast expanse between the 1% and the rest of us, is felt most acutely along gender lines. Two thirds of working women are found in 54 occupations. In order to meet the challenges posed by the costs of childcare, eldercare, and special needs care, and the increases in the costs of housing, higher education, and healthcare, these occupations need to stop paying poverty wages.

To do anything else is to condemn women to live as second class citizens because of their socioeconomic status, and promote the decimation the American Dream until it goes extinct.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Written July 15 @ 5 AM (the day after the verdict led to a sleepless night)

https://www.facebook.com/unaimi/posts/10151771490716354?notif_t=like

When my father was a teenager in Mexico City, he was known in the neighborhoods around El Monumento de la Raza as "the gorilla." He wasn't scared of anyone or anything. If some guy picked on a family member or friend, he would go to where he lived, knock on the door, ask that guy to step outside, and then proceed to pummel him. He once had his jaw broken by a baseball bat, but he never lost a fight. It wasn't until the Mexican government turned its soldiers with guns and tanks upon the high school and college age youth that spent the summer and fall of 1968 marching in the streets that my father feared violence. Not even "the gorilla" could win in a fight against the artillery unleashed in Tlatelolco. Thousands were killed and made to disappear. It would take more than a generation for the Mexican government to admit what it did.

My mother who deplored violence, and my father who came to realize its limits, raised me to avoid physical confrontations. They taught me to deescalate conflict, to "think about the consequences of my actions, and use my words whenever possible." This was a fine strategy until we were deported. In Mexico City I was a sitting duck for students who saw me as a descendant of Hernan Cortes, instead of Cuauhtémoc, and/or personally responsible for the killing of los Niños Héroes. I was a pale, skinny kid. Everyone knew I came to Mexico from the US. I stood out. Packs of bullies, older kids, several grade levels ahead of me, would beat me up before/after school, on the bus, during lunch/recess, and on field trips. Initially, I tried to run and hide. But one evening, as I explained to my parents that I hadn't eaten during the day, because I spent all of lunch hiding in the bathroom, sitting on a toilet in a ball, hugging my legs tightly with my arms, I caught a glimpse of what can only be described as shame in my father's eyes. I knew then that my days of running and hiding had to come to an end.

The next day several grade levels from my school were taken to an athletic facility with several soccer fields and an athletic track. This was an opportunity for us to run around in a wide open space, as my school consisted of a block building and paved playground -- a space completely devoid of grass, much less trees. The day was cut short by a sudden rain storm. We were instructed to get into single file lines and walk back toward the buses via the most direct route, one that took us within a few yards of an uncovered swimming pool. En route to the bus I was pushed to the ground and verbally assaulted by a pack of bullies. Humiliated, I wanted to cry. But I remembered that look of shame in my father's eyes. So instead, I ran toward the bully directly in front of me, using the force given to me by my momentum to knock him to the ground. He got up. So I ran toward him again. This time jumping in an attempt to tackle him. I succeeded. We fell into the pool. He didn't know how to swim. I didn't know this. He nearly drowned. I swam toward the adults who promptly punished me. And although my parents reprimanded me as well, I no longer saw shame in my dad's eyes.

When I listen to "legal experts" explain that George Zimmerman was found not guilty because he acted in "self-defense." When I read comments written by people who feel the system works because in the middle of the fight he started with a 17-year old child, a 29-year old man, feared for his life, and therefore needed to stand his ground, I am completely floored. I simply cannot understand how anyone can fault a 17-year old boy for fighting back after being followed by a strange man. Maybe there is a way that Trayvon Martin could have hidden himself in fear, or run away crying desperately for help. But if he hadn't stood up for himself, if any 17-year old boy in that situation hadn't done exactly what Trayvon Martin did, would that boy be able to look into the eyes of his father and/or other male role models and not catch a glimpse of shame? Whether this is all macho b*llsh*t or not, it is an undeniable part of our culture. There is not a film, tv show, comic book, etc. in which the male protagonist runs away from a fight. Regardless of how insurmountable the odds, our heroes never back down. I can't think of a single instant in which an adolescent has ever received praise from another adolescent for running away and hiding, or simply turning the other cheek when an aggressor delivers verbal and/or physical blows. When I was a teenager, the mere perception of disrespect toward you, or anyone in your set was enough reason to throw down. But it didn't end there. And once your high school yearbook features an In Memoriam section for those who lost their lives to gun violence, you long for a chance to escape. And forget.

But at 17, you want so desperately to be a man, that you mask your fear and insecurity as best you can. If someone wants to start something, you force yourself to rise to the challenge. At 29, the expectation when someone says, "Man up," the expectation is for your to be the bigger man and walk away. At 17, when someone says, "Man up," you throw down. This does not make you a thug, or a hoodlum, or a gangster (gangsta). It just makes you a boy trying to live up to the socio-cultural definition of what it means to be a man. If you've experienced this, or if you can imagine it, then please take a moment to wrap your head around what it's like for a boy from a community of color to try and be a man in a world that constantly tries to humiliate him in the ways most meaningful to young people. 86% percent of those stopped and frisked by police officers in NYC are black and brown, for instance. And if you've seen the film, Fruitvale Station, or remember the murder of Oscar Grant, at point blank range, by an officer in the Bay Area, you know that this phenomenon, of peace officers harming people of color, is common from sea to shining sea. So again, place yourselves in the shoes of a 17-year old black boy being followed by a stranger. There is no evidence available to you that compels you to believe that the police are going to treat you fairly, or much less come to your rescue. You know that you are on your own. And you know that men stand up for themselves; they don't run away from a fight.

A 29-year old with a gun and a delusional vendetta against "these a**holes [who] always get away" murdered a 17-year old black boy. The murderer is almost twice as old as the child he murdered. If that murderer had killed a 17-year old girl, or a 17-year old white boy, he would have been convicted, and would be serving jail time. If a 17 year old girl had been followed on her way home by a 29-year old man, the assumption would be that this stranger was following her because he sought to rob and/or rape her. In this scenario, the taking of the word of this murderer, claiming that it was necessary for him to brandish a firearm and discharge it because of "self-defense" would not occur. Since the majority of those who contributed financially to the "Zimmerman defense fund," would feel differently about this case, in this scenario, then gender matters. The fact that the media labelled George Zimmerman a "white Hispanic," and that those who sought to demonize a dead 17-year old posted a profile photo that was not from the murdered Trayvon Martin's Facebook page, and was not of the murdered Trayvon Martin, but a photo of a completely different and unrelated person with the same name and skin color, proves race matters (http://www.snopes.com/photos/politics/martin.asp). To quote Richard Wright, "the color of a Negro's skin makes him easily recognizable, makes him suspect, converts him into a defenseless target... [because] America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.”

No matter what the jury or any of the talking heads on radio and TV say, there is only one person who exercised self-defense. There is only one individual who stood his ground. And that is a 17-year old black boy named Trayvon Martin. 29-year old George Zimmerman is the one who followed when the 911 operator told him not to. He is the one who got out of the car with a gun on his person when there was neither reason to get out of the vehicle or brandish a weapon. He sought out conflict. He targeted Trayvon Martin and pursued him. That a 17-year old made a 29-year old bleed, is not as important as everything George Zimmerman did leading up to the moment in which he murdered Trayvon Martin. You can't claim self-defense if you are the one who picked the fight. You can't pretend you're standing your ground, when you're following someone to the ground where that person's standing. As Sara Ceballos said, anyone who pretends justice was done, because the letter of the law was followed, doesn't understand the meaning of the word justice -- everyone from Jesus Christ to Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela engaged in civil disobedience to protest unjust laws. And watching every single hour, minute, and second of that trial does not make you an "expert," if you're not willing to admit that George Zimmerman would not have been found "not guilty" of killing a 17-year old white boy, or a 17-year old girl.

Written July 13 @ 8 PM Pacific (the night of the verdict)

https://www.facebook.com/unaimi/posts/10151768534061354?comment_id=29454943¬if_t=like

It is in moments like these it seems as though believing in the institutions of the United States of America is no different than believing in the institutions of faith. The Catholic Church facilitated the genocide of tens of millions of indigenous Americans, but here I am the descendant of indigenous Mexicans from the mountains of Guanajuato who were denied humanity -- never mind equal opportunity, they were denied simple humanity -- going to church, praying, confessing my sin, asking for my forgiveness. When it would be more appropriate for the church to ask for forgiveness for what it did to my family. And what it has done since: causing Jews to die in Hitler's camps, children to be unforgivably abused by priests, etc. Today, a man who followed a child was found "not guilty." This man was carrying a gun. This man was told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the child. But this man took his gun, and followed this child. Guilty means responsible. This man is responsible. This man is guilty. He is guilty of killing a child. And the justice system of the United States of America is supposed to work to uncover truth. It is supposed to work the way it does when justice prevails in a Hollywood film, or television drama. But today is a reminder that it is the systems of the United States of America that repeatedly fail to do the right thing at the right time. Slavery and Jim Crow existed because of laws, not customs. And today's Supreme Court is the one that overturned the Voting Rights Act. In Korematsu v. United States a US citizen challenged the legality of a Presidential Executive Order that forced Japanese descendant US citizens into Internment Camps. Korematsu lost. Hirabayashi v. United States was about mandatory curfews for Japanese Americans. Hirabayashi lost. The Supreme Court did not support them, or any other Japanese American. The Chinese Exclusion Act was a federal law, passed by Congress, and signed into being in 1882. It did not end until half way through the 20th Century. And only because the US government needed help fighting the Axis powers on the Pacific Front. Native Americans -- the people that were here when the Pilgrims rolled in, the ones that Disney romanticizes in Pocahontas, the people that Johnny Depp paints his face and claims to belong to in the Lone Ranger, the human beings whose willingness to feed the starving Europeans, every Thanksgiving... No Native Americans were citizens of the United States until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. In fact, they were prohibited from becoming citizens by the Naturalization Act of 1790 -- that stated that only whites, not Latinos, Asians, African Americans, or Native Americans could be citizens of the United States of America. It was the government of the United States of America that "repatriated" millions -- yes, millions, not dozens or hundreds or even thousands -- of Mexicans in the 1930s and 1950s. No one asked for proof of citizenship. They simply rounded up anyone with a brown face and put them on a train headed for Mexico. This literally happened in the 20th Century at the hands of the government of the United States. The very same Republic to which I Pledged Allegiance every single morning as a kid. And today, in the 21st Century, it is the government of the State of Arizona, the government of the State of Alabama, that have passed SB 1070 and HB 56 respectively, so they can once again have permission to stop anyone with a brown face. All in the name of feeding a federally supported deportation policy that has established a quota of 400,000 deportations a year. President Obama, who I campaign on behalf of, and voted for twice, is responsible for deporting more people in half a decade than 100 years worth of US President's were able to deport. And the reason we can't have immigration reform is because the GOP controlled House says that there's not enough enforcement? Please tell me again why it is that I tell people to have faith in the institutions of the United States of America when there is no wealth of empirical evidence compelling them to? A man followed a child when he was told not to. He was carrying a gun, when he did not need to. This man had a car and a nearby home. He could have avoided conflict. And he was told by a 911 operator to avoid it. But he sought it. And he killed a child. These are facts. And facts are supposed to matter in the United States precisely because We The People does not contain any footnotes, endnotes, parentheses, or asterisks that explicitly exclude Constitutional protection from anyone in the United States. The system is broken. I need to go eat and find a proof point that convinces me that it can truly be fixed.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The America I know and love:

https://www.facebook.com/unaimi/posts/10151747249046354

I spent several years of my childhood in a dichotomous United States: one, "black," communitarian, and forward thinking, the other, "white," competitively individuating, and conservative. Raised by Mexican immigrants, Spanish came first from my mouth. Enrolled in a majority African-American "Head Start," Pre-School, and Day Care, English came first from my hand.

It would be hyperbole to argue that my identity was solidified before I finished elementary school. But it wouldn't be fiction.

My first real memories are of immigration offices and hearing rooms. I learned my family was scheduled to be deported before I learned to read. My parents were fighting like hell to find a way to stay in the US. But they ran out of appeals, extensions, and money. (Anything and everything of value that could be sold, was sold). Because I had no immediate or extended family nearby with status, my parents had to prove to the US government that they could provide for my wellbeing once I arrived in Mexico. If they couldn't I'd be placed in foster care.

I was born in the US. I had citizenship. But at six-years-old my only understanding of citizenship was that it meant potential separation from my family.

By today's standards, my family's deportation was extremely civilized. This was back in the days before ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, and quotas mandating that 400,000+ people a year be forcibly removed from US soil annually.

That said, the INS did everything in its power to get us out of the US, and make sure we would never come back. My grandfather grew very ill and eventually died during the time my parents were fighting their deportation. The INS would not allow my mother to travel to say goodbye to her father, unless she agreed not to return to the US. (Again, this was back in the days when one could appeal an order of deportation). Once we arrived in Mexico, the US government lost all interest in my well being. Despite my young age, I remember distinctly asking my parents why the people who wanted to place me with another family in the US didn't seem to care that I was sometimes hungry and didn't have a regular home.

I went from being a non-black kid in an African American community, to being a white skinned, US born, child in a Mexican public school system where the key thing you learn in 1st grade is that the Spanish ruined Mesoamerica. And in 2nd grade the key thing you learn is that the US stole half of Mexico, and then had the audacity to invade the remaining half during the Mexican Revolution. In 1st grade, mobs of angry kids would yell, "Gachupín," and beat me up. In 2nd grade, mobs of angry kids would yell, "Gabacho," and beat me up. By 3rd grade, I just assumed that every trip to and from school, and recess period during the school day would involve conflict, so I became a punk.

Whatever difficulties I went through adjusting to life in Mexico City, my parents had it far worse. After all, they hadn't just traveled to the US on vacation and decided they should stay because they weren't done shopping. They were activists in the high school and college age student movement. The Mexican government turned its tanks and soldiers on them. They fled Mexico City for Xalapa because of the massacre in Tlatelolco. From Xalapa they sought a new future in the US. They looked at the social changes taking place, and saw progress in this country. The Civil Rights movement was their fountain of inspiration. They believed the people of the US possessed the power to being about a More Perfect Union. (And they did believe Mexican democracy could or would be transformed in the same way in just a few years time).

Deportation completely devastated my parents. My father, to this day, lacks the optimism and idealism he possessed in my early life. My mother, despite her tremendous resilience, saw the sadness she felt over the loss of her father magnified upon falling ill. My mom got very sick right after we arrived in Mexico. My parents had planned to have more than one child. Another child was expected, but never came to be. Medical complications abounded and by the end, my mother was not able to have another child.

My parents deportation made them ineligible for IRCA. In today's debates over immigration reform legislation, it is rarely mentioned that 30% of the people who applied for IRCA did not receive it. And many more, like my parents, were told explicitly to not even both applying. Nevertheless, there was a time when an employer could sponsor a visa for a foreign national willing to perform no American citizen wanted to do because it would mean relocating to a highly undesirable location for a wage too low to justify that relocation.

My mother applied for jobs that no American citizen wanted to do, because they were in places no American citizen wanted to go for the low wages these jobs were offering. And eventually my mom got one of those jobs and with the help of an employer sponsored visa, my family returned to the US.

I went from living in the largest city in the world -- a metropolis of 24 million people in Latin America -- to a town of not quite 500 people in the midwest. There were two roads: Rural Route 1, and White Deer Run. Everyone was white and Baptist. There were no people of color. (Apparently, because of sunset laws). And during Civil War recreation battles, folks rooted for the South to win.

The state had mandatory ESL laws. But they'd never had an ESL student. Someone from upstate would travel periodically, and I'd be unceremoniously pulled out of class and placed with this strange person whose Spanish was atrocious in the janitor's closet and sit at a table placed under the bare lightbulb hanging from a long wire. I was lucky because it didn't take me long to remember the breadth of English I knew when I was six. My classmates' insistance that everything about me was wrong -- my name, my enunciation, my religion, my father's brown skin, my mother's thick accent, etc. -- gave me plenty of incentive to cram several years of English language learning into a small time frame.

But I digress.

I spent several years of my childhood in a dichotomous United States: one, "black," communitarian, and forward thinking, the other, "white," competitively individuating, and conservative. Before I moved to Southern California, and I found my home in a place where every race/ethnicity, religion, culture, language, and hyphenated American identity coincide convivially, I knew far less diverse spaces. But I still met amazing people.

The African American community I knew cared for me, fed me, taught me, fought to keep my parents in the US; to make sure I was not separated from my family. The white community I knew did not welcome me or my family, writ large. But I didn't live years without friends. I had a few. Some teachers were dismissive of my efforts to find acceptance, instead of rejection. But Mrs. Swope cut me a break and cast me in a play about a bunny named Billy, with a long flat tail, instead of a fluffy round one. Thus allowing me to publicly exercise the demons I felt after having been othered for so long.

Every 4th of July I remember how much I love the people of the United States of America. I say this precisely because I love the people of the world, not because I am trying to cross the line from patriotism to chauvinism. As I mentioned, my parents were born in Mexico, and I lived there for several years as a child. My extended family still lives there, and I visit often. I love Mexico and to me being Mexican is a magical gift.

But when I'm in Mexico, I miss the the sheer volume of diversity I experience on a daily basis at home in Los Angeles, or when I go to visit friends in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, etc. It is powerful and inspiring to live in a country comprised of West Africans, West Indians, African Americans, Afro-Latinos, East Asians, South Asians, Pacific Islanders, Middle Easterners, Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans, Caribbeans, Native Americans, and yes, whites.

I have a friend named Case. His dad's family got here on the tail end of the Ellis Island period of Italian migration. His mom's family literally came over on the Mayflower. By this last standard he is as white and as American as anyone can be. But in college he lived in the residence hall for African American Studies majors. And upon graduation he embarked on a series of never ending journeys around the world. He belongs to the America I know and love.

I have a friend named Melanie. She grew up in Buffalo, and on the roads leading to NYC where she often found herself en route to Yankees games. After attending a HBCU, she could've easily settled into Washington life. After all, work was abundant, and DC's vibrant East African and African American communities were accessible. But she became fascinated with the arts of African Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean. And this led to the discovery of multiple artists of color in the US drawing inspiration from the most intricate and complex elements of identity. She gave up everything she knew and moved west. She now seeks to help emerging artists in places like L.A. She belongs to the America I know and love.

I have a friend whose name I won't share because she's undocumented. She's in the second half of her twenties. She came to the US at 7. In other words, she's lived two decades in the US, and less than one decade outside of it. Her career plans involved going to college, then graduate school. When she turned 16 she wanted to get a driver's license. But because of her status, she obviously couldn't. She grew up here, so she never applied for a Mexican passport. Right before she had to take her Electronic Testing Service standardized exam, she obtained a Matricula Consular to serve as her photo ID. When she got to the ETS facility they informed her that they would not accept the Matricula as a photo ID. She was unable to take the test she paid for, and never got a refund -- despite the fact that she called ETS before the day of her appointment just to make sure that she could present the Matricula as proof of identification. And they said, yes.

Needless to say, my friends plans of a seamless transition into college followed by graduate school did not come to pass. At one point, she had the opportunity to adjust her status through marriage. But she ultimately refused this option. She told me that she didn't want anyone to give her citizenship. She wanted to earn it on her own. If she had gone through with it, she probably would have felt a tremendous amount of gult -- as though she were betraying every undocumented US resident hoping for reform.

Even the most conservative members of the tiny midwestern town I once called home would be willing to acknowledge how determined, hard working, and principled my friend has been. She is the breadwinner that keeps the lights on, a roof over everyone's head, and food on the table for her mom and siblings. And she's never taken the easy way out -- even when it's been offered to her on a silver platter. She's carving out her own way. All while caring for, teaching, and fighting on behalf of friends and strangers alike.

She belongs to the America I know and love. And it's time for her, and 11 million undocumented Americans to get some love in return.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Proverbs 29:18


It’s been one week since the election.

Those who cannot breathe without contact sport aspect of politics have turned their attention to the fiscal liff, lame duck session of the 112th Congress, 2013 Inaugural events, and the hustle to post-up for positions in the Second Obama Administration—positions that open up as staffers from the First Term bid adieu.

The vast majority of those who voted, and those eligible who did not cast an Early Vote, Absentee Ballot, or on Election Day, have turned their attention to the debate over whether or not we’ll see a Dirty South Super Bowl XLVII, pitting the Houston Texans, against the Atlanta Falcons, in the city of New Orleans. And on to the matter of discerning whether to watch The X-Factor, (with Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, L.A. Reid, and Simon Cowell on the judges’ panel) The Voice, (with Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton on the judges’ panel) or both—that is of course, until American Idol returns (with Mariah Carey, Nicki Manaj, Randy Jackson, and Keith Urban, on the judges’ panel) at which point all bets are off.

The final category of stakeholders, are immersed in a discussion over meaning. At first glance, the Republican Party faithful, (and those who believe that the USA needs a healthy, vibrant GOP, and a healthy, vibrant Democratic Party in order to operate) have concluded that the demonization of Latinos, especially Latino immigrants, is a losing formula, and must cease. Viviana Hurtado, Ruben Navarrette, Laura Colarusso, Julia Preston/Fernanda Santos, Adriana Maestas/Sara Ines Calderon, Samantha Wyatt, and others, have made this point colorfully, comprehensively, and convincingly.

Concurrently, these same faithful are coming to terms with the rhetoric and policies that fueled the fire of the gender gap that delivered victories not only to President Obama, but to Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren, Senator-elect Tammy Baldwin, Congresswoman-elect Tammy Duckworth, Congresswoman-elect Krysten Sinema, etc. Sarah Stoesz, Susan Carroll, Hallmah Abdullah, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Olivia Waxman, Emma Gray, and others, have made this point colorfully, comprehensively, and convincingly.

But one final point remains.

Back in August, while I was on the road, engaging voters on behalf of Politic365’s #voiceyourvote campaign, in the days leading up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, and Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, I wrote that President Obama deserved reelection because the GOP had yet to offer a vision for the future. It had, in plainest language, painted President Obama as the wrong leader for present-day challenges. But neither the Romney-Ryan ticket, nor any of the down-ballot Republicans, offered a vision for where America should go, once the economy was back on track. Once unemployment fell below 8%, and the consumer confidence, housing, and manufacturing numbers improved to their highest levels since before the Great Recession, undecided voters who were looking for a reason to vote against President Obama and the Democratic Senate majority, could not find one.

You see, it’s not just that women and people of color felt as though the GOP was a party of old white men disinterested in opening the Republican tent to them. It’s also that voters clearly understood that President Obama stood for universal healthcare coverage, a pathway to citizenship, equal pay for equal work, same-sex marriage rights, a protection of women’s reproductive rights, investments in Pre-K through college education, an expansion of green sector and STEM jobs, as well as a path toward deficit reduction that asked the wealthiest Americans to pay more. There was no such clarity on the other side. It’s not that Primary Campaign stances went through a rhetorical Etch-A-Sketch, in order to adopt a more centrist tone. It’s that every position, from coverage for preexisting conditions, to the 20% across the board tax cut, were as fluid and mutable as a blob in a lit lava lamp. Even secular voters place a lot of faith in the wisdom of Proverbs 29:18. Those who sought a vision for the future from President Obama got one. Those who sought a vision for the future from Mitt Romney were redirected to either fetishize the past, (the 1980s and/or the 1950s) or focus on whatever economic indicators were still lagging in the present.

Perhaps the best thing for Republicans, and those rooting for the GOP to get its act together, to do, is to take a trip to the movies. Go watch Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Although not a Ken Burns documentary, it successfully makes the case that the 13th Amendment was necessary for the future of the Union, not simply an expedient act to add momentum to the push to end the Civil War. As David Edmund Moody wrote, “In order to achieve the impossible, Lincoln had to martial all his internal resources… When the arguments were moral, he articulated a larger vision.”

In the worlds of the Illinois Rail Splitter, a.k.a. Honest Abe Lincoln himself, “We can succeed only by concert. It is not ‘can any of us imagine better?’ but,‘can we all do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Today, Democrats have successfully distanced themselves from those who once stood in the way of equality of opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, creed, cultural origin, or sexual identity. And now, the heavy burden falls on Republicans to confront and purge the racism they’ve enabled, and Andrew Rosenthal, Nsenga Burton, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Steven Hahn, Dan Payne, Eugene Robinson, as well as countless others, have documented, dissected, and decried. Then, once the GOP has invited women and people of color to the Party, it must define what comes next. When it comes to spelling out a vision for the US and its people, Republicans must answer one critical question: Where to?

Fundamentally, the lesson both major parties, and those will work to bring forth a third voice in national electoral politics, must learn was best articulated by President Kennedy, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” To win elections, you must name American Dreams to work toward, not just ogres or specters to stand against.



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Nevada 2012



In the swing state of Nevada, 45.8% of registered voters are Democrats, 37.3% are Republicans. If solidly blue California’s voter rolls parallel these numbers with 44% Democrats, and 35% Republicans, why is Nevada a toss up purple state? Nevadans are more likely to split tickets, and not vote along party lines consistently, up and down their ballots, than voters in other states. In 2010, for instance, 53.4% of Nevada voters chose Republican, Brian Sandoval, as their Governor, and 50.3% chose Democrat, Harry Reid, as their US Senator. This is the kind of cognitive dissonance that fascinates political scientists, and frustrates partisans. Yet in Nevada, where Electoral College votes have gone to the GOP nominee in seven out of the last ten presidential cycles, there is reason to be optimistic the President will win Nevada in 2012 by doubling down on the voter targeting and contact strategies that helped deliver the state in 2008.

72% of the state’s population lives in Clark County, and this means the “ground game” will have a bigger impact on the electoral outcome than the battle to dominate the airwaves. Mitt Romney’s campaign and the several billionaire-backed, anti-Obama Super PACs are outspending the President and his allies, two to one. In Nevada, this means Radio La Kalle 99.3 FM listeners hear endless attacks on President Obama in Spanish, while KNTV ABC 13 viewers watch endless ads in English, painting Romney as the solution to any and all problems voters might fear. But Obama For America, the Democratic Party, and those organizations with field campaigns that support the President’s reelection, have been more successful in getting supporters to the polls during the Early Voting period, and are prepared to hold this lead once all absentee ballots and Election Day returns come in. 25% of Nevadans cast ballots in the first six days of early voting. As Reid Wilson writes in the National Journal:

“Republicans consistently run behind Democrats among early voters in Nevada. But the GOP has two firewalls: absentee voters, who tend to hail from rural, Republican-leaning counties in the state, and voters who turn up at the polls on Election Day. But in what could be a troubling sign for the GOP, early reports… suggest Democrats are even outperforming Republicans among voters casting an absentee ballot. Jon Ralston, the Nevada politics guru, reported that Democratic voters have turned in 52% of absentee ballots returned to Clark County, five points higher than their registration edge over Republicans.”

If early vote participation is up statewide and in Clark County, and it is: 64,370 more voters participated in this year’s first week of early voting than took part in the first week of early voting in 2008, and 68.8% of them were from Clark County, bumping up participation in the most reliably blue piece of electoral turf by nearly one half percent when compared to the last presidential cycle. These increases reflect Obama For America and the state’s Democratic Party ability to conduct voter registration and mobilization efforts that keep pace with population growth. Between 2000 and 2010, Nevada’s overall population grew 35%, (from 2 million to 2.7 million) thanks largely to Latinos, who accounted for fully 46% of new residents. Today, 27% of Nevadans are Latino. In 2008, President Obama earned the support of 67% of Latino voters nationwide, but won the backing of 76% of Latino voters in Nevada. In 2010, Harry Reid earned the support of 9 out of 10 Latino voters. While the state’s Democrats, writ large, may dampen the coattail effect, and showcase an independent or libertarian streak by splitting tickets, Latino Nevadans overwhelmingly support President Obama and his Party. To quote Shane Goldmacher, “To win here, Romney does not need to carry the Latino vote. But he must limit Obama’s margin of victory.” Goldmacher’s analysis aligns with what I wrote in September, “Latinos: Romney Can’t Win Unless Your Vote is Suppressed or You Stay Home.”

On Friday, October 26, the Romney campaign sent an email to supporters announcing that it had, “119,000 devoted volunteers… made nearly 45 million voter contacts and crossed the 9 million doors knocked threshold” nationwide. It has also announced a national campaign called, “Expand The Map” determined to fundraise $7 million in seven days, and launched a social media effort centered around its “Commit To Mitt” Facebook app. But other than Spanish language media buys, there is little evidence Romney is actually working to engage Latinos on the ground in Nevada—despite having brought in around 600 out-of-state volunteers from Arizona and Utah to help them with their Early Vote efforts. And this is reflected in Latino Decisions polling, showing 78% support for President Obama, and only 17% support for the GOP nominee. Considering the GOP and its supporters did not noticeably react to the August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, showing 0% support for Romney by African American voters, by aggressively reaching out to African Americans in September and October. It is safe to conclude that when Romney-Ryan Nevada, state manager, Chris Carr says, “underestimate [Romney’s ability to win] at your peril,” he means that he expects the GOP nominees advantage among white voters is insurmountable. As Gary Langer writes:

“Romney’s support among white men is its highest of the campaign, a 2-1 margin, 65-32 percent. That compares with 57-41%, McCain-Obama, in the 2008 exit poll. While it’s closer among white women, 53-44 percent, Romney-Obama, that very broad support among white men lifts Romney to a new high among whites overall, 59%… Obama beat John McCain among women in 2008 by 13 points, similar to his margin over Romney today. But McCain only tied Obama among men, a far cry from Romney’s large advantage in this group now.”

But the President’s reelection campaign has long believed that the key to victory in Nevada, and across the purple states that determine Electoral College winners, is a peer-to-peer engagement effort across constituencies, especially people of color and women. Politico’s Mike Allen has been tracking this effort, known as “Operation Vote,” for some time now. He’s labeled it the “campaign within the campaign.” Captained by 2008 campaign all-stars Buffy Wicks, and Michael Blake, Operation Vote began the process of engaging voters of color, women, and other core Democratic base voters one year ago, to counter the effects of diminishing support among centrist and conservative whites in battleground states where final results are almost always decided on the margins.

In Nevada, this means placing Obama For America field offices in African American and Latino enclaves, as well as right next door to the University of Nevada, Reno and UNLV campuses. BarackObama.com site visitors are not the only Nevadans who are familiar with the case the President has made regarding “what’s at stake in this election” for women, young Americans, and Latinos. On Wednesday, October 24, a crowd of over 13,000 gathered in Doolittle Park, in the heart of African American and Latino North Las Vegas, to hear these arguments from the President himself. On Friday, October 26, at least 1,000 more, members of Women For Obama, and Educators For Obama, heard them from the First Lady. One of the speakers who preceded Michelle Obama’s appearance at centrally located, Orr Middle School—walking distance from an official Early Vote location—was Latina, daughter of immigrants, former Hillary Clinton campaign superstar, current Nevada General Election Director, Emmy Ruiz. Another, Shelby Ayson, a 1st grade teacher at Las Vegas’ Bryant Elementary, whose remarks began, “In addition to my day job, I am the mother to four kids—a third grader, twin first graders, and a baby. So I really do spend all of my time with kids, and I am so lucky for it… I teach because I know that an education can serve us for our entire lifetime. For so many of us it’s the difference between whether or not we’ll have a fair shot to achieve our own American Dream.”

Before the final week of voter registration, well in excess of 11,000 Nevadans braved the punishing desert heat for an abridged Maná concert organized by the President’s reelection team to make sure as many eligible Latinos as possible would be able to register before the October 6 deadline. Many of those attending didn’t even know the President would be there, but were extremely excited when he arrived. On October 20, the first day of Early Vote in Nevada, hundreds joined Assemblywoman Lucy Flores and Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz in Rafael Rivera Park, in predominantly Latino East Las Vegas, for a taquiza, mariachis, and a march to the polls to cast ballots. Three days later, National Reelection Campaign Co-Chair, Eva Longoria, drew hundreds of UNLV students, many of them Latino, for an on campus rally followed by a trip to vote early. In the last three days before Early Vote concludes, Obama For America will encourage Latinos to cast ballots at the Cardenas Market on Bonanza Road and Lamb Blvd.

Last Tuesday, (October 23) President Obama told the Des Moines Register, “Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.”

In 2010, 12% of registered voters in Nevada were Latino. Yet Latinos made up 16% of those casting ballots, a 13% increase since the 2006 Midterm Elections. By the time a Pew Hispanic poll became public on October 5, declaring that 50% of Latino registered voters were planning on skipping out on the 2010 Midterms, the voter registration deadline had passed most everywhere, but not in Nevada, where 10,223 Latino Nevadans registered to vote in Clark County alone. In 2010, 50% of Latino Nevadans took advantage of the Early Vote, thus making shorter Election Day lines at polling places possible, and the likelihood of rapid response to the vast majority of election protection issues probable. Latino Nevadans rejected racist, anti-immigrant, political statements and policy proposals. They also rejected campaigns championing abstention from electoral participation, attempts to convince them to stay home out of frustration. Nevada’s Latino voters showed up in record numbers, and outperformed other voters when it counted.

The GOP has forgotten this recent past, and is thus condemned to repeat it. President Obama does not need the stars to align or lightning to strike twice to carry the state. He just needs to keep getting Latino Nevadans to the polls.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

César Chávez, the man who died 20 years ago & the National Monument that bears his name:

I was not surprised when Ruben Navarrette Jr. went after Civil Rights Era labor leader, César Estrada Chávez, and President Obama for honoring him, in yet another outlandish, sensationalist, unsubstantiated op-ed for CNN.

This is, after all, the man who was hissed off of a panel he was speaking on in 2008, after insulting Dolores Huerta, to her face. When she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, after having been arrested 22 times, and badly beaten, in the course of her extensive career fighting on behalf of farmworker, immigrant, women’s and civil rights, he whined, and calling the accomplishment, “a tarnished award.”

An active opponent of the Drop the I-Word campaign,
Navarrette argued in favor of the deportation of, Daniela Pelaez, the DREAM Act and DACA eligible, valedictorian of her high school class, and slammed Olympian, Leo Manzano, for celebrating winning a silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final; running the fastest time ever by a US athlete.

I mean, Navarrette began his career as a writer by describing himself as an arrogant, overbearing, confrontation-hungry figure, who was booed off of his own high school stage, for trying to take César Chávez’s head off in a nose-to-nose shouting match, taking place not long before the labor leader’s death.

Roberto Lovato, Charles Garcia, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, and yours truly, have put Navarrette in his place for having a love affair with the slur, “illegal immigrant.”

Latino Rebels, Esther Cepeda, Maria Burns Ortiz, as well as Cal State Fullerton Chicana & Chicano Studies Chair, Alexandro Jose Gradilla, and Washington State University Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies Professor, David J. Leonard, have put Navarrette in his place for questioning Olympian Leo Manzano’s patriotism, and downplaying his accomplishments.

To quote “Sage of the Yankees,” Yogi Berra, “This is like déjà vu all over again.”

Navarrette does his best to paint César Chávez as a violent hatemonger. Latino Rebels cut him down to size. Janet Murgia, the President and CEO of NCLR, schooled him. Luis León, preached the gospel. And UFW President, Arturo Rodriguez, bore prophetic witness to an undeniable truth:

“No labor leader and organization championed immigration reform earlier and with more consistency than César Chávez’s United Farm Workers of America. Under Chávez, the UFW opposed… [federal efforts targeting] undocumented workers long before most labor groups acted… Some people falsely claim the UFW is or has been against undocumented workers. So there is no misunderstanding, everyone should clearly understand the following: There are two separate and distinct issues—immigration reform and strikebreaking. Don’t confuse them!

• Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta worked for years against the infamous 1942-1964 Bracero Program that exploited domestic farmworkers who were denied jobs and replaced by imported farmworkers who were abused by growers.
• In 1973, decades before most labor organizations acted, the UFW became one of the very first unions to oppose the “employer sanction.”
• UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta played a crucial role in creating the amnesty provisions of the 1986 federal immigration law that enabled 1 million farmworkers to become legal residents.
• The UFW spent years negotiating with the nation’s agricultural industry to create the historic bipartisan AgJobs bill allowing undocumented farmworkers in this country to earn the legal right to permanently stay here by continuing to work in agriculture.

Immigration reform is separate and distinct from the issue of strikebreaking. No one has the right to be a strikebreaker. No legitimate union permits its strikes to be broken by anyone, regardless of race, origin or nationality.”

Confronted with this evidence, Navarrette took to his Facebook page in an effort to solicit support from his followers, and employed a series of ad hominem attacks to undercut anyone who dared to question the validity of his article:

“Chavistas [are] Kool-Aid drinking defenders of the Mexican Minuteman, César Chávez… Most of whom wouldn't know a Chicano from a chimichanga… [like the] propeller heads at Latino Rebels [who] take issue with my CNN piece on the dedication of the National Monument… Quick, a quarter for their tin cup!... I remember watching Andre the Giant wrestle three guys at once just to make it fair. I’m waiting for the Rebels to rustle up two more websites… Some people claim… that during the ceremony this week tiny purple unicorns flew out of Obama's a**… Here’s to shining the light and letting the cockroaches scatter.”

In the 1984, Oscar nominated film, Amadeus, composer Antonio Salieri recognizes the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart but thwarts him out of envy.

Navarrette is Salieri.

To quote another popular 80s movie, Top Gun, his ego writes checks his body can’t cash.

He clearly knows this.

To quote LL Cool J, from the battle track that effectively ended Kool Moe Dee’s career, “Trashy brother from way back… best tracks is wack… Try to dis the Lords, but yo, you’re dead wrong… There simply ain’t no frontin’ allowed.”

The point of all of this is not to shine a spotlight on Navarrette’s desperate attempts to redefine the measure the quality of an editorial essay by purporting that the click-by-click metric that made Tila Tequila a celebrity should be used to determine the quality of a piece of writing.

What gives pause, is the fact that Navarrette’s work is embraced and utilized by xenophobes, racists, and white supremacists. On nationalist hate group site VDARE, author Allan Wall, feels it completely unnecessary to pick and choose segments from Navarrette’s column on Olympian Leo Manzano, choosing instead to run it in its entirety. Single-issue, perpetual right-wing candidate, Tom Tancredo, quotes Navarrette’s column on Chávez in his latest screed on Townhall, the self-proclaimed, “leading source for conservative news and political commentary and analysis.” And ALIPAC, the self-proclaimed, “largest archive of information about illegal immigration, criminal immigrants, illegal aliens… border patrol, how to report, deport… Mexicans… gangs, crimes… Dream Act… amnesty,” has republished it under the headline, “The violent César Chávez legacy towards illegal aliens.”

These uncompromising anti-reform crusaders represent the most disgusting, vile, reprehensible elements of the immigration policy debate. These are the chief drivers of the anti-immigrant talk we heard during the 2012 Republican Primary Race; the proponents of pledges to build an electrified fence along the border, promote Arizona SB 1070 style laws across the country, veto the DREAM Act, overturn President Obama’s order to halt certain deportations, and so forth.

Somos Republicanos demonstrated integrity and decency by standing up to the many GOP leaders who made use of the slur “anchor babies” in their effort to eliminate the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship.

Would anyone make the case that Navarrette has shown similar qualities by launching a ceaseless series of cheap shots against César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and President Obama? After Mother Jones made public the hidden camera video in which Mitt Romney states his belief that while 47% of voters are dependent upon government, and won’t take personal responsibility and care for their lives, he’d have an easier time winning the election if he were Latino, Navarrette opened his column by saying, “If he [Romney] were Mexican, there’s a 94.6% chance that he would've already been deported by his opponent.” It’s more accurate to compare Navarrette to the Madd Rapper who introduces Bad Boy records Greatest Hits album, taking potshots at those above him, the objects of his hateration, whenever possible. But I digress.

Chávez is most fairly viewed via the lens of his clashes as an unelected, organizer of impoverished workers of color, excluded from Social Security and other benefits, who took on corporate growers, agri-business investors, and government interests. For instance, one of Chávez’s chief nemeses, Ronald Reagan, called a televised press conference with the explicit purpose of eating grapes in defiance of the UFW-sponsored boycott, and vetoed the extension of unemployment insurance to farmworkers three times.

Chávez’s October 1, 1969 remarks before Congress contextualize the challenge well:

“When farmworkers declare a strike, it is not only a strike that happens, but it is a whole revolution in that community. It becomes a civil liberties issue, it becomes a race issue, and it becomes a desperate struggle just to keep the movement going… We not only had the growers against us, but we had the other public bodies like the city council, the board of supervisors, the high school and elementary school districts, passing resolutions and propaganda against the strike and against the union… In America today, a vast majority of farmworkers are poor, and the vast majority are from minority groups. We are brown and black… Employers have used— and I should say very well—the tactic of setting one racial group against the other. This has been a long-standing trick of theirs to break the unions…

The local authorities come into play immediately to try to destroy the efforts of organizing. At the beginning of the strike, there were mass arrests by the Delano Police Department and by the County Sheriff’s Department… We see the indifference of the local courts. We see how employers can come in and can get injunctions at will, and we see how the injunctions break our strikes… We see that bringing the employers to court when they have broken the law is almost impossible. The indifference of the federal agencies in regard to enforcement of those few regulations that apply to farmworkers is also very bad. We have cases with the Federal Food and Drug Administration going back two years…

Using their money, their offices, their duplicating equipment… [the growers set up] a company union, well staffed, well financed. Information discovered by an investigation by the Department of Labor, plus signed statements from two of the officers of the Agricultural Workers Freedom to Work Association prove
what the growers were doing… These facts were uncovered and the law-breaking phony union has not been brought to court. I might add here that there were four or five different attempts to establish company unions in the past… One of them was called ‘Mothers Against Chávez’…

Since we are not covered by the National Labor Relations Act and there is no machinery for elections, the union and employers have to agree to set up some kind of procedure for the election… The whole question of our representing the workers is not in issue. But the 12 growers who agreed to negotiate with us raised the issue. So we gave the Federal Mediation Service cards signed by ninety per cent of the strike-breakers working for the growers at that time. The card said, ‘we support the union.’ So the question of whether we represent the workers or not is a phony issue… The real question is… Are the farmworkers going to be able to walk out of their poverty and be counted and accepted as true men by their employers?... How is it going to be done?... That it is going to be done is accepted by all of us who are in the struggle.”

Navarrette, and everyone else obsessed with the vilification of César Chávez, the man who died nearly twenty years ago, should focus on the fact that this National Monument, like Mount Rushmore is a symbol, not an instrument for the absolution of sins, or an official seal of approval for historical negationism.

Our first President, George Washington not only owned slaves, he signed the Fugitive Slave Law.

Author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote against miscegenation, and then had six children by African American, Sally Hemings—all of whom were born into and grew up in slavery.

Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln did not believe African Americans could be “assimilated into white society,” rejected the notion of social equality of the races, and believed former slaves should be resettled abroad.

Rough Rider, Teddy Roosevelt was an anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, Sinophobic, xenophobic, Nativist, who called the 19th Century lynching of “hyphenated Americans” and immigrants, “a rather good thing.”

Pulitzer Prize winning historian, James McPherson, writes, “History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable ‘truth’ about past events and their meaning.”

Chávez critics incapable of squashing personal beefs, (however longstanding) and silencing superficially evidenced conspiracy theories, for one minute, and acknowledging the significance of the National Monument as a symbol—a cultural representation of the experiences and perceptions of millions of Latinos—are nothing more than haters.

The designation of the property at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz as a National Monument was not an act of canonization. César Chávez was not inducted into sainthood.

Instead, President Obama went to La Paz and remarked:

“To the members of the Chávez family… to the men and women who’ve worked so hard for so long to preserve this place… Thank you… Most of all, I want to thank Helen Chávez… to Helen, this will always be home. It’s where she fought alongside the man that she loved; where she raised eight children and spoiled 31 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. This is where she continues to live… Helen, today we are your guests… César would be the first to say that this is not a monument to one man. The movement he helped to lead was sustained by a generation of organizers who stood up and spoke out, and urged others to do the same—including the great Dolores Huerta, who is here today. It drew strength from Americans of every race and every background who marched and boycotted together on behalf of ‘La Causa.’ And it was always inspired by the farmworkers themselves, some of whom are with us. This place belongs to you, too…

César cared… he made other people care, too. A march that started in Delano with a handful of activists—that march ended 300 miles away in Sacramento with a crowd 10,000 strong. A boycott of table grapes that began in California eventually drew 17 million supporters across the country, forcing growers to agree to some of the first farmworker contracts in history. Where there had once been despair, César gave workers a reason to hope… And even though we have a difficult road ahead, I know we can keep moving forward together. I know it because César himself worked for 20 years as an organizer without a single major victory—think about that—but he refused to give up...
More than anything, that’s what I hope our children and grandchildren will take away from this place. Every time somebody’s son or daughter comes and learns about the history of this movement, I want them to know that our journey is never hopeless, our work is never done.”

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Day After The Debate


One of my favorite episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, is entitled, “The Two Bartletts.” It contains the following dialogue:

Toby Ziegler, (Toby) “Sir, I don’t think I need to tell you that the level of respect with which the staff speaks of you doesn’t change, depending on whether or not you’re in the room.”

President Bartlet, (Bartlet) “But?”

Toby, “Well, there’s always been a concern about the two Bartlets. The absent-minded professor with the ‘Aw, Dad’ sense of humor. Disarming and unthreatening. Good for all time zones. And the Nobel Laureate. Still searching for salvation. Lonely, frustrated. Lethal.”

Bartlet, “You’re gonna sing a country western song?”

Toby, “The one whose father never liked him because he was too smart.”

Bartlet, “This stopped being fun for me a little while ago.”

Toby, “Sir?”

Bartlet, “It was actually never fun for me. I was just being polite.”

Toby, “Your father used to hit you, didn’t he, Mr. President?”

Bartlet, “Excuse me?”

Toby, “Your father used to hit you, sir?”

Bartlet, “Yeah.”

Toby, “Not like a spanking.”

Bartlet, “He hit me. Why?”

Toby, “He punched you.”

Bartlet, “I’m done being polite now.”

Toby, “He did it because you made him mad, but you didn’t know why.”

Bartlet, “Toby, it was a complicated relationship. Can I help you?”

Toby, “It was because you were smarter than he was.”

Bartlet, “It was a complicated relationship.”

Toby, “He didn’t like you, sir. That’s why he hit you. That’s why people hit each other. He didn’t like you. You were smarter than he was.”

Bartlet, “Why are we talking about this?”

Toby, “So maybe if you get enough votes, win one more election, maybe your father will…”

Bartlet, “You have stepped way over the line, and any other President would have your ass on the sidewalk right now!”

Toby, “Yes, sir.”

Bartlet, “They would’ve had you on the sidewalk a long time ago. I don’t know what the hell goes on in a Brooklyn shrink’s office, but get it the hell out of my house!”

Toby, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

In this scene, a fictional Democratic Party President is accused of having a troubled relationship with his biological father, and concurrently existing as a symbol of hope and change, a sitcom dad with near-universal appeal, and an accomplished scholar whose obvious intelligence isolates him from most-everyone.

Who does that sound like to you?

If you said President Obama, you’re spot on.

If you said former-President Clinton, ding, ding, ding, you’re on the big board.

If you thought of the words, “Our problems are manmade—therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable—and we believe they can do it again.”

Or, “No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered lacking in virtue… Let us not be blind to our differences—but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Then you guessed former-President Kennedy, and you win the grand prize.

Democrats love Aristotelian tragic heroes who paradoxically try to inhabit the legacies of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. Motivated reasoning allows the dampening of the cognitive dissonance that arises when one juxtaposes the “Sage of Monticello,” with “Old Hickory.”

But just as fictional TV Commander-In-Chief had to confront his demons to be great, so must President Obama. He has to be willing to risk being hated for the sake of all of us.

American voters found out a lot of things in Wednesday’s (October 3, 2012) debate.

The first is that Mitt Romney said many, many, many untrue things—just ask Michael Arceneaux, Michelle Goldberg, Drew Joseph, David R. Baker, Joe Garofoli, Politifact, etc.

The second is that Rob Portman proved to be a better debate coach than John Kerry. Portman prepared George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, as well as John McCain in 2008. He’s done this before, and he’s learned from his mistakes. Portman began intensive multi-hour sessions with Romney one full month before the first debate. The routine included not only study sessions, and mock debate exchanges. But also debriefing sessions where Romney advisers sat in a circle, reviewing mock debate tapes and transcripts, tweaking scripted answers for maximum sound-bite friendly rhetorical impact, and altering tone, body language, and style to improve likability.

Kerry’s only experience in preparing for debates was the time he spent preparing himself in 2004.

If you’re on the President Obama debate preparation team and someone comes to you with the suggestion that John Kerry, (or the most influential members of his team) former-Vice-President Gore, (or the most influential members of his team) or former-President Carter (or the most influential members of his team) should work with President Obama before the next debate. Just Say No.

The third is that President Obama (and the most influential members of his team) hold that his biggest advantage over Mitt Romney is the strong tendency of Americans to see him as more friendly, accessible, and personally appealing than his GOP challenger.

Gabriel Debenedetti writes in Reuters, “It’s not just that, as anyone who has followed this race knows, President Obama claims a majority of respondents on the question, ‘Which candidate is more likable?’—52 percent among men and 51 percent among women. What must concern the Romney campaign is how low the favorable response to that question is for their candidate. At 24 percent for men and women, it is lower even than the combined number of ‘neithers’ and ‘don’t knows.’ The same pattern holds for the question, ‘Who would be most fun to meet in person?’ Men chose Obama by 48 percent, women by 47, while Romney’s numbers—21 percent of men and 19 percent of women—evoke the popular phrase, ‘They’re just not that into you’…”

The problem is that President Obama, and his surrogates, have said over and over how affable, well intentioned, and devoted to his family Mitt Romney is. The 2012 Democratic National Convention was a prime example of this. Randy Johnson, whose life was undone when Romney’s Bain Capital took over his place of employment began his remarks by saying, “I don't think Mitt Romney is a bad man. I don't fault him for the fact that some companies win and some companies lose. That's a fact of life.” Former-President Clinton added to the narrative by saying, “[Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan] love their families and their children… They convinced me they were honorable people who believe what they’ve said and they're going to keep every commitment they’ve made.”

As recently as the Monday before their first debate, the Associated Press quoted President Obama as saying, “I think Governor Romney obviously has achieved extraordinary success with his businesses, and he’s obviously very focused on achieving the presidency. He cares deeply about his family, and I think he cares deeply about his faith.”

What’s wrong with this picture? If your chief advantage is that you’re likable and the other guy isn’t, why the hell would you go out of your way to try to help him out in that department? The very reason why likability matters to voters is that it makes you seem more likely to do the right thing, even if you don’t always say something in the right way.

Lou Cannon writes in Real Clear Politics, “The public gave Reagan the benefit of a doubt for a dubious remark. The same could be said of Obama. He’s aloof—his critics say ‘arrogant’—but, like Reagan, Obama is skillful at spoofing the opposition. Obama recently quipped that Republicans are so enamored of tax cutting they believe it can improve one’s sex life. Reagan said he wasn’t worried about the deficit because it was big enough to take care of itself… Reagan was a transformational as well as likable president… Obama hasn’t reached such lofty heights and he [has] realized that Americans are disappointed that he hasn’t done better at alleviating unemployment or reviving the housing market… [Still] the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derided by Republicans as ‘Obamacare’ and advocated and signed into law by Obama, is a significant achievement, like it or not. When it comes to health care, Obama succeeded where other presidents from Harry Truman to Bill Clinton tried and failed… [Unfortunately, even] 24 hours is a long time in the life of a politician…[and] there are 800,000 fewer Democratic voters in the eight closest swing states [than there were in 2008].”

President Obama (and the most influential members of his team) hold that likability is the key to reelection because in every election since 1984, the candidate viewed as more likable won. The problem is that the President isn’t running on, “Who would you rather have a beer with?” He isn’t doubling down on being determined and resolute. He’s not telling voters, “I’m the decider.” He doesn’t have an ad in which a phone rings at 3 AM, casting doubt on Mitt Romney’s judgment—an image that could be easily reinforced by an empty chair on a stage. Instead, the President has put all of his eggs in one basket under the banner, “Forward.” This is the standard the President has defined for himself, and therefore this is the standard his reelection campaign must meet. He needs voters to believe the country is on the right track.

But when asked if the country is headed in the right direction under President Obama’s leadership, less than one third of Gallup poll respondents answer in the affirmative. Asked the same question when George W. Bush ran for reelection in 2004, and Bill Clinton ran for reelection in 1996, 41% said yes. Asked the same question when Ronald Reagan ran for reelection in 1984, 61% said yes.

This is the statistic that should most trouble President Obama and his reelection team. Regardless of whatever anyone else says, the President needs to use the last month of the campaign, and the final two debates, to explain why and how he put us on the right track. He’s got to do this, even if it means his likability takes a hit. Otherwise, Romney wins.

Ruth Marcus writes in the Washington Post, “Romney’s challenge (changing voters’ image of himself) is less daunting than Obama’s (changing voters’ perceptions of the economy)… Romney’s challenge with voters may be similar to that of Ronald Reagan in 1980, except that Romney needs to cross a threshold of minimum likability rather than that of competence… Set the bar at Romney proving himself ‘acceptable’ to voters… rather than persuading voters to ‘swoon’ for him, as they did for Obama in 2008. In other words, Romney doesn’t have to make himself likable. Just likable enough.”

Nevertheless, there is hope.

President Obama could begin by reviewing what President Kennedy, said about the role of Executive, “There are greater limitations upon our ability to bring about a favorable result than I had imagined… And I think that is probably true of anyone who becomes President, because there is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed and say that this shall be the policy of the United States. It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments…The President bears the burden of the responsibility quite rightly… When I talked to members of the Congress… when we confronted them… with the evidence… in looking at the various alternatives, the advantages and disadvantages of action… I think that we took the right one…

We are going to have twice as many people trying to go to college… That means we have to build as many buildings in 10 years as we built the whole of our country's history. Then you have got these millions… who are dropping out of school, who are unskilled, at a time when unskilled—when skilled labor is needed, and not unskilled. So we need money for vocational training to train them in skills, to retrain workers, to provide assistance funds for colleges, and then to provide assistance to those who are going to get doctorates, higher advanced in engineering, science, and mathematics. We have a severe shortage there… So all this requires funds, but it is all in controversy. Some people feel the Federal Government should play no role, and yet the Federal Government, since the land grant act and back to the Northwest Ordinance, has played a major role. I think the Federal Government has a great responsibility in the field of education. We can’t maintain our strength industrially, militarily, scientifically, socially, without very well educated citizenry. And I think the Federal Government has a role to play… Unfortunately, we have come close to getting assistance to education passed, but we have not been successful…

It is very easy to defeat a bill in the Congress. It is much more difficult to pass one… We are all concerned as citizens and as parents and all the rest, with all the problems we have been talking about tonight. They are all the problems which if I was not the President, I would be concerned about as a father or as a citizen… But I must say after being here… and having the experience of the Presidency, and there is no experience you can get that can possibly prepare you adequately for the Presidency… I have a good deal of hope for the United States… This country… the great means of defending first the world against the Nazi threat, and since then against the Communist threat… We are in a strong position… That is a pretty good record for a country with 6 percent of the world’s population… I think we ought to be rather pleased with ourselves this Christmas.”

And President Obama’s debate preparation team would be wise to review another of my favorite episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing. Entitled, “Game On,” it contains the following exchanges:

Toby Ziegler, (Toby) “What do you think?”

Josh Lyman, “Well if we lose because of a ten-word answer, then I'm quitting show business.”

Toby, “What do you think?”

C.J. Cregg, “I think it depends who shows up. If it’s Uncle Fluffy, we’ve got problems. If it’s the President, in his last campaign, his last debate, for the last job he’ll ever have… if the President shows up, I think it’ll be a sight to see, I mean a sight to see. What do you think?”

Toby, “I think you’re going to enjoy yourself…”

***

Robert Ritchie, (Ritchie) “Let the states decide. Let the communities decide on health care, on education, on lower taxes, not higher taxes. Now, he’s going to throw a big word at you—‘unfunded mandate.’ If Washington lets the states do it, it’s an unfunded mandate. But what he doesn't like is the federal government losing power. But I call it the ingenuity of the American people.”

Moderator, “President Bartlet, you have 60 seconds for a question and an answer.”

Josiah Bartlet, (Bartlet) “Well, first of all, let’s clear up a couple of things. ‘Unfunded mandate’ is two words, not one ‘big word’… There are times when we’re fifty states and there are times when we’re one country, and have national needs. And the way I know this is that Florida didn’t fight Germany in World War II or establish civil rights. You think states should do the governing wall-to-wall. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. But your state of Florida got $12.6 billion in federal money last year-- from Nebraskans, and Virginians, and New Yorkers, and Alaskans… 12.6 out of a state budget of $50 billion, and I’m supposed to be using this time for a question, so here it is: Can we have it back, please?”



Ritchie, “And the partisan bickering. Now, I want people to work together in this great country. And that’s what I did… I brought people together—and that’s what I’ll do as your President. End the logjam, end the gridlock, and bring Republicans together with Democrats, ‘cause Americans are tired of partisan politics.”

Moderator, “Mr. President?”

Bartlet, “Actually, what you’ve done… is bring the right together with the far right. And I don’t think Americans are tired of partisan politics; I think they're tired of hearing career politicians dis partisan politics to get a gig. I’ve tried it before, they ain’t buying it. That's okay, though… But if you’re troubled by it, Governor, you should know, in this campaign, you’ve used the word ‘liberal’ seventy-four times, in one day. It was yesterday.”



Bartlet, “No, the question is: Should we focus on 90% of the kids, who go to public school, or give parents money from the public-school budget to send their kids to private school at a time when private schools are even turning kids away who can afford it? Public schools are going to be the best schools in the country. They’re gonna be cathedrals. The answer is a change in the way we finance schools!”



Moderator, “Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is centerpiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes?”

Ritchie, “You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason—the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.”

Moderator, “Mr. President, your rebuttal.”

Bartlet, “There it is… That’s the ten-word answer my staff’s been looking for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I’ll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while... every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many un-nuanced moments in leading a country that’s way too big for ten words. I’m the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me. And by the way, if the left has a problem with that, they should vote for somebody else.”



Will Bailey, “I thought he was going to have to fall all over himself trying to be genial.”

Sam Seaborn, “So did we. But then, we were convinced by polling that said he was going to be seen as arrogant no matter what performance he gave in the debate. And then, that morning at 3:10, my phone rings, and it’s Toby Ziegler. He says, ‘Don't you get it? It’s a gift that they’re irreversibly convinced that he's arrogant 'cause now he can be.’ If your guy's seen that way, you might as well knock some bodies down with it.”